Utahns react to gondola decision for Little Cottonwood Canyon transit solution
Jul 12, 2023, 10:35 PM | Updated: Jul 13, 2023, 3:35 pm
LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah — This is the part of the day Therese Wild looks forward to.
“It’s nice to come here after work,” she told KSL TV. “It is 20 minutes from home.”
For her, there is nothing like a good climb with friends in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
“You can walk five minutes, and there’s like world-class climbing, world-class hiking, and really great experiences,” Wild said.
But on Wednesday, though, her usually happy place felt sad.
“Yeah. I mean, I am really disappointed with it,” said Wild. “None of the taxpayers wanted this, and it doesn’t serve the taxpayers.”
She’s referring to the gondola project in Little Cottonwood Canyon and how the Utah Department of Transportation announced the project going forward Wednesday morning.
“It is going to completely ruin a really beautiful canyon just to serve ski resorts,” Wild expressed.
She is not alone in feeling that way. Several signs in nearby neighborhoods say no to the gondola, and most public comments are against the project. UDOT is going forward with it anyway.
“Honestly, it felt like they took them just because it is a formality, and they had to take them,” said Rowan Davis, who was also climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon. “I don’t think it would have made a difference anyway. It feels like they had their minds made up.”
However, both sides agree canyon traffic is a big problem during the winter. It’s why the very idea of a gondola project began.
“That traffic is a nightmare,” said Shelly Kirkham Peck, who lives in Draper and has seen how much the traffic backs up. “The gondola, that is a no-brainer. And if that’s going to help with the traffic, then why not?”
That’s how Snowbird general manager Dave Fields feels. He admits the majority of traffic goes to the resorts. Still, with Utah continuing to grow, he figures a gondola would make it easier and safer for people to go where they’re already going.
“What is it going to be like in 10, 20, 30 years when there are millions more people living along the Wasatch Front? How are we going to get people up and down little cottonwood canyon, not just in the winter, but in the summer? Not just for skiing, but for hiking?” said Fields.
Fields has been vocal in his support for the gondola. He knows his position with Snowbird will make it easy for some to dismiss him, but he says he would support it even if he wasn’t with the resort.
“I have lived in Utah my whole life. I recreate in Little Cottonwood Canyon. I work in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It’s time we do something about this problem we have going on in this canyon,” he said. “I really applaud UDOT for the work they’ve done. It’s thorough and thoughtful, and it’s really taking a long view.”
Fields also noted the gondola could be used to take people down the mountain when an avalanche closes the road.
“Last winter, 98 avalanches hit the highway in one winter. We had 42 snow nights. All of those days, we were closed because it wasn’t safe to have vehicles on the road. You could still have people coming and going,” he said.
Those against the project say their two biggest concerns are that it will ruin the natural beauty of the canyon and the $700+ million taxpayer price tag. One thing is for sure, the gondola project is an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon.
“It’s not over until it’s built,” Wild said. “Anything to stop it.”