Wasatch BC Skiing Park & Rides

| January 28, 2009

With Salt Lake City being so close and the access to the Tri-Canyons being so limited, most Wasatch backcountry skiers end up carpooling for all or part of their trip up to the trailheads.  There are seven or so Park & Rides to chose from and the choice of where to meet can sometimes be more difficult than where to ski.  If I hadn’t wasted so much time thinking about all of the various Park & Ride permutations, I could have been a Cardiologist.

A big factor for me is that I HATE getting my car broken into, so I avoid LCC and BCC as much as possible as they are plagued by vermin who will smash your window for the pennies in your change drawer.  Cowboy Partners is nice, but you are out of luck for food, shopping or poo’ing.  I like the Swamp Lot, but you have to double back to get to BCC.  The 7-11 Mud Lot is central and has easy access to beer, but don’t drop your glove there.

There are so many factors that it boggles a single-celled ski mountaineering brain.  Technically the Big Cottonwood Park & Ride is the best and the quaint little 3800 lot is the worst, but it all depends on where you are going.

I go for 3900th whenever possible (easy freeway access, longest carpool, nearby shopping and getting cuter by the minute) with the Swamp Lot being a close second (surrounded by houses and roads, so less theft, and central for many Sandy partners).

Help support StraightChuter.com and take the guesswork out of finding a Park & Ride with a Garmin 60 CSX GPS from Backcountry.com. Click on the photo below…


Category: Commentary

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (13)

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  1. kelly says:

    Thank god, and Andrew, now I can be a cardiologist.

  2. dug says:

    This, THIS is the kind of info that will keep me coming back.

    Although, it’s skewed a bit north for my taste. Since I’m not, you know, north.

    The 3800 lot is a good one for changing back into regular clothes after a dawn patrol, since it has an Einsteins with a one-hole (lockable) bathroom, followed by a nice schmear and a latte. 7-11 is no good for that. Eww.

    But again, for carpooling, too far north. BCC and LCC are the defaults. And I’ve never had a security problem there. Damnit, did I just jinx myself? SHIT!

  3. Andrew says:

    You may have just jinxed yourself Dug… now you will have to think twice about leaving a broken pair of sunglasses in your car while you are skiing. You’ll be floating through nipple-deep powder, but in the back of your mind you’ll be seeing visions of some little cretin staring through your windshield with center-punch tool at the ready just drooling over the $5.00 he’ll get over your broke Smith Riversides. (can you tell I’m still bitter about it?)

    Actually, the thieves care more about car stereos and briefcases than they do about sports gear.

    And, avoid the REI lot and Einsteins unless you like nasty notes and/or getting towed.

  4. Andrew says:

    Kelley, if you do become a cardiologist, we can meet at 3900th and take your new Lexus SUV. :)

  5. bert says:


    Was just thinking about this the other day.

    I find it a bit laughable that the ski resorts and even SOC are able to comparatively ignore transportation in their search for environmentally friendly adjustments that can be made in the canyons.

    The buses are inconvenient but utilized. However, anytime this is brought up at a party everybody wants the ‘magic’ train-up-the-canyons solution which seems ludicrous if you go into any of the details.

    The big problem with canyon transportation is that there is so much un-utilized capacity (empty seats) going up and down the canyon. Backcountry skiers are fairly good about carpooling but the ski areas’ customers are terrible. How many folks do you know with passes who single-seat it up the canyon for a few runs and then head back down with lots of empty seats? (With have met the enemy and it is us)

    The magic train isn’t going to solve our problems but the problems are addressable. First and foremost, the ski areas need to provide incentives for full vehicles.

    Second, with parking often limiting ticket sales in LCC, you’d think Alta, Snowbird, etc could work out arrangements for a few neighborhood-bsaed park-and-carpool lots (church lots on weekdays, high schools on weekends?).

    Last, maybe some added incentive system for showing up or leaving with a full load.

    This could be front row spots for full cars, back of the lot for 1 and 2 seaters. Or Altabird ‘bucks’ for those picking up hitchers on the way down (standing in a designated spot based on park and ride destination) or just leaving full. It wouldn’t be that hard and maybe more passes would be sold.

    But given that Alta can’t even give away a free hot chocolate to folks stranded for 50 minutes on the oft-debilitated Collins lift, maybe they are not up to it.

    I’ll do my part and try to stick to touring but its hard not bring the bigger players into this as they dominate the transportation impact and energy wasting in the canyons.

    Enough rant…any thoughts on this?

  6. Andrew says:

    Hi Bert – Traffic is definitely getting to be an issue, especially at closing time on the weekends in Little Cottonwood when it can take an hour or more to get down the canyon.

    Zion had this same issue and although it seemed like a hassle at first, closing the park to cars has been excellent. Zermatt was closed to cars for years, although a Swiss friend recently said that it is now open again (I don’t personally know).

    It seems like any solution is going to have to come from the state government as the ski areas are in the habit of taking, not giving. A big part of the problem right now is that with cheap gas prices, it is slower, more expensive and more of a hassle to take the bus up the canyons, so few people do it.

  7. Bert says:

    The Zion bus solution would work OR could be a good bargaining chip for forcing the ski areas to deal with the problem.

    Key elements of a Zion solution:

    – Buses would have to be free and from a variety of locations

    – BIG parking lots would be needed somewhere. The Zion lot is huge.

    – If you live up the canyon, are spending the night (at hotel or residence) you get a pass of some sort to drive the road. If you want to drive up the canyon just because you feel special how about a $10-20 fee. Maybe a significant discount if your vehicle is full??

    – No stop at Snowbird Plaza…move it to the top of Chickadee and offer rides down the chair for those who don’t get off the bus with skis. Less time wasted by the bus diddling through Snowbird Park & Ride

    – Free after 3 at Alta would have to be redesigned, and should be, as its a contributor to the peak demand time going down LCC.

    – Backcountry pullout stops created but optimized as they would be a drain on the efficiency of the system for most users

    – Adjust schedule to demand

  8. Derek says:

    Can anyone tell me where the gay/lesbian park and ride is?;)

  9. Andrew says:

    Those are Pork & Rides and your best bet seems to be Capital Park over by Memory Grove.

  10. cementskier says:

    This is off topic, but I could use some help. After 8 years on my trusty hardtail, I need a new MT bike. I have missed a technological leap or three in the interim. I refuse to shell out $3-5K for a new bike, and am convinced bikes are usually listed too high on ebay and craigslist. Does anyone have any sites that a fellas can find a good XC bike on? I know what I want, but need to find it. Andrew– big fan of the site, and envious of your Utah powder; I am moving massive piles of MT Hood cement and dreaming of fluffy cotton.


  11. Layne says:

    Well, we (your readers) have officially hijacked your blog Andrew.

    KF, look up mtbr.com. The classifieds there have lots of used bikes for sale. I’ve bought good stuff there for pretty cheap in the past.

  12. Helped me finish my school project. Thanks!

  13. Ray says:

    This is never easy.

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