Steve Camp: Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola is ideology of a cancer cell

Utah should see it is not possible to build our way out of unbridled growth.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People pack the room as the Wasatch Front Regional Council meets at The Gateway in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

— Edward Abbey

The proposed Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola is yet one more example of the flawed premise that you can build your way out of unbridled growth.

It isn’t enough to welcome 50,000 more people to Utah last year while our quality of life spirals, our roads clog and a place to live becomes increasingly unaffordable. Now UDOT, admittedly concerned only with transporting more paying clients to a couple of ski resorts, recommends ravaging one of our idyllic canyons with a colossal monstrosity of corporate welfare and an environmental affront to the Creator.

Plus, they’ll saddle up the taxpayers with at least a half billion dollar tab to build it — and an additional $7 million annually to operate and maintain it.

What could possibly go wrong?

1. By the time the gondola is operational, chances are that skiing in the Wasatch, as in Europe, may be a thing of the past due to climate change and a vanishing Great Salt Lake with its accompanying lake effect snow.

2. The 22 towers (averaging 200 feet high) needed to suspend the eight-mile-long gondola with their accompanying bases and access roads will not only destroy the views in the canyon and from the valley but will impact Salt Lake City’s watershed, including the canyon bottom riparian zone with its resident wildlife.

3. Not to leave the canyon mouth unscathed, don’t forget the loading station with a 2,500-car capacity parking garage. Visualize a romantic outdoor wedding at LaCaiIle with the stunning backdrop of the iconic Wasatch Mountains ... car park.

4. Perhaps what is most disgusting about this scheme would be the wasted opportunity to do something truly beneficial with such a staggering sum of money.

What could $500 million buy in the state of Utah?

It could build 5,000 to 10,000 tiny homes for the homeless. Or provide meals for the 289,000 Utahns who wonder where their next one is coming from. A $19,000 pay raise for every public school teacher in Utah, or a $2,300 scholarship for every college student. Subsidies for alfalfa farmers to grow anything else or fallow their fields entirely and allocate the water saved to the Great Salt Lake. Or we could simply let every man, woman and child in Utah keep $145 in their pockets.


1. It’s past time to shift the paradigm away from “Everybody, Anytime, All-At-Once.” Snowbird and Alta sit on finite parcels of land (mostly public in Alta’s case) where there exists only one way in and one way out. So, it follows that their facilities can only accommodate a finite number of skiers and their cars at any one time.

When concert and athletic venues sell all their seats, they’re sold out. Powder Mountain limits ticket sales to avoid overcrowding. Several national parks, including Arches, now require online timed registration to enter. There is no reason LCC resorts can’t do the same for parking and for skiing. Once reservation capacity is reached, the resort is sold out for the day and patrons (including season pass holders) are advised online. The incentive for the resorts to self manage would come from offering guests a higher quality experience — more time on the slopes and less time in their cars and lift lines. If resorts can’t make a reasonable profit doing honest business, then they shouldn’t be in business at all.

2. Price resort parking to encourage carpooling and discourage single occupant vehicles.

3. Take a fraction of the half billion bucks and buy an adequate fleet of EV buses, along with enough drivers to handle crowds on weekends and holidays. Enlarge the bus turnarounds at the resorts and schedule convenient connections to the valley wide UTA system at the bottom. Charge a “fair fare” to ride. Whatever that is, it will be orders of magnitude less than a Swiss Alps sky ride!

4. Finally, stop electing “cancer cell” leaders, whose boosterism and dollar sign myopia obfuscate any desire for the greater public good. Removing cancer is much more difficult than preventing it in the first place.

Steve Camp

Steve Camp, Murray, is a retired carpenter and hiker who has visited most of the peaks of the Wasatch. He hopes to not live long enough to see a gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon.