Parking at winter mountain resorts is changing in the Wasatch with Solitude resort the first in Utah to charge for uncovered parking.
Solitude Mountain Resort is not trying to make money from the new paid parking program. They claim they want to change behaviors by encouraging transit use and carpooling. Communications Manager, Sara Huey says they are seeing changes with more people using the bus and sharing rides. In addition to paid parking, they have set aside prime space for cars that have four or more people in them.
“If you come up with four people in your car, it's only $5 to park your car for the whole day. If you have three people in the car it's $10, one or two people, you need to pay $20 to park for the day. And we have seen that incentive really making people think twice about hopping in their car. We all live so close to the ski resorts, being very lucky here in Utah. But I think it's easy to just zip up for a few runs in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. Over the last few years congestion has increased, and it was time to try something new to make people think twice about that choice.”
Huey says it is hard to compare season over season, but she thinks so far, they’ve seen fewer days when their lot is completely full.
“…quite a few days last year have our lot full and that was something that we were seeking to reduce this season. That was one of our goals and one of our kind of data points that we've got an eye on for this season. But we are seeing more skiers per car and so as a result I think it's fair to say fewer days when we are having to declare the lot full and turn people around.”
The Utah Transit Authority ski bus has increased trips in Big Cottonwood canyon by 28 % this season. Ikon pass holders and Solitude employee pass holders can ride for free. Solitude has invested in four-15 passenger shuttles to facilitate moving employees up and down the canyon. Huey says weather conditions are variable and she can’t say if the paid parking will prevent traffic jams in the canyon.
“In the Little and Big Cottonwood canyons, traffic has been an issue for years. The resorts as well as other interested entities, Cottonwood Canyons Foundation and so forth have instituted different policies. You know this one was always on the table but after last season being such an amazing season, both with snow and I think a lot of pent up demand, after a poor snow season, we just knew we had to do something. And, Huey said, not just something, but [consider] every option that was possibly at our disposal. And so, we worked for a number of months to put together a comprehensive transportation package and from what I've seen so far it really is making a difference.”
Huey says UTA is seeing increased demand and she hopes they will build more park and ride lots to help move people to choose transit. While Solitude is the first ski resort in Utah to charge for parking, she says it’s very common in California and Colorado. People are accustomed to paying for parking when attending events.
“You go downtown to watch a Jazz game you’re going to pay to park there as well. It's a convenience and it's a limited resource and so putting a price tag on that helps people think twice before going by themselves or, you know, consider those other options of public transportation and so forth.”
Go to rideuta.com to check bus service stops and schedules.