A better ski and rideshare bus service makes a lot more sense than an expensive gondola project.

A better ski and rideshare bus service makes a lot more sense than an expensive gondola project.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) UTA and Central Wasatch Commission members gather at Big Cottonwood Canyon Park and Park on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, as snow flies in to remind residents of improvements to the ski buses which will come into service on 29 November.

When I was in middle school, my parents bought me a season pass for Snowbird. From Christmas break to early April, my friends and I would get parents to drive us to the park and up to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon early on Saturday mornings.

Getting on the bus has always been a challenge. It started with navigating the icy bus stop in plastic ski boots. The bus would only be standing when it got to the last stop before heading back up the canyon. The floor of the bus was always wet and slippery (one more obstacle in ski boots). You’d get piled into the bus aisle trying not to maim someone with one of your skis or poles.

The reward was a day of turns, but the day wasn’t complete until you went through that ordeal a second time to get back to the mouth of the canyon.

Driving the UTA ski bus played a part in why I asked my parents to help me buy a Jeep when I turned 16. A Jeep made sure I didn’t miss a powder day while being much more comfortable (and cool) than the bus. It was infinitely better than being confined to the then limited bus schedule and having to prepare sometimes an hour before loading onto your first chairlift. I had. Why would I consider taking the ski bus again?

I started working at Snowbird towards the end of high school. Working meant getting to the station earlier than my friends, so I had no one to help me refuel. This became a problem due to gasoline prices hitting an all-time high in the late 2000s.

Snowbird allowed employees to leave their equipment at the Snowbird Center. It completely changed my experience on the bus. The bus solved my gas problem while being able to plug in my headphones or read a book on the way to work. Gone are the days of skis, poles and goggles fumbling around as they slipped and slid on the slippery floor of the bus as it weaved through the canyon. It was a completely different experience to board in street clothes for the six-mile ride.

The bus system is so much better than 15 years ago. The buses are newer, they are much more frequent and they are supported by software solutions like the UTA application. The bus may not work for all skiers/riders, but it is a good option for season pass holders who get a UTA pass for free, for solo riders who ski the same mountain all throughout the season and for anyone trying to manage their carbon footprint. We can make this a great option by providing subsidized locker rooms at all four Wasatch waterfront resorts for Utah residents.

We don’t need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the massive infrastructure a gondola ride up Little Cottonwood Canyon will require. This proposed project would require year round staffing, security and maintenance. He only attempts to fix the traffic problem 10 or 12 weekends a year for one of Cottonwood’s two canyons. There are far more practical steps that need to be taken like improving access to mountainside lockers and encouraging carpooling before pursuing a project that forever alters our beautiful mountains.

Hayden Johnsen was born and raised in Sandy. He now works in technology but considers himself an honorary skier.

Melvin Z. Madore