Friday, December 19, 2008

The Malan's/Strong's Clearcutting: What Chris Peterson Is Really Up To?

An informed tentative explanation, based on new photos and other newly considered and revised information

By Dan Schroeder

For the last three weeks, Weber County Forum readers have been puzzling over Chris Peterson's recent clearcutting activities on the Malan's Basin property. Yesterday I took another hike up to Malan's Basin to finish mapping the cleared routes, and the picture became much more complete. A revised map and some new photos are posted on the Sierra Club web site.

To get to the point, here's my tentative explanation: Chris Peterson is trying to convince people that you can ski from Malan's Basin all the way down to the city.

As the map shows, there's another newly cleared route on the north side of Malan's Basin that I was unaware of before. That route descends 500 feet over a little more than a mile, starting at the valley bottom near the eastern end of Peterson's property and ending on the ridge overlooking Taylor Canyon, a little east of Malan's Peak.

In fact, this route does precisely what Chris Peterson told me you "could" do, back on July 20, 2006, when he met with the Ogden Trails Network Committee. Specifically, when I asked him to elaborate on his claim that you could ski all the way down off the mountain, he used his finger to trace a line on a map following essentially this route. He described how the route would provide a gentle descent to link the upper basin to Taylor Canyon. His crew had already done some minor clearing on the very steep slope that descends into Taylor Canyon from there. That slope is suitable only for expert skiers (and snowboarders). Presumably this would be an "end of the day" route, with skiers continuing down the Taylor Canyon trail to the top of 27th Street.

Peterson also told me you "could" ski down via Strong's Canyon, although he was vague about the exact alignment. The newly cleared route through Strong's Canyon is probably about as viable as any. Although its exact terminus isn't quite clear, it appears that a skier descending this route could end up near the formerly proposed location for the mountain gondola terminal, near the north end of the WSU foothill property.

Of course, there are major problems with both of these routes.

The first problem is the side slope, which exceeds 50% almost everywhere and approaches 100% in several spots. Skiing for a mile or two along such a side slope would be pretty unpleasant, so we can assume that the plan is to eventually go in with heavy equipment to cut, fill, and flatten a "trail". How wide would the trail be? A few feet would be enough to ski on, but Peterson stated in 2006 that the width of his "trails" would be about 15 feet--wide enough for the routes to double as snowcat trails and maintenance roads. The expense of constructing over three miles of such roads, which would require retaining walls in many locations, would be enormous. The ecological damage would be enormous as well.

The second problem is aspect. The northern route lies almost entirely on a south-facing slope, as does a long segment of the southern route in Strong's Canyon. In a typical winter, these slopes never hold snow for long. Flattening the routes and packing the snow would undoubtedly help, but there would be no time of year when the routes are dependably snow covered. Investing in snowmaking equipment for lengthy routes on south-facing slopes would be virtually out of the question. And when there's fresh snow of any depth, the gently sloping routes would be rough going until after they've been groomed.

The third problem is land ownership. To complete the Strong's Canyon route would require constructing a road through a National Forest roadless area. Whether the Forest Service would ever approve such a project is anyone's guess--but there would be considerable opposition. The northern route would also continue onto National Forest land at the bottom of Taylor Canyon. Even if no alteration to the existing trail in the canyon is proposed, the Forest Service could very well take issue with use of that trail by significant numbers of downhill skiers.

The fourth problem is clientele. These kinds of routes are not your typical downhill skiing, so it isn't clear who would pay for the experience of descending them. The number of expert skiers who can handle the descent into Taylor Canyon is limited. The Strong's Canyon route would be usable by average skiers, and has a greater chance of being served by a lift, but would involve a gentle descent of over two miles on a narrow trail that many skiers would consider confining and monotonous: perhaps worth a try for the novelty, but not more than once.

So the practical feasibility of both of these routes is questionable at best. And that brings me back to my carefully worded hypothesis: I'm not claiming that Peterson will ever finish constructing either of these routes. What seems clear is only that he is trying to convince people that the routes are feasible. And who are these people? I can only speculate. They could include prospective investors, or a prospective buyer for the property, or government officials, or the general public. Perhaps we'll learn more in the coming months.

In any case, I think it would be incorrect to view these new clearings as a departure from the plans that Peterson announced in 2006. A major system of "trails" that are really roads was part of his plan all along. In his public presentations he was always careful to state that while he would not permit private automobiles in his planned resort, some of his ski "trails" would be usable as roads during the summer. Mayor Godfrey was less clear, saying that he and Peterson were "working on" making the resort roadless, "even for construction", but making no outright promises. (The Standard-Examiner never understood these subtleties. The boilerplate text that appeared in numerous articles during 2006-07 simply described the proposed resort as "roadless".)

Many Ogden residents supported the Peterson proposal in 2006 with the understanding that the resort would be roadless and otherwise environmentally benign. Now that Peterson's concepts have become more vivid, it's time to reassess the environmental footprint of the project and whether it deserves our community's support.


Jason W. said...

Apt conjecture, to be sure, but the batshit loony actions of vest-loving, Thorazine-addled Wayne Peterson -- famed leader of his own Squirrel Patrol -- could be far more nefarious: He may be clear-cutting routes for high-adventure side-by-sides, whose riders will engage in high-adventure varmint removal. These brave men and women will clamber into high-adventure ATVs and risk life and limb to rid Wayne's property of squirrels and nut caches. Once this divine mission is accomplished, Wayne will gather his cadre of dupes, feebs, Geigers and morons to proceed with his true, Mephistopholean intent: construction of a sewerless douchefactory, serviced via proposed THE GONDOLA, and including a Wolfgang Puck hot dog stand for the shit orb workers and the high-adventure visitors who seek a high-adventure experience watching high-adventure douches being constructed. Sadly, Lying Little Matty Gondola Godfrey will not receive his child-sized side-by-side, plastered with Descente and DNA logos, as His Forehead and Wayne's fourth personality are in the death throes of a lover's quarrel. Boo to you, Wayne! Hiss on you, Matthew!


RudiZink said...

When I was a kid, Dan, an aspiring ski racer with local legend Earl Miller's fantastic Utah Racing School, a school which propelled a number of Ogden Ski Racers to National ski racing promininance, my pals and ski racer friends and I set up a little slalom course on the foothills where Peterson thinks he can bring skiers down from Malan's Basin.

This site was useful, in good winters, during the month of February at best. Even then, keeping the course usable required lots of snow shoveling on our part.

With reference to the people who are pushing Peterson's ski resort dream, I wonder how many of them are actual skiers?

Is Peterson an actual skier? Is it possible that he might not even recognise the major problem in these low-altitude areas?

danny said...

It's nice to see Peterson flailing like this. It indicates he's feeling he has few options.

dan s. said...

Charlie Trentelman has again blogged on this topic, and this time he even includes a link to Weber County Forum.

RudiZink said...

Up until now, Dan, we've had the uneasy feeling that the folks at the Standard-Examiner did'nt even want to acknowledge that Weber County Forum even exists.

In recognition of Trentelman's (belated we think) link to today's article, we've added Mr. Trentelman's site to our right sidebar blogroll.

We've been working behind the scenes, BTW, to improve our relationship with the Standard-Examiner. Until recently, we believe some within the Std-Ex management formerly viewed us as a threat.

Now that the Std-Ex has fully embarked upon its effort to be relevant in the webosphere, we're confident that the Std-Ex will regard our relationship as symbiotic and mutually beneficial.

The more websites who post info on local topics, and the more interaction between them the better, we say. It all adds up to more page loads. And that's what it's really about on the web, innit?

Welcome to the WCF blogroll, Mr. Trentelman!

Hopefully we can drive some web traffic to you... and vice versa!

dan s. said...


Although I consider WCF a tremendous resource on local issues, and a great place to vent over the shortcomings of the S-E, it would be downright silly for anyone at the S-E to consider WCF a threat.

Still, how else does one explain their behavior? I suspect that the total number of mentions of WCF in the printed S-E could be counted on one hand, and nearly all of those have been on the opinion pages.

Of course, even when the S-E attributes something to the Trib, they almost always refer to it generically as "a Salt Lake City newspaper".

fireman joe said...

Rudi-I'd say it's pretty obvious Peterson doesn't ski. Why would I want to end the day on the opposite side of the mountain from where my car is? My kids would beg and plead to ski home-send them down a huge expanse of mountain just before dark, no ski patrol sweep, sounds brilliant to me.

danny said...

It's not that the SE considers the WCF a threat, it's that the people who work at the paper consider the posters here to be a threat individually.

Newspapering is like any other media. It's something most anybody can do, and that's not a secure feeling.

Trentleman's one of the better ones, but if memory serves he was walking by the paper one day and somebody grabbed him and asked him if he could write newspaper articles.

They don't want people looking somewhere else because they worry they could easily find something better.

I'm not trying to be mean - it's just human nature. If you want them to like you, get to know them,flatter them, and never threaten them in any way. That's human nature too.

Donk said...

Considering the myrid problems associated with building a ski area in Malan's Basin one wonders why anyone would seriously consider such a venture but this trail building business is really a puzzler. Getting down from Malan's isn't the major problem getting up the mountain is. Trails of the type under discussion have utility significance - summer roads, snowcat tracks and even at times a way to ski from point A to point B. Of course, I'm convinced that Peterson probably slept through Ski Area Operations 101 so I suppose it's possible that he could be up to almost anything - it doesn't necessarily have to make sense and chances are it doesn't. Besides, anyone who would throw in with M. Godfrey can't be too sharp.

Tec Jonson said...

Almost all ski resorts have their "Longest Run" that they use to bloat their area stats. Makes the ski experience sound so much more expansive. This longest run is the cat and service road. Why is it longest. Because it descends the mountain at the least gradient, attractive for people who have no business on skis. These trails regardless of width are hazardous and icy. They are worse when plastered by "world class snow-making systems"

Who skis these runs to nowhere...NOBODY. Malan's would have what appears one of the world's longest and treacherous. Peterson is a nutjob and a lame skier.

Tec Jonson said...

Charlie Trentleman speculated that these routes may be for construction gondolas. No they are not. I don't mean to counter your speculation Charlie. A construction gondola route would be a straightline clearcut iof there would be any cutting at all. Gondolas are ropeways or cableways and scale the mountain at the shortest possible distance. They do not require grading or traversing.

Without sounding hyper-critical of our friend, Charlie, this statement of his is indicative of the vacuum of knowledge locally of ski area hardware. If this is indicative of a similar lack of knowledge at the SE then that explains their support for Peterson and even the town gondola. They simply have no clue to the limitations or deployment of this hardware. Since they also DO NOT ski or ride a snowboard then they have no business opining on the finer details of ski area development. They are simply playing "Local-Business-Cheerleader" without knowing whether this local business has a viable plan.

Tec Jonson said...

There are ONLY a handful of locals who have EVER descended Taylor Canyon and I believe I am the only one of them to have ever posted here and stated any opinion on the possibilities. Amy Wicks has also run Taylor. Her assessment is similar to mine. It is tricky at best and very difficult in the bottom half. That is the assessment of EXPERT riders like myself and Amy. No amount of trail work would make it viable short of bombing out the bottom of the canyon and making a nice 15' wide cat road for thorazine-addled ski area dreamers. I would like to hear from any one else who has descended Taylor Canyon or any other route on the west side. Your experience is valuable and would make enjoyable reading for the WCForum audience. I know there is at least a couple of dozen out there. Please share your experience. In all this Malan's Basin talk for the last 3 years NO ONE except for myself and Don Wilson has come out with any real ski experience and offered some assessment of this terrain. Where are all the Snowbasin Ski patrollers on this issue. Surely several of them have made the descent.

Jason W. said...

Well, to be fair to those gondola-loving idiots at the Gondola-Examiner ("We support the urban gondola."), some nameless creep around here did call them fags. Not the Rambler, of course, but there you go. Also, a belated thanks for getting the Geiger out of The Big City to Andy Ludwig, Utes offensive moron and OTown native. You brought shame upon OTown, you gridiron Geiger! (And they are WASHINGTON TERRACE natives, not beggton sons of Ogden; there's a big difference.)


Bill C. said...

Tec, Taylor's Canyon has a deadly history when it comes to local skiers. After that episode, they all stay away from Taylors. Folks that desire to ski this side of the mountain do it for two reasons, the novelty and good untracked powder. Most that do it frequently stick to the bowls in upper Strongs and the most upper reaches of Malans. You have to leave Malans quite early in the trip and get over to Strongs or you get stuck in a bad place, lower Malans. Getting out of there sucks. There's good powder up there in the higher reaches, but after that it's nothing to brag about. Most come off by the W above Weber State.

Bill C. said...

Tec, they also carry shovels and wear peepsies,

Tec Jonson said...

Bill, your right about the danger. Last season was good and relatively safe with a deep snowpack. I ran Taylors twice. I dropped in from the saddle leading out to No Name Peak. That's a safer route than Banana Chute or the Burn in my estimation. Less open exposure, fewer terrain traps, more trees and escape routes. The top half is superb. The next quarter is challenging yet fun for tree riding enthusiast. the last quarter is painful if you are not the first couple of riders through it. Subsequent skiers, especially sideslippers polish the trail to a death slide with living tree obstacles lining the sides. Sharp edges are the rule.

I've been wanting to run the Strong's route. I would run it down the ridgeline dividing Malans and Strongs. The ridge runs out into rock at Strong's peak which looks to require a traverse around the south side of the peak to reach the broad shoulder above WSU. Unfortunately I would not want to run it on a sunny day when visibility is best as the snow gets cooked and less desirable for powder turns. My favorite weather would not be friendly to that kind of backcountry excursion.

Tec Jonson said...

Oops, I meant I would run the ridge dividing Strongs from Beus Canyon. The ridge dividing Malans and Strongs is rugged and runs out into several huge outcroppings and cliffs near the Waterfall. Impassable for skiing.

Monotreme said...

A truly inspiring story of monkeywrenching. Lives were not put at risk, no one's livelihood was destroyed, and the environment was (temporarily) saved from destructive action by Big Oil.

Let's all cheer Tim DeChristopher.

Rafiki said...

We must remember that some of the plan is also summer based. I heard that there are also plans for Mt. Bike trails coming off Malan's into Taylor and etc...

There is more to this plan than skiing.

Bill C. said...

Rafiki, the thorazine addled vest wearing bushy tailed rodent phobic wonder has no propriety in Taylors Canyon. He can make no improvements such as cutting new trails and grating, which would definately be required for descending on a bicycle. If it's deadly for skiing it's much worse for cycling. Hike it some day, the only folks getting sucked into any of this BS are folks that haven't been up there.

dan s. said...


Nonetheless, there can be no doubt that mountain bike descents through Taylor Canyon and Strong's Canyon are part of Peterson's "plan". Those who value the peace and quiet in these canyons should enjoy them now, before they are taken over by the lift-assisted "high-adventure" crowd.

dan s. said...

I've just learned that Bob Geiger has sent out an email accusing me of "trespassing". I see no point in arguing with Mr. Geiger, but it occurs to me that some other readers may be wondering whether I broke any laws hiking around on Peterson's property.

The answer is that I did not break any laws, because none of the property is posted or otherwise marked to indicate that it is off limits to the public. In fact, you need to be a pretty good map reader just to know where the property boundaries are located.

(Even if the property were posted, the long-established trails are arguably public rights-of-way under the common-law prescriptive easement doctrine. But that obviously wouldn't apply to the newly cleared routes.)

Bill C. said...

Dan, short deck is just attempting to make himself relevent. He's been laying pretty low since his abusing Kenedy's reputation so, at the behest of gadi. Captain short deck of the squirrel patrol feels personally connected to petersons holdings, if there are 770 squirrels per acre theres over a million of those varmits in need of suffering a short deck retribution. It's rumored that he goes nose to nose with each one before executing them with a series of headbutts.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
serial trespasser said...

geez, i have trespassed in malans basin for years. So has most of ogden. oh, and i've been trespassing in waterfall canyon for years. so has most of ogden.

Rose said...

I hate it when people cut down more trees.

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