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Scariest drive, over Berthoud Pass or Big Cottonwood Canyon?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Just trying to get a feel for what to possibly expect prior to my Utah trip on 12-1, staying at one of the BCC mountains for a week. Plan on heading back down to SLC/Sandy and to the Park City area once or twice during the trip. Will most likely just have an intermediate-size rental car.
I've driven over Berthoud Pass to Winter Park several times which can be a little hairy but I've always done pretty well on that. Thanks.
post #2 of 20
might want to consider a 4WD vehicle. LCC (I think, the road to Alta and the Bird) had gates for when 4WD (or AWD) or chains were required.
post #3 of 20
There are days when they do require chains and or a 4x4 vehical to get up and down the Cottenwood canyons There also days when the roads are closed until they get all the avalanch work done. Keep in mind that the road up to alta and Snowbird is the most avalanch prone road in the US that is open all year. Thats the bad news the good news is that there has been only one death due to avalanch on that road since the 1950's. acisdents are another story, a few years back a group of people from Powder Mag were doing some skiing at Alta on Thier trip down the Canyon they had a crash killing one of the people in the car. Drive safe and at a sane speed and you will do fine. You could also just take the skiers bus up the Canyon
post #4 of 20
If the question is the relative technical difficulty of Cottonwood Canyon compared to Berthoud pass, the roads are as different as they can be. Berthoud is a mountain road with switch backs and S turns, long drop-offs and can have high winter snow accumulations, wind etc. Due to wind, it is often snow-covered and is cleared using rotary plows. It is a relatively wide US Highway that traverses the high ridges.

The roads in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons are narrower roads that follow the bottom of the canyon with numerous S turns. Drop-offs are few (but just as dangerous); and the hazard comes from above. Road closures are more frequent due to avalanche controls (in addiiton to snow clearing). This means the road may be closed for several hours just at the time you want to get to the ski areas. The road is usually clear of snow but can have ice on shaded corners. It is a shorter trip (roughly 8-miles) up LCC to Snowbird or Alta, or BCC to Solitude, and is at lower altitudes (8530 feet at Alta base) than US40 going from I-70 to Winter Park (26 miles, 11,315 feet elevation at pass).

With the right vehicle, neither road is especially difficult at sane speeds.
post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
Cirquerider, that is exactly the kind of detail I was interested in, thanks! Most of my "commuting" that week would be from my base at Solitude to wherever...that said, conditions will dictate when that'll happen. Worst (or best) case, I'm stuck there at Solitude.
post #6 of 20
Quote:
Worst (or best) case, I'm stuck there at Solitude.
Well if you are "stuck" you can ski. Otherwise, clear sailing. Remember Utah enforces chain controls, so if you have 2 WD pack chains. Take a 4X4 and you will have no worries if the road is open. Have fun!
post #7 of 20
I was in BCC and LCC this March. If you think the road is bad there, try the access road to Big White and Apex in BC. The access road to Big White has several 90 and 180 degree turns on road that is fully covered with snow. It took me a full hour to reach Kelowna from BW and I had my finger crossed all the way.
post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by William Tell
Cirquerider, that is exactly the kind of detail I was interested in, thanks! Most of my "commuting" that week would be from my base at Solitude to wherever...that said, conditions will dictate when that'll happen. Worst (or best) case, I'm stuck there at Solitude.
Remember that downshifting is your friend. You can save the brakes and take advantage of the engine to slow you down. I drove a Trailblazer when I was there 2 weeks ago and felt perfectly comfortable. I live in a flat cornfield, so that's saying something.
post #9 of 20
Certainly reserving a 4WD will work.

Don't expect the car rental agency to provide or ALLOW you to install chains. Last yr at ESA we rented a Matrix 2wd, we bagged the Sunday opening festivities at Snowbird because of road conditions. We stayed in Sandy and did not want to chance the drive up and back.

First I tried to upgrade to 4wd---it was way more than I wanted to spend, I then asked where the chains were and got the answer that there were none in the car and we could NOT attach chains to their rental cars.

BTW this was not a "rent - a - wreck" but a national agency---which one right now escapes me.

Next we scouted the bus route and found we could get to Snowbird easily that way if necessary.

Got up to 2wd conditions all week so all worked out well.
post #10 of 20
Cirque Rider contrasted this in my opinion perfectly. Berthoud Pass makes me feel like the flat lander I am very quickly .IMHO a scary road as difficult of a drive as there is to ski country.

I don't like the canyon you go through on 1-70 before Glenwood Springs( driving from Vail to Aspen) . It doesn't have the switch backs like a Berthoud Pass , but if there is snow on the road and a good bit of truck traffic it can be a white knuckler. I've had several trips at night from the Denver Airport to Vail when it is snowing that I have downshifted coming out of the Eisenhower Tunnel. Definitely my hands assumed the 10 & 2 position on the steering wheel.
post #11 of 20
You might find that getting stuck up at Solitude due to road conditions would also mean you will be stuck indoors. That is untill they get the avalanche work done. This is more likly to happen at Snowbird and alta due to the narrow canyon and steep south facing walls. The last five years have been bad snow years. even witha lower then normal snowpack peaple getting stuck in the lodge at Snowbird and Alta happen at least once a season. Two years ago one of the Lodges at alta was hit by an avalanche and was damaged. Cars in the parking lot were tossed around like toys.If it looks like snow, many locals take a sleeping bag and a change of clothes when going up the canyons You just never know when Mother Nature will bless The Cotton Canyons with a foot of snow an hour!
post #12 of 20
Wt,

Here's a quick tip: On snow days, try to get to the top of the Cottonwood canyons by 8AM. The slides seem to happen more frequently in th 8:15-10 time frame. There's nothing worse than sitting at the bottom of the Canyon jonesing while they clear the road. Except....

I've personally seen a bus that had been pushed over the side in LCC and once had a 3 foot slide split and go 1 car in front of me and 5 behind.

On high avalanche danger days, Alta tends to open terrain faster than Snowbird.
post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by skier_j
Certainly reserving a 4WD will work.

First I tried to upgrade to 4wd---it was way more than I wanted to spend, I then asked where the chains were and got the answer that there were none in the car and we could NOT attach chains to their rental cars.

BTW this was not a "rent - a - wreck" but a national agency---which one right now escapes me.

Next we scouted the bus route and found we could get to Snowbird easily that way if necessary.

Got up to 2wd conditions all week so all worked out well.
Car rental company knows exactly what they are doing. You can rent a 4wd in San Francisco for half the price of the same car in SLC. And they do not allow chains on their car.

So what I do is stay in Extended Stay America, Sandy and rent a regular car. I have two options in that arrangement:

1, If the weather is good, I can drive to BCC or LCC.
2. If the weather is bad, I can walk to next door (Best Western) and catch the UTA bus.

post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
Wow, all this has got me thinkin for sure...
Maybe I should just take the bus up there when I fly into town, and leave the rental at the bus stop. Is that permitted? Seems like it would be.
Then the next question would be, what hours does the bus go up and back to Solitude?
Thanks folks for chiming in...
post #15 of 20

Driving the Canyons

William, Why would you want to drive down BCC from Solitude/Brighton right after or during a snowstorm? The two areas certainly have enough terrain and powder shots to keep you smiling for a few days after a good storm.

I'll be staying in Sandy during our trip and am concerned about the daily commute up LCC or BCC. I wish we had to be concerned about getting to the airport from the top of BCC or LCC on our departure date!

Can anyone advise us about how much parking is available at last bus station near the base of LCC. If we get on the bus there, are the busses usually packed when they stop at that station? Taking the bus makes sense on a snowy day, but a packed bus with all of our gear and the kids would be annoying first thing in the morning.
post #16 of 20
The locals will chime in I'm sure. When we were there last year, the last lot we saw at the bottom of LCC could hold about 50 cars or so.

We made out just fine in a 2wd from Sandy Extended Stay. As I remember, the bus was relatively frequent.

There may even be a website to check the schedules from the internet?

Another thing to remember, if the canyon roads get closed, there is always The Canyons and other park city areas up the highway.

We skied the Canyons with Tour Guide Ken, Lodro, Utah49 and many others during a snowstorm Sunday, fretted about LCC and scoped out the bus etc Sunday night, then were able to drive to Snowbird each day and capped the week with a day at Brighton.

All in 2WD.
post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 
[quote=ericfelker]William, Why would you want to drive down BCC from Solitude/Brighton right after or during a snowstorm? The two areas certainly have enough terrain and powder shots to keep you smiling for a few days after a good storm.QUOTE]
Good point, like I implied earlier, being stuck up there in BCC might be the best thing that's ever happened to me. During my 7 day stay I'd like to get out to some different dining, etc... and perhaps ski near PC one day if plausible. But my east coast *** ain't goin nowhere if the flakes are flyin...
post #18 of 20
Reading all this has me nervous. I will be in SLC Dec3 - Dec7 and my friend has relatives there so we will have a 4wd truck to use, but we are planning on staying in SLC to save money ($35 per night at the Travelodge!) and just plan a long drive in the morning to Alta/Snowbird.

Is this an insane thing to do given the road and conditions there?

Are there times when the road is closed to cars with chains and 4wd but still open for the buses?

Thanks in advance.
post #19 of 20
BCC & some LCC road info.
1) I work at Solitude and live in a condo in downtown SLC. I make the drive daily to work. It never takes more than an hour & except on huge days takes 40 minutes. Earlier is better. Being behind a ton of people @ 9am is no fun.
2) I have an AWD car so get waived thru the restricted days, I also take the bus when i can. It starts running from the lot at the mouth of the Canyon ( caddy corner from 7-11) @ 705am and the last bus down is 830pm. www.rideuta.com pretty sure there is no overnight parking at the park & ride lot.
3) the drive is not that harry realy slow & low & you will be fine, seriously though down hill gear down so I dont rear end you.
4)In all my years ( 20 + ) of skiing all 4 canyon resorts, I have never been interlodged ( stuck inside) in BCC. ALta & snowbird have that happen more often, just a terrain difference. LCC also closes in its entirety more often. all 4 resorts get roughly the same snow and are so close together it shocks you when you get up high.



if you do have further specific questions on the resort or either canyon,
matt

at

skisolitude

dot


com

edit: removed shameless spam
post #20 of 20
I think CDOT does a great job keeping Berthoud open. The road is big and wide. The onle difficulty is when visibility becomes an issue. Mid winter it is typically snowpacked. I would not hesitate to make the drive in a front wheel drive vehicle with decent tires. AWD is obviously better.
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