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A Gondola is the Wrong Choice for Little Cottonwood

I have vivid memories from childhood of driving up Little Cottonwood Canyon and entering a new, magical world filled with rustling leaves, glistening rocks, abundant birdsong, and fresh air that made me feel alive. As I’ve gotten older, the mysterious wonderland has grown into a familiar playground where I’ve learned to ski, mountain bike, rock climb, and tackle the impressive peaks.

Though many people like myself enjoy recreating in Little Cottonwood Canyon year-round, its most consistently popular season is the winter. Ski resorts like Alta and Snowbird draw both locals and tourists to their world-class runs. Unfortunately, a common sight while driving up the canyon is a never-ending line of cars inching up the road, all eager to hit the sparkly slopes. If timed improperly, a good snow day can have you waiting two or three hours to get to a parking lot, which may be full anyway.

These widespread problems have sent legislators into a planning frenzy the past few years trying to come up with a solution to this ever-growing problem. One of the most talked-about and controversial plans is to build an 8-mile long, 60-foot-tall, $590 million gondola up the gullet of the scenic canyon. This plan admittedly has its perks, including less traffic directly on the roads and reduced avalanche danger, but it is not worth mauling the landscape when less invasive methods of traffic control have not even been tested.

Another idea, hailed by many, and which I hope will end up being the plan of action, is an expansion of the canyon bus system. The existing system is outdated, slow, and prone to malfunctions. However, if the buses are improved and the road widened, as is detailed in the most recent UDOT (Utah Dept. of Transportation) plan, they could be a smart solution that moves organically with the needs of the canyon and the city.

An improved bus service would be more cost-effective than a gondola. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, updating the bus system and potentially widening the road in some places would come to about $510 million up front, compared to $592 million for the gondola. Proponents of the gondola argue that this increased cost would be worth it because it would increase tourism to the canyon, drawing in more income over time. But if you talk to almost anyone who enjoys Little Cottonwood Canyon, barring the stakeholders who only want to increase their personal profit, they will tell you that the last thing we want in LCC is more tourism. Our beloved canyon is already crowded, and drawing an entirely new client base solely to ride the gondola sounds like a n