Road to Nowhere: Deer Valley’s Snow Park Development

Pour one out for those trying to get anything done in Park City. The cause of profiteering developers is far from a sympathetic one, it’s just that seeing the never-ending clash with the diametrically opposed NIMBY forces makes one appreciate the Sisyphean task of getting anything done before the end of days. Public opposition is often well-founded, owing to the frequent breaches of trust and backroom dealings rampant in issues surrounding the Wasatch Back, but it’s nearly as often based in blatantly exclusionary values. All of which is a nice way of saying development conversations have essentially become two sides screaming into the void while decisions get made on an ever-evolving timeline. The focal point in town is once again the Snow Park redevelopment at the base of Deer Valley, where the latest plans hinge on the town vacating right-of-way on parts of Deer Valley Drive. 

“What does that mean?” Just about anyone reading this is probably asking. In essence, Deer Valley Resort owner Alterra hopes to turn the current road at the base of the mountain into a ski beach by pulling the Carpenter and Silver Lake Lifts toward the parking lot. In exchange the resort would relinquish part of Doe Pass Road to the city as part of the overhauled traffic circulation plan for the area. This could only be accomplished with the blessing of the Park City Council, should they determine a net tangible benefit from the arrangement. 

Deer Valley

illustration courtesy of Deer Valley Resort
Deer Valley

The right-of-way plot is the newest twist in plans for the area. The resort has longstanding development rights dating back decades and hopes to build 420,000 square feet of retail space and 21,000 feet of commercial space, along with some 1,250 underground parking spaces to replace the sprawling parking lots currently encircled by Deer Valley Drive. Nearby residents had already expressed a bevy of concerns, and they’ve found a united front against the latest proposal. 

“There’s been some confusion about the council’s direction for the Snow Park vacation item,” Mayor Nann Worel said during a July Council hearing. Worel went on to compare the deliberations to those relating to the town’s acquisition of Bonanza Flat and Treasure Hill, possibly sowing some further confusion in the process. Those, after all, were land acquisitions voted on by the public. The mayor, however, sought to indicate her intention was to assure the public their input would be solicited throughout the process.

Public input, at least as expressed openly thus far, has been overly negative. When the town received testimony on the road vacation in March, the results were overwhelmingly against the proposal, citing such topics as whether area residents would be unfairly burdened by additional traffic and if it’s the community’s responsibility to create what is essentially a welcome experience for a private resort. Deer Valley has countered the road vacation would lead to a better organized and executed development, and supporters of both sides remain dug in, seemingly unwilling to budge. Ultimately, the council is going to face someone’s wrath no matter how they rule.

Snow Park isn’t the only expansion surrounding Deer Valley that’s raised some hackles. Mayflower Mountain Resort, the new mountain built on the Deer Valley’s east side, is expected to attract a flood of visitors, who in addition to revenue will bring increased traffic congestion and the need for some 5,000 employees when operating at full capacity. There is a brewing agreement between Alterra and Mayflower’s owners to allow lift access and base amenities for Deer Valley skiers, meaning Deer Valley is expanding on and thus facing the ire of locals on multiple fronts. 

For now, it’s a holding pattern as the community and Alterra wait on the City Council’s decision. Somehow in some way, Snow Park is going to be developed. I can assure you both sides can commission studies empirically supporting their preferred vision of the future, but the developers and the NIMBYs remain in a stalemate with no end in sight. The loop of pavement may be a literal road to nowhere, but it plays a pretty important role in what Park City’s future will look like.  

How Can a Town Vacate a Road?

According to Utah Code, road vacation is authorized as a legislative act under the Municipal Land Use, Development and Management Act so long as “good cause exists for the vacation and neither the public interest nor any person will be materially injured by the vacation.” In Park City’s Land Management Code, good cause includes “addressing issues relating to density,” which is likely a key component of the current discussion. There’s also language about “preserving the character of the neighborhood,” so we’ll see which of those is weighted more heavily.

Tony Gill
Tony Gill
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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