Landowner Proposes Alternate Little Cottonwood Gondola

When the Utah Department of Transportation unveiled three Little Cottonwood Canyon mobility alternatives, many Utahns were pleased to see a gondola included. However, two criticisms emerged: a lack of on-site parking at the bottom terminal and a low hourly capacity of 1,050 passengers per direction. A new proposal by a private landowner and developer seeks to address both of those issues by requesting UDOT amend the location of the bottom terminal to a 37.5 acre site adjacent to Highway 210. The alternative base station would be located near the LaCaille estate, seven tenths of a mile from the mouth of the canyon. The requested amendment to the current gondola plan would provide enough room for a public parking garage as well as transit center for bus riders to transfer directly to the ropeway.

Chris McCandless is the former Sandy City Councilman behind the proposal along with Wayne Niederhauser, a former Utah State Senator. Their company, CW Management, owns the site and plans to develop it but is willing to preserve the land needed for use as a gondola station if UDOT approves of this new option. If the gondola loads there, a non-loading angle station would be required in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon to avoid the alignment passing over designated wilderness. A second angle station at Tanners Flat, like in UDOT’s alternative, would also be included. Cabins would slow down just enough to make turns at these stations and gondola doors would stay closed.

CW Management consulted with Salt Lake-based Doppelmayr USA, which confirmed such a gondola is feasible. McCandless envisions an up to 4,000 passenger per hour 3S travelling at a speed of 8.5 meters a second. The Department of Transportation planned cabins arriving only once every two minutes, diverting only 30 percent of skiers out of private cars. Under the LaCaille vision, cabins would arrive every 30 seconds and divert up to 10,000 people off the highway during a peak three hour period. Ride time would be 27 minutes to the Snowbird Center with no need to ride a shuttle bus. The four 3S segments would range in length from 6,700 feet to 17,550 feet with cabins transferring seamlessly between multiple haul rope loops. As an alternative to the larger 3S gondola travelling to Alta, a second gondola, probably a monocable or 2S design, could connect Snowbird to Alta.

Some big players have already expressed support for a Little Cottonwood gondola and further study of the alternate CW Management proposal, including Alta Ski Area, Snowbird Resort and Doppelmayr. Snowbird notes that if a gondola is successfully designed and implemented, the company would consider placing additional private land it owns in the canyon under permanent conservation.

If you have opinions regarding one or both of the gondola/bus options, UDOT would like to hear from you. The agency continues to accept public comments through July 10th.


16 thoughts on “Landowner Proposes Alternate Little Cottonwood Gondola

  1. Lilah June 30, 2020 / 10:43 am

    This proposal is very clever and seems like a win/win/win/win situation all around. It’s unfortunate that CW/LaCaille didn’t propose this earlier, as the initial EIS alternatives screening has already passed, I worry UDOT will have to reject this smart proposal on procedural grounds. I’ve emailed the EIS commission asking if they’d be able to update the proposal and will comment again when I hear back from them.


    • Lilah July 10, 2020 / 12:07 pm

      Okay, an update. I received a response from the LCC EIS Communications Director. They advised that I check out the Citizens Guide to NEPA, here:

      Reading through the citations, the NEPA provides for the following in response to comments on drafts of the EIS:

      a) An agency preparing a final environmental impact statement shall assess and consider comments both individually and collectively, and shall respond by one or more of the means listed below, stating its response in the final statement. Possible responses are to:

      (1) Modify alternatives including the proposed action.

      (2) Develop and evaluate alternatives not previously given serious consideration by the agency.

      (3) Supplement, improve, or modify its analyses.

      (5) Explain why the comments do not warrant further agency response… (40 C.F.R. § 1503.4)

      So it looks like UDOT can still modify proposals and allow for new alternatives in response to comments even after the full draft is completed (in fact, it’s required by law to!).

      So, for those of you who have been holding off on commenting, what are you waiting for? Today is the last day! Go comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris June 30, 2020 / 11:28 am

    As a previous 10+ year-round resident of Alta and a Lifetime Pass holder at Snowbird, this is the most enlightened and substantive proposal yet submitted. It addresses several major issues about capacity and parking/convenience as well as significant air quality remediation with fewer vehicles of any type on the LCC road. Perhaps summer ops w/ Tanner and Wasatch loading/unloading for the hiking/climbing/picnic folks. This is an excellent, and expensive, plan but a good and necessary investment into the future of LCC…bravo and good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ryan King June 30, 2020 / 4:26 pm

    I agree with what was said above. I think this sounds like a solid proposal. As someone who skis the cottonwood canyons, I would not like to park miles away, and then take a bus to a gondola station. But if I could park at the gondola, I wouldn’t have an issue in the slightest with taking a gondola up the canyon. It would also really help during snow days with the canyon is closed. This seems to be a great proposal.

    I too am afraid whether UDOT can accept this new plan on procedural grounds. I have no insider info on that, just musing.


  4. David June 30, 2020 / 4:41 pm

    Eyeballing the parking spaces it’s about 600 spots for the parking lot. Is that enough for the demand (4000/hour gondola)?


  5. pnwrider July 1, 2020 / 5:39 pm

    Incredible. I wish my state’s department of transportation supported a project as cool and useful as this! Instead, we just blow tons of money on useless projects while the roads crack and get stuffed with traffic, all without improvement. Oh well.


  6. John July 1, 2020 / 9:56 pm

    What if they do what Doppelmayr did with their 3S in Mayrhofner Bergbahnen where they have a curved saddle to facilitate a turn, they probably cut a few million off the cost (no angled station). Would the turn be too large to faciliate a curve saddle?


    • Peter Landsman July 2, 2020 / 8:49 am

      Penkenbahn turns only 6.5 degrees. The LCC turns would need to be sharper. There are speed implications as well.


      • Jamie B July 2, 2020 / 11:31 am

        I did a quick measurement using the image above and found the Wasatch turn is about 17 to 18° (2.7× the Penkenbahn curve), while the Tanners turn is about 23 to 24° – too big. I reckon it could theoretically be done but the cost of engineering such a large curve would be huge, and catastrophic if something goes wrong.

        Also worth noting a line this long would probably work better with two separate haul cables, drives, and tensioning systems.

        Also, Peter, unless I have missed something, I think you may have made a mistake in the article:
        “The four 3S segments would range in length from 6,700 feet to 13,900 feet”
        Surely it’s three segments ranging from 6,700 to 17,550?


      • John July 4, 2020 / 7:02 am

        Ok thanks, these turns are far too big for a curved saddle. What would exactly be the speed implications?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Chris July 3, 2020 / 11:42 am

    I think the 3S La Caille – Snowbird and the 2S from Snowbird – Alta is a winner…I like the work Leitner has done to update the 2S system, I wonder if Gara/Dop is working on a similar 2S for the 21C?! Do you know, Peter?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jim July 3, 2020 / 8:43 pm

    Long Overdue! Hopefully riders will be able to ssit during the 2 minute ride. Since it is just a matter of time before BCC will face a similar dilemma. A lot of money would be saved if the LCC gondola were designed to handle more passengwers/parking and to connect to Brighton and Solitude. What happens in freezing weather if Gondola breaks down? How are riders rescued? AN answer may be the long Gondola from Brides Le Bains To Meribel in the 3 Valleys ski area in France.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kennyg July 4, 2020 / 3:33 pm

    Ok here we go again — Insider involvement anything for them to make “not a buck but millions.”

    Chris McCandless is the former Sandy City Councilman behind the proposal along with Wayne Niederhauser, a former Utah State Senator. Their company, CW Management, owns the site and plans to develop it but is willing to preserve the land needed for use as a gondola station if UDOT approves of this new option.

    When will it stop . come up with a solution that does not make some one who is on the inside track millions. I know once these wheels are in motion it will not stop—- slow down this build build develop mind set. We need more more more — not even . If it is going to happen then find a way for this to be owned by the city /state government and any income will go directly back into it maintenance
    not some one who is on the inside track — That is dishonest . Stop this now before a mistake is made.

    Liked by 1 person

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