Beleaguered, powder-hungry skiers have been battling traffic up and down the Cottonwood Canyons this winter. Skier volume and vehicle traffic have been steadily increasing with each passing season, and the problems are particularly acute when heavy snowfall—which attracts skiers and snowboarders like moths to a light—necessitates avalanche mitigation work on the canyon roads as it did during the historic avalanche cycle following a storm system earlier this month. Clearly a populous city abutting a mountain range with world-class skiing presents unique transportation requirements, and the Central Wasatch Commission (CWC) is committed to tackling the gridlock with sustainable, effective transportation solutions. Right now, they’re looking for public input to help guide their planning.

The CWC’s goal of a comprehensive Mountain Transit System arose from the conclusions of Mountain Accord, in which federal, state and local jurisdictions along with private entities collaborated to come up with management solutions for the Central Wasatch Mountains the reflected the interests of conservation groups, businesses including all four Cottonwood Canyon Ski Resorts and private citizens. The four primary goals were to protect the environment and natural resources, ensure high quality recreational experiences, strengthen the regional economy and enhance regional transportation. An effective transit solution is key to achieving all these goals, which is why the CWC is pushing to outline the development of transportation initiatives by the end of 2020, including identifying potential funding sources.

For skiers and snowboarders who frequent the Cottonwood Canyons, the impact will be felt with measures that incentivize public transit use and dis-incentivize single-occupancy vehicle access. That likely means more busses and other public transit options in addition to more paid parking like you’ll already find at Solitude Resort. Deliverables CWC hopes will achieve those aims are outlined below, and full details are available here.

  • High-capacity transit in the Little Cottonwood Canyon/Big Cottonwood Canyon/Park City corridor.
  • Transit incentives and automobile disincentives including parking/pricing strategies.
  • Year-round local bus service in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.
  • Fast transit service from the airport to the Park City area via I-80.
  • Improved transit service on US 40 and I-80 between Quinn’s Junction and Kimball Junction. Improved transit connections in Summit County.
  • High capacity transit connections in the eastern Salt Lake Valley.
  • Safety and access improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The public comment period for this phase of the planning is open until Sunday, March 1. There should be no shortage of suggestions, as everyone seems to have their own priorities and the alleged perfect fix for Wasatch transportation woes, so make sure your voice is heard as well by submitting your comment here, or emailing CWC staff at comments@cwc.utah.gov. The work that goes into the Central Wasatch Commission Mountain Transportation System this year will likely define what the future of what access to the Cottonwood Canyons looks like, so be involved in the process and stay up to date by visiting the CWC website regularly.