The traffic heading up in the morning and down in the evenings in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon has been an issue for years. The two lane road is the only way to access Snowbird and Alta Ski Area, and it’s frequently closed due to avalanches and accidents.
So, what is Utah’s Department of Transportation to do about the problem? A number of solutions have been posed in recent years, but one has stood out as the most feasible- a massive gondola that runs from the base of the canyon up to the ski resorts.
The ski resorts themselves support the plan, and why wouldn’t they? Installing a gondola that provides direct-to-mountain access from the base of the canyon will surely benefit them overall, and especially on days when the road is closed due to avalanches or accidents.
I remember first reading about the plan a couple of years ago. On paper, it sounded great. Just park your car in a massive lot at the base of the canyon, hop on huge gondola car, chill out for 30ish minutes, and arrive at one of two of the best ski areas in the entire world.
Hard to beat for a tourist looking to make the most of their ski trip out west, right?
I’ve met quite a few SLC locals over the last couple of seasons and well, how do I put this? They’re less than enthusiastic about a massive gondola going up in LCC, and are borderline panicking now that UDOT has officially approved the gondola.
They’ll be the first to tell you that waiting in an endless line of slow-moving cars on a powder day is annoying, but they’d rather keep that version of hell than the new one they anticipate.
They’re worried that Alta and Snowbird will be even more crowded with the installation of a gondola. There will certainly be less cars on the road, but they fear that improved access will bring even more tourists flocking to ski LCC’s “Greatest Snow On Earth”.
The LCC gondola does not appear to be very popular at the base of the canyon. pic.twitter.com/70M2mo6rj9
— Lift Blog (@liftblog) July 20, 2022
We don’t really have data to support that, but it’s hard to deny the possibility of it. Skiing in Utah is already incredibly accessible. You land in SLC International, grab a rental car, and you can be at 12 world-class ski resorts in under an hour.
One of the things that has deterred some tourists in the past from visiting Alta and Snowbird is the sketchy access road up through LCC. That’s not saying that plenty are willing to make the trek up the road, but some opt for the Interstate-access and lavish accommodations of Park City.
With a massive gondola being installed, that deterrence will essentially be eliminated. It will be that much easier for skiers and riders to access the LCC resorts, and day-trippers from Park City won’t even have to drive up the canyon.
Installing the gondola is a win for access, but it will dramatically change the atmosphere of what locals come to expect at Alta and Snowbird.
I honestly don’t think there’s a solution that will make everybody happy (like most things in life). The gondola, if completed, should provide a boost in tourism dollars, but it will negatively affect the locals. That’s a shame, but this is America, and cash/revenue is king.
That’s just the way it goes, unfortunately.
Take a look at some of the responses to when we asked our Facebook followers how they felt about the LCC gondola:
Brian M D: “Little Cottonwood is done. I’ll never ski there again.”
John L: “The little cottonwood gondola is more a marketing ploy than effective transportation for skiers.”
Laura G: “So, let’s analyze this. They build a gondola that will only operate in good weather. The road is always open in good weather. The gondola will cost $35. The drive up is free. See where I’m going with this? Ski areas are losing skiers to high costs. The gondola adds at least 30% more to a ticket, likely more. Hmmmm. Exactly who thinks this is any benefit at all? Oh, right. The people invested in building the gondola, not the people they expect to ride it. Politics as usual.”
Tyson B: “Nope shouldn’t happen. Get rid of the IKON, Increase the number of busses, continue to encourage carpooling, reservation system improvements etc…”
Lisa L: “It’s the best solution for dealing with heavy snow and road closures. Employees will be able to access the resort to open during heavy powder. It will ease the parking problem and be used all year round for people of all ages and disabilities to see the beautiful canyon scenery.”
Ben W: “Its an expense that should never be paid with tax money. This is a business and unless you want to pay for everyone elses business needs, this is unacceptable”
Mo S: “Fuck the gondola, worst idea ever. Purely so they can do some tourism marketing bullshit”
Nick B: “There should really be 2-3 more four season resorts in other areas of utah, Instead of shoving more people into a already crowded area.”
Jeff J: “Gondola is the best option. The European resorts are miles ahead of us on this.”
Lub K: “$550 million? I might be dead by the time they get the money and build it. 2500 ugly parking location at the bottom of the canyon? The parking lot might be bigger than the entire canyon. We got to “pay”for alll the Ikon passes inventions by the best gondola in the world.”
Franklin R: “Never gonna happen.”
Brian S: “There are a dozen other ways to address the problems associated with overcrowding this canyon.”
Ryan S: “Can’t wait for the people to start bitching about the daily “wind hold””
Tony K: “It’s dumb. They should have widened the road to 3 lanes, 2 lanes going up in the morning and 2 lanes going down in the evening. In avalanche areas put an avalanche shed over the road. Costs a fraction of the gondola.”
Simon H: “We hate it, they know but they don’t care.”
Featured Image Credit: Save Our Canyons