The Utah Transit Authority (UTA), in partnership with Alta Ski Area, Brighton Resort, Snowbird, and Solitude Mountain Resort, has announced plans for increased customer capacity on its Ski Bus routes into Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons this season. In addition, UTA has partnered with the four resorts to support new employee-specific transportation.
UTA will launch its Ski Bus service Sunday, Nov. 26, continuing through Saturday, April 13, 2024.
UTA’s public routes will provide all-day bus service up both Cottonwood Canyons from Nov. 26, 2023, through April 13, 2024. Buses will be deployed as available, for high-traffic times. UTA has also worked with resorts to develop greater efficiency of getting buses into and out of parking lots.
UTA has also partnered with Visit Salt Lake and Salt Lake County on their initiative to implement a paid Cottonwood Connect private transportation service for visitors staying at local hotels.
Since early in 2023, UTA has been collaborating with the four Cottonwood resorts, along with Visit Salt Lake and Salt Lake County, to better understand transit needs in the canyons and to forge alliances across all stakeholders to improve service to customers. Public transit is a vital part of boosting Utah’s recreational economy while mitigating environmental impacts in the canyons.
“The engagement between UTA and its partners over the past six months has helped UTA to better understand the transit needs in the canyons and to collaborate with all of the impacted stakeholders to look at innovative ways we could work together to expand service,” said UTA Executive Director Jay Fox.
One of those innovative solutions UTA will employ is expanding its already-existing employee vanpool service with resorts. UTA will help support new employee-specific buses, which will be managed by the resorts as their employees’ access to transit is critical for resort operations. UTA anticipates this commuting option for employees will create greater capacity on its buses for skiers and other riders.
Transit is just one of the components to managing congestion in the canyons. Beginning this year, all four resorts will offer parking reservations, with Brighton Resort announcing a plan last spring. Each resort will also continue to offer free transit on UTA routes with a season pass or IKON Pass.
“Across our entire transit network, serving employers by providing a reliable means of getting employees to their workplace is a major focus,” said Fox. “Not only will these new and expanded services help employees, but they will also free up seats on our scheduled public transit routes at peak periods.”
With that in mind, UTA has partnered with Bayard Advertising, a national recruiter for Fortune 500 companies, to boost bus operator recruitment efforts in Salt Lake County for our fixed-route and ski buses. Strategies have been in motion since summer 2023 to attract and retain prospective bus operators. These include hiring events like the Drive the Bus Hiring Event where job seekers could test-drive a bus and early onboarding to expedite the hiring process.
UTA offers paid training for new operators during five weeks of classroom instruction and on-the-job training to increase the number of applicants. During this time, UTA also helps new operators obtain a commercial driver license (CDL). Additionally, UTA has launched a groundbreaking ESL (English as a Second Language) program teaching new operators to become proficient in English while also learning how to operate a bus.