Snowbird, UT, General Manager Speaks Out in Support of Little Cottonwood Canyon Gondola

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snowbird gondola utah little cottonwood canyon
Rendering of Little Cottonwood Gondola / Photo Credit: Gondola Works

Dave Fields, the general manager of Snowbird, UT, has penned an open letter in the Salt Lake Tribune supporting the controversial gondola up Little Cottonwood Canyon that recently got the green light from UDOT. Fields says, “A gondola is the right choice,” and he is “excited by the process outlined by UDOT.”

After a winter that saw the canyon road impacted by 98 avalanches that resulted in the canyon closing overnight 42 times, Fields highlights the safety and accessibility issues that arise from the canyon being “one way in, one way out” and that a gondola “addresses most of the challenges presented by the canyon’s dramatic topography and prolific snowfall.”

“The problem of putting thousands of vehicles on a steep, two-lane road with one of the highest avalanche hazard indexes in North America has only intensified with Utah’s population growth. One way in and one way out is a safety issue that has proved dangerous time and time again.”

“UDOT’s decision to build a gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon is the safest, cleanest and most efficient way for Utahns and visitors alike to enjoy this precious resource that sits in our backyard providing world-class, year-round recreation and the water many of us drink.”

– Dave Fields

On Wednesday, July 12, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) announced it would be moving forward with building a gondola up Little Cottonwood Canyon in an attempt to alleviate traffic congestion in the canyon following a years-long process proposing alternative solutions (i.e., improved bus system) and a lengthy public comment phase.

In September 2021, a deal went through allowing Snowbird to quietly purchase at the exact location of the then-proposed Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola base station that would board skiers and snowboarders at the mouth of the canyon and shuttle them directly to Snowbird and neighboring Alta Ski Area.

The proposal has been fiercely debated, with vociferous support on both sides. Black Diamond, Patagonia, and other Salt Lake City-based companies and conservancy groups, such as the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, have publicly objected to the controversial plan. On the other hand, Utah Governor Spencer Cox has publically supported the gondola.

As this chapter in Little Cottonwood Canyon’s history unfolds, the eyes of many will be upon it, keenly observing the implementation and impact of this controversial solution. Whether the gondola system is the practical and innovative response to the canyon’s unique challenges that its advocates expect remains to be seen.

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