Crashes strand Alta, Snowbird skiers in Little Cottonwood Canyon

UDOT, UPD retracted traction law for an hour before reinstating it, closing road indefinitely due to ‘hazardous’ conditions.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A long line of cars forms near Little Cottonwood Canyon during the snow storm on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.

Crashes and icy roads led to the closure of Little Cottonwood Canyon Road on Monday afternoon, stranding skiers and snowboarders hoping to cash in on some fresh powder.

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and the Unified Police Department (UPD) jointly made the decision to close State Route 210 in both directions shortly after noon. The agencies initially issued no estimated opening time for the only route to and from Alta Ski Area and Snowbird resort. A subsequent tweet tentatively set the road opening for 2:15 p.m.

Access is closed at the mouth of the canyon for uphill traffic and at Snowbird Entry 1 for downhill traffic. According to an email alert, travel will be allowed between Snowbird and the Town of Alta.

The agencies said in the alert that they were closing the road due to “Hazardous road surface conditions [and] multiple vehicle crashes in canyon.”

A UPD spokesperson said at least two vehicles had rolled in the canyon. No one was seriously hurt in the accidents, the spokesperson said. In addition, one semi-truck was stuck and awaiting a heavy-duty tow truck.

According to the spokesperson, the officers said their vehicles were sliding as they tried to make their way to the crashes.

UDOT enacted its traction law early Monday for both Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons but retracted it around 8 a.m. An hour later, it enacted the traction law again for Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Nearly 30 inches of snow fell on Alta in the past 24 hours, with Snowbird receiving 26 inches, according to OpenSnow.com. Another 2-6 inches of snowfall were expected in the canyon later Monday. With the warmer temperatures, the National Weather Service said the snow held considerably more moisture than Utah typically experiences.

Around 11 a.m., Alta Ski Area issued an alert that its parking area was full.