Traffic going up in the morning and down at night in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon has been a problem for years. The two-lane highway is the only way to access Snowbird and the Alta Ski Area, and is frequently closed due to avalanches and accidents.
So what should the Utah Department of Transportation do about the problem? Various solutions have been floated in recent years, but one has stood out as the most feasible: a massive gondola stretching from the base of the canyon to the ski resorts.
The ski resorts themselves support the plan, and why wouldn’t they? Installing a gondola that provides direct access to the mountain from the base of the canyon is sure to benefit them in general, and especially on days when the trail 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 huge lot at the base of the canyon, hop in a huge gondola, relax for 30it’s minutes, and arrive at one of the two best ski areas in the world.
Hard to beat for a tourist looking to make the most of their ski trip west, right?
I’ve met quite a few SLC locals over the last couple of seasons and well, how do I put this? They are less than excited about a massive gondola going up in LCC, and are on the brink of panic 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 dusty day is annoying, but they’d rather keep that version of hell than the new one they anticipate.
They worry that Alta and Snowbird are even plus crowded with the installation of a gondola. There will undoubtedly be fewer cars on the road, but they fear that improved access will bring even plus tourists flocking to ski LCC’s “World’s Largest Snow.”
The LCC gondola doesn’t seem 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 back that up, but it’s hard to deny the possibility of it. Skiing in Utah is Already incredibly accessible. Land at SLC International, grab a rental car, and you can be at 12 world-class ski resorts in less than an hour.
One of the things that has deterred some tourists in the past to visit Alta and Snowbird is the incomplete access road through LCC. that’s not saying that much they are willing to make the trek down the road, but some opt for the interstate access and luxury Park City accommodations.
With the installation of a massive gondola, that deterrent will essentially be removed. It will be much easier for skiers and bikers to access the LCC resorts, and Park City hikers won’t even have to drive to the canyon.
The gondola installation is a gain for access, but it will drastically change the atmosphere of what locals expect in Alta and Snowbird.
Honestly, I don’t think there is a solution that makes everyone happy (like most things in life). The gondola, if completed, should provide a boost in tourism dollars, but will negatively affect locals. It’s a shame, but this is America, and cash/revenue is king.
That’s how it works, unfortunately.
Take a look at some of the responses when we asked our Facebook followers how they felt about the LCC gondola:
Brian MD: “Little Cottonwood is finished. I will never ski there again.”
John L: “The little poplar gondola is more of a marketing ploy than an effective means of transportation for skiers.”
Laura G: “So, let’s break this down. They build a gondola that will only work in good weather. The road is always open in good weather. The gondola will cost $35. The car ride is free. Do you see where I’m going with this? Ski areas are losing skiers due to high costs. The gondola adds at least 30% more to a ticket, probably more. Hmmm. Exactly who thinks this is any benefit at all? Correct. The people who invested in building the gondola, not the people who expect them to build it. Politics as usual.
Tyson B: “No, it shouldn’t happen. Eliminate the IKON, increase the number of buses, continue promoting carpooling, improve the reservation system, etc…”.
Lisa L: “It is the best solution to deal with heavy snowfall and road closures. Employees will be able to access the resort to open during powder snow. It will alleviate the parking problem and will be used throughout the year for people of all ages and disabilities to see the beautiful scenery of the canyon.”
BenW: “It is an expense that should never be paid with tax money. This is a business and unless you want to pay for the business needs of others, this is unacceptable.”
Mo S: “Fuck the gondola, worst idea ever. Just so they can do some tourist marketing nonsense”
Nick B: “There really should be 2-3 more four-season resorts in other areas of Utah, rather than pushing more people into an already crowded area.”
JeffJ: “Gondola is the best option. European resorts are way ahead of us on this.”
Lub K: “550 million dollars? It could be dead by the time they get the money and build it. 2500 ugly parking spot at the bottom of the canyon? The parking lot could be bigger than the entire canyon. We have to “pay” for all the Ikon Pass inventions for the best gondola in the world.”
FranklinR: “Never Gonna happen.”
BrianS: “There are a dozen other ways to address the problems associated with overcrowding this canyon.”
ryan s: “Can’t wait for people to start complaining about the daily ‘wind hold'”
tony k: “It’s silly. They should have widened the road to 3 lanes, 2 lanes up in the morning and 2 lanes down at night. In avalanche areas, put an avalanche shelter over the road. Costs a fraction of the gondola.
Simon H: “We hate it, they know it but they don’t care.”
Featured Image Credit: Save Our Cannons