Tolls Proposed on Utah Ski Roads

The proposed tolls would affect two iconic roads in Utah, Little and Big Cottonwood canyons.

Big Cottonwood Canyon toll proposal
Big Cottonwood Canyon Road; photo by Flickr user Jim Mullhaupt

Skiers driving to popular ski resorts near Salt Lake City often face significant traffic. Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons serve as arteries between the urban sprawl of Salt Lake City and the wilderness reprieve of the Wasatch Mountains.

The roads, Utah State Routes 190 and 210, are commonly taken from Salt Lake City to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, and Park City, and vast areas of mountain wilderness.

Utah Toll Road Proposal

Earlier this month, Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, proposed Senate Bill 71 ahead of the 2018 legislative session. The bill would allow the Utah Department of Transportation to expand toll collection. Niederhauser specifically called out canyons for expanded tolls.

“Tolling is going be a big part of what we do to incentivize people to carpool and get on a bus to get up Little Cottonwood Canyon,” he told Fox 13.

Utah is not alone in ski and tourism traffic woes. Colorado has struggled for years for a solution to congestion on I-70 between Denver and Summit County. And in summer months, many popular destinations such as Arches and Yosemite National Park also face traffic congestion.

Colorado installed a toll “express lane” on I-70 for use during busy weekends. According to some stats, it has actually helped.

Skiing is already an expensive sport. Whether tolls could help ease weekend traffic remain to be seen. But when chasing Utah’s “greatest snow on Earth,” many people are willing to pay a pretty penny.

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Managing Editor Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in Denver, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.