Solitude Mountain Resort To Charge For Parking This Winter
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Solitude Mountain Resort officials announced the resort will begin charging for parking this winter as part of a new transportation plan focused on cutting traffic congestion and caring for the environment.
The Big Cottonwood Canyon ski resort will charge up to $20 per vehicle while charging less for cars with more occupants.
Solo drivers or cars with two occupants will pay $20 to park for the day. Three-person vehicles: $10. Vehicles with four or more riders will only pay $5. Those carpoolers will also get priority on closest parking.
According to traffic numbers from the Utah Department of Transportation, records were set in both Big and Little Cottonwood canyons on prime ski days last year.
“It kind of came to a head, and we saw a lot of congestion,” said Sara Huey, communications director for Solitude Mountain Resort. “Of course, a lot of people driving up in single-occupancy vehicles also lends to air pollution, which is a concern for all of us who live here in the valley.”
More than 6,000 cars entered Big Cottonwood Canyon on a busy ski day and officials said congestion has become a big issue in both canyons.
“It’s become almost unbearable on a weekend,” said Solitude season pass holder John Ratkowski.
Skiers and snowboarders saw this parking move as inevitable, even if they weren’t happy about the change. With plenty of powder and a popular new pass last year, congestion in both Cottonwood canyons intensified.
With the increased number of cars, resort officials and riders knew something had to change.
“Solitude decided this year that we were going to be the ones to start doing something a little bit different, almost as an experiment and see how it goes,” Huey said.
Solitude will implement the tiered, paid parking plan to encourage people to get out of their cars and take the bus or carpool. UTA ski bus service is free with an Ikon Pass, which offers unlimited skiing at Solitude.
Ikon and season pass holders can buy an annual parking pass for $150. The parking pass will cost non-season pass holders $225. Solitude officials said they will donate part of the parking proceeds to Breathe Utah as part of their commitment to cleaner air.
“It does feel a little bit like we are jumping off a cliff,” Huey said. “But our goal and our objective is that behavior change. We want to encourage people to develop a habit had a mindset of carpooling. When they think of coming up to solitude, just plan on taking the bus. It’s really quite convenient.”
Jayme Blakesley, a board member with Save Our Canyons, said his friends are understanding.
“Someone needs to do something to manage the traffic and the parking when you come up, especially on a powder day,” Blakesley said. “They all seemed really accepting, and that it would be a positive thing.”
Ratkowski said it’s unlikely he’ll ever drive solo to the resort again because he doesn’t want to pay $20 for parking.
“I like the goal,” he said. “I like the mission behind it.”
He also said it will motivate him to plan ahead and reach out to carpool buddies on the upcoming Solitude app. If he doesn’t already have four in his car, he said, he may swing through the bus lot.
“Maybe stop and get some strangers,“ Ratkowski said, with a laugh.
An employee shuttle will also cut down on congestion in the canyon. Utah’s other resorts had not announced plans for paid parking this season. However, a Snowbird spokesman said all of the resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons share the same challenges. Last year, Snowbird was the first to implement a ride-sharing app for its skiers and snowboarders.
Officials at Snowbird Tuesday evening tweeted supporting Solitude’s parking program. They said Snowbird will not charge for parking this winter.
With Solitude rolling out a new parking program, we support their efforts in promoting carpools & increased UTA use. Snowbird won’t be charging for parking this winter. We’ll continue to build the R.I.D.E. app, and offer RideShare vans, carpool lots & subsidized UTA bus rides. pic.twitter.com/4ygRPPj3cF
— Snowbird (@Snowbird) September 18, 2019
On-street parking became an issue last year, especially when there were large snow piles on the side of the road. A public information officer with the Unified Police Department said parking on SR-190 in Big Cottonwood Canyon Road is legal, except where signs say it is prohibited.
Skiers and snowboarders parking on the road must be inside the white line, which is nearly impossible to see once there is snow on the road. It remains to be seen how that kind of parking enforcement will play out in the winter.
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