Debate over SkiLink continues in public discussion

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PARK CITY, Utah - Hundreds of people gathered to discuss the proposed SkiLink that would connect the Solitude and Canyons ski resorts.

Supporters say the link would create 500 jobs and set Utah apart from other ski destinations. The gondola would shorten the trip between the two resorts from 45 minutes to 11 minutes.

"It would be really unique to Utah, the first of its kind in North America," said Dave DeSeelhorst with Solitude Mountain Resort.

Opponents say the gondola, which would go through Utah's backcountry, could be harmful to the environment and set a dangerous precedent.

"Park City residents are here because they're concerned about this being in their backyard," said Tim Wagner with the Sierra Club.

But DeSeelhorst says that they'll be able to build the link without damaging the environment.

"We really feel we can do this safely without damaging the environment, building the gondola without using service roads," he said. "The structures could be built without much environmental impact."

For SkiLink to become reality, congress has to sell 30 acres of federal land to the Talisker Corporation, a private company. Opponents worry the link would give Talisker too much control over Utah's backcountry.

"The problem with SkiLink is it's good for some but not all. These are our public lands that we have to protect," said Carl Fisher with Save Our Canyons.

Even if congress approves the sale, the proposal wouldn't be put into place. It would mere give control to Utah, then local governments would have to make the decision to move the project forward.

A bill has been introduced, supported by Utah Republicans, but there hasn't been a vote yet, and until the federal government gives up the land, the proposal is at a standstill.