Snowbird Expansion Into American Fork Canyon

Lily Mueller - Staff Writter

With ski season approaching, it’s no secret that Snowbird Ski Resort plans on expanding into American Fork Canyon. But what exactly does this mean for Utah County residents?

For over a year, Snowbird ski resort has become increasingly verbal about their expansion into American Fork Canyon, planning on adding two chairlifts and a zip-line in addition to the skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and biking trails throughout  Mary Ellen Gulch. In April of this year, The Utah County Board of Adjustment voted to approve Snowbird’s building permits to continue  their expansion; a step that Snowbird has been working towards since February of 1997. Brian Brown, Snowbird spokesperson, said that the resort will be expanding another 500 acres into Mineral Basin and Mary Ellen Gulch in the AF canyon area of the mountain. 

“The terrain back [in American Fork Canyon] would make for an amazing addition to the skiable acres we already have,” said Brown.
With the amount of families in the Utah County area that already ski, a ski resort in American Fork Canyon is a fantastic idea to some. However, many Utah County residents are not as thrilled with the idea. Polls on the expansion show that 79% of the 12,841 Utah residents that voted, want to keep the canyon as it is now, overshadowing the 21% that support the Snowbird development. 

Distaste for the expansion has led to a Facebook page called “Protect and Preserve American Fork Canyon,” which posts recent articles about the expansion. There is also an American Fork Canyon Alliance website that advocates “Keeping the Wasatch Front’s crown jewel American Fork Canyon.”
“I’ve been going up there for over 30 years,” photographer Willie Holdman said. “I don’t want to go up there and have alpine slides, zip lines, and mountain coasters. This is a place where you actually go to enjoy Mother Nature.”
A concern that has arisen in Snowbird’s progression is the water quality in American Fork Canyon. 
“That was our number one goal, [to] protect our water source for a quarter of the county,” said Brad Frost, a member of the American Fork City Council. Frost arranged to have Snowbird monitor water quality for the next two years before starting any construction, and to measure purity readings after work begins. 
“Our goal [throughout] was to stay very open and very transparent, and that’s going to continue as long as we operate in Mary Ellen Gulch,” said Brown.
Although there are many protests against the Snowbird expansion, it seems that Snowbird will continue their project into AF canyon. For some Utah County residents, the Snowbird Ski Resort expansion is viewed as a great opportunity that will only enhance the love for American Fork Canyon and will increase attendance in the canyon.

Snowbird Expansion Map.jpg
Photo By: Snowbird