Alta, Utah — After criticizing the Utah Department of Transportation for not factoring in Alta Ski Area’s traffic woes in the Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Impact Statement, Alta has reinforced its support for the proposed gondola.

Yesterday, Mike Maughan, the General Manager of Alta Ski Area, wrote a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune. The short letter reaffirmed the Utah ski area’s support for the Little Cottonwood Gondola, as he wrote that they support the gondola alternative and all transportation improvements that increase public safety, reduce traffic congestion and gridlock in all weather conditions and facilitate an equitable exit from Alta and Snowbird.”

Alta’s support for the gondola was questioned after a public letter was sent to the Utah Department of Transportation. The Red Snake Letter, written by Maughan and co-signed by various businesses in the community, criticized how drivers at Alta were bottlenecked due to Snowbird’s traffic tactics and its location on the conclusion of SR-210.

In response to these concerns, Alta offered the following solutions in the letter: ban roadside parking on SR-210 around Snowbird, keep the Mainline open by adding Snowsheds and/or begin using remote avalanche technology on Mt. Superior, add traffic lights throughout the canyon for a more balanced spreading out of traffic, and stingier enforcement of the Traction Law, where those who don’t have the proper tires could face fines.

In addition, the Town of Alta passed a resolution in March formally opposing the gondola and suggesting that UDOT hire a third party to conduct a comprehensive environmental review. While the Ski Area wasn’t a part of the resolution, it tells you that their community is generally against this.

This letter was followed by a Salt Lake Tribune article titled “Alta Ski Area shuns gondola, says metering signals could be answer to Little Cottonwood Canyon traffic.” The title and article stated that they want to see traffic improvements first before proceeding with the EIS solutions, with the third phase resulting in the implementation of the gondola.

To Julie Jag’s defense, who wrote the article for the Tribune, this is literally what Maughan said to her for the article:

“Whether it’s a gondola or it’s toll lanes or it’s buses, none of those solutions as proposed are designed to replace the current vehicle volume level in the canyon.”

I’ll rehash what I said back in May about this, which I still stand by: While I don’t view the statement above as a rejection of the gondola proposal, it’s a pretty damming criticism of a project that UDOT and Snowbird believe is the key to fixing the traffic problem. I think there’s a good chance that he misspoke, though, and that’s why he sent the letter to the Tribune.

It’s not surprising that Alta still supports the project. The project cost, which UDOT projects at $729 million (critics claim it will be more than that), could be at least somewhat funded by taxpayers. While Snowbird GM Dave Fields did say that they’re fine paying for some of the gondola cost, it seems likely that the Utah Legislature will produce the rest of the money via taxes. Ultimately, it’s hard to oppose something when you aren’t paying for all of the bill.

You can read Mike Maughan’s letter to the Salt Lake Tribune here.

Image Credits: Gondola Works, Alta Ski Area

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