Loving Little Cottonwood Canyon to death: is a gondola the answer?

Jul 10, 2020, 3:35 PM
little cottonwood canyon gondola...
Snowbird's GM says a gondola, not unlike his resort's existing tram, could solve congestion problems and reduce pollution in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — The road going up Little Cottonwood Canyon sees up to 7,000 vehicles a day and 1 million visitors a year.  We are loving the beautiful canyon to death.

The Utah Department of Transportation identified three alternatives for more in-depth study to improve transportation in Little Cottonwood Canyon. These draft alternatives, part of the Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), include enhanced bus service, enhanced bus service in a dedicated shoulder lane, and a gondola, according to UDOT.

The eight-mile gondola ride to Snowbird could take up to half of those vehicles off the canyon road. 

Snowbird Ski Resort GM Dave Fields joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss the idea of a gondola carrying 30 to 40 skiers and other visitors and leaving their (1,500) cars, trucks and vans behind inside a parking structure at La Caille restaurant.

Pollution solution for Little Cottonwood Canyon? 

“Do you think it’s a real possibility?” asked Debbie.

Fields pointed out that there are 64 avalanche paths along the two-lane Little Cottonwood Canyon Road. All it takes to bring those 7,000 vehicles to a halt is one avalanche, he said.

“We’re a little biased because we have the tram. We see how well it works bringing people up and down the mountain,” Fields said. “The new gondola technology works in all weather conditions.”

For example, Fields said when it’s snowing hard, it can take four to five hours to descend the canyon from Alta’s parking lot to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

“That’s not only dangerous, but it’s creating a lot of emissions [from vehicles] and pollution and it’s really inconvenient for people,” he said, adding that there are gondolas that move 4,500 people an hour.

Fields said the parking structure would be out of sight below on the west side of the road at La Caille, 9565 S. Wasatch Blvd. in Sandy.

A bus system would shuttle riders between 9400 South and 2000 East.

84,000 pounds of CO2 blown away

“Would it be practical to install something this large?” Dave asked.

“It’s very practical. I think the impact here in Little Cottonwood, which is a watershed for Salt Lake County, would be much less than building massive concrete structures,” Fields said. “You could take it [the gondola] up the alignment of the road not cross over any houses [starting at La Caille].”

Read more about the gondola alternative for Little Cottonwood Canyon at

Dave said he liked the gondola solution — a lot.

“Let’s build that bad boy,” he said.

UDOT estimates the cost of the gondola alternative in the mid-range of transportation options, Fields said.

He said for every round trip in Little Cottonwood Canyon, a single vehicle emits 24 pounds of CO2. If we could remove half of the vehicles (3,400) from the canyon road, we could eliminate 84,000 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere every day.

The longest non-stop three-rope cable car is 7,899.9 meters (4.908 miles) and was achieved by Sun Phu Quoc Ltd., Co (Vietnam) at Phu Quoc, Kien Giang, Vietnam, on 3 January 2018, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play

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Loving Little Cottonwood Canyon to death: is a gondola the answer?