Utah Bus Info for Skiing the Cottonwoods
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JohnL
January 23, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,514 posts
Just thought I'd pass along some experience I've gained the past two years riding the UTA buses from Salt Lake City to the Big Cottonwood Canyon Resorts (Solitude, Brighton) and the Little Cottonwood Canyon Resorts (Alta, Snowbird). You need to know this information if you elect to go sans rental car in SLC, relying solely on public transit, or if you don't have a four-wheel drive rental car and there are restrictions driving up the two canyons (which can be frequent.)

First of all, how do you find out if there are restrictions driving up to the Cottonwoods? As the final authority, there are signs at the base of each of the two canyons (near the final Park and Rides) which will have flashing lights turned on and messages stating that four wheel drive vehicles and/or chains are required. In a worst case, the canyon itself may be closed, generally for avalanche control work. The Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) is subject to closures much more frequently than is the Big Cottonwood Canyon (BCC), so if LCC is closed, you can normally head up to BCC to ski. Closures are generally announced (see below), and may last several hours or more. Similar to how a major accident disrupts traffic in DC, a canyon closure has a ripple effect on traffic and bus schedules. Over this past MLK weekend, LCC was closed temporarily Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. Traffic up the canyon was a disaster that morning.

When the lights are flashing, I've generally seen a police officer stationed at the signs checking for obvious infractions. You may be able to get by, but you may also get turned back.

If you have a non-4WD rental car and you encounter canyon restrictions, in theory you can pull right in to the adjacent Park and Ride and catch a lift on the next bus. The reality part is why I posting this thread. Unless you are arriving very early in the morning (say 7:30 AM), you may not be able to find parking in the lots and the arriving buses may be completely full (been there done that the hard way.) If you encounter that type of a cluster situatation, you can generally head up to the Park City area for skiing without driving restrictions.

Best bet is to dial 511 to access the Utah Road Hotline. It is a voice activated system but it can be a little tricky to navigate. I believe the first menu option is "Road Conditions." After that, you are asked to prompt for a city or route. Last year "Salt Lake City" seemed to provide info on LCC and BCC, but this year I had to say "Alta" to get the info. Be warned that this hotline can change during the course of the morning. (I recently checked in at 7 AM and was surprised to find out there were BCC restrictions, but it turns out the restrictions were lifted by 9AM. Meanwhile, I was on the bus.) From my own experience and by talking to locals, the restrictions aren't always consistent with the actual driving conditions.

Where do you buy bus passes? You can pay three dollars each way on the bus itself - exact change required and it pays to have the money handy. Powder day crowds can be impatient. Or if your lodging choice participates in the program, you can buy bus tickets as part of the Utah Super Pass. Finally, if you are buying your discounted lift tickets at Canyon Sports, you can buy your bus pass there and not have to mess with money on the bus.

Where do I find route information? Ride UTA Ski Routes

Will I be able to get on a particular bus? Not always. Remember that the bus is used by resort workers, tourists, and those without 4WD vehicles. From my own recent experience, week-ends are busy, powder days (driving restrictions) are very busy, week-end powder days are fugly, and holiday week-end powder days are a total cluster. You have to plan ahead. As a rule, the farther you are from the start of the route (heading up or heading down), the more likely you will find the current bus is completely full, i.e., white-lined, where all seats are taken and all standing area is taken up to the white line behind which all passengers must stand. Getting up to the mountain between 8:30 and 10 AM and leaving between 3:30 and 5 PM are obviously the busiest times. Early season and very late season are less busy.

MLK Monday, a group of us tried to catch a bus down the mountain around 4:15 PM at Solitude. Though this was only the second stop of the route (Brighton was the first), the bus was white-lined, and would not pick up any riders. Instead of possibly facing the same situation on the next bus, I went back to the bar for a couple of drinks and caught a virtually empty ride down at 5:30 PM.

But I'm not a fan of drinking in the AM when it's a powder day. That morning, I caught an 8 AM bus from the 7200 South TRAX Station (start of route) when I heard about the canyon restrictions. I deliberately hit the start of the route since I knew the buses would be crowded that morning. Sure enough, the bus was white-lined by the third stop. The bus continued on the remainder of the route, stopped at each scheduled stop, and the driver informed the angry people outside to wait for the next bus. I've been the outside looking in before, and it's not fun, especially when you are on vacation and there's freshies in the hills.

Fortunately, there are numerous hotels/motels within walking distance of the 7200 South Station (Discovery Inn, Best Western Executive Inn, La Quinta Inn, Motel 6, Days Inn, Suburban Lodge.)

Also, from locals, the 92 (BCC) and 98 (LCC) are very busy routes.

Hope this helps.
JohnL
January 23, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,514 posts
Just noticed the UTA route link didn't bookmark clearly. Select the Ski link at the top of the page to access the 91 to 98 Routes. And 880 for Sundance.
comprex
January 23, 2006
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts

Best option from airprt to 7200 south?
JohnL
January 23, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,514 posts
Quote:

Best option from airprt to 7200 south?





Very good question. I'd be curious what other Utah travellers recommend; I've always done the el-cheapo rental car route, and use the bus only when driving restrictions apply. It's been the best balance of cost/convenience for myself.

For a very cheap option, I've heard people take a taxi from the airport to downtown, and then the TRAX rail (Sandy Salt Lake Line) to 7200. A bit too many legs for my tastes.
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twin58
January 23, 2006
Member since 04/1/2000 🔗
198 posts
Back in February 1994, for my never-ever lesson, I stayed in downtown SLC at some inexpensive but not a dive motel. I was due south of the Capitol and could have walked to the Tabernacle and the big LDS compound from the motel in a few minutes. I had to walk a block or two to the bus stop, where I caught, on a Friday morning, the bus to Brighton. It wasn't crowded at all.

This was before the light rail system. I don't know if that route exists anymore. I see that the 95 route (in the linked UTA schedules) goes from downtown to Snowbird/Alta.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat. No hassles or expenses with a rental car, etc. I haven't read all the posts on this subject here, but IIRC the WaPo article said the fare now is something on the order of $4.50.

Two tips up, way up, on the UTA. Also the RTD from Boulder to Eldora, but that's another story.
kennedy
January 23, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
I called my hotel today and while the trax station etc. is close they said that it would take about 1 1/2 hours to get anywhere so that's also a consideration if he's correct, and I know you guy's can comment on this. I know you can rent ski racks at the car rental, wonder if you can get chains (unlikely)
jimmy
January 24, 2006
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
2,650 posts
Quote:


Best option from airprt to 7200 south?




Rental car .

Really, if you have a car and LBCC are closed, just go somewhere else that day. Bus sounds like too much of an urban/mountain adventure for me.

JohnL when do you buy your lift tickets?

Twin58 sounds like we started about the same time.
warren
January 24, 2006
Member since 07/31/2003 🔗
485 posts
Jimmy,
If I remember correctly, 7200 is Ft Union Blvd. I buy my tickets at Canyon Sports on the right-hand side shortly before you get to Wasatch Blvd. They offer REALLY good tuning/repair services at VERY reasonable prices . Their discount lift ticket prices are competitive as well

-Warren-
snowcone
January 24, 2006
Member since 09/27/2002 🔗
589 posts
Many of the rentals for Hertz/Avis are 4/all-wheel drive and have ski racks. You really don't need more than that because if the 4/alls can't make it the canyon roads are generally closed. Rentals run in the $400-500/week range although you can probably find cheaper. That is the disadvantage of traveling alone; the rental cost is not such a hit if several people are splitting it.
jimmy
January 24, 2006
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
2,650 posts
Warren, We bought Alta tickets and got a tune at canyon sports in town, down the block from embassy suites. Couldn't figure out what they could've done to my skis for fourty bucks until we hit the "hard snow" at the top of alta. Felt like my edges would shave boiler plate. Bought tickets for the rest of the week at a shop down around LCC.
kennedy
January 24, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
There's a ski shop just down the street from my hotel that sells reasonably priced discount tix so that shouldn't be a problem. As far as I know our hotel, Little America, has a bus that travels to Snowbasin for $20. They have a sister hotel there so I guess it makes sense to them.

I've looked at the SUV cost and yeah it kind of blows, even split between two it doubles our rental cost. I'm waiting for a reply from Rugged Rentals an off airport rental company that seems to specialise in suv's and AWD. Their rates are comparable but may be a little less because they don't get hit with the airport fee. Speaking of tuning I need to get the board edged and rewaxed before I go. Am I right in guessing cold temp wax?
kennedy
January 24, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
as an additional item for those travelling with a laptop and web access http://www.commuterlink.utah.gov/ie.htm This allows you to bring up all the roadside cameras in the area and in one case the camera at a chain up area.

I'm really torn now over an SUV or not. I'd hate to be denied pow pow because the car can't get through the canyon.

Just realized that the shop down the street from my hotel is Canyon sports so woohoo.
KevR
January 24, 2006
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
There's a utah ski "super pass" out there, it includes lift for any of the four cottonwood resorts and the bus rt fee. I think its $44 per day... there's a website -- let me see if i can find it...http://www.visitsaltlake.com/ski/superpass.shtml

When I was there two seasons ago, I got these at the hotel i was staying in, although i think they are widely available. Ask the locals, they know! (try the chain of ski shops there also, name escapes me, if you can't get them before hand or at the hotel)

As for the bus system -- i thought it was perfectly reasonable. On several snowy days we beat most traffic up -- especially on little cottonwood which seems to get cut more readily by avalanche/snow.

Going home can be a bit of pain, as you stand and wait in line at the base lodge of where ever you happen to be that day, especially if there's a delay ...

Still I'd do again myself no problem.

To get to Park City area you'll need a car or perhaps there's a shuttle service. Check out the info desk and shuttle service at baggage claim area at SLC airport, lots of good info. Also that service can be used to get you to your hotel -- i'd suggest reservations.

Definitely I think you need a car to get to Snowbasin/Powder...

Rental cars seem expensive to me at SLC -- I have been told to add 28% to the rental price to GET THE REAL TURN IN FEE...

Tourist tax...

I can't think of any reasonable way to get around this except to hitch a ride to some other locale before renting a car.
JohnL
January 24, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,514 posts
Quote:

I'm really torn now over an SUV or not. I'd hate to be denied pow pow because the car can't get through the canyon.





Powder Mountain is in a completely separate area of Utah from the Cottonwood Canyons which I talked about. Both the LCC and BCC deadend in the winter time. The Cottonwood Canyons are adjacent to Salt Lake City while Powder Mountain is a drive inland from Ogden. Ogden is due north of Salt Lake City and both are on the Great Salt Lake; you get to Ogden from Salt Lake City by taking flat interstate highways. (There can be heavy rush hour traffic on the interstate, but you a doing a reverse commute.) IIRC, it has taken me about one hour fifteen minutes under clear roads (until near the slopes) to drive from Union/Mid-Vale in SLC to Powder Mountain.

My route to Pow Mow has been to head straight north to Ogden, then head east via Ogden Canyon Road. You can also cut by Snowbasin (Trapper's Loop) to access Pow Mow. I'm not certain which is shorter and I don't have a map handy.

I wouldn't sweat the lack of 4WD. I've been to Powder Mountain several times the past four years and have had no problems getting to the mountain - it was even snowing one of the days. I can't remember what the rental cars were, but they were not 4WD. I've found the drive up to Powder Mountain to be less sketchy than advertised. It is a pretty steep road, but there are few (if any - memory is a bit fuzzy) switchbacks and there is minimal traffic heading up. However, the road is not well plowed compared to other access roads. I'm not aware of any formal 4WD restrictions on the road up to Powder Mountain.

If you have a major dump when on vacation, wait until one or two days later, then hit Pow Mow when the roads have been cleared. The nice thing about Powder Mountain is that you can find untracked snow days after a storm. Ski the more convenient and busier areas during the storm itself.

If you find you somehow can't make it up the road to Pow Mow, check out Wolf Creek Resort, you pass by it on the way up. They used to have a shuttle bus service to Pow Mow (not sure if non-guests can use it.)
KevR
January 24, 2006
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
We had a minivan going up to powder -- steep but no problem - but then no fresh snow. there's a local bus that goes into Wolf Creek from powder, you could opt for that. Also up to snowbasin -- no problem with a minivan. We've had good luck with minivans... but then never gotten a truly road cutting snowstorm... there's always hope.
I've stayed at Wolf and also at a B*B in eden - both were fine. I suggest checking out tripadvisor for a quick look up in the area and options... try the powder website for details on that lodging there, it seemd like there was some but I'm not sure of it.
Its not a terribly long drive from SLC AP to them, I can't really recall - maybe about 1hr?
For snowbasin, I'd probably not bother going up to ogden and get into the valley from other end -- snowbasin and powder are at "opposite" ends of this valley sort of... (seem that way on the ground but not sure what it really is)..
Sorry, can't remember the names of the roads or numbers - but i figured it out, so it can't be that hard!
JohnL
January 24, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,514 posts
One advantage of using a cheap rental car versus relying on public transit is that I can ski during the AM/early PM and fly back that late afternoon. For those of us with limited vacation time, it's a great way to squeeze in some extra skiing. That's probably a bit hard core for most people since you arrive back to DC pretty late at night, you have to pack on the run (I'm becoming an expert at packing my ski bag and other luggage in parking lots) and you have to travel after exercising (fortunately the flights home are generally not crowded. ).

I'd be curious if anyone can suggest other affordable/time efficient/convenient methods for staying in SLC and skiing the last day.

Unless you get a great deal or put a very high premium on convenience, I've found 4WD vehicles in SLC to be too expensive, even when sharing. IMHO, if you are staying in Park City, you really don't need a 4WD. Mid to larger size vehicles handle well enough in the snow and most have split fold-down rear seats for transporting gear. My rental car strategy has been to book a class or two below what I've really would like, and hope for either a decent upgrade bargain or even a free upgrade. Rental car companies often don't have a class of car in stock; they'll give you a free upgrade if that occurs.

Quote:

Really, if you have a car and LBCC are closed, just go somewhere else that day. Bus sounds like too much of an urban/mountain adventure for me.





Check with a local, but I think it is very rare that BCC Canyon is closed. Unless I'm meeting someone at a mountain, my strategy is to ski BCC if LCC is likely to be closed. Generally the same great snow without the access headaches.

If you plan ahead and realize what to do, the urban mountain adventure is not bad. Besides, powder days are the days to be on the slopes. You have to earn your turns! And the Cottonwoods generally get the most snow from a storm.

Quote:

As for the bus system -- i thought it was perfectly reasonable. On several snowy days we beat most traffic up -- especially on little cottonwood which seems to get cut more readily by avalanche/snow.





That's one of the keys, beating the crowds up the mountain. But the crowds often start earlier than you'd expect.

As I said in my original post, there are lot's of factors which make a particular bus crowded or not. I've encountered horrible crowding numerous days and not much crowding on others. Remember, just because it's snowing, it doesn't mean there are 4WD restrictions on the way up. Also, there can be 4WD restrictions when the roads are clear in the AM and a big dump is expected that afternoon.
kennedy
January 24, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
Thanks John you have put my mind at ease. I've booked a compact but have coupons for double upgrades (entertainment book)so we'll end up with a decent sized car.

I think we arrive in SLC at noon on the 22nd so we're going to head straight for one of the hills and tear it up then check in that afternoon. I was happy to see our hotel has a hot tub and sauna etc along with a spa. A little midweek massage will probably go a long way towards keeping me on the hill.
snowcone
January 24, 2006
Member since 09/27/2002 🔗
589 posts
Dont forget you can ski/ride free at PCR, Canyons, DV with your boarding pass on the same day as your arrival. PCR also keeps 2 frontside blue runs open until 7:30 .. its not very exciting but if you NEED to ski its there. Check ... http://www.parkcityinfo.com/skiing/quickstart/ ... for ski free requirements. Hey .. it saves a few bucks you can spend elsewhere!
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
January 25, 2006
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,918 posts
Found this deal on the Canyons web site:

Quote:

We know you love your resort, but sometimes the temptation to stray is too much. We at The Canyons understand, so we're making it perhaps TOO easy to cheat on your favorite resort.
And Sunday through Friday in the month of January, bring your season pass from any other Utah resort to The Canyons ticket office, and we'll give you a full-day lift ticket for only $19! It's that easy. And don't worry, we won't tell on you.

When:
Now through January 31st
*not valid Saturdays

Where:
The Canyons Resort;





It's good for people who have purchased ski and stay packages at another resort and want to still ski Canyons for a day.
kennedy
January 25, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
Need to be careful with the boarding pass free lift ticket deal because blackout dates (always a caveat) do apply and they apply the week I get there. TO get this deal go online and search for the application form (can't remember where on the site it is) and fill it out. when you complete it will tell you whether or not you are eligible. Once you get to PCR, Canyons or DV present the form along with your boarding pass and out of state drivers license and free riding is yours.
wojo
January 28, 2006
Member since 01/17/2005 🔗
306 posts
We skiied Brighton today!! Lots of fresh snow. Can't wait for tommorrow!! Arrived via SW from BWI, caugth an Express to our Midvale Hotel. Would have been on the slopes at 1:30ish but for trouble checking in.

Bus ride up was great. Last bus down had an unexpected youth group of 30 kids. I know what sardines feel like. I am hoping that will be our worst ride.

AVOID THE DAYS INN MIDVALE. BAIT AND SWITCH ON RATES. CRYSTAL INN WAS COMPARABLE AND NICER.
Crush
January 28, 2006
Member since 03/21/2004 🔗
1,000 posts
Wojo - good call, my cousin! What did you do today? We hit Deer Valley ... awesome bumps all groovey since they had 3" of snow all over them. Have fun!
Crush
January 28, 2006
Member since 03/21/2004 🔗
1,000 posts
... ps .... groo'vey is French for groovy.
wojo
January 29, 2006
Member since 01/17/2005 🔗
306 posts
Quote:

Wojo - good call, my cousin! What did you do today? We hit Deer Valley ... awesome bumps all groovey since they had 3" of snow all over them. Have fun!




28th - Brighton again. Probably 6-8 inches. Wow, snow was superb. We got a bit of a late start (late night before, tummy ache for one of the kids). Terrain is really friendly at Brighton. We loved it. Trip down the canyon was very exciting. There was tons of traffic, but was about 1:45 (about 45 minutes extra, but a car wouldn't have helped). I guess LCC was worse (about an 1 1/2 longer).

1/29 - skied Alta. Easily 8-10 freeesssshhhh . Great snow again. Snowing so much all three days I didn't even break out the camera. We got stuck in some 2-3 foot untracked snow on the top of Albion (sp?). I thought it was green, but we were the 5th people on the chair. My 9 year old had a tough go through that. We went to the top of Collins and Snow something with all of us and checked youngest into a PM class (blues down from the top and some deep powder for my 13 year old ).

SO MUCH DIFFERENT THAN WHITETAIL!!! But . . . next weekend will be back at Whitetail

Sorry for all the emoticons, but this is wonderful out here.
Crush
January 29, 2006
Member since 03/21/2004 🔗
1,000 posts
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