UTA Ski Bus service to Alta changes again

Town shuttle will deliver bus riders to Albion base, The Cliff lodge and stops along the bypass road.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Alta Ski Area general manager Mike Maughan stands at the UTA bus stop outside the Wildcat base area, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. UTA told Alta they will stop servicing the bus stop citing safety concerns.

After cutting out the Ski Bus stop at the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge this winter due to safety concerns, Utah Transit Authority representatives said they would continue to look for a safe spot to pick up passengers on the west side of the Town of Alta.

They found one ... the Goldminer’s Daughter.

When the UTA’s Ski Bus begins service to Little Cottonwood Canyon for the 2022-23 season on Sunday, its route will be a little different than it was mapped out to be as recently as a month ago. The Ski Bus will now make only one stop in Alta — in front of the Goldminer’s Daughter in the Wildcat parking lot. From there, anyone wanting to get to the Alta Ski Area’s Albion base or any other parts of the town can take the free Alta Town and Resort Shuttle. Another option for those with their skis afoot is to use the resort’s Transfer Tow to move between the resort’s two base areas.

The change comes after Mike Maughan, Alta Ski Area’s general manager, protested the loss of the Goldminer’s Daughter stop. The stop has traditionally been one of the most popular along the Little Cottonwood routes, with an average of 450 people disembarking every weekend, because hundreds of guests and employees store their skis in seasonal lockers there and it provides the easiest access to two of Alta’s most popular lifts. Maughan said he felt sideswiped when he learned of the cut about a month before the ski area’s Nov. 18 opening, which he said was too late for it to make any adjustments.

UTA cut the stop as it reworked the Ski Bus and multiple other service lines due to a lack of drivers. Other changes included suspending the 953 route up Little Cottonwood Canyon and reducing service from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes on both of its Cottonwood Canyon routes. To make up for those reductions, UTA increased the size of the buses it runs in the canyons from 35 to 40 feet. It also eliminated some stops for safety and efficiency, including the bypass road between Alta and Snowbird and, as a result, its stop at The Cliff lodge at Snowbird.

For the same reasons, the Goldminer’s Daughter stop initially was axed as well. But Maughan and the UTA reached an agreement earlier this month to make that the central stop for both the ski area and the town. Maughan said the UTA offered the town $50,000 to run the supplemental shuttle, which will serve the bypass road and Cliff Lodge in addition to the Albion base and stops within the town.

That workaround should serve Alta particularly well this early season since the ski area is currently unable to provide lift access out of the Albion base. The Sunnyside lift, the only one running up the mountain out of the Albion base and into most of the ski-only area’s beginner terrain, has been upgraded to a detachable six-person lift and given a reconfigured route. Its construction has been delayed by supply chain issues, however, so it is not expected to open until late this month.

The UTA Ski Bus service to the Ogden-area resorts of Snowbasin and Powder Mountain will begin Saturday. Service to Sundance Resort near Provo is scheduled to begin Dec. 17. The UTA also runs year-round Ski Bus service to the Park City resorts via Kimball Junction.