LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah — You might be familiar with the advertisement from Gondola Works, advocating for a gondola to be constructed in Little Cottonwood Canyon, starring actor Bart Johnson.
Snowbird has been advocating for the gondola as a solution to little cottonwood canyon’s traffic problems.
“If you care about air quality, water quality, the safety of the people going up and down the canyon and the reliability of knowing how long it's going to take to get up and down the canyon, the only option is gondola," said Dave Fields, President and General Manager. “There are 64 avalanche paths in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It's the most avalanche prone canyon in North America. We need a transportation solution that takes into account that reality. This is not like a commute in the Valley.”
UDOT estimates the busing solution would cost $510 million; it would mean a wider road with lanes only buses could use during peak traffic times. The gondola is estimated at $600 million; Little Cottonwood Canyon would be filled with more than 20 steel towers as tall as sky scrapers.
“We're not trying to create more marketing gimmicks to attract Midwesterners or people from the East Coast," said Brad Rutledge, Board Member for the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance. "We're trying to solve traffic problems."
Gondola Works' advertisements are misinforming Utahns, said Rutledge. Studies show the gondola is in fact harmful to the environment since the power will come from coal, and it’s not accessible because it would have an additional cost.
“The average Utahn that isn't paying close attention will look at this and say, ‘Why would I want a bus when we can do a gondola?,'" said Rutledge. "The question they should be asking is, 'Is the gondola going to answer and solve the transportation problem?' And everyone here today, most people here, are saying no, it's not.”
Rutledge and dozens of other community leaders, including three mayors and six Salt Lake County Council members are advocating for “Common sense solutions:" parking hubs, electric buses, carpooling and reservation systems.
UDOT will be wrapping up its environmental impact study by the end of summer, which could determine the Canyon’s future. The decisions being made will impact this canyon forever, both sides agreed.