Ski bus ‘bypass’ program returns at Little Cottonwood Canyon after successful test

Dec 16, 2022, 4:01 PM
LIttle Cottonwood Canyon...
A skier waits for the bus to Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Jan. 13, 2017. The Central Wasatch Commission announced Thursday that it will resume a program to speed up the bus service when the canyon is closed by using a police escort to the mouth of the canyon. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SANDY, Utah — The Central Wasatch Commission, Sandy and two other agencies have come to an agreement on a “bypass” plan that calls for Sandy police to escort Utah Transit Authority ski buses up to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon during the canyon’s busiest days, the commission announced Thursday.

According to a KSL.com report, under the agreement between the commission, city, UTA, and the Utah Department of Transportation, police will escort Route 994 buses from the UTA Park and Ride lot in Sandy (2000 East and 9400 South) to the Park and Ride lot at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon throughout the rest of the 2022-2023 ski season during the days when the canyon is closed because of overcrowding.

It’s funded through Central Wasatch Commission but has additional “investment” from Sandy City and UTA, according to commission officials.

UTA ski bus service cut in half for the season

The program was tested through a pilot program during the last ski season, and it resulted in a 50-minute reduction in travel time, according to the commission. Its members are hopeful those results can be replicated again this time around, which can help make ski bus service a more efficient option during the canyon’s busiest days.

“The UTA bus bypass service helps to mitigate traffic congestion encountered by the ski bus on its way to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon,” said Christopher Robinson, the chairman of the Central Wasatch Commission, in a statement. “On behalf of the Central Wasatch Commission, I am proud to help facilitate fast, reliable and safe public transit for canyon recreationalists.”

Sandy Mayor Monica Zoltanski, who also serves as a commissioner on the CWC board, added that she also believes the ski bus service and the bypass program will help provide “effective canyon transportation solutions” for the remainder of the ski season.

The announcement comes as long lines have returned to the canyon this week as a result of recent snow. The winter holidays often also result in major traffic jams by the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. These busy days are the basis for UDOT’s future plans for Little Cottonwood Canyon, which featured the highly debated gondola option but may also include increased bus service, tolling or restrictions that prohibit single-occupancy vehicles.

UDOT releases all comments on the Little Cottonwood Canyon Gondola: there are over 13,000

UTA’s ski bus service returned this week; however, Route 994 is one of a few routes that have been reduced because of bus driver shortages. Carl Arky, a spokesman for UTA, said the switch to 30-minute frequency remains in place, as does its switch to end its route at Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge instead of the Albion Day Lodge or the town of Alta.

The agency also cut Route 953 this season, another route that traveled up the canyon, because of the shortages.

Arky said UTA is using new 40-foot Gillig buses that have 20% more space and is coordinating with resorts on connecting services to make up some of the differences. They also have maintenance vehicles stationed at ski resorts to fix any mechanical issues as soon as possible.

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Ski bus ‘bypass’ program returns at Little Cottonwood Canyon after successful test