Steamboat Commits to Major Gondola Upgrades

The Steamboat Gondola rises more than 2,000 vertical feet to the heart of Mt. Werner.

Fresh off a 30th birthday, Intrawest and Steamboat said yesterday they will make a major investment in the Steamboat Gondola this spring, pushing back the start of summer operations. The world’s first 8-passenger monocable gondola, once called the Silver Bullet, opened in 1986 and has amassed 80,000 hours operating day and night, year-round.  Changes include:

  • Replacement of grips, likely with Agamatic 108s, the larger version of the new Elkhead Express grips.
  • New hangers.  The 128 first-generation Omega cabins will remain.
  • Completely new terminal rail systems and tire banks.
  • Reconfiguration of cargo loading areas at both stations.
  • New electronic control system.

“Steamboat is fortunate to have some of the best mechanics and electricians in the business looking after our gondola,” said Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations. “These upgrades give us time to look at the big picture for the base area, while also enhancing our current uphill transportation system.”  Doppelmayr will assist with the work, which will begin April 16th and require complete removal of the gondola’s nearly 18,000 foot haul rope.  Doppelmayr did an almost identical upgrade to the 1985 6-passenger gondola at Northstar California Resort in 2015, with new terminals, hangers and grips.  Leitner-Poma also recently completed major refits of the Whistler Village and Aspen Silver Queen gondolas that included new cabins.  Telluride is also grappling with a similar need for upgrades or replacement.

Chain-driven systems will be replaced with tires.

In its press release, Steamboat acknowledged the gondola as the main access to the mountain and that acting now preserves future reliable transportation.  Doppelmayr plans to be finished with the work by June 30th for the mountain’s summer season.


26 thoughts on “Steamboat Commits to Major Gondola Upgrades

  1. Ryan February 21, 2017 / 9:52 am

    Amazing how that works, we were just discussing this lift a few weeks ago given that she’s now 30 years old. I’ve not skied up there yet, but from looking at the trail map, it looks like it really is the only access to the upper mountain, which seems a bit awkward given that if this thing ever goes down for a few days in the season or on a weekend, they are screwed.

    Click to access SBTMAP.pdf


    • Peter Landsman February 21, 2017 / 9:55 am

      Christie Peak Express and Thunderhead provide backup, but I wouldn’t want to be there with the gondola down on a big day.


      • Ryan February 21, 2017 / 9:59 am

        Your right, as I look at the map closer I guess Christie III can be used as well to help deposit skiers over to the Thunderhead area. It would be nice if there was a HSQ that got people from the base area up to the base area of Elkhead & Sundown.


      • Mike February 21, 2017 / 12:56 pm

        Bashor Bowl gondola may be in the plan, but that doesn’t change the lower mtn bottleneck is the gondola goes down. It just puts more people at Thunderhead HSQ base more quickly. Thunderhead likely to be upgraded to a HSS if the master plan is implemented, but direct access from base to Sundown/Elkhead would be the only real solution, especially given proposed expansion at Sunshine Peak.


        • powderforever June 29, 2019 / 11:40 am

          The bashor bowl gondola got final approval by the U.S. Forest Service.


        • Donald Reif June 29, 2019 / 4:56 pm

          As someone who’s had at least one day at Steamboat that’s seen the bottleneck, I know what you’re referring to. I think this is a reason Steamboat should never have gotten rid of the Arrowhead lift when they built the Thunderhead Express. Arrowhead was a triple chairlift that supplemented the original Thunderhead triple, and dropped people off on Vagabond just downhill from Thunderhead Restaurant. From it, one could still get to Burgess Creek, Four Points and the Storm Peak Express by taking Vagabond down to Surprise, or by traversing on Feather over to Lightning.

          If Arrowhead was still around, it would be a lift that’d see use in peak periods and if either the Thunderhead Express or the Gondola had to go down for any reason. And arguably it’d still run more than Christie III or Priest Creek.


  2. Charles Von Stade February 21, 2017 / 10:03 am

    Doppelmayr upgraded Telluride some years ago in a similar way with agamatic grips and new rails/ tire banks. I think the issue at Telluride is that the gondolas stack up so many hours annually that even the refitted equipment will need a refit.


  3. Doppelmayr FTW! February 21, 2017 / 11:37 am

    Im glad resorts do these mechanical upgrades while keeping the lift the same for the skier. It preserves the character really well.


  4. Dave Amirault February 21, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    I believe kids on the internet use the term “FINALLY” to describe situations like this. Those first gen Omega cabins sure have a low ceiling compared to present day hardware.


    • Andrew Weber February 21, 2017 / 5:03 pm

      I’m fairly sure they are actually keeping the original cabins.


  5. Ryan February 22, 2017 / 10:57 am

    What are the Pros/Cons of tires vs the chain driven system that the Boat currently uses?


    • Peter Landsman February 22, 2017 / 10:12 pm

      Maybe a mechanic who’s worked on one with chains can chime in.


    • Michael February 27, 2017 / 6:39 pm

      Pros are 1) Less moving parts- no gearboxes, drive shafts, u-joints, chains, etc. 2) Less maintenance for those components.
      Cons- 1) Possibility of slippage IF the PTO sheaves aren’t correctly loaded. 2) Possibility of slippage IF the PTO sheaves and / or haul rope get icy.
      Pros definitely outweigh the Cons. JMHO

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Collin Parsons February 22, 2017 / 11:59 am

    Are they going to upgrade the line speed during this? That lift is definitely long enough for 1200 fpm.


    • Peter Landsman February 22, 2017 / 2:34 pm

      I doubt it, the industry seems to be moving away from 1000+ line speeds.


      • Ryan February 22, 2017 / 11:05 pm

        Well tell them to knock it off. Some lifts need that 1000+ FPM!


  7. Michael February 23, 2017 / 8:01 am

    1000+ FPM has proven to be too hard on the equipment available in today’s technology.


    • Ryan February 23, 2017 / 11:43 am

      Then what about yesterday’s technology, the high speed lifts installed in the 80s and 90s?


      • Ryan February 24, 2017 / 9:25 pm

        Or is that the technology we are referring to in this day and age? I mean this with all sincerity, I’m trying to learn here.


      • Michael February 27, 2017 / 6:50 pm

        After re-reading this thread, it could be a possibility to upgrade to 1200 fpm for this Gondola. The question is: Is there enough room in the present buildings to install a longer terminal? Not sure what the tire count is at present, but faster line speeds dictate more tires to accelerate and decelerate the cabins smoothly.
        As for detachable chairlifts, the move away from 1100 & 1200 fpm was a result of the same issue- you need a longer terminal (35 tires vs. 27 tires) to properly accelerate/decelerate the carriers and it wasn’t woth the expense for a 10% increase in capacity or 10% reduction in ride time. Poma’s Competition 1100 used the 27 tire terminal and the 10% increase in speed had an adverse effect on the wear of grips, tires, belts pulleys and carriers. I think a lot of the customers eventually turned them down to 1000 fpm. Again, JMHO.


  8. Alex May 8, 2017 / 10:01 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks the Bashor Gondola is a bad idea? It feels to me that Steamboat already has a sufficient learning area (Headwall) and all this does is add more pressure on Thunderhead for transport up the mountain. Instead of installing the Bashor Gondola I think they should keep the current configuration but be more ambitious with replacing the Steamboat Gondola. At a minimum they should upgrade it with a 10-MGD at 3600 PPH. I also think they should consider a Funitel or 3S as whatever they install is going to be there for 30-50 years.


  9. Ryan June 21, 2017 / 10:56 am

    Haul rope is back up on the Gondola. Cabins are still off and I’m guessing still lots to do in the terminals as they are not anticipating the Gondola running for summer ops until about July 15th.


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