Transportation: Red Snake Morning
LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON — Skiers heading up to Alta-Bird Friday morning to enjoy the foot of new powder were met with an all-too familiar sight in Little Cottonwood Canyon—the dreaded Red Snake. The line of cars waiting to drive up the canyon at 9 a.m. was backed up to Bengal Boulevard on Utah Highway 210.
Mountain Accord invited members of the media to experience the Red Snake first hand and meet with Executive Committee members at the Little Cottonwood Park and Ride, which, despite the long line of cars traveling up the canyon, was not full to capacity.
“The visitors coming to Utah to ski are either staying at the resorts, taking a bus or driving up the canyon in cars with more than one person,” said Ski Utah President and Mountain Accord Executive Committee member Nathan Rafferty. “It’s us, the locals who are driving up the canyon in one-passenger cars. It’s incumbent upon us to make a change.”
Utah’s population is expected to jump from 3 million to 4 million in the next decade. “There’s a good chance that many of those people are going to want to recreate in these canyons. We need to find solutions yesterday,” Rafferty said.
The U.S. Forest Service recently released a study (“Paths More Traveled,” USFS June 2015) that looked at the effects of population growth on forest lands around the nation. The study looked at every USFS acre in the United States and predicts that, nationally, forest visitation is on the rise and will jump from 83 million in 2010 to 94 million in 2020. That’s an increase of 12 million foot prints each year. Out of the entire study, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is expected to see the greatest increase.
Mountain Accord was created to make critical decisions and implement solutions to preserve the Central Wasatch and ensure its long-term vitality. One of the highest priorities for the Mountain Accord is to, by 2017, have a transportation solution that will provide more options to reduce congestion in Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Park City.
“The problem isn’t going to fix itself,” said Mountain Accord Program Director Laynee Jones. “Mountain Accord is working toward practical solutions that we can immediately implement to reduce impact when we travel into our canyons. The time to act is now.”
To encourage less traffic, Snowbird resort, for example, has started offering preferred parking to guests who arrive at the resort in a car with three or more people. And carpooling, says Save our Canyons Executive Director Carl Fisher, really should be a baseline for any change.
“We need to get people to realize its unsustainable to drive into these beautiful canyons in a private car with just one person,” Fischer said. “But that’s just the minimum. We need a regional transportation solution that makes it easy for people to skip getting in the car to start their trip.”
Mountain Accord is exploring a wide range of short-term solutions for reducing year-round canyons traffic including encouraging public transportation use and discouraging single passenger, private car use. It is also asking valley residents on both sides of the Wasatch Front and Back to take a survey on transpiration issues and share their opinion. Take the survey here.
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