Park City Resort has joined the wave of sentiment to limit backcountry access, in this case, through the 9990 gate to terrain just outside their boundary of control. To a lover of wild, untracked terrain this is probably a good ruling because it thins the crowd. To the advocate of freedom to chose to ski “wild” terrain, it is a loss.
PCMR closes 9990 gate
In early August, 2021 the COO of Park City Mountain Resort, Mike Goar, announced the 9990 backcountry gate would be permanently shuttered. Side country skiers lose access. Core backcountry skiers avoid the place anyway, so no loss. And Park City reduces their liability. The terrain in question is a bowl that has a history of snuffing skiers. It is real backcountry terrain that is subject to the conditions that naturally exist in the Wasatch Mountains with an intercontinental snowpack.
As Goar explained, “Unfortunately, over the years, we’ve had a number of fatalities and other serious injuries from skiers and snowboarders exiting from the 9990 gate. Coming out of the terribly unfortunate fatalities of last winter (2021), we again engaged in these conversations, and just felt that 9990 provided access that was so simple for people to utilize from the 9990 lift. Many of them ill equipped, and it was something that we needed to take a different tact on.”
Park City Resort will still allow in-bounds access to Dutch Draw, but only from the Peak 5 gate. It forces a longer hike, limiting interest to generally more experienced backcountry skiers.
The Push Back
Jake Hutchinson, a former ski-patroller when the area was known as the Canyons, thinks, “it’s just exchanging one problem for a different problem that may be less obvious to people. I’ll be interested to see if it changes anything or not.
He added, “they may not be aware, but there was an agreement between American Ski Corp and Save Our Canyons with CARG (Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth) to keep the gates open.”
Save Our Canyon’s CEO Carl Fisher admits it appears to have been a gentleman’s agreement as there is no record of a signed version, or any indication of involvement with the USAF. Per section 203.b of this unsigned 1998 agreement, [the owners of the USAF lease] “the Canyons shall have the right to locate and relocate, the Backcountry Skier Access Corridor from time to time as Canyons deems appropriate.”
Local backcountry skier Roy Crandall told KPCW he was disappointed the resort didn’t reach out to any of the organizers of a petition requesting the upper gate remain open. Over 1800 people signed the petition. A letter was sent to Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts. There has been no reply.
Whether it was a handshake or not, the new owners see things differently. By their lease terms with the USAF it is PCMR’s land to control; add in for safety, add out for adventure.
PCMR closes 9990 access gate