Other Voices: Don’t pull the plug on Royal Gorge | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: Don’t pull the plug on Royal Gorge

In the Oct. 1 article in The Union, “Summit Impasse,” project manager Mike Livak offers a grim prognosis for the patient in his care, Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort.

The article states, “When Foster and Syme bought Royal Gorge, the high cost to groom hundreds of miles of trails and the loss of a wilderness lodge to a fire a few years prior to the sale made the business unviable, Livak said.” and “‘Without the wilderness lodge, Royal Gorge was a loser. This is a very modest operation. It requires a significant subsidy each year,’ Livak said.”

If one weren’t aware of the malignancy of Royal Gorge LLC’s plans (see their Royal Gorge Future Web page) for the cross-country ski resort, one could almost imagine Misters Foster, Syme and their employee, Mr. Livak ministering tenderly to the ailing ski resort. A more apt analogy might be of Royal Gorge Cross Country as a patient on life support, about to have the plug yanked by relatives eager to divide up the spoils – an heirloom trail here, a scenic overlook there, all about to be despoiled by parking lots, condominiums, timeshares, and fractured-ownership dwellings.

Mr. Livak and his employers would like to paint a pretty, frost-etched Christmas card picture of white knights who providentially skied in to rescue a distressed cross country resort. If that were indeed the case, they would have sought to rebuild the venerable and fabled Wilderness Lodge and perhaps some other lodging, on a scale that was both reasonable and respectful of the Summit and oriented towards preserving cross country skiing.

But no, in order to “rescue” the resort, they currently propose over 1000 dwelling units, hotels, restaurants, at least two artificial lakes and what every cross country ski resort needs to remain viable: downhill skiing (there apparently being a shortage of downhill ski opportunities at Donner Summit).

None of this is aimed at shoring up an ailing cross country resort. The two planned artificial lakes will require a large clear-cutting of trees and will result in the obliteration of cross country trails. Parking lots, roadways and driveways will certainly not add to the cross-country skiing experience, as rubber mats just don’t substitute for real snow, and incessant traffic certainly doesn’t substitute for icy solitude.

Mr. Livak, in a September 4th interview with the Truckee Times, raised the specter of Royal Gorge not even lasting the season, “even the future of the cross country area is in doubt. Royal Gorge will open this winter, but says grooming its 100 miles of trails for an average of 30 skiers is not cost effective, Livak says.”

Can this patient be saved? Yes, and if not as a money maker, I’m sure there are lots of organizations willing to explore running Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort as a nonprofit. Royal Gorge LLC, stop talking the cross country ski resort down in an attempt to convince Placer County nothing but condos are a viable business at the Summit.

If you can’t make a go of the resort (which you surely must have known prior to purchase), start talking to land-trusts who might be happy to rescue the resort. Please don’t pull the plug on Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort.


Kathryn Gray lives in Serene Lakes.

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