Cottonwood Canyon Congestion: A guide to finessing your way through traffic

Background Utah is notorious for being the best place on Earth for skiing. Now everyone wants a taste of Utah’s face shots and endless powder. People are flocking from all over the world to...

Cottonwood Canyon Congestion: A guide to finessing your way through traffic


Utah is notorious for being the best place on Earth for skiing. Now everyone wants a taste of Utah’s face shots and endless powder. People are flocking from all over the world to test out the best snow on Earth. However, it’s causing a severe congestion issue in the Big and Little Cottonwoods. This traffic congestion has been going on for years, but it’s getting worse. The congestion is not only affecting the skier or snowboarders experience, but causing huge sustainability issues. The high population embarking towards the Central Wasatch puts forth a negative strain on mountain recreation. On the other hand, it takes about on average 2-3 hours on a powder day or even a weekend to reach the parking lot of the desired resort. Most times when reaching those mountains, the parking lot is full. This blog post explains the ins and outs of a congested day and touches on how you can be more sustainably aware of Central Wasatch.

Photo courtesy KUTV

Traffic Alternatives – Hotels

One great way to escape the canyon clogs is to book a room at one of the various lodges at each of the ski resorts before the big storm hits. At Alta, the Rustler Lodge, Snowpine Lodge, Peruvian Lodge, and Marque Alta Lodge all offer great rooms with reasonable and competitive prices. Snowbird’s Cliff Lodge and Iron Blossom take you on the mountain with their immersive design and experience while the historic Inn at Snowbird provides the guests with old mining feel mixed with a dash of elegance. Solitude Mountain resort offers two lodging options with the Inn at Solitude and the Eagle Springs Lodge; each with spacious rooms just a few feet from major ski lifts. Lastly, Brighton Ski resort offers the cheapest lodging option with rooms at the Brighton Lodge starting at $150 a night most nights. Staying on the mountain allows skiers and boarders to bypass the traffic and spend more time on the slopes. It also alleviates the stress of going up and down the canyons during Utah’s extreme weather. Instead, guests can enjoy some of the finest apres skiing that the Wasatch Mountains have to offer while their friends sit bumper to bumper.  

Photo courtesy of Snowbird Resorts

Traffic Alternatives – Timing is Everything

Another great way to beat the Cottonwood Canyon traffic is to make an extra effort in the morning to arrive early to the resorts or show up in the early afternoon for a mid-day session. Most days, the four big resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons start spinning their  lifts at 9 am. Lines for those lifts form much earlier than that. So getting to the resort between the times of 7:30-8 am can ensure you a flawless and peaceful drive up the canyons, as well as a coveted spot in line for some of the best powder runs Utah has to offer. For those not-so early birds out there, you can access the canyons after the traffic has died down around lunchtime and early afternoon. Many local skiers arrive in the mornings, get their turns in on the mountain, and then head back down the canyon for lunch. Most resorts close between the hours of 4-4:30 pm which allows plenty of time for anyone on the mountain. This opens up the canyon, parking lot, and mountain for the late risers who still want a taste of the sweet Wasatch mountain powder. 

Photo courtesy of

Future Solutions to Traffic Congestion

One of the most important considerations is how we can minimize the traffic. Even as a visitor, Utah needs your help with this ongoing issue. Questions arise on how can people still utilize nature but transport themselves in an eco-friendly manner. In the winter, biking and walking are ruled out and in the summer some people are simply not fit enough. The bus seems like a good temporary fix. However, are people actually using the bus to its fullest capacity and how much gas does the bus transmit into the air? People may question that minimizing the traffic is almost impossible if we do not force people to carpool or take public transportation. Is there a way we can limit people up the canyons without taking away their desire for adventure? There are a lot of circulating questions. Would a gondola for skiing seem like an effective plan for skiers to take, instead of driving up the canyon? If measures were taken seriously with the traffic congestion issues would the ski areas lose money and care about restricting individuals up the canyon. 

Courtesy of Ski Utah


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