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Letter: Gondola vs. buses in Little Cottonwood Canyon? There is a third option.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Little Cottonwood Canyon, on Friday, June 25, 2021.

UDOT recently issued a Draft EIS, which proposes two “preferred alternatives” for increasing the number of people who can access Snowbird and Alta ski areas in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The first alternative adds a fourth lane to the road in the canyon. Two of the four lanes would then be dedicated to buses so the buses can zip past automobile traffic and speed more skiers to the top of the canyon. The buses would be diesel powered. As part of this option, snow sheds (which cover and protect the road in avalanche areas), would also be constructed. The impacts are obvious and significant.

The second alternative is identified as a “gondola” which would haul skiers from the mouth of the canyon to the ski areas. Gondolas are typically enclosed cabins, which haul 4 to 8 skiers on a single moving cable to the top of the mountain. The poles supporting the gondola are similar to chairlift poles in size. You’ll see gondolas at Deer Valley and Snowbasin ski areas. The “gondola” being proposed for Little Cottonwood Canyon has cabins which hold 35 people each and is shown with two fixed “track” cables to support the cabin weight and a third moving cable to drag the cabins up the track cables. This is actually a tram type configuration similar to what is seen at Snowbird. The poles or lattice towers supporting the cabins will be large. The cabins, poles, track and moving cables will have a significant construction impact and long term visual presence.

These are not the only two options that could be explored. A responsible third option recognizes that the human capacity of the canyon has a limit. Alta and Snowbird cannot grow indefinitely. They can and will survive on the millions of dollars they are already making. Perhaps the time has come to preserve Little Cottonwood Canyon as is and “do no more harm.”

Mark Holt, Logan

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