A winter weather advisory is in effect all week for Teton Village and the top of the Jackson Hole Tram is already buried under feet of snow. Luckily the Sweetwater Gondola project lies mostly below the snow line, where the Doppelmayr crew is working on final assembly of America’s only new gondola for 2016. All three terminals now have roofs and local resident Norm Duke presided over a splice of the 45mm haul rope Sept. 20th. This week, the team is finishing the final, giant enclosure at Solitude Station. The mid-station also got its maintenance/parking rail last week, which will eventually link to a storage barn on the south (downhill) side. JHMR has always parked Bridger’s cabins inside on winter nights but Sweetwater’s will remain on the line this winter.
An eagle-eyed reader, Charles Von Stade, advised me the other day that Sweetwater’s rounded UNI-G enclosure at the return station is not the first in the world after all. Doppelmayr designed a similar enclosure for the top station of a 2009 six-pack in Austria called Kettingbahn that looks just as sweet as Sweetwater’s.
Doppelmayr electricians are working long hours wiring two gondolas worth of work while concrete and mechanical contractors finish heated platforms at all three stations. The top hardscape is closest to completion as snow looms and will eventually serve an upgraded Casper Restaurant. Dozens of workers are at the mid-station every day moving dirt, finishing basement buildings, erecting a new yurt and soon a magic carpet. The subject-to-change plan for this winter is for some ski school classes to meet at Solitude to relieve congestion in the village. The public will only be permitted to load the gondola at the base but may unload at the mid-station or top. A cool feature of this lift is the ability for staff to disable the door opening/closing rails at any of the stations as needed.
Big gondola tasks left to complete are setting of the mid-station operator house, comm-line installation and hanging of the cabins. Opening day for Sweetwater is set for Dec. 17th, hopefully leaving lots of time for testing and training after the load test. This is Jackson Hole so you can bet Sweetwater’s debut will be a celebration just in time for Christmas.