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Alta Institutes Pay-To-Park Reservation System

Alta-Base-1 Alta has joined other Utah resorts near Salt Lake City to impose a parking fee to manage crowds. (Alta/Facebook)

In the latest move among Utah resorts to confront overcrowding, Alta Ski Area will charge $25 to make a reservation to park during busy times in its lots at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The reservation system went into effect on Dec. 18 and will be in place for all weekend and holiday periods for the 2021-2022 season.

Skiers and riders who plan to drive up to Alta on a weekend or holiday day will have to first go online and have a spot saved for them. The system rolls over on the previous Sunday at 3 p.m. and fills in unreserved spots for the next week.

Also, a limited number of early-morning, 6 a.m. spots can be had online for $15 for backcountry folks heading up into Little Cottonwood Canyon.

But overnight parking (midnight to 8 a.m.) will no longer be permitted in any Alta lots to allow employees to work, and for more efficient plowing.

"The skiing experience on weekends and holidays has changed in recent years as skier demand has outpaced our capacity," Alta's Andrea Huskinson said. "Last winter took us over the tipping edge. For 12 Saturdays in a row, we were full by about 8:30 and had to turn people away."

Parking up both Little and Big Cottonwood canyons has been an issue for many years. as skiers and 'boarders come up from the Salt Lake basin. Both canyons carve tightly into the Wasatch Front, restricting traffic to mostly two-lane travel and keeping parking lots tight to the base areas. All four Cottonwood resorts strongly encourage taking free buses from Sandy at the base of canyons, and they also make carpooling a worthy choice.

For this season, Big Cottonwood's Brightonhas put in its first paid parking system through online reservations. Then, up until noon, motorists can claim one of 100 spots for $25. Lots tend to fill up by noon on most busy days, and 95% of Brighton's parking is still free and first-come-first-served.

Alta's neighbor Snowbird was the first to require reservations through a "hybrid" system. To get one of 2,800 spots, there's a preferred parking season pass, a daily paid reservation system, valet parking for a fee, free carpooling lots (at least 4 per vehicle), and free lots that mean a bit more of a hump to get to the lifts.

A couple of years ago, Solitude put the first full-on paid parking system in place. A progressive fee schedule depends upon the number of passengers in a vehicle -- and gets you closer to the lifts. No reservation system is in place, but when lots are full, roadside parking is the only option.

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