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Residents continue to protest Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola, despite plan moving forward

Posted at 9:14 PM, Jan 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-26 23:14:00-05

SANDY, Utah — Dozens of residents like Sandra Reus have been vocalizing their opposition to the Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola for months.

“It’s famous for its beauty," she said. "I think it should just be kept like that. I don't think families are going to want to schlep from their car with three kids and all their bags and all their ski stuff, up to the gondola and wait for another hour while they get up to where they're going to ski.”

The Wasatch Front Regional Council voted Thursday afternoon to release a draft of the 2023-2050 Regional Transportation Plan to the public, which includes plans to build the LCC gondola.

“They are seeing that the public is still showing up on a weekday at two o'clock to a council meeting to talk about this issue," said Julia Geisler, Executive Director of the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance. "These people have lives, they have jobs.”

Out of all the people who spoke at the meeting, only those representing Ski Utah and Snowbird were in favor of the gondola.

“2,500 cars in a parking structure at the mouth: that's every car that parks at Snowbird," said Dave Fields, General Manager of Snowbird. "That is a massive difference in the congestion.”

Residents and recreators are warming up to the idea, he said.

“They're starting to realize, 'Hey, maybe there is a better way to get up and down the canyon that doesn't involve me sitting at the mouth in my car,'" said Fields. "People are coming up to me and saying, 'Okay, now I understand why you'd pick gondola.'"

People want more commonsense solutions that will solve the traffic issue sooner rather than later, said Brad Rutledge, co-founder of the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance.

“Alta has implemented this parking reservation system that's had a dramatic change on traffic behavior in the canyon," he said. "Now the traffic problems have moved to Big Cottonwood Canyon.”

Reus feels the taxpayers who would be funding this project are still not being heard.

“If they're going along with the idea of the gondola, then that means that they're not listening to our comments," she said. "They're not listening to the opinions of the people that elected them.”

Starting Friday, Utahns have until February 26th to make comments on the Plan, including the plans to build the LCC gondola. The estimated cost ranges anywhere from $391 million to more than $1 billion. After the public comment period ends, the committee will then make the final decision to approve funding for the gondola or not.