Following a reduction in ski bus services from the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), leaders from Salt Lake County, Visit Salt Lake (VSL), UTA, Sandy City, Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude collaborated on creating a viable micro-transit solution to shuttle locals and visitors to Salt Lake area ski resorts.
Through its 12 weeks of operation, Cottonwood Connect shuttled 9,007 riders to and from Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon ski resorts. Utahns made up 17 percent of riders with out-of-state visitors coming in at 83 percent of ridership. Snow Country Limousine, who was selected as a private transportation provider after an RFP process, indicates that ridership would have been closer to 11,000 had it not been for frequent canyon closures that affected ridership on five of the twelve operating weekends.
The Cottonwood Connect shuttle operated on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from January 26 through April 16. Riders paid $10 per round trip ticket which guaranteed them a seat on shuttles that had several stops at UTA park & rides and hotel locations via Midvale, Sandy and Cottonwood Heights. The program participated in Sandy City Police Department’s Bypass Service, giving riders a police escort to the front of the line when SR 210 had morning closures for avalanche mitigation.
This public, private partnership was funded in part by VSL, UTA, Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, Solitude and a $239,000 appropriation from the Salt Lake County Council.
“The success of the Cottonwood Connect demonstrates the willingness of skiers and snowboarders to try commonsense solutions to our traffic problems in the canyons,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. “I’m thrilled to see that the first season of this experiment was a success and am excited to continue to grow solutions that allow people to enjoy the canyons without adding to the traffic.”
“With a record-breaking snow year and record ski visitation, we were excited to work with our partners to create solutions to alleviate congestion in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons,” said Kaitlin Eskelson, President and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. “Visitors, locals and resort employees all benefited from this innovative micro-transit partnership.”
“As the need for reliable, safe and convenient transportation up and down Little Cottonwood Canyon remains paramount, Snowbird was proud to partner with other local organizations to provide additional transportation options in light of the reduction in UTA ski bus service,” said Dave Fields, President and General Manager of Snowbird. “Snowbird remains committed to advocating for access to our home in Little Cottonwood Canyon as we look toward next season and beyond.”x`