“Ikon, Epic ski passes may be working too well. They make already-bad traffic in Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons even worse.”
The Salt Lake Tribune, March 30, 2019
By Brian Maffly
This storm-filled winter, the skiing in Utah’s Cottonwood canyons was spectacular.
That’s if you could get there, and you forgot about the hours you spent inching out of the canyon behind a serpentine line of red tail lights after a truncated day on the slopes.
Beyond the epic powder days that left near-record snow totals, the 2018-19 ski season at Alta and Snowbird may be remembered as well for its traffic. A drive in or out of Little Cottonwood Canyon, which normally takes 20 minutes, would take two or more hours anytime snowfall coincided with a weekend or holiday, highlighting the need for the transportation plan currently underway by the Utah Department of Transportation.
Crowding this winter certainly had a lot to do with generous snowpack that blessed skiers with powder day after powder day. But industry observers believe other factors are in play for the crush of cars in Little and Big Cottonwood canyons, where parking lots routinely filled by 10 a.m. and parked vehicles lined the highway for a mile or more.
The rise of multiresort passes, especially Alterra’s Ikon Pass that debuted last year, reordered how destination skiers visit Utah resorts in ways that put more cars in the already jammed canyons east of Salt Lake City.
In short, the passes that are filling up resort chairlifts are driving up canyon traffic.