Population growth and skier-days, the metric used to count skiers/riders at ski resorts, and backcountry users (skiers, riders, split-boarders, snowshoers, hikers, etc.) continue to grow each year in our beloved Wasatch range. As such, the pressure on parking areas has mounted, so in an effort to help people understand the current parking rules/regs, Wasatch Backcountry Alliance has created a summary of changes and status of popular backcountry access points.
Solitude Ski Area
As you have no doubt heard, Solitude Ski Area will begin charging for parking this season. Rates are $20 for 1-2 occupants, $10 for 3 occupants, and $5 for 4+. Popular backcountry access points from their lots include, but are not limited to: Silver Fork, USA Bowl, Willow Fork and the Park City ridgeline. It seems like roadway parking inside the shoulder line will continue to be allowed by the county and UDOT for now, but the long-term viability of that option is uncertain. For those wanting to use the parking lot before the resort opens, it is anticipated that they will need to pay the parking fees, but it is unknown how Solitude will apply and enforce parking fees/restrictions. We will provide an update once further information becomes available.
Upper Little Cottonwood Canyon
Parking in upper Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC), is controlled by various entities, including the Town of Alta (TOA), Alta Ski Lifts (ASL) and UDOT. Parking issue in all of these areas, including along the side of Hwy 210, have proved to be a concern for these entities, esp. ASL. There are long standing, well-signed ordinances restricting parking before 0700 and 0800 in TOA spaces, esp. near the Our Lady of the Snows trailhead. Although these ordinances have not been strictly enforced in years’ past, that approach may change this season and ticketing during early morning hours may ramp up this year. Snow removal and avalanche control work are the most challenging activities for workers, and the likely focus of increased enforcement will be when those are happening.
Additionally, there have been recent statements by ASL that there is no backcountry parking in upper LCC, including in ASL’s special use permit areas between the Rustler and Alta Lodges and by Grizzly Gulch. This is not accurate. The Forest Service has confirmed to WBA that ASL cannot restrict/prohibit backcountry users and other non-ski area patrons from parking in the spots in ASL’s special-use permit. WBA encourages people to use public transportation and carpooling to reduce the number of vehicles in LCC, and WBA will continue to meet and discuss solutions with TOA, ASL and UDOT.
UDOT Parking Lot Closures
UDOT has installed gates at the Spruces lot in BCC and a gate at the entrance to the White Pine lot in LCC. WBA has been advised that UDOT may close these areas at selected times to facilitate overnight snow removal. The concept is to limit vehicle access during night-time hours when snow removal is necessary since having vehicles in the lots limits the ability of plows to conduct efficient plowing, which results in maximizing the use of the lot for vehicles and users. The goal is to have the lots open by 4-6 AM on those days when snow clearing is necessary. UDOT is proposing to clear a wide shoulder for alternative parking down canyon from Spruces to assist dawn patrollers before 4-6 AM. Unfortunately, there is not a similar proposed alternative for White Pine. It is not clear how often UDOT will close these gates for plowing, and WBA will update as more info on this becomes available.
Parking in general
For those areas not singled out above, WBA encourages people to be thoughtful about how they use the canyons. It is increasingly common to see hundreds of cars parked along Hwy’s 210 and 190 (BCC), some of which are those of backcountry users.
- Try to carpool when possible. Both Solitude and Snowbird have ride-share apps to help make carpooling easier.
- Take the bus! Season pass holders at all of the Cottonwood Canyon resorts and IKON pass holders get free access to the UTA buses with their passes, so let’s use them! UTA is adding more buses to both canyons, so we should see improved services this year.
- Be sure to park inside the white line if you park along Hwy’s 210 and 190. There was increased enforcement of this rule last year, with many people getting tickets for parking on or outside the white line.
- Please obey all UDOT road/avalanche closures. If you go up LCC before a UDOT closure, be sure that you are parked in a legal spot that will not negatively impact the critical avalanche work that UDOT is doing.
- Note that the canyon police have indicated that they will be stepping up their efforts in enforcing the “traction” component of canyon travel (4wd, chains) to attempt to keep ill-equipped cars from sliding off/blocking the road, so keep that in mind as you plan your canyon travels.
As backcountry use continues to increase, we all need to acknowledge that we are contributing to the parking (and traffic) problem. Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us to be thoughtful in our transportation and parking decisions. We also need to understand and respect that the snowplow drivers are under a lot of pressure to keep the canyon roads open and safe. We want them to facilitate backcountry parking as much as possible, so in turn we need to respect their perspective and actions and help make their jobs easier, rather than slow them down and get in their way.