Featured Image: January 2021 Square Top avalanche, courtesy of the Utah Avalanche Center.
Park City Mountain Resort closed the Canyons 9990 backcountry gate in February after a fatal, skier-triggered soft slab avalanche. Now, after meetings between resort management and US Forest Service staff, the gate will be closed permanently. The gate, which accesses Squaretop mountain and USFS backcountry land, saw numerous fatalities and serious injuries over the past few years. Resort staff and the Utah Avalanche Center reported that many of the skiers and riders were ill-equipped and underprepared.
Skiers can still access Square Top and Dutch Draw terrain from the Peak 5 gate, but it requires more hiking, which resort managers believe will be enough to deter inexperienced backcountry skiers. “The backcountry skiers that I talked to—that’s not an obstacle for them. They’re going to have the equipment, they’re going to be more informed and have some of the skills for back country travel, and I think that’s going to make a big difference,” Park City Mountain COO Mike Goar told KPCW.
The mountain made the closure decision after extensive conversations with the Forest Service, stakeholders, and partners. For those who purchased a season pass with the expectation that they would have access to the backcountry from the 9990 chairlift, no refunds will be available.
Utah Avalanche Center Director Mark Staples said, “At this time we don’t have much input on the gate closure because that is solely a decision of the resort. Ultimately we want to help people enjoy the backcountry, and we want to help them do it safely.”
We reached out to Vail Resorts for a comment and will update this article with their response.