Forth: Gondolas Will Ruin Little Cottonwood Canyon


Xianyao Tang

Jamie McDonald reads a book by Little Cottonwood Creek in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah on Sept. 5, 2021. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kate Forth, Opinion Writer


Little Cottonwood Canyon’s winding roads, majestic mountains, mighty pines and pristine lakes make it a prime location for outdoor recreation.

Seeing the wildflowers bloom in the summer, skipping rocks across Cecret Lake and climbing across Devil’s Castle in Alta make the canyon one of my favorite spots.

Unfortunately, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) released a proposal to construct a gondola system in hopes of improving transportation within the canyon. This gondola could threaten recreation accessibility and the natural beauty of the canyon. Additionally, installing gondolas will not accomplish the goals that stakeholders desire.

Gondola Works, a coalition of stakeholders, businesses (notably, this includes Alta and Snowbird, two prominent ski resorts that operate in Little Cottonwood Canyon) and individuals, claim that the gondolas could help “solve the congestion that exists” within the canyon. However, a gondola is not the solution and will arguably make the traffic into the canyon worse.

In an interview, Save Our Canyons, an activist group lobbying against UDOT’s proposal for gondolas, claimed that the proposal to build gondolas “is geared towards economic development activities and induced visitation primarily of resort skiers.” Although UDOT has not explicitly stated that purpose, the stations are positioned to take visitors to ski resorts, inadvertently causing a spike in visitors that don’t have access to vehicles.

Gondolas may put recreation other than skiing, like bouldering and rock climbing, at risk. The Salt Lake Climber’s Association (SLCA) reports that if the gondolas are constructed, 64 of Little Cottonwood canyon’s iconic boulders will be compromised. Infrastructure around these boulders will make them inaccessible to avid climbers.

Additionally, SLCA claims that parking access will be severely limited to those who want to climb within the canyon, making the sport less accessible.

Recently, a group of activists floated red balloons that obscured the canyon views. They did this to demonstrate how the gondolas will obstruct the natural beauty of the canyon.

Carl Fisher, one of the directors of Save Our Canyons, said that if you want to enjoy towering man-made infrastructure, just go to Salt Lake City. The thought of the beautiful, natural rockfaces and peaks of Little Cottonwood Canyon being covered by ugly steel towers is saddening.

Save Our Canyons also said in an interview that the gondolas will “destroy boulders … sites of cultural significance [and] wildlife habitat.”

UDOT’s proposed gondola system puts the beauty of Little Cottonwood Canyon at risk to appease businesses like Alta and Snowbird. Hikers, cyclers and rock climbers will lose the ability to enjoy the canyon. Little Cottonwood Canyon’s natural beauty will be stained by towering steel and concrete giants that have no business being there.

The Salt Lake Climber’s Alliance and Save Our Canyons both feel that there are better ways to make the canyon more accessible: ways that don’t entail ruining the natural landscape of the canyon and making hiking and rock climbing inaccessible.


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