The Utah Department of Transportation has released 3 proposals for solving the traffic problems that plague Little Cottonwood Canyon during ski season. View a fact sheet here: https://littlecottonwoodeis.udot.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/9234_42_LCC_EIS_Alternatives_Project_Factsheet_FIN_WEB_6_29_2020.pdf . One of these proposals stands out as particularly destructive to the watershed and viewshed and recreation of the canyon. The proposed gondola up Little Cottonwood Canyon would do little to solve the transportation problems facing the area and would only encourage more drivers, which is what has caused this problem in the first place.
First of all this gondola will require two transfers, from car to bus to gondola which will be logistically problematic. The plan identifies a 2,500 car parking garage at the mouth of Big Cottonwood canyon. This will cause a few problems. First, anyone driving from south of the canyons will need to drive past Little Cottonwood (presumably in traffic) to park in the garage. If they are coming from the north, they will still need to line up to enter the massive parking structure. Then both groups will need to catch a bus to the base station and then transfer to the gondola. Not only does this plan create a logistical nightmare at the base of the canyons, but it puts way too much emphasis on vehicular travel. Encouraging automobile travel is the opposite of what we need in our canyons. We need to have viable alternatives to personal vehicles. The fact is that although these ski resorts are in beautiful mountain terrain, they are at the edge of a major city and need city transportation solutions.
This plan spends hundreds of millions of dollars ($400 Million for the gondola) and doesn't do anything to solve issues in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Big Cottonwood may not have as much traffic as Little Cottonwood, but it is not far behind. We need a plan that addresses transportation issues in both canyons. In fact the 2500 car parking garage for the gondola up Little Cottonwood will be placed at the mouth of Big cottonwood canyon several miles away increasing traffic to get into Big Cottonwood.
The gondola plan endangers important sites for other uses in the canyon. The base of little cottonwood canyon is home to some of the greatest rock climbing in the world. People move from all over the world to live in SLC for that climbing, the base station for the gondola will destroy many of the boulders that climbers use and will possibly hurt access to many of the cliffs. It also doesn't identify what will happen to backcountry users. Will non-resort users be allowed in the canyon? The gondola won't be stopping anywhere except Snowbird and Alta. Backcountry skiers, snowshoers, and hikers are completely ignored in this plan.
The bases of the gondola will require significant construction throughout the canyon, it will also permanently change the watershed and viewshed of the canyon. 800 foot tall towers will forever be a part of the canyon views. All for a gondola that will likely only be operating for 3 or 4 months of the year.
There are alternative options. UDOT seems to have made the bus plans in its proposals an afterthought. But, unlike a gondola they can be enhanced over time. UTA already has a robust transit system throughout the valley, we can run Bus Rapid Transit like vehicles from locations throughout the valley directly to the resorts. Allow backcountry users to use the bus by having stops mid canyon. And create tolls for Little Cottonwood in the winter so that people are encouraged to take the bus but can drive to backcountry locations if they need to.
In Salt Lake City we are blessed with amazing National Forests right at our doorsteps. These mountains provide us with clean water and endless recreation. We cannot let UDOT cave to corporate skiing interests and change them forever.
Add a comment in support of sustainable buses and against the gondola in the canyons by clicking this link: https://littlecottonwoodeis.udot.utah.gov/ Comments will be accepted until this Friday July 10th!
Do not let them build this Gondola!
—Chris Jackson-Jordan, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake Board Director