Sunshine Village is one of two ski resorts in North America with access provided by gondola rather than road, the other being Silver Mountain in Idaho. Visitors park at the end of Sunshine Road and transfer to a Poma gondola for a 17 minute ride to Sunshine Village. Along the way there are two angle stations, one where doors stay closed and the other with loading/unloading at Goat’s Eye Mountain. All three sections share one haul rope driven by a 2,000 HP electric motor underneath the top terminal. The Goat’s Eye angle station has indoor cabin storage and there are additional maintenance rails at each end.
When opened on November 22, 2001, Poma claimed the Sunshine Village Gondola was the world’s fastest 8-passenger gondola with a max speed of 1,200 feet per minute. I don’t believe this was ever true as Whiteface’s Cloudsplitter Gondola opened two years earlier and can run 1,212 fpm. There are now at least 15 gondolas in North America that can do 1,200 feet a minute or faster. Regardless, Sunshine’s gondola is an impressive machine that moves 2,800 people per hour in each direction 15+ hours per day. It cost $16 million to build.
A VonRoll gondola in the same alignment replaced bus access to the ski area in 1979. It had 6-passenger cabins and moved only 1,800 passengers per hour at 1,000 feet a minute. Many of the old gondola’s lattice towers and the Goat’s Eye terminal building were re-used by Poma. The new gondola is 14,894 feet long with a vertical rise of 1,655 feet. There are 38 towers and approximately 175 multi-colored CWA Omega IV cabins.
In January 2006, two cabins fell to the ground during high winds at the first angle station. Both cars were empty and only 28 people were on the entire system. An investigation found a down-bound cabin’s guide roller missed the trumpet entering the terminal in approximately 40 mph winds. The lift stopped due to a zone fault and cable elevation fault. This angle station was unmanned and the faults were bypassed remotely and the lift restarted. A second cabin collided with the stalled first cabin and both fell to the ground. The gondola remained closed for a few days and highlighted the resort’s dependence on the gondola. Sunshine Village has a plan to install new chairlifts for alternative access from the parking lot to Goat’s Eye.
The gondola received a new haul rope last year. After this summer’s installation of the Tee Pee Town detachable quad, Sunshine Village will have one of the newest lift fleets anywhere with nine quad lifts and the gondola, all built since 1988. It also has some of the best steep skiing and scenic views anywhere.