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Salt Lake County, ski resorts agree on new emergency bus service for Cottonwood canyons

A Utah Transit Authority ski bus drives up Big Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday. The Salt Lake County Council approved a measure Tuesday to provide close to $240,000 for a private transportation provider to add bus service to ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons.

A Utah Transit Authority ski bus drives up Big Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday. The Salt Lake County Council approved a measure Tuesday to provide close to $240,000 for a private transportation provider to add bus service to ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the Salt Lake County Council approved a measure Tuesday to provide close to $240,000 to add private bus service to ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, in an effort to address ongoing transportation issues this winter.

The council appropriated the funds toward Cottonwood Connect, a ski bus that will run Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and on holidays, beginning Jan. 26 through April 16. Additional funds are coming from a public-private partnership between Visit Salt Lake, Utah Transit Authority, Alta Ski Area, Snowbird, Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Resort, county officials said Wednesday.

They said a fleet of mini-coaches and large passenger vans, operated by Snow Country Limousine, will offer a weekly capacity of 784 passengers when the service begins. It's expected to increase to 1,120 weekly passengers by the end of the emergency program. The fleet will have connections in Midvale, Cottonwood Heights and Sandy, in coordination with UTA.

The cost of the new service will be $10 for round-trip tickets and reservations, which can be made online, will be required. Details on how reservations can be made were not immediately released but will be unveiled ahead of the launch date, officials added.

"I'm proud of everyone who came together to make this a reality," Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said in a statement Wednesday. "Cottonwood Connect will benefit so many across the valley who want to use our canyons this winter and environmentally, it's another win for our community."

The council vote came after issues arose when Utah Transit Authority cut its service in half this winter because a growing labor shortage made it difficult to staff enough drivers to run the ski bus service. That's resulted in more cars in the canyon, and complaints from riders about long waits getting a seat on the available bus, as well.

The Central Wasatch Commission, Sandy City, UTA and the Utah Department of Transportation also signed off on a "bypass" program last month, which calls for a police escort of ski buses to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon during the canyon's busiest days, as another way to speed up the service and incentivize the ski bus service.

Sandy Mayor Monica Zoltanski said Wednesday that efforts to address traffic congestion continue to be a big focus in the region.

"We want to share the beauty of the mountains that we enjoy every day. We also want to assure it's the canyon trails the ski runs visitors remember, not the red snake of tail lights moving up and down the canyon," she said in a statement. "We appreciate the support of Salt Lake County leaders for the Ski Bus Bypass Service that will be one key in helping solve the congestion problem."

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Utah transportationUtahSalt Lake CountyOutdoors
Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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