Salt Lake County Mayor: Little Cottonwood gondola is bad for the Olympics

Dec 1, 2023, 5:00 PM

Little Cottonwood Canyon is seen covered in snow, Friday, March 24, 2023 during avalanche mitigatio...

Opponents to the Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola say it will ruin canyon views. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY– The proposed gondola that would stretch eight miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon is bad for the 2034 Olympics, said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. It isn’t guaranteed that Salt Lake will host the Olympics, but being chosen as a “preferred host” this week greatly improved the city’s chances.

Wilson has long since been a vocal opponent of the gondola. 

The Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola emerged as a proposal to address road traffic so bad some call it the “red snake.” The Utah Department of Transportation approved the gondola in July of this year.

Wilson previously told KSL NewsRadio that UDOT‘s decision about the gondola wouldn’t be affected by the 2034 Olympics.

Keep the canyon “pure and beautiful”

The mayor spoke with KSL NewRradio at a screening event Thursday night for “The Grand Rescue,” a movie she produced and directed about the Salt Lake climbing group that saved an injured climber on the Grand Teton.

“We have built a reputation for winter sports, and doing it in the right way,” said Wilson about Utah, “We have the Olympic games coming in 10 years. Let’s keep our Cottonwood Canyons pure and beautiful.”

Plans show an eight-mile wire system that is longer than any other gondola in the world. Rendered images show 260-foot-tall white towers that hold up the wire and rise against the sides of the canyon’s mountains.

The finished product would have two stops in total. One at Snowbird ski resort, and the other at Alta.

According to Wilson, Utahns should look at this from the perspective of climbers, hikers, and other recreators who use the canyon for more than skiing and snowboarding.

“But more than anything,” the mayor said, “let’s respect our mother Earth and our natural environment. And I think a gondola is a marr on really who we are in this valley.”

Will Little Cottonwood have a gondola by 2034 Olympics?

But the gondola could take decades to complete and may not be ready to roll by 2034.

“I don’t see a link between the Olympics and what’s going on here in Little Cottonwood Canyon,” said Snowbird President Dave Fields Wednesday, “as we try to deal with the avalanche paths and the two-lane road and the growing population along the Wasatch Front.”

Even if the gondola is complete by the lighting of the torch, there probably will not be a single Olympic event in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

“We are in no talks with anybody at any level from the Olympic movement,” said Fields, “to have any events in Little Cottonwood either at Snowbird or at Alta.”

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Salt Lake County Mayor: Little Cottonwood gondola is bad for the Olympics