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October 2019 Update: Ski Bus Efficiency; UDOT Abandons CWC and CCTAP; Paid Parking; and More

Hello Wasatch Backcountry Enthusiasts!

As the first dustings of snow hit the high peaks our thoughts – like yours – start “drifting” towards winter. There have been a number of things happening in recent weeks that will affect our wintertime recreation, so here is a quick update.

UTA

At Monday’s Central Wasatch Commission meeting, a representative from UTA introduced a few new ideas to help create a more efficient use of the ski buses this winter, which we all know we should use more often.  These changes include:

  • UTA is adding buses to each of the lines going up the Cottonwoods so that there will be more midday buses going up and down the canyons to allow people to ride the bus at more times of the day.
  • A few years ago, UTA decided to start the 972 (BCC) bus at a Trax stop in Murray. Unsurprisingly, that stop has not gotten a lot of skier use, so they are dropping that stop, which will increase overall route efficiency.
  • UTA is likely going to eliminate the in-bus ski racks to increase bus capacity and expedite passenger loading.  They are exploring re-installing external racks – which were removed about 15 years ago when they went to new, wider buses that are right at the 9-feet-wide limit for safety reasons – or you’ll be holding your boards/skis between your legs.
  • They may curtail the bus stopping at the parking lot at the mouth of LCC as upcanyon buses often have a hard time getting out of that lot, which just adds to overall delays. If this happens, this area would be used as a carpool lot.
  • UTA also suggested that they may utilize police escorts for buses, allowing them to blow by the infamous Red Snake.  This sounds logistically challenging, but UTA reported that they tried it a couple of times last year with moderate success.

Of course, there are still two big elephants in the room: 1) if there’s not enough parking available, increased bus efficiency is rendered moot, and 2) if it’s a big snow day, increased bus efficiency in the heart of the canyons has a big effect on keeping schedules.  UTA is acutely aware of these issues, and trying to address them.  There is talk of being able to use the north end of the gravel pit on Wasatch Blvd for parking, but those plans are still very much in progress, so we will update when we have more info on that opportunity.

UDOT

You may have heard that UDOT has not only pulled out of the CWC, but also scrapped their Cottonwood Canyons Transit Action Plan (CCTAP). CCTAP was initiated earlier this year in recognition that making changes/improvements to LCC will affect BCC, and vice versa.  We reached out to UDOT to get a more clear understanding of why CCTAP was stopped and were told that they are currently focusing their efforts on the LCC Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and will continue to look at tolling and transit in both canyons. That sounds good, but there are other issues in BCC that merit study – such as water quality, avalanche control, communication, etc. – that also seem important to study, so we will continue to look into this issue and let you know as we find out more.

Central Wasatch Commission Update

Regarding the updated Central Wasatch Recreation Bill draft:  you were heard! Thanks to everyone who submitted comments.  The CWC staff received over 500 comments and they were stunned at how passionate and articulate the comments were, and it’s taking them much longer to go through them than they anticipated, which is a good thing.  A summary will be available in a few weeks.

Parking

You have no doubt heard that Solitude Ski Area has taken the bold step of announcing that it will be charging for parking this winter, which will affect backcountry skiers accessing the PC ridgeline and Silver Fork.  This concept is still pretty new and we aren’t sure how it will be implemented for dawn patrollers, but for now we need to accept that Solitude’s management took a bold step to try to address the overabundance of single-occupancy vehicles. As canyon drivers, we are part of the problem as well and can be part of the solution by being more conscientious about carpooling or taking the bus.

We have been talking to Alta Ski Lifts (ASL) about the number of non-ski area patrons (backcountry skiers/riders, snowshoers, nordic skiers, walkers, photographers, etc.) parking at the top of LCC.  Several ideas for easing parking issues have been discussed, but at this point there is nothing concrete, so like with BCC, try to be conscientious about carpooling/using the bus when you head up LCC this winter.

Speaking of ASL, there has been no change in their stance regarding Grizzly Gulch: they refuse to allow it to be a part of any kind of a land exchange and still intend to not only develop their private land for skiing, but continue to express interest in getting a permit change to access the public lands on the Patsy Marley ridgeline as well.  WBA is working hard to prevent any change in the use of Patsy Marley and Grizzly Gulch, and will keep you updated if this changes.

In Wasatch Backcountry Alliance news, a few important notes:

  • We were happy to get some board members and WBA members to spend a day with the Forest Service on a trail-building mission on an extension of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail;
  • Our annual member meeting is coming up very soon!  October 30th at the Anderson Library off Foothill Blvd, from 6:30-9pm;
  • Our annual Powder Party will be in Nov, date/place TBD;
  • We added three new board members who bring an array of skills and experience to our team; and
  • We hired someone to help us manage our social media, so hopefully you’ll be seeing a higher level of communication from us on the many things that are happening here in the Wasatch.

Whew! That’s a lot.  Thanks for reading, we’ll see you in a few weeks at the Member Meeting, and as always, pray for more snow and less wind!

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