The Cottonwood Connect Ski Shuttle is back to fill in the ski bus service gaps
“It just cost too much in gas driving up all the time,” said high school snowboarder and frequent rider Kaden Radandt.
“Sometimes you're waiting for, like, an hour,” said Radandt. “It sucks, but it's not too bad.”
Enter the Cottonwood Connect Ski Shuttle. Now in its second season, it aims to help bridge that service gap. For $10 one way or $20 round trip, people can reserve a spot on a 25-person shuttle. Four routes service both canyons and the surrounding communities.
“We gained a lot of information last year on what works, what doesn't work, and we also expanded partnerships this year,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson at a Dec. 19 news conference announcing the shuttle’s return. "You have that choice again this year, and we know it makes a difference — not just for locals, but also for people visiting from out of state.”
According to the county, 83% of shuttle riders last winter were out-of-state visitors.
With bad winter traffic the norm and the Utah Department of Transportation’s ambitious (and contentious) gondola solution years away, local leaders have been searching for other ways to quell traffic in the canyons.
“We had to be nimble [last winter] because we were just deluged with traffic congestion, people coming and waiting for the canyon openings when they were doing avalanche control in the mornings,” said Sandy Mayor Monica Zoltanski. “Working with the county and the Cottonwood Connect really helped ease those and give a lot of options.”
The UTA welcomes this partnership as another busy, snow-filled winter could be on the horizon.
“We look at the solution as not entirely a UTA challenge and as a consequence, working with [local partners] to find the right solutions is an important piece of that,” said authority board chair Carlton Christensen. “This kind of partnership with Salt Lake County and Visit Salt Lake is reflective of that.”
Christensen added that there will be additional UTA buses during peak ride times in the mornings and afternoons this winter. The door was also left open to full-time service increases in the future.
“For this year, it would just be during surge times, but it's all in anticipation of restoring service that was reduced in the next ski season,” he said.
Cooperation is something Mayor Wilson said is crucial not only for traffic calming but air quality efforts, too.
“We're all in this together and we have seen some modifications from certain resorts to go to parking solutions, reserve parking,” she said. “All of these steps together will make the difference.”
The Cottonwood Connect shuttle runs from Dec. 22 through April 14.