New ski shuttle to launch in Cottonwood canyons this week

Passengers can pay $10 for a round-trip reservation on the Cottonwood Connect ski shuttle beginning Thursday.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A skier looks for a ride at the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022.

Starting Thursday, skiers and snowboarders will have a new way to travel up and down Utah’s Cottonwood canyons, home of the notorious “red snake” of taillights during traffic-heavy ski season.

The “Cottonwood Connect” ski shuttle will provide passengers $10 round-trip rides to either Alta and Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, or Brighton and Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon, on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning Thursday morning.

Service will run on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, as well as holidays, through April 16. Reservations must be made online in advance.

Riders can choose from 11 different locations for morning pickup — such as the Highland Park park-and-ride, or the Cottonwood Hyatt Place hotel. Then, they can select their ski resort destination, along with a time slot for return from the slopes.

A full list of stops and routes for the service can be found at visitsaltlake.com/cottonwoodconnect.

The service launches just weeks after Salt Lake County Council members allocated nearly a quarter-million dollars to Visit Salt Lake to help fund the new public-private partnership.

It also comes about a month after the Utah Transit Authority reduced its ski bus service amid a driver shortage, which suspended service on one ski bus route and reduced frequency on two others.

The fleet of mini-coaches and large passenger vans that make up the new “Cottonwood Connect” shuttle service is being provided by Snow Country Limousines. The service will begin with a weekly capacity of 736 passengers and aims to end the season with a 1,120 weekly passenger capacity.

“We appreciate Salt Lake County leaders for providing the Cottonwood Connect service,” Sandy Mayor Monica Zoltanski said in a statement. “Sandy City is pleased to support the program by including the shuttles with UTA buses who are guided by the Sandy Police Ski Bus Bypass Service as a direct way to promote transit use and ease traffic congestion in our neighborhoods closest to the canyon.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson also said in a statement that she was “proud of everyone who came together to make this a reality.”

“‘Cottonwood Connect’ will benefit so many across the valley who want to use our canyons this winter and environmentally it’s another win for our community.”