It’s official: North America’s largest-ever gondola network is coming to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced the project in a Steve Jobs-esque keynote at a Disney fan convention in Anaheim yesterday. The name for the new system will be Disney Skyliner in a nod to the Skyway VonRoll gondolas which operated at three Disney Parks from the 1950s until 1990s. “I’m proud to announce that we’re building a whole new transportation system,” Chapek said onstage to wild applause. “The Disney Skyliner will soon give our guests a bird’s eye view of Walt Disney World. Many of these gondolas will feature your favorite Disney characters and what a better way to get around the resort than with your pals in the sky.” A simultaneous post on the Disney Parks Blog noted, “[This] new transportation system will add even more magic to your future vacation experiences.”
As rumored since February, there will be five stages connecting Disney’s Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach Resort, and new Riviera Resort to Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at EPCOT. Whistler Blackcomb currently operates the most gondola sections in North America – six – but they are not contiguous and utilize varying technologies. The longest of three individual lines at Walt Disney World will have two angle stations, one of which will serve the all-new Disney Riviera Resort opening in 2019. All three lines will meet at a hub on the south side of Caribbean Beach Resort, where guest can change cabins based on destination. Renderings confirm Doppelmayr and CWA ropeway technology and this is probably Doppelmayr USA’s largest lift contract ever (excluding DCC rail-based systems like the Oakland Airport Connector.) Air conditioning does not appear to be included but the Omega cabins will include more open windows than normal like those on the recently completed
Arthurs Seat Eagle in Australia and California Trail at the Oakland Zoo Singapore Cable Car.
As I’ve said before, this is monumental news for ropeway fans because Skyliner will showcase the technology at the world’s most-visited resort. 2016 saw 53.7 million people pass through the gates of Disney World’s six parks, approximately equal to the number of skiers and snowboarders who visited all 479 U.S. ski resorts combined last season (54.7 million.) A successful launch at a high-volume, iconic American destination could make way for more gondolas in a country slow to adopt outside of skiing thus far.
Preliminary construction work got underway in Orlando last month though a completion date is not yet clear. The Disney Riviera opens in 2019 and the park celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2021. We in the ski industry know Doppelmayr can put a gondola together in six months, though this project is more complex. Luckily those rabid fans who attend Disney conventions will keep us posted as the Skyliner takes shape.