“It doesn’t make any sense to me. As someone who grew up here — and this is such a beautiful, natural resource — I would hate to see steel and cables all over up this canyon.”– Jeff Richard, frequent Little Cottonwood Canyon visitor.
The last day for public comments regarding the proposed gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon was October 17th. According to KSL, there were over 10,000 comments submitted, and the crew at the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has read through nearly five thousand of them. A final statement on the matter by UDOT, which is referred to as a Record of Decision, could come during the 2022-23 winter ski season.
In their final EIS report that was released in August, UDOT said that they believe that the gondola “is the most reliable mode of public transit in variable weather conditions and best meets the reliability goal of the project’s purpose while taking into consideration environmental impacts, public input, and overall life-cycle cost in comparison to the other four alternatives.” Before the addition of the gondola, UDOT is also recommending tolling vehicles, additional bus service, and restrictions on single-use vehicles.
The public has voiced various concerns with the planned development, including the $550 million price tag likely costing more now due to inflation, the gondola’s lack of purpose during the summertime, the risk of climate change on the future of the Utah ski industry, the lines to ride the gondola, and more. On the other hand, the bus lane alternative, which was the other final option that was considered, took a hit when UTA announced they’ll be reducing their ski bus service due to a lack of workers.
Here’s what comes next: A Record of Decision will likely be released during the 2022-23 ski season. After that, the Utah Legislature will vote on whether they’ll approve the funds needed to construct the behemoth. There could be some challenges with this though, as it could face resistance from small-government conservatives and environmentally-conscious liberals. If approved by the Legislature, lawsuits will likely follow from environmental and nonprofit groups. If the gondola gets past all these hurdles, the construction process will take around three years
To conclude this article, I thought it would be a good idea to show the issue of the gondola from a group that would be affected by the construction: rock climbers. Bouldering is huge in Little Cottonwood Canyon due to its unique geological setup, and building a gondola could close off access to many of the problems (bouldering routes) for a couple of years while the lift is being built. A documenary from Gnarly Sports Nutrition, which describes rock climber’s perspective on the issue, is below.