LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON (ABC4 News) – A pleasant surprise for skiers and snowboarders heading up to Alta and Snowbird Tuesday morning as officials opened the road to Little Cottonwood Canyon half an hour earlier than anticipated.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) initially said the canyon would be open at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning as crews worked around the clock all night for additional avalanche control.
A natural avalanche dumped snow onto the roadways Monday, causing a big headache for people wanting to leave and enter the canyon.
“We tried to come up and then we heard about the avalanche later on in the afternoon. We were pretty gutted that we couldn’t get up,” said skier Simon Reid.
Officials made the decision to close the canyon at 10:30 a.m. Monday morning.
“It’s a decision that we absolutely take seriously, one that we hate to make to close the canyon down like this on one of the busiest ski days of the year. It’s something you try to avoid, we want to keep traffic moving and get people to where they’re going. But this storm was nothing to play around with,” said John Gleason with the Utah Department of Transportation.
The canyon didn’t reopen for those wanting to leave until 6 p.m. because of a second avalanche.
“That speaks to just the intensity to the storm, the amount of snow that was falling and the winds that was whipping through the canyons here, to have the control work just taking place, and then have another slide occur in a short time thereafter,” said Gleason.
UDOT closed the canyon again Monday night at 11 p.m. for additional avalanche control, a precautionary safety measure skier George Osmun agrees with.
“You can have basically a domino effect and you have people coming down not expecting those kinds of road conditions and they get injured. They can create an accident and exacerbate the situation. It can be frustrating, but I can appreciate it. They gotta do what they gotta do,” said Osmun.
Skiers and snowboarders began lining up at the mouth of the canyon at 5 a.m., trying to beat the rush on a fresh powder day.
“I’m here this morning just because I know there’s going to be a high demand. I want to beat the traffic, get a good parking spot, get some fresh lines,” said Osmun.