Ski season is heating up — but as temperatures cool, visitors to Big Cottonwood Canyon will see new strategies aimed at easing congestion at the popular ski areas.
Community leaders and resort officials announced Wednesday that these strategies will include reservation-based parking within the town of Brighton, along with additional carpooling options for skiers and employees.
New reservation systems
Brighton Resort and Solitude Mountain already instituted reservation-based parking this season, but officials hope the additional reservation system will calm the morning rush for a parking space near the resorts — and cut down on emissions from idling cars waiting in line.
The town of Brighton’s reservations will start sometime in mid-December, according to its website. These reservations will be about $10 for spaces along the south side of State Route 190, town clerk Kara John said, between Willow Heights trail and Guardsman Pass.
The town will also offer limited backcountry skier reservations beginning at 6 a.m., with about 20 spots available for backcountry access on each side of Solitude Resort, John said. The system was approved for one season by the U.S. Forest Service and the Utah Department of Transportation.
This means fee-free parking without a reservation will only be available after 1 p.m. Carpoolers can still get a free spot at the resorts with a reservation if their car contains three or more occupants at Brighton or four or more occupants at Solitude.
Solitude will only require reservations through 11 a.m. on Fridays through Sundays and on holidays between Dec. 15 and April 14, 2024, and customers in a vehicle with one to three total occupants will have to pay a fee of $35 on those days. On weekdays, Solitude customers with less than four vehicle occupants will still have to pay a parking fee of $10-$20 without a reservation, depending on the point in the season.
Brighton requires reservations every day of the season through April 2024, according to its website, and vehicles with less than three total occupants will have to pay $20 to reserve their spot.
More carpooling options
Solitude also announced the launch of a new carpooling app for customers and employees, where customers can connect with others to ride together for free parking with a reservation.
Employees at both Brighton and Solitude will also have access to the Utah Transit Authority’s vanpool service, along with a new private bus service only for employees. This private bus service is offered through Le Bus, a local charter bus company, which will provide a coach that can fit up to 56 resort employees.
The resorts hired the bus through a partnership with UTA, Solitude president Amber Broadaway said, to ensure employees have a reliable transportation option that also frees up UTA’s ski bus capacity for resort customers — especially amid reduced ski bus service.
The resorts have a reservation system for employees who wish to ride the private bus, along with two parking lots in the valley where the private bus will pick up and drop off riders. Solitude plans to incentivize its carpooling employees with free breakfast on the 64 days during the season that it will require parking reservations.
“The resorts have always filled up and our parking is full — I mean, that’s always been a thing,” Broadaway said. “It’s then when you get on the road where things can get really challenging... So that’s where UDOT has been really great and working and trying to come up with a plan.”
Broadaway is hopeful that this year’s new strategies will do a lot to combat the congestion concerns in Big Cottonwood Canyon — and possibly thwart alternatives like tolling in both canyons, which is proposed in phase 1 of UDOT’s plan for Little Cottonwood Canyon.
“Maybe if we can really land this, perhaps UDOT won’t implement tolling,” Broadaway said. “I would like to see if this work this year can get us in the right lane. It may not be perfect. We may have to do more. But if we can get moving towards that, my hope would be that we really move the needle and hopefully, there is not the need for tolling.”