Mens Journal

Mens Journal: The Case For One Wasatch: A Ski Paradise for All (Locals Too)

The Case for ONE Wasatch

The plan to connect all seven of the ski areas in the central Wasatch Mountain range, near Park City, could be a boon for local skiers and businesses, creating one of the most talked about ski experiences in North America. Detractors say that it will destroy the environment and character of the area. Here, Nathan Rafferty, the president of Ski Utah gives the industry’s argument in favor of the plans.

One Wasatch in its current form started as a distant dream more than 30 years ago. The idea was simple: take the seven central Wasatch ski areas (Alta, Brighton, Canyons, Deer Valley, Park City, Snowbird, and Solitude) — all standouts in their own right — and connect them via a series of chairlifts and ski runs. The combined ski experience would be one of the best in the world, at 18,000 acres, all of which would be accessible through one lift ticket.   The proposal sounds complicated until you look at it on a map: the ski areas are already practically on top of each other. But it’s taken 30 years of starts and stops to see get where we are today, which is within easy reach. Already both Alta/Snowbird and Brighton/Solitude share lift tickets, allowing interconnected skiing between the resorts. After Vail Resort’s recent purchase of Park City —and their previous purchase of Canyons —those two resorts will be joined by next year, creating the largest ski area in the United States, at over 7,000 acres. The remaining resorts could be joined with three, relatively simple connections, creating the single largest ski experience in North America.   Bigger isn’t always better, especially when you’re operating within the finite boundaries of Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range, where snowmobilers, snowshoers, and backcountry skiers all seek their fair share of The Greatest Snow on Earth. But while One Wasatch is big — it would be twice as big as its nearest North American competitor, Whistler/Blackcomb (8,000 acres) — it’s the diversity of the experience that makes this concept worth completing. Wasatch is focused entirely on the ski experience. No development other than ski lifts and runs are part of the concept. Not hotels, no condos – just skiing. Another key component of the concept is that it can all be built on private land.

Local residents understandably have their doubts. Fears about the region’s natural beauty, homogenizing the different resort experiences, and continued ski area expansion are major areas of concern. As always, change and uncertainty bring reticence, especially when it concerns Utah locals’ favorite pastime – powder skiing.   From Alta’s laid-back attitude to Deer Valley’s service-first mantra, resort experiences at Utah’s seven central Wasatch resorts could hardly be more different. But having the ability to access these different resort cultures on one pass — whether it’s the personality of its guests, the makeup of the terrain, the architecture of its buildings, or the culinary experience at their lodges — would culminate into an experience much greater than the sum of its parts.   For the Utah snow-sliding faithful, what once was a reluctance to change might soon become a healthy addiction. Straying just one ridgeline away from their regular powder stash would offer an entirely new experience. One Wasatch offers visitors and locals alike new vistas, runs, culinary experiences, and, perhaps most importantly, new chairlift conversations. Everyone would see an entirely different perspective.

As locals, we’re programmed to head straight to our favorite lift, yo-yo up and down on a singularly focused powder-plundering mission for a couple hours and call it a day. One Wasatch offers a different style of skiing altogether, where the value is placed on option. If it’s completed, we might wonder how we ever survived with just a single ski hill.   Of course, destination skiers would enjoy the same benefits. And it might just entice them to add an extra day or two to their vacation to Utah. After all, seven distinct resorts is more than just a weekend’s worth of skiing.

On the cusp of this game-changing development, it’s an exciting time to be a snow-lover.

Salt Lake Tribune

Op-ed: ‘One Wasatch’ would show that Europe got it right – by J.F. Lanvers

Op-ed: ‘One Wasatch’ would show that Europe got it right 

By J.F. Lanvers – Published: October 19, 2014

JF LanversAlmost 30 years ago, when I decided to make Utah my home, I was struck by certain similarities between the Wasatch mountains and “Portes du Soleil,” a major ski interconnect weaved around Morzine, the French ski town where I grew up in the Alps. Even though it boasts more than 200 ski lifts, like Courchevel and the Three Valleys, this huge area was never planned to be interconnected.

It just developed on an idea from Jean Vuarnet, the hometown Olympic Champion, who back in the ’60s thought it would be neat to link neighboring ski resorts on either sides of the French and Swiss border.

Just like here in Utah, many residents became concerned when the idea began circulating. Fears like scarring the region’s natural beauty, homogenizing the communities, overrunning the mountains and benefiting some resorts at the expense of others, developed like we hear them around us today. As always, change brings reticence and this wasn’t any different in the Alps. For a while, Vuarnet’s ideas were demonized and it looked like his dream would never turn into reality.

Swiss and French, all of these resorts were drastically different and the singularity of each one, whether it would be their character, their architecture, their ambience, their respective lay of the land and their ski runs, contributed to create a collection of picturesque spots that culminated into an experiential value greater than the sum of its parts. That rich experience wasn’t just for the visitors to enjoy, but also, and not least, for the locals to discover.

In fact, their appreciation soon became a healthy addiction. With a day ticket or a season pass that offered access to the whole interconnect, locals discovered new vistas, unsuspected spots that could never be envisioned from the blind side of a valley, different folks, various hospitality styles, all the way to different culinary twists they could sample at lunchtime. Just like in the Utah’s Wasatch, deep valleys created formidable barriers that isolated communities and did not permit an expansive experience and all the wealth of sharing that come with it.

Soon, folks who were content to go up and down the same hill, discovered a whole new world of recreation, and once it became revealed to them, there was no way they could simply go back to that single hill and feel whole again. Sure tourists could do the same, and while they did venture a few times into the full expanse of terrain during their week stay, it’s the locals, in the end, that benefited the most because they had the entire season to sample and enjoy their limitless playground.

The attractiveness of the concept brought more jobs and increased business opportunities to the permanent population. It also created a true synergy in terms of economic benefits, infrastructure and improvement the entire community could tap into and be proud of. In fact it was more the enhancement of the quality of the ski experience than the number of visitations that became the ultimate benefit of linked resorts. Today, after 40 years of interconnected ski life, the economy of my former hometown remains incredibly strong while the rest of Europe struggles.

Living in Summit County, I’d love to ski Snowbird or Solitude more often, but the winter drive makes it unpractical, and I am sure the reverse is true for Alta or Brighton’s local patrons. So today, when my European friends visit me, their first question is why these three valleys that converge in one perfect spot are still not linked. I shake my head, smile and say: “Look, the country that put man on the moon and that gave GPS and Internet technology to the whole world is still figuring that one out!”

The good news is that the recent plans to link Park City and Canyons will crack open the door of enlightenment and soon give Utahns a glimpse into the connected future of two large ski areas. Many will finally ski in a place they just heard about and this initial opening between these two resorts will shine such a bright light that skiers and riders will want to see it spread farther, and sooner rather than later.

Born and raised in the French Alps, J.F. Lanvers has lived in Park City for 24 years and is an avid outdoor enthusiast.

ONE Wasatch Map

Ski Utah and Area Resorts Unveil ONE Wasatch Conceptual Lift Alignment Locations & New Survey Results Released

(SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH) – Today, Ski Utah along with seven ski resort mangers released a new map detailing lift alignments of two of the three potential connections for an over-the-snow interconnect between all seven resorts via chairlift and ski run called ONE Wasatch.  ONE Wasatch would offer the largest lift-served ski experience in North America – over 18,000 acres, 100 lifts and more than 750 runs, all on one pass. And all on “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”

The two lift alignments are located on the attached map and include:

  1. Solitude (Big Cottonwood) to/from Alta (Little Cottonwood)
  2. Park City Mountain Resort (Summit County) to/from Brighton (Big Cottonwood)

The third connection between Canyons Resort to/from Park City Mountain Resort will be determined at a later date.

“Connecting seven of Utah’s finest ski resorts while preserving both our water quality and an unrivaled backcountry experience is not an impossible task,” said Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO – Ski Utah.  “Today we have decided to move a step forward in the vision process by conceptualizing lift alignments on a map to continue providing information to the public, encouraging dialog and listening to feedback about these potential connections.”

In addition to the release of the map, Ski Utah shared results of a survey they conducted about the ONE Wasatch concept. The survey was sent to more than 35,000 individual online subscribers of their monthly newsletter and snow reports. Since the respondents cover all types of recreationists that follow snow/skiing and riding conditions, we can infer they include both downhill as well as backcountry users.  The following summarizes a review of the responses.

Of the 35,468 survey requests, 3,009 completed the survey—a response rate of almost 9 percent.

  • A high number—77% of the respondents—have heard of ONE Wasatch.
  • Of those that have heard of the concept, 73% of the overall respondents believed the concept was a somewhat or very good idea, while only 19% thought that it was a somewhat or very bad idea; 8% were not sure (nearly 4 to 1 margin of favorable vs unfavorable responses)
  • The respondents, by an overwhelming margin, indicated they would use ONE Wasatch once it was completed–71% said they were somewhat or very likely to use it, compared to 25% that said they were somewhat or not very likely to use it (almost 3 to 1 in favor).

For more information regarding ONE Wasatch please visit our website at

For media information, contact Ski Utah Director of Communications Susie English at 801.433.2016 or by email at


Ski Utah is the marketing firm owned and operated by the 15 statewide ski resorts that make up the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association. The organization has been creating brand awareness of and demand for the Utah wintersports product since its inception in 1978. Ski Utah’s primary functions are concentrated in marketing, public policy and public relations. Information about Ski Utah and its members can be found at, on Twitter and Instagram @SkiUtah and on Facebook at This release and other press information can be found in the online press room at /News/.