Record editorial: Skiers and snowboarders will closely watch Solitude’s paid parking rollout. So will Park City’s ski resorts.
When Solitude Mountain Resort on Tuesday announced plans to implement paid parking this winter, it certainly caught the attention of skiers and snowboarders all over northern Utah.
While the move will more directly impact the other three Cottonwood resorts than Park City’s ski areas, it’s a good bet the announcement also perked the ears of officials at Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort.
The prospect of paid parking eventually becoming a fixture of the Park City skiing experience has been fodder for gossip for years. Though neither resort has publicly said whether charging for parking is in their future plans, that chatter has only grown louder in the wake of both resorts indicating that they have plans to pursue developments on the parking lots at their respective base areas and build parking garages to replace the lost spaces.
Though it’s unlikely Deer Valley — whose owner, Alterra Mountain Company, also owns Solitude — and PCMR would make decisions about introducing paid parking based on the results of Solitude’s rollout, both resorts will certainly be able to learn lessons from the experiment. So will the Park City community.
Solitude has said the move is designed to ease congestion in the heavily trafficked Big Cottonwood Canyon, as well as improve air quality in Salt Lake County, both noble goals. Park City and Summit County officials, meanwhile, have long searched for solutions to the gridlock that plagues S.R. 248 and S.R. 224 and is exacerbated on powder days as skiers and snowboarders flock to and from the resorts.
Many Parkites, of course, would blanch at the notion of paying for what has always been free.
Solitude has taken its share of online criticism to that effect. But critics should also note the resort says it will not profit from the change because it plans to take the revenue it collects from parking and provide incentives to guests who use public transit.
If Park City’s resorts ultimately begin charging for parking one day, they would do well to also follow Solitude’s lead by doing it in a way that is intended to benefit the public rather than bolster their bottom lines. One important step would be working with the city, county and other stakeholders to ensure it’s convenient for folks heading to the slopes to ditch their cars and use the transit system.
There are plenty of skiers and snowboarders who hope that day never comes. But a successful rollout of paid parking at Solitude that accomplishes the resort’s goals of reducing traffic and smog may make it closer than ever.
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