On-line Flagstaff Lift Presentation – How it Would Negatively Impact the Wasatch Backcountry

| April 2, 2009

The photo gallery below is an on-line version of my presentation on how the Flagstaff lift would negatively impact the Wasatch backcountry. To see the photo captions, click on the photo, then click through the “Next” buttons.

The maps are approximate and drawn from my memory.

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Category: Commentary

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (15)

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  1. dr says:

    well done sir. far be it from me to tell private land owners what to do with their property, but there is much virtue in modesty, community, and hard earned “solitude” (ironical quotations; the heart of the Wasatch are rarely a lonely place). Hopefully the Alta brass will recognize these things.

  2. Tim says:

    I think that one thing that should also be mentioned is that snowboarders like myself would no longer have access to this terrain at all. At least skiers could still go there. I’d be out in the cold.

  3. Chuck says:

    I counted 9 other people besides our party of 2 on dawn patrols up the Flagstaff area this morning. It would be sad to see it messed up with a lift.

  4. d3 says:

    good god. tell me the powers that be say they’re doing it “for the children.”

  5. Stan says:

    Andrew, you got some great spam issues with your forum. I had to deal with such a thing before, it’s a pain, but doable.

  6. Andrew says:

    Hi Stan – thanks, I’m going to deal with it during the summer, so my apologies in the meantime. I should probably just shut it down in the meantime, eh?

  7. Andrew says:

    d3 – it’s not just the children, but the senior citizens and handicapped as well. ;)

  8. Grizzly Adam says:

    I am reminded of Ed Abbey’s thoughts about the National Parks, and the way they were becoming (when he wrote it) paved, bumper to bumper driving tours. Nobody sees anything beyond the road anymore. He argued for bicycle or foot traffic only in the parks, with an occasional shuttle for those who could not ride or walk.

    This has a similar feel to it.

    Part of what makes difficult terrain so appealing is the difficulty. Riding a ski lift is all well and good, but there is no sense of accomplishment. There is no effort required. And thus, no appreciation for where you stand.

    Expansion is a natural part of human progress. But expanding for the sake of expanding is reckless and irresponsible.

    And did I understand the comment in the other post correctly, that the representative from Alta did not stick around to hear your presentation? I know I am jumping to conclusions, but if that is the case that ought to tell us all we need to know about their position. (And apologies to him if I misunderstood, or if he had pressing matters that trumped staying at the meeting).

    Thanks for posting the slides.

  9. Andrew says:

    Hi Griz – In Onno’s defense, I think he came down with Liam and both of them had to get back to Alta as a storm was brewing. I thought it was great that he even took the time to show up. I’m not that surprised that he missed the other parts of the meeting as he is more than aware of the backcountry and implications of a lift in that area, as is Liam. Both of those guys tour and are very familiar with the issues/impacts. I’d have to guess that Onno is also under a bit of pressure from the Alta owners as well. From what I’ve heard, it is now a “new generation” of owners, some who have inherited it from their parents, who may not be happy with the old style Alta experience.

  10. Jordan says:

    I am frequently saddened by the repeated efforts by the powers that be to squeeze the wild out of what few wild areas remain. Skiing inbounds has become so competitive that many of us flee to the backcountry just to get back to what made us fall in love with skiing/riding in the first place! Don’t people realize there is a benefit to keeping these areas undeveloped?

    Like the guy said in the post above, there is a definite sense of accomplishment in earning turns rather than paying for them. It’s funny when I first got into BC skiing I hated the climb, but now I actually look forward to the up and the down equally.

    Thanks for sticking up for those of us that have, at least tried, to say goodbye to the ski area madness. I think Alf is looking down with disappointment!

  11. Grizzly Adam says:

    Andrew, thanks for the clarification. I hoped that it was something like that, rather than an indifference to what you or anyone else might have to say.

  12. OMR says:

    Andrew, thanks for taking the lead on this issue, your efforts are greatly appreciated.

    That said, I can’t help but feel we are often our own worst enemies. We use the same highways and public transportation, along side the “inbounders”, yet hold ourselves above them becasue we choose to hike that last 2000 veritcel feet? Don’t get me wrong, I’m vehemetly against any new lifts in the Tri-canyons, but we’re all so visible from the resorts that the pychological evolution of skiers pretty much demands more development. How can Onno NOT think developemnt when he sees Flagstaff tracked out nealy as quickly as High Rustler? (And all from his office window?)The tri-canyons hold world-class terrain, but when I ‘BC-Ski’ in the ‘Tri’s’, I do so primarily to socialize. When I want un-cut powder, I head for one of the other 10,000+ Wasatch drainages. Long appraoches, brush and all.

    Forgive the negative vibe, I agree with the fight 100%; just think we should spread the use.

  13. Andrew says:

    Hi OMR – no problem, or even thoughts of a “negative vibe.” I often think that blogs, including this one, are too polite so please feel free say whatever is on your mind. I only edit out spam.

    On the lift, I fully agree that it might be holier-than-thou or selfish to oppose it, but on the other-hand, if Alta and/or the PowderBirds are willing to fight for expansion, either through political channels or backroom deals, I don’t feel too bad about fighting to preserve these areas as well. If it wasn’t for the efforts of Alexis Kelner and Gayle Dick in creating the Lone Peak and Mt. Olympus Wilderness areas, the Wasatch would be littered with mountain top restaurants, trams and endless commercial space.

    Personally, I would much rather be for something (like the new wilderness proposal) than fighting against something (like a Flagstaff Lift or the WPG), but then again, somethings are worth fighting for.

  14. OMR says:


    I agree; more wilderness, no more lifts! What I meant by ‘spread the use’ was NOT an affirmation of ski lift constructions, rather, spread the use by backcoutry users. Obviously this is never going to happen, due to highways-to-heaven throughout the canyons. My point is that there is tons of stuff in the ‘Outer’ Wasatch that never gets skied and I think we hurt ourselves by concentrating the BC useage to a handful of trailheads. The resulting “visual” we provde the lift-riders speak volumes to the developer-mind-set. When those tram/lifts riders see ski tracks down the face of Superior it sends them into chop-lickin frenzy for another Tram up that side too. With off-grid locales, and their longer drive times, longer approaches, brush and snowmachines, it’s easy to dismiss them and just head up LCC. But, man, there is sooooo much good stuff outside the Central Wasatch, I feel like a teen in a girly shop for all the great skiing to be had – and all to myself.

    Great web-site Andrew! I’m gald to help the fight in any way I can.

  15. Dave says:

    A lift up Flag would be disasterous, but I see this heading in a different direction. Has there been any talk recently about a proposed Grizzly gulch lift? I could see the Flagstaff thing as a ploy to make a lift up Grizzly seem more palatable by comparison.

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