We’re somewhere around a year-and-a-half away from the grand opening of Walt Disney World Resort’s innovative Skyliner gondola network and it’s becoming clear this will be North America’s most expensive lift project ever. Yes, much more costly than the $52 million Peak 2 Peak Gondola, way beyond the $57 million Portland Aerial Tram and many times more than the eight-figure Blackcomb Gondola, also set for construction this year.
I have never been to Florida but luckily there are die-hard Disney fans who charter helicopters on a weekly basis to photograph the goings-on at the world’s most-visited resort. This week, they are beginning to spot tower foundations for the first of five gondola segments.
Disney has also revealed renderings of the station that will serve the Pop Century and Art of Animation resorts (in case you missed it, we learned what three other stations would look like in December.) The Pop/AoA station will be perpendicular to an existing bridge in the middle of Hourglass Lake, shown above. A striking curved roof will complement a very long Doppelmayr D-Line station. It also looks like two or three towers will rise out of the lake.
The scale of construction at the hub where three lines will meet near the Caribbean Beach Resort is immense. Concrete grids in the upper part of the below photo look a lot like footings for cabin parking rails. This station will be themed in the style of an open air Caribbean marketplace.
Work has also started on the Hollywood Studios station, also being built on what used to be water. This station is going to be retro turquoise and red with only minor structures around a Doppelmayr enclosure.
An angle station with loading and unloading for guests will be located alongside Disney’s new Riviera Resort. You can totally see the “L” shape where the terminal will be in the upper left of the below photo. Disney hasn’t released any images yet of what this station will look like.
The other station we haven’t seen a preview of is the angle station without loading and unloading between Epcot and Rivera. Work has just started here in the corner of a former parking lot. Disney did tease that this station will afford riders views of the technical systems that make the Skyliner spin.
The new images continue to show what appear to be Doppelmayr D-Line stations and unless a ski area orders one this spring, Disney is poised to operate the first D-Line lifts in the Americas. Doppelmayr USA President Mark Bee had some interesting comments about D-Line in Ski Area Management this month. Apparently a quarter of all detachable lifts the company sells sold globally are now D-Line and he expects that share will rise to three-quarters within two years. “It may become our only product,” he told SAM‘s Rick Kahl in the annual lift construction survey. Doppelmayr is gearing up to potentially build a record number of gondola sections in the US and Canada next year. We could see three at Walt Disney World, two at Blackcomb and one each at Bretton Woods, Silver Star and the Yellowstone Club. The gondola revolution is here and boy is it going to be exciting.