Friday, January 02, 2009

The Snow Basin Permit Expansion Application:Trentelman Fattens Out the Facts

An abbreviated application process, a useful map and Forest Service contact information

Charles Trentelman provides more information on Snow Basin Resort's Forest Service use permit expansion application in this morning's Standard-Examiner front page story . Trentelman fleshes out several new fact elements, such as the abbreviated approval process which was adopted by the local Ogden Ranger District:
Normally, any request to use public land managed by the Forest Service must go through an application and approval process under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. The process can last years and includes public hearings.
Snowbasin made the request a month ago, Vallejos said. Because of the limited nature of the request, he said the Ogden Ranger District did what he called a “Small NEPA, where specialists from the Forest Service sit around the table and we present the projects, and in the small NEPA none of the specialists had any issues at all.”
The process is legal, he said.
Although Trentelman reports that Forest Service officials did contact contact Save Our Canyons and the Sierra Club regarding the Snow Basin application, it's unclear whether objections or other formal responses were invited. Moreover no facts are reported to imply that federal officials made any effort to provide notice to the general public at all. Notably, Trentelman quotes Sierra Club Conservation Chair Dan Schoeder, who expressed surprise "that there would be no formal process." From appearances, the application approval process was designed to come in entirely under under the public radar screen, just as David Witherspoon has suggested.

This morning's story also presents a useful map, showing Snow Basin's planned routes, in relation to the resort and Ogden City. While we would have liked to have seen a proper topographical map, displaying the contour lines for each of the planned descents... we'll take what we can get (click to enlarge image):

We'll also note in closing that Snow Basin and Forest Service officials all reportedly continue to deny that the Snow Basin permit expansion application has anything to do with Earl Holding's son-in-law or his land.

We spoke this morning with the Ogden Ranger District office. Although the key players are all off on vacation, we've been assured that public comments and/or objections will be accepted beyond the stated January 5 cutoff date, and through the upcoming week, for which purpose we provide the contact info below:
Recreation Staff Officer
Ogden Ranger District
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Phone: (801)
Office - 625-5112
Fax - 625-5914


Anonymous said...

I don't doubt that Vallejos thinks "the process" is legal, but 36 CRF § 220.4(a & e), FSH 1909.15 ch. 10 and FSH 1909.12 ch. 10 strongly suggest otherwise.

"It's legal" frequently means "I think we can get away with it."

ozboy said...

My guess is that Peterson will in fact end up owning, or at least controlling, Snow Basin.

The Billionaire bought and built the place because his daughter loved it (or so the official line goes)

Peterson is married to the Billionaire's daughter (as far as we know they are still married)

The Billionaire is staring down the long tunnel to paradise (he had a stroke a couple years ago and he is pretty old as well)

Snow Basin is a relatively small part of the Billonaire's holdings (no pun intended)

So why wouldn't his daughter and son in law end up owning the place when the old feller kicks off on his eternal voyage?

The other Holding heirs may be more than willing to let their Birkenstock wearing little sis and her big handsome husband take the place just to get rid of them. Seems to me it would be a better alternative for them than to have him in the middle of their real business enterprises.

marv said...

Seems like Snow Basin's insurance carrier will put an end to this. Even with the serious hold harmless agreements these out of bounds skiers will have to sign, law suits are still a very real possibility with this kind of scheme. Some one will almost certainly die sooner than later if they pursue this idea.

Tec Jonson said...

Snowbasin is owned by Sinclair oil Corporation as is Sun Valley. The whole thing is hardly run like a family feifdom as is the common perception like Oz.

These small permits are nothing more than has been stated. A way for Snowbasin to offer an out of bounds experience to their guest services while also getting the ski patrollers/guides involved in more backcountry experience. The perception on this blog is of some drastic increase of skier traffic down Taylor Canyon. Nothing could be further from reality. There were probably fewer than 50 total descents of Taylor Canyon in all of last season. That was a season that offered the best possible snow conditions. It simply does not add up to anything that could be described as "traffic".

The SE headline says something about a "solution to renegade routes" This is FoxNews like spin in its finest. As though these routes and the riders enjoying them are becoming renegade and creating problems. There is no solution as there is no problem. I saw one hiker on each of my three Taylor descents. They seemed pleasantly surprised to see a snowboarder coming down the canyon.

So few tourists would opt to sacrifice a day ticket and guide fee for a single westside descent. There will be some but, as I have stated previously in earnest, Conditions simply are too variable for descents to become a daily affair. Non-skiers will not understand this situation but take it from one who is a backcountry rider, snow conditions are primary to a worthy experience and backcountry conditions are rarely good for more than 3 days following storms. The bottom runouts of these canyons are treacherous after a few descents and adequate snow cover to the bottom is rare. Few skiers will like to hash up their prize boards on the exposed rock and stumps.

ozboy said...


Who do you think owns Sinclair, and who do you think will own it after the 82 year stroke victim Earl shuffles off? You may (or maybe not) be a wizard on a snow board but I question your understanding of how family owned businesses operate - even very large ones like Sinclair. Mr. Holding has four heirs, his elderly wife and three children. I suspect that those three will be dividing up the pie in some fashion after Earl departs. Given his legendary secrecy it's all conjecture in any event.

oldguy said...

Don't overlook the fact that in the process of building an Olympic caliber downhill race course Snowbasin has made the front (west)
side of the mountain easily accessible to the skiing public. Placing signs defining the controlled area boundry and warning of the dangers ahead is, in a sense, a cop out. Signs don't keep people out. Is Snowbasin liable if someone enters the front side despite the warning? Frankly, thats a question for the lawyers out there.

In any event, you can bet that if someone is caught in an avalance, skis of a cliff, gets lost, or simply falls and is injured, Snowbasin will get the first call for assistance. In either a practical or humanitarian sense, it would be hard for the ski area to decline a request for assistance.

I don't believe there is any question that the west side of the mountain is loaded with hazard and frankly, apart from bragging rights and the danger tinged adventure aspect, why leave good skiing in preference for what could be anything but fun? Some may be savvy enough to stay out of trouble but there is an old saying - "there are no living avalanche experts". Why would the area open itself up to added liablity? May be that there is already a liability aspect that the area must address.

I don't believe that Snowbasin sees a chance to make a buck with guided runs down the front side. In fact, I would bet that those who regularly ski the front side aren't potential customers for the service. A guide would spoil the fun.

I think Snowbasin is seeking USFS approval for a legitimatized presence on the front side. The more they know about the west side the better prepared they will be to avoid costly mistakes when (not if) the are called upon to run a rescue operation there.

wfocn said...

Snowbasin and Malan's Basin connected....Who's full of crap now?

Tec Jonson said...


Those signs and gates are common at most ski areas with accessible and usable backcountry. Snowbasin has no more liability than any of the rest of Utah's ski resorts. The open backcountry rules are clear and well known. I can't recall any ski resort held liable for someone's unfortunate backcountry transgression. Besides, this kind of adventure is very difficult to contain. Kind of like building a fence on the Mexican border. The backcountry does not have a picket fence and a gate with a hasp. That is why we have the open backcountry rules. You are at your own risk and will pay for rescue if stranded. It is spelled out clearly on the signs. This is personal responsibility at it's finest and lawyers have yet to twist it's intention in my years of backcountry riding.

You may not understand the attraction of the backcountry. That's fine, but for those of us who can negotiate and navigate this terrain when conditions are safe and favorable, it is indeed a magnificent experience. Despite my descriptions of difficult ice and narrow trails, for me, these descents are the essence.

Oldguy said...

Tec Johnson says..That is why we have the open backcountry rules.

This is one of those years when the experts admit that the snowpack isn't behaving according to the book - three deaths so far in controlled ski areas. If snowpack that is closely monitored and controlled is unpredictable then what does that say about the backcountry.

Obviously, many consider backcountry skiing a "magnificent experience" and as I said, there are those who can make informed decisions about when and if conditions are (relatively) safe and favorable - those who consider that the high is worth the risk - and never doubt that there is risk even in the best of times.

The idea hat you are on your own is a popular fallacy. If you are wrong and trouble befalls you someone is going to be obligated to come after you. The literature is full of incidents where the rescuer becomes the victim. BTW, when is the last time a ski area or the FS charged an unwitting (or informed) skier for their rescue. All too often the bill would have to be paid by the survivor's.

No doubt, as a seasoned backcountry buff you are in a better position than I to know what the so-called open backcountry rules are. Frankly, I am far less concerned about those who knowingly transgress than those who are unaware of the realities involved i.e., the young and inexperienced who view your exploits as admirable and somthing worth emulating.

Bill the suckers said...

Powder Mountain has a warning sign near the lift ticket window "Backcountry rescue billed a minimum of $250". It seems that at least several times each winter a group or two of tourons (many in search of extreeeme adventure) gets lost just outside of the resort, requiring Weber County Search and Rescue assistance. Maybe it's time the County started billing people for their stupid mistakes. Rescue operations are not inexpensive or always safe for those involved.

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