Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort wants two chairlifts and a zip line on property it owns in American Fork Canyon.
Located north of Tibble Fork Reservoir in the canyon, some of the area is owned by the resort company. Based in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County, Snowbird shares a common ridgeline in the Wasatch mountain range with its American Fork property in Utah County.
Snowbird President Bob Bonar announced Tuesday the family-owned company has major plans for Mary Ellen Gulch.
“We are interested in utilizing some of our private property in upper American Fork Canyon and have been listening to the myriad voices in the community who care about this special place,” Bonar said.
One of those voices has been Councilman Brad Frost of American Fork.
"With four cities' resolutions and one county commission's resolution passed to protect American Fork Canyon from development, it would be a grave mistake for the Board of Adjustments to grant Snowbird permission to expand in American Fork Canyon, disregarding protections of the canyon for our children and grandchildren," Frost said. "One thing is for sure, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of what Snowbird says and what they do."
A concern critics have had was future determent of development to the sensitive environment and recreational area. Another concern is the possible commercial invasive use, seemingly locking out the canyon’s traditional users.
Bonar reiterated a promise made in 2015, that Snowbird Resort would not build hotels or condominiums on its land in the canyon.
“We have no plans, nothing has changed,” Bonar said. “The proposal does not include any potential lift connection with lower American Fork Canyon creating a second access to the resort from Utah County.”
The two new lifts will not connect with any access to Utah County, he said, and added his company has been working with the Utah four-wheel drive community to give responsible access to Snowbird’s property in American Fork Canyon.
The process to begin construction involves getting approval from the Utah County Board of Adjustments to install ski towers and other ski facilities including the zip line. The request for a hearing was filed on Dec. 8, 2015 and will be heard Thursday at 5:15 p.m. in the Utah County Commission Chambers, room 1400, with the Utah County Board of Adjustments.
“We are taking the initial steps to try and get conditional use permits for ski lifts,” Bonar said. “We don’t know if it’s going to be a gondola, chair lift or whatever.”
There are five members on the Board of Adjustments. The County Commissioners appoint them and as volunteers, they hear the county's conditional use applicants such as Snowbird.
According to Bonar, if the project is approved, this would be the first improvements in Mineral Basin and Mary Ellen Gulch since 1999.
“Mary Ellen Gulch will be an amazing addition to the year-round recreation at Snowbird,” Bonar said.