Proposed Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, Gondola Losing Support

Jake Vigesaa | | Industry NewsIndustry News
little cottonwood canyon, gondola, bus system
CREDIT: Alta Ski Area/Facebook

Little Cottonwood Canyon, near Salt Lake City, Utah, has had a growing traffic problem become increasingly apparent in recent years. The latest poll provides insight into the local Utahns’ opinions on improvements. Suggested realistic alternatives have been narrowed down to two primary options: a gondola through the canyon and an improved bus transportation system. Only 20% of those polled chose the gondola, while 60% said they preferred an enhanced bus infrastructure. High costs for the two proposals are a deterrent for many, with the gondola construction costing an estimated $592 million and the bus system costing upwards of $510 million.

The highway is one way in and out, providing sole access to Snowbird and Alta ski resorts. SR-210 saw an average of over 9,000 cars per day in January 2019. Numbers were down throughout 2020 due to Covid restrictions but are near highs again this winter. The need for improvements is seemingly only going to increase as the area and skiing/snowboarding in general gain popularity.

Parking at Alta CREDIT: Marc Guido/FTO

Local leaders are voicing their opinions on the matter. Recently elected mayor of nearby Sandy, UT Monica Zoltanski, and the election runner-up have both taken stances against the gondola. Arguments arise that the money for either project is better focused elsewhere, benefitting more than just two ski resorts.

There are numerous factors to take into consideration for the final decision. The extremely avalanche-prone highway may benefit from a gondola, which would continue to operate with road/traffic obstructions. Conversely, inclement weather with high winds can limit gondola operations, with a bus system remaining in operation. Some, including almost 10% of those polled, wish to leave the highway as is, likely seeing the canyon at its limits without disturbing the surrounding environment any more than it already is.

According to the current UDOT schedule, a vote for funding may take place no sooner than 2023. This gives residents at least another year for their voices to be heard on the matter.

Little Cottonwood Canyon has 64 slide paths CREDIT: UDOT

Related Articles

5 thoughts on “Proposed Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, Gondola Losing Support

  1. Thing of how much Co2 was added to the environment while everyone was stuck in traffic waiting on the enviromentalists to cry like the Karen’s they are.

    Also think of how much money was thrown away hashing it out. Could have planted a lot of trees.

  2. I am not a SLC local but I have been to LCC at times when there was no traffic and times when the road crawled du to traffic. While that condition was inconvenient, I can see that it would have been impossible for emergency personnel to respond if needed up the canyon (Fire, Police, Ambulance). The problem that needs to be solved exists on busy weekends and holidays and maybe a few morning hours on powder days.

    Other locations with a similar issue have responded by closing the road to all but busses during busy times. Spending the money on additional busses and closing the road to incoming traffic 7:30 am to 4:00 pm would improve the flow while allowing access for employees who want to drive. Access could also be provided throughout the day for residents, accommodation renters, business activities (deliveries, maintenance, construction, etc.), and possibly a few special circumstances. Resort users other than residents or those renting a place in the canyon would either have to arrive early or use the bus to access the slopes.

    A lot of folks will object to this idea because they just want to drive as they have in the past or because they are locals or pass holders for years. It really comes down to how many vehicles can the road handle at a time to allow for a continuous flow of traffic at a reasonable speed. I have heard ‘locals’ complain that the busses are worthless on busy days. Busses stuck in traffic are inefficient so those who use the busses currently are subject to the same delay and the busses are blamed for the delay in up canyon transport. But busses with no traffic are a breeze on weekdays from my experience. Yes, at the end of the day I waited on a bus and if this plan is employed there will be more folks waiting but there will also be more busses and likely an extra route or two added.

    One place that closes the road for peak traffic control is the Minaret Summit Road near Mammoth Mountain in the summer. There were plenty of gripes when that plan was emplaced but now that the situation is normalized it is an accepted part of the experience. Parking at some ski areas is too-far-to-walk remote and serviced by bus…Steamboat and Northstar come to mind. Overall, I believe that this solution is the easiest to implement quickly and economically.

Got an opinion? Let us know...