PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4) – In less than a month, two backcountry skiers died in separate avalanches just outside the boundaries of Park City Mountain Resort.
Skiers access the backcountry — which is public land owned by the U.S. Forest Service — from the top of a ski run at PCMR, which is a private resort. After the second avalanche death outside of resort boundaries, PCMR officials closed the gate. It hasn’t been open since.
Now, more than 1,500 people have signed a petition to get that access back.
“The accidents that happened this year were very traumatic for myself and many in the community. I know it was very difficult,” said Brendan Mooney, an environmental communications specialist who helped author the petition.
“And I think that, realistically, we just need to involve the community and have a conversation on how to most safely allow public access to the land,” added Mooney.
Mooney says at stake is access to public lands.
The petition reads, in part:
“The unresolved and ongoing closure of the backcountry gates on the Canyons side of the Park City Resort is unprecedented, unacceptable, and impedes our right to access our shared public lands. Permanent closure of the Canyons backcountry access would be the end of an era and a disservice to the next generation of backcountry enthusiasts and public land stewards.
We petition Vail Resorts to reinstate US National Forest Access from the Park City ridgeline immediately and for the remainder of the 2020-2021 ski season.“
A statement from PCMR, sent to ABC4 by Senior Communications Manager Jessica Miller, reads:
“First and foremost, on behalf of the entire Park City Mountain team, we’d like to extend our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and all those affected by the avalanche tragedies across Utah’s backcountry this season. These events are truly heartbreaking for the impacted families, our community and for many of us personally.
We appreciate the community’s patience, understanding and input as we’ve evaluated the backcountry exit points at Park City Mountain following the tragedies outside of our resort boundaries. We have been and are taking this time to carefully analyze the situation and have discussions with our resort partners including the U.S. Forest Service. With the winter season coming to an end, we will keep the resort exits to the backcountry closed through the remainder of this season. We understand the public’s desire to have backcountry access via the resort and are committed to resolving this issue, and we will announce more specific details of what that will look like prior to the start of next season.“