Aspen in Utah?

Utah sees the potential for two new resorts in the Salt Lake area.

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Utah already has 13 ski resorts—not too shabby for a state full of 3.2 beer and churchgoers. And if local developers have their way, the state could get two new ski areas in coming years. Kennecott Land, part of the Rio Tinto mining company, hopes to build a new resort in the Oquirrh Mountains, located along the west side of Salt Lake Valley just 18 miles from the SLC International Airport. It’s already picked the location (between Nelson Peak and Farnsworth Peak with a base elevation of 6,200 feet and a summit at 9,350), but in terms of snow, the Oquirrhs can’t compare with Utah’s more famous range—the Wasatch.

“We’re never going to be Snowbird/Alta,” says Jim Schulte, vice president of long-range planning for Kennecott. “Those resorts in the Wasatch are truly special with snowfall.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Wasatch in Heber Valley, developer Dean K. Sellers has designs on a luxury ski resort that would exist in a new town he hopes to incorporate. A town he wants to call Aspen, Utah. The ski area won’t bear the same name as the town—or as that place in Colorado—but some of the area’s roughly 100 residents aren’t willing to trade their flannels for furs. In November, they filed a petition to be annexed to the nearby town of Daniel, denying Sellers the populace he needs to successfully incorporate Aspen.

No timetable has been set for either resort, but local skiers aren’t exactly holding their collective breath. “I think the Oquirrhs are too low for a ski area. To me, it sounds like embracing resort development more than building a truly viable ski area,” says photographer Lee Cohen, who’s been shooting in Utah for decades. “But I guess we could always use more golf courses.”


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