Lift Profile: Vail’s Gondola One

Riding Gondola One to Vail Village.
Riding Gondola One to Vail Village.

When Vail opened the 10-passenger Gondola One in 2012, it marked the return of gondola service to Vail Village for the first time since 1976.  Gondola One is named after the original Bell gondola at Vail, which opened fifty years earlier in 1962.  After a de-ropement on that gondola the Lionshead gondola that killed four, various chairlifts served Vail Village for the next thirty years.  Gondola One replaced the Vista Bahn, one of Vail’s original detachable quads from 1985.  The Vista Bahn was a beast of a lift – over 9,000 feet long with 216 bubble quad chairs that could move 2,650 skiers per hour to the heart of Vail Mountain.  By 2011, the Vista Bahn had reached the end of its useful life and needed replacement.

The bottom terminal is located in the heart of Vail Village and has a spacious loading area.
The bottom terminal is located in the heart of Vail Village and has a spacious loading area.
The Mid-Vail station houses the drive and cabin parking.
The Mid-Vail station houses the drive and cabin parking.

Gondola One is an impressive upgrade, full of modern features and an example of how the gondola is staging a comeback.  Built by Leitner-Poma, it has 120 10-passenger Sigma Diamond cabins with heated seats, LED lighting and Wi-Fi.  Cabin 50 is painted gold to celebrate Vail’s 50th anniversary which was celebrated the year it opened.  Exterior ski racks on the cabins have space for ten pairs of skis or six snowboards and bikes can fit inside the cabins in the summer.

Looking up toward's Mid-Vail under Gondola One.
Gondola has 23 towers compared with 33 on the Vista Bahn it replaced.
These are the largest LPA terminals built to date.
These are the largest LPA terminals built to date.

Gondola One leaves from the heart of Vail Village and rises 2,000 vertical feet to Mid-Vail.  When all 120 cabins are on-line, it can move 3,600 skiers per hour at 1,200 feet a minute, tied for the fastest monocable gondola in North America.  At that speed, One covers over 9,300 feet in 7.8 minutes.  Leitner-Poma was able to cut the number of towers by a third, from 33 on the Vista Bahn to 23 on One.

Sigma Diamond cabins with all the bells and whistles.
Sigma Diamond cabins with all the bells and whistles.  In this picture only half the cabins are on line.

Gondola one’s drive terminal at Mid-Vail has the nicest cabin storage and maintenance facility I have seen (and we have a pretty nice one at Jackson Hole.)  Even though the drive motor is rated at 1,400 horsepower, it still fits inside the spacious LPA terminal rather than in a vault.  The cabin facility can store all 120 cabins in rows on two levels.  There are multiple grip maintenance bays and even a wash bay.  Vail parks every cabin every night, even in the summer.

Vail runs half cabins in the summer. Batteries in the cabins charge at night.
Elevators between the two parking levels are chain-driven.
Grip maintenance bay on the lower level.
A wash bay!
Cabins enter and exit the storage building on the arrival side.

One is among Vail’s workhorse lifts, operating day and night in both winter and summer.  It is an example of where a gondola makes total sense – a long access lift which skiers typically don’t cycle and non-skiers find more comfortable than a chairlift.  Since installing One, Vail has installed two more six-packs in their quest to have one of the newest and fastest lift fleets anywhere.


14 thoughts on “Lift Profile: Vail’s Gondola One

  1. vons August 28, 2015 / 9:14 am

    The deropement occurred on the Lionshead gondola. In the aftermath of the accident the lionshead gondola was rebuilt by VonRoll but the old gondola one was removed due to numerous issues found during inspection.


    • Peter Landsman August 28, 2015 / 9:20 am

      Fixed…thanks. It’s crazy to think Vail Village was served by just two double chairs for 9 years.


  2. Mike Turley August 29, 2015 / 10:40 pm

    That cabin storage and maintenance area look awesome. Where are the mechanics ?


    • Michael October 10, 2016 / 6:39 pm

      Keeping a low silhouette- when someone is on a photo op the last thing you want is them asking YOU questions.MHO


  3. tjskiloaf17 October 9, 2016 / 1:33 pm

    how much did this lift cost?


    • Peter Landsman October 10, 2016 / 6:51 pm

      I don’t think Vail Resorts ever said. My guess would be $15-20 million.


      • tjskiloaf17 October 11, 2016 / 5:17 am

        thank you! was just trying to figure out approximate gondola costs for a certain resort..


  4. Doppelmayr FTW! October 11, 2016 / 7:13 am

    Yeah almost every major gondola costs somewhere in the neigborhood of 15-20 mil.


    • tjskiloaf17 October 11, 2016 / 9:47 am

      any idea why lutsens gondola was so low at 7 million? how about the chondola at sunday river at 7.2?


      • Peter Landsman October 11, 2016 / 10:37 am

        Lutsen’s system is half as long as Vail’s with 1/6th the vertical and is slower with only 24 cabins.


  5. John April 12, 2020 / 2:08 am

    This is a dumb question but does the LPA terminals have Direct Drive?


    • vons3 April 12, 2020 / 10:25 am

      Direct Drive is an option, this lift, however, has a conventional gearbox with 4 AC motors that can be coupled in numerous arrangements to power the lift.


      • John April 13, 2020 / 6:57 am

        By any chance do you know how much more expensive direct drive is?


    • Max Hart April 12, 2020 / 2:22 pm

      The only LPA terminals with direct drives as of now are “The Gondola” (most creative name ever said nobody) at Winter Park, and American Flyer & Eagle at Copper.


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