Black Diamond Speaks Out Against UDOT-Approved Little Cottonwood, UT, Gondola: “We Are Incredibly Disappointed”

Martin Kuprianowicz | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Photo: Black Diamond Instagram

After months of waiting, the Utah public finally received its answer: Little Cottonwood Canyon is getting a gondola to help curb traffic issues. Black Diamond, along with other Salt Lake City-based companies and conservancy groups such as the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, has publically declared its objection to the controversial plan that was approved yesterday by The Utah Department of Transportation after months of debate and 50,000 publically submitted comments.

Black Diamond, Inc., a company that specializes in outdoor equipment and products for climbing, skiing, hiking, and other outdoor activities, took a public stance opposing the Little Cottonwood Gondola not long after the plan was proposed in 2020, speaking out against how the project would destroy precious bouldering areas and mar the natural beauty of the canyon. The company has since awarded incentives such as promotional offers on its products for those who could prove that they took the bus up to one of Big or Little Cottonwood’s ski areas last winter—a tactic aimed to prove that the proposed gondola system would be overkill for the traffic issues at hand.

Now, upon hearing of the gondola’s approval, Black Diamond has reiterated its attitude on social media, sharing that it is disappointed but hopeful. The company wrote in an Instagram post:

“We are incredibly disappointed by the news that the gondola remains in UDOT’s now-approved phased plan to address congestion in Little Cottonwood Canyon. But it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. We are still hopeful that the SLC community can come together and make it clear that the gondola is unnecessary. As we move through phases 1 and 2 of the plan—utilizing public transportation systems—we will continue to encourage and incentivize our communities and visitors to travel smarter. We remain committed to working together and showing UDOT that our community can make the changes necessary, allowing us to maintain the pristine beauty of our beloved Little Cottonwood Canyon. Keep an eye out in the fall for our extra incentives to ride the bus!”

Black Diamond will release its plans to further incentivize riding the bus up Big and Little Cottonwood canyons this fall. In the meantime, the company remains hopeful that the Salt Lake Community can show that the gondola is unnecessary and persuade against its construction. In an email correspondence with SnowBrains, Jess Powell, Black Diamond Equipment’s advocacy and sustainability manager, said:

“Yesterday’s announcement from UDOT is incredibly disappointing. As the now-approved plan for gondola is a three-phase approach, that will likely take years, if not decades, to complete, we remain committed in our stance against this plan. Black Diamond will continue to work along with the Salt Lake City community and its visitors to encourage people to travel smarter. Hopefully together we can influence the proposed outcome and maintain the pristine beauty of the Wasatch’s Little Cottonwood Canyon.”

The Little Cottonwood Gondola in three phases

According to UDOT, the plan will come to fruition in three phases:

Phase 1: 

This will include improved and increased bus service scaled to meet demand (with no canyon roadway widening), constructing a mobility hub at the Gravel Pit and resort bus stops, tolling, and winter roadside parking restrictions. Improved and increased bus service, tolling, and resort stops are also planned for Big Cottonwood Canyon in Phase 1. Phase 1 is anticipated to be operational in the fall of 2025.

Phase 2 & 3:

Phase 2 improvements will include widening and other improvements to Wasatch Boulevard, constructing snow sheds, and implementing trailhead parking improvements. Implementation of Gondola Alternative B in Phase 3 is also dependent on available funding. During this phase, UDOT will construct a base station with 2,500 parking spaces near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, where all users would travel directly to the base station without needing to take a bus from a mobility hub. Each gondola cabin would hold up to 35 people, and travelers could expect a cabin to arrive every two minutes. Once the gondola is operational in Phase 3, bus service in Little Cottonwood Canyon would be discontinued.

At this time it is not known how much the construction will end up costing once it’s all said and done, or even how long it will take to build the gondola. Initial estimates predict it to cost anywhere from $592 million to $1 billion or more. What is known, however, is that it will be years before the gondola is built. It is possible that the process could be delayed further if challenged by legal opposition from any one of Salt Lake’s conservancy groups or members of the public vehemently against its construction. Little Cottonwood’s ski areas, Alta and Snowbird, are clearly in support of the gondola, along with Governor Spencer Cox and the Wasatch Front Regional Council who have also expressed their interest in the project. Meanwhile, many of Salt Lake City’s citizens are outwardly opposed to it, as shown by many of the opinions shared in the 50,000 publically submitted comments regarding the project. The division is evident; with the plan now approved by UDOT, however, that division is not fading—it’s only being fueled.

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One thought on “Black Diamond Speaks Out Against UDOT-Approved Little Cottonwood, UT, Gondola: “We Are Incredibly Disappointed”

  1. How about paying attention to the exploding salt lake basin population explosion, that’s the real problem.

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