In a state rife with land disputes, few are as polarizing as the one regarding SkiLink, a proposed transit lift between Canyons and Solitude. SkiLink is a hot-button social, environmental and economic issue for Utahns, and the divide between stakeholders is gaping. This is the fifth in a series of stories that will teach you everything you need to know about Utah’s most controversial ski lift.
Any discussion regarding SkiLink has to include one word: speculation. When it comes to the proposed transport lift between Canyons and Solitude, many details are hypothetical, and there is still plenty that is undecided regarding SkiLink. This doesn’t mean nothing has been solidified, though. Talisker, Canyons’ parent company who proposed SkiLink, has made up its mind on multiple aspects of the lift. Deciphering what is fact and rumor, though, can be a challenge.
At this point in time, here is what we know.
SkiLink would be a three-mile gondola with 25 lift towers that would take riders from Canyons resort over to Solitude in 11 minutes. Riders could only unload at Canyons or Solitude—there would be no unloading outside of the resorts’ current footprint. Canyons managing director Mike Goar says no ski runs or development beyond the lift towers will be done along the SkiLink path, meaning it would be transportation-only.
The Solitude terminal would be at the Eagle base area, while the Canyons terminal would be on the Panorama trail between the Dreamscape and Day Break lifts. Getting to the Canyons terminal would not be a speedy endeavor. Arriving there would require a skier or snowboarder to board four lifts (and the Cabriolet, if they start from the resort’s main base area). According to Save Our Canyons director Carl Fisher, the trip from the Canyons base to where the SkiLink terminal would be located is an 85-minute trip even on days with minimal skier traffic.
The SkiLink path rises over the Wasatch ridge separating Summit and Salt Lake Counties and descends toward Solitude along a 30-acre, 150-foot wide path. SkiLink’s track is near popular backcountry skiing destinations like USA Bowl and Bear Trap, and it crosses over the Wasatch Crest trail.
The price of the lift’s construction is unknown, as is the price of a lift ticket. Canyons managing director Mike Goar says Canyons and Solitude will offer a joint pass that includes SkiLink access. He says the pass price would likely be in the neighborhood of a Canyons ticket, which is $105. Therefore, a Solitude-Canyons lift ticket could be in the $120 range.
To minimize environmental impact during construction, Goar says the lift would be erected using helicopters, which would allow SkiLink to be built without cutting service roads. Goar also says the chosen path covers an area that would require minimal tree removal.
These are the known facts regarding SkiLink, but with issues regarding environmental, economic and political impacts, things aren’t so clear. Speculation runs rampant with SkiLink, but understanding the aforementioned facts provides a framework for discussions regarding the more prevalent, and blurry, aspects of the lift.
Jake Bullinger is the editor of Wasatch Magazine and has written for Salt Lake, Mountain magazine and Sports Illustrated. Follow Jake on Twitter at @jakebullinger.