Skiers heading to resorts in the Wasatch Front’s clogged Cottonwood canyons are about to get a little relief from all that traffic.
Salt Lake County Council members voted 7-1 on Tuesday to give Visit Salt Lake nearly a quarter-million dollars to rev up a supplementary shuttle service for the ski season.
“It gives me a stomachache to think about people coming here, waiting hours to get up to the ski resorts,” council Chair Aimee Winder Newton said, “and having a bad taste in their mouth and never coming back to spend their money here.”
The funding comes a month after the Utah Transit Authority reduced its ski bus service amid a driver shortage. The reductions, announced in September, affected a swath of the region’s transit network and included suspending service on one ski bus route and reducing frequency on two others.
County Mayor Jenny Wilson’s office, meanwhile, has fielded numerous calls complaining about long lines and waits for the buses that are operating.
Snow Country Limousine will contract with the tourism-touting nonprofit to provide the supplemental service with vans and mini-coaches Thursdays through Sundays, beginning Jan. 26 and ending April 16. The company will serve Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton.
“We felt strongly about helping to create a way for our visitors and locals to enjoy more options to reach our mountain playground,” Visit Salt Lake President and CEO Kaitlin Eskelson said in a statement. “Salt Lake is the perfect urban base camp for winter adventures and our goal is to create a seamless experience.”
Weekly ridership capacity will start at 784 but will ramp up to more than 1,100.
Riders will need to secure a reservation and pay a $10 round-trip fee. Routes will serve Sandy, Midvale and Cottonwood Heights, with stops at various hotels and public park-and-ride lots.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Ski Utah President and CEO Nathan Rafferty lauded the additional service.
“Ski Utah is always in favor of more and better public transportation to our ski areas,” he said, “however that may happen.”
The program, worth $559,000, will be funded jointly by the county, Visit Salt Lake, the resorts and UTA.
Council member Jim Bradley said it all adds up to a sound investment.
“For anybody who has been up there, particularly in this last week and a half, two weeks, it’s not acceptable,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to wait 2½ hours in a line up a canyon that’s 20 miles long. It’s ridiculous, so let’s figure it out.”
Snowbird, Alta, Solitude and Brighton will kick in a combined $50,000. Visit Salt Lake will contribute another $50,000. UTA will chip in $75,000, and the county will cover roughly $240,000. The rest will be made up by revenue from passengers, assuming the service attracts 100% ridership.
If the program is not fully utilized, the county will help cover shortfalls.
New council member Sheldon Stewart cast the lone vote against the measure, and council member Dave Alvord was not present for the vote.