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Utahns across the state are taking the Clear the Air Challenge this month and one way to achieve fewer single-occupancy vehicle trips is to use public transit, such as UTA's Ski Bus.

This month, Utahns across the state are taking the Clear the Air Challenge, a month-long competition to reduce vehicle emissions, which subsequently improves air quality, reduces traffic congestion and conserves energy. One way to achieve less single-occupancy vehicle trips is to utilize public transit, like the UTA’s Ski Bus.   

By Claire Hillard, communication major

I grew up in Utah, right at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. I was on skis at the age of 2 and frequent the local resorts. After all these years, today was the first time I opted to take the UTA Ski Bus instead of driving to the resort. I am sold. I actually preferred taking the bus to driving — it simple, relaxing, eco-friendly and honestly, pretty fun.

For starters, riding the Ski Bus was easy. I used the Ski Utah app to pull up all possible bus routes in a matter of seconds. All I had to do was make sure I was at the bus stop at the right time, then chill until I was at the resort. As a bonus, when I happened to sleep through my alarm, thus missing the bus, I discovered there was a bus running every half hour. Despite the panic that came with having a meet-up time of 8 a.m. and waking up to a phone call at 8:12 a.m. from a friend wondering where I was, I made quick time and was hardly delayed.

Maybe I am super lazy, but I relished getting to sit back, be carried up the canyon, and dropped off right in front of the resort. I didn’t have to drive or stress about finding a parking spot. I just got to sit. It was luxurious. Above all, I loved that I was dropped off right in front of the slopes. I have vivid memories as a kid of me lugging skis and poles that were bigger than me through thick snow that wanted to make sure I knew gravity still existed. That trudge from the parking lot felt like a mile of frozen purgatory. Of course this was an exaggeration of my child mind, but it stuck with me. And really, we can only grow up so much.

Riding the Ski Bus also felt like a bit of a moral win. Anyone who has been in Utah in the summer knows that we have some of the brightest blue skies. Likewise, anyone who has been in Utah in the winter knows that the valley can at times become a bit of a toxic soup. I have had asthma for as long as I can remember and the air quality during “inversion” periods has always been a health concern for me. I remember many cold, elementary school days where five other students and I weren’t allowed to go out for recess. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized this was because the air quality was a health hazard for the six of us. While carpooling and taking the bus won’t change Utah’s air quality in the blink of an eye, it is a small action I am happy to take so more first-graders can enjoy their 30 minutes of freedom.

Not only was this a relaxing and eco-friendly adventure, it was fun. Riding the Ski Bus was 30 minutes of looking at the beautiful mountain slopes and enjoying the people around me. Despite that it was a bus full of strangers, everyone seemed to be friends. Strangers talked with strangers and laughed at the stories each had to tell. Half the bus moved for a mother and son so the little boy could have a secure place to stand. As he stumbled down the moving bus, people reached out to support the wobbly tyke. I talked with multiple people on the bus, learned where they were from, why they were there and what their favorite songs were. These were simple interactions, but they brightened up what could have been a drab bus ride. I would highly recommend striking up a conversation with someone on the bus. You never know what you might learn.

So, after actually giving the bus a chance, I found it to be less stressful and more enjoyable than driving. All of my reasons for not wanting to take the bus proved to be wrong. Figuring out how to take the bus was as simple as pressing a few buttons. I enjoyed the view on the ride up, had an amazing day on the slopes and exchanged powder stories with others on the bus ride home.