Andy White: Questionable arguments in favor of LCC gondola

There is only room for so many people at the top of the canyon.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Environmental activists Jack Strauss and Jennifer Weiler fly large balloons over the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, to demonstrate the height of gondola towers the Utah Department of Transportation is proposing be built to carry people up to Alta and Snowbird ski resorts.

Jacob Nelson’s January 8 opinion piece in The Tribune about the Little Cottonwood Canyon Gondola proposal is interesting but questionable in a number of respects.

His statement that “in Utah there are still ‘wild’ places that are hard to reach” is not consistent with his support of a gondola putting up to 3,600 people per hour into his cherished childhood canyons and our current “slice of wilderness?”

Unfortunately, the gondola, as planned, only services two private businesses, and those primarily in the winter. Backcountry skiers and summer hikers can only use it to access a small part of the canyon.

Fortunately, the gondola, as planned, only services two private businesses and those primarily in the winter, which means it will not, thank goodness, potentially off-load 3,600 people per hour into the “wild” places in our “slice of wilderness” that are currently hard to reach.

I’ve seen no mention of restricting private vehicle access if a gondola goes into service, which means we could still see thousands of cars, with 2.7 people per car, plus thousands more per hour from the gondola, moving up the mountain.

And when the lines get long at the loading station, what do you think anxious skiers will do? Stand in line with crossed fingers or venture to their cars for warm seats, coffee and tunes as they head up canyon with their 1.7 friends?

The road does have a carrying capacity, but so does the mountain, and a pleasant trip to the peaks by either means can quickly turn sour if you have to ski binding to binding with other enthusiasts.

Most area residents (University, Avenues, Sugar House, Holladay, Murray, Kearns, ...) who, Mr. Nelson says, “wouldn’t need a car to get to the (resorts) at all,” would probably require at least two buses, each way, necessitating almost as much travel time in the day as they would get skiing.

Mr. Nelson indicates that he is no longer a taxpaying citizen of Utah, which means he would not share any of the public debt portion of the half-a-billion dollars, and growing, cost of a gondola. (The cost of the new airport construction has risen 13% in the last two years.)

And good luck being able to relax while taking a “quiet” 30-40 minute ride home after you stand in line to get into a gondola cabin that holds 30-35 people but only has seats for 23.

We all remember “the good old days” and I hope Mr. Nelson doesn’t forget his, because if he’s still skiing when and if the gondola comes to pass, he may realize that his good old days were still the best, but even today was better than a dozen years from now.

Andy White

Andy White, a retired Salt Lake Valley educator, has skied in Little Cottonwood Canyon and the rest of the Wasatch for 50 years, but would give up his boards for the health of the wilderness.