After an email and a follow up phone call from Ted Wilson, I have decided to delete the previous posting as Ted said he felt it was a personal attack on him and betrayed our friendship. The gist of the post was that Talisker, an ultra high-end developer in the Park City area whom Ted works for as a lobbyist, is planning on putting a tram from the top of their Dream Catcher chairlift up to and over the scenic Wasatch Crest trail, across 1.8 miles of public Forest Service land and terminate it at the Solitude ski resort. This is an incredibly controversial plan and made more so as it is being pitched as a solution to the traffic congestion in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It is also controversial as Ted has a long history of being a champion of the beleaguered Wasatch and his support for this lift is seen as a betrayal of these values. Ted says it is not and there is a “method to his madness.” Time will tell.
I’m generally bad with dates, but know that I first met Ted on April 3rd, 1993. I remember this date as I met him in a hospital emergency room where is nephew, Roman Latta, was in critical condition after being caught and buried in an avalanche while skiing with me and some other friends earlier that day. I had known Roman for only an hour or two in total before the accident happened, and from the Alaska plates on his Jeep, I thought he was from out of town. As I walked into the emergency room, I was floored to see it packed with people and soon learned that Roman was from Salt Lake City and a large group of family and friends were there to support him, including Uncle Ted. It was a sobering lesson and put a very human face on avalanches for me.
The Central Wasatch Mountains is a tiny little range and after skiing here for a few years, there is often only one or two degrees of separation between people. Due to it being right near a major city and having weird drinking laws, I don’t think it has nearly the cohesive community of places like Jackson Hole or Tahoe, but it is very common to have lots of casual friends, or know of people through immediate friends. This is both good and bad. It is good as skiing buddies are the best friends on earth and everyone has a mutual love of a common interest – skiing (or boarding). It is bad as inevitably in a small range like this, conflicts arise and you find yourself on opposite sides of a fierce debate with someone you know as a friend or have skied with. To complicate this issue, tons of skiers/riders work for the ski industry as guides, instructors, patroller, etc., and they are bound by their employer not to criticize them. Being a free agent with no ties to a ski resort or government agency, people often feed me inside scoops on upcoming controversial developments to help spread the alarm, which I am happy to do, although it often alienates friends.
This is unfortunate, but I also feel very strongly about preserving the Wasatch Mountains, so it comes with the territory. However, many people are not in the position to voice their opinions, which is how many of these controversial projects get rammed through. Public meetings are held and the same ten people speak out against them, while in the background far more people are grumbling about it under their breath. Since moving back to Utah twenty years ago I have seen a vast explosion of development, and that is nothing compared to what the people who have lived here continuously since the 1960’s have seen. It seems obvious to me that if development isn’t reined in the Wasatch will soon become yet another over-priced, over-groomed, over-hyped run of the mill mega resort. The sad part of this is that for many people, this moment can’t come soon enough.