(KUTV) — How about getting up Little Cottonwood Canyon, in peak times, in about 30 minutes instead of hours? The developers behind a new project they call "The Gondola Plus La Caille Base Station" say it can happen.
“We feel like the time was 10 years ago to fix this problem,” said Snowbird president and general manager Dave Fields.
For decades, more and more people have been flocking to the canyon for world-class skiing — but one thing that has stayed the same: the mostly-single-lane, 10-mile road.
“Every year, the traffic is getting worse and worse, and so it’s time to do something,” Fields said.
Right now, car capacity exceeds what Little Cottonwood can hold. On top of that, Fields said there’s an average of 22 road closures each winter.
“We want to make sure it’s not a 'Bandaid' solution that involves more cars and buses and tunnels," Fields said.
So, if you can’t go through the traffic, why not go over it, with a gondola that continuously can take up to 30 new people in each cart every 30 seconds?
Estimates are that the gondola could take between 4,000 to 5,000 people up the canyon each hour, as opposed to about 1,100 cars currently.
“It will get people out of their cars, up the canyon safely, and it’s virtually weather-proof,” said Wayne Niederhauser.
Niederhauser is part of a development company, CW Management Corporation, currently in the process of buying land next to La Caille along North Little Cottonwood Road. Their proposal is to have built a parking garage hidden into the mountain side and gondola base.
For those opting not to pay for parking, they would park just outside the canyon and be shuttled into the base on buses.
“People will be able to enjoy this without the impacts of the automobile in the canyon,” Niederhauser said.
The track of the gondola would stop at Snowbird first, then Alta. The gondola would not go over homes, but Niederhauser said he’s already heard opposition from nearby homeowners. For one of the homeowners, traffic was still a bigger concern than the gondola, Niederhauser said.
The Utah Department of Transportation has a similar proposal, but that gondola would start further west down the canyon and not provide as much parking or room for buses to get in and out.
Because it’s a transportation project, it would be funded, at least in part, by the state. UDOT will look at all the proposals and make the ultimate decision.
Fields said Snowbird is so serious about changing the dynamic of the canyon, they’re considering a conservation easement on their private lands at Mt. Superior to protect that land from future development.
The public is encouraged to comment on all the proposals. The comment period is open for another week. The link to comment is here.