Disaster Strikes the Sea to Sky Gondola

Photo credit: Kirby Brown via Squamish Chief

Something terrible happened to the Sea to Sky Gondola overnight and police say it was likely an intentional act.  General Manager Kirby Brown told the Squamish Chief that a worker heard a loud noise around 4:30 am and later found gondola cabins on the ground.  “We’re just in the early moments of investigating how that could possibly happen,” he told the newspaper.  “Certainly, early indications are that there was no environmental or maintenance mechanism that could have caused it.  It points toward a conclusion that somebody interfered with the lift.”

No one was on the 7,000 foot long gondola at the time.  The Doppelmayr eight passenger installation opened in May 2014 to carry sightseers and hikers above Howe Sound near Squamish, British Columbia.  Not everyone was happy about the project when first proposed due to its proximity to the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.  The gondola proved popular, however, and just this spring more cabins were added to bring the total number to 31.

At a 3:00 pm press conference, Kara Triance with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said a criminal investigation is underway.  “At this time we believe the cables were cut and this was a deliberate act of vandalism,” she said.  The 52 millimeter haul rope was completely severed and the majority of cabins crashed to the ground.  Teams are attempting to survey the entire lift line for clues and are asking the public to stay away.  Technical Safety BC and Doppelmayr are also assisting with the investigation.  Anyone with information on this crime is asked to call the RCMP at 604-892-6100.

Nearby Whistler Blackcomb issued the following statement: “In response to this morning’s incident at the unaffiliated Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, Whistler Blackcomb can confirm all of its gondolas and lifts have been checked and are in working order.  A pre-operational inspection is always conducted before the lines open each morning, and this procedure was conducted today, per normal practice. Guest safety is a top priority for Whistler Blackcomb and it will continue to be vigilant in upholding its standards and practices.”

On Sunday, police said they believe someone climbed a tower midway up the line in order to cut the cable.  The lift has 14 towers, some of which are difficult to access on foot.  Damage is estimated to be more than CAD$1 million and the impact of a months-long closure will be far greater.  Typical daily ridership this time of year ranges between 1,500 and 3,000 people.  The Sea to Sky Gondola Limited Partnership employs some 230 workers.

By Friday, the company said the gondola would reopen sometime in early spring 2020 with all new cabins and a brand new haul rope.  “While some of our current cabins appear to be undamaged, we want your confidence in us to be as strong as it was before so complete replacement is our way of holding true to the trust you have placed in us,” a letter to passholders explaining the timeline read.  “This is longer than any of us had hoped but we have to live with the reality of the situation and move forward responsibly.”  Season passes will be extended on a prorated basis when the gondola reopens.  A job fair is scheduled for displaced employees and all food has been donated to the Squamish Food Bank.

47 thoughts on “Disaster Strikes the Sea to Sky Gondola

  1. Ryan August 10, 2019 / 12:26 pm

    What a bummer. I’m assuming the thing is not operating during those hours but will wait for more details to become available.


  2. Kyle W. August 10, 2019 / 1:51 pm

    So they’re thinking someone cut the haul rope? Wow.


  3. snowbasinlocal12894 August 10, 2019 / 4:30 pm

    I remember riding this gondola on the way to whistler blackcomb it was a amazing view. If someone end up cutting the haul rope I hope they find them and make them pay for the lift. So much for those brand new CWA cabins added recently.


    • Peter Landsman August 10, 2019 / 5:03 pm

      I have also ridden this gondola on the way to Whistler and agree on the amazingness of it. The total project cost $22 million and to have it taken down by one senseless act is shocking. Ropes and cabins can of course be replaced but what a waste.

      Liked by 2 people

      • snowbasinlocal12894 August 10, 2019 / 5:18 pm

        Wherever the cable was cut/snapped it looks like its near the top towers. I wonder of someone climbed up with a hand held saw and cut it? Bonehead act.


  4. Peter Landsman August 10, 2019 / 5:13 pm

    Someone tried cutting three haul ropes at a ski resort in Andorra last year but did not get all the way through any of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. snowbasinlocal12894 August 10, 2019 / 9:08 pm

    I feel the same way. whoever cut the haul rope basically “killed” the lift. I hope rcmp finds the idiot and lock them up and make them pay. Ruined shiny new CWA cabins. Has nothing better to than cut haul ropes of chairlifts.


  6. jcpierce05 August 10, 2019 / 10:05 pm

    Would insurance cover the cost of something like this and what will happen to the broken cabins and the lift itself?

    The person who did this needs to be arrested and charged for the damage to the lift. Hope this lift opens very soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian August 10, 2019 / 11:36 pm

      I’m sure there are many many months of lead time to get a new haul rope, cabins and even a crew from the lift manufacturer to do the work given it is peak season of new lift installs right now.


      • Peter Landsman August 11, 2019 / 12:56 pm

        Doppelmayr Canada has only a handful of new lift projects right now which might help. Two are already finished.


  7. F**k tourists August 11, 2019 / 12:12 am

    Good on ya to whomever did this. The gondola is an abomination to the Howe sound.


    • Donald Reif August 11, 2019 / 6:01 am

      How? The majority of people love these sorts of tourist attractions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • reaperskier August 11, 2019 / 6:02 am

        I would love to film the Sea to Sky Gondola.


    • Teddy's Lift World August 11, 2019 / 7:48 am

      You say f**k tourists, I say f**k you. Please have some sense.

      Liked by 8 people

    • Joe August 11, 2019 / 8:26 am

      Regardless of what you think of the merits of the project, inciting or praising vandalism or sabotage of someone’s property is uncivilized.

      Liked by 6 people

      • Donald Reif August 11, 2019 / 9:20 am

        It’s a blatant act of vandalism that shouldn’t be condoned.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Kirk August 11, 2019 / 9:27 am

        Been thinking about something like this happening for 30 years. With today’s powerful battery operated hand grinders (with a cutoff wheel) a haulrope can be cut in less than 30 seconds.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Kaden K (nedakalTNT) August 11, 2019 / 12:04 pm

      If you are glad somebody vandalized a gondola, I hope somebody burns your house down in the middle of the night.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Don Reple August 11, 2019 / 12:41 pm

      moderator needs to get this persons ip address. possible suspect.

      Liked by 6 people

    • RalfW August 17, 2019 / 12:26 pm

      This is the sort of brilliance we saw with the Vail daylodge being torched. It only wasted resources, since of course Vail rebuilt, meaning that more trees were harvested, more concrete poured, more diesel heavy equipment used to replace what was destroyed.
      Likewise, this idiocy will mean 33 cabins will be land filled, a new haul rope has to be made, and tons of fuel expended to deliver and install the replacement.
      Preserving wild and scenic places is of value. I am not familiar enough with the case to say what good or bad was involved in getting us here. But wanton destruction doesn’t advance conservancy, it just hardens the corporatists against environmentalists.


      • Donald Reif August 17, 2019 / 1:08 pm

        The arsonists at Vail were protesting the Blue Sky Basin expansion, and what happened? Well, Vail went through with it the very next year.


  8. Skiz August 11, 2019 / 9:46 am

    I dont know what my opinion is
    Before the gondola, the only people who could get up there were climbers who were dedicated enough and cared about the enviroment.
    Now, anyone can come up there and oftentimes will screw the area up with trash.

    The area used to be a place for animals to roam and now its not.

    Regardless though, it’s not right to vandalize anything for a reason like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TME August 11, 2019 / 10:04 am

      Skiz, you have hit one of two points here. There is a lot opposition to this and any other development in BC. Some of that is environmental (your point) but much is also economic. People are forced to give up things due to development and tourism (such as reasonable housing prices in the GVRD due to things like money from Asia and AirBnB) yet do not gain anything themselves. Basically the 99% argument – lots of people are angry.

      On top of this there is a ton of identity politics in Canada. I guess 80% chance this is related to ecological or first nations unhappiness stoked by such identity politics and maybe 20% to a disgruntled former employee or other stakeholder excluded from the benefits that person thought was due to them from this project. With the planning needed I doubt this was opportunistic.

      I fear it is not the last time something like this will happen in BC…


      • Collin Parsons August 11, 2019 / 10:12 am

        Wasn’t the first time this kind of eco terrorism happened, and won’t be the last. Three words: Earth Liberation Front


        • powderforever21 August 11, 2019 / 10:51 am

          A good example of this is when environmentalists burned the top terminal of the old high noon triple at vail.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Skiz August 11, 2019 / 12:28 pm

          They actually burned four lifts and a restaurant


    • Donald Reif August 11, 2019 / 7:43 pm

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen photos of the damage that was inflicted on High Noon. Sourdough got away with minimal damage, and I don’t think I’ve seen photos of what sort of damage was inflicted on the Mountaintop Express and Northwoods Express (must’ve been minor since the lifts did last another 15 and 19 years respectively before each got upgraded to a high speed six pack). On none of the Vail lifts did the fires manage to last long enough to damage the haul rope (especially considering how High Noon’s drive station had to be completely rebuilt).


  9. Matt August 12, 2019 / 1:31 pm

    One would think that the whiplash from cutting a fully tensioned haul rope would be enough to kill anyone close to it. (Similar to the accident in Switzerland earlier this year.) Too bad the vandal(s) didn’t get knocked off the tower.


  10. Radu Preduna August 12, 2019 / 1:33 pm

    vandalism or terrorism? this is the question… Let”s ask Trudeau and eventually “congrats” him


  11. Peter Landsman August 13, 2019 / 9:57 am

    I looked at some of the recovery times for recent lift disasters. They vary widely:

    – Alyeska Tramway crash closed December 31, 2012 – February 12, 2013 (43 days)
    – Marble Mountain lift fire closed August 9, 2014 – March 20, 2015 (223 days)
    – Tremblant lift fire closed October 12, 2014 – December 6, 2014 (55 days)
    – Bromont lift fire closed February 2, 2016 – February 27, 2016 (24 days)
    – Christchurch Adventure Park fire closed February 15, 2017 – December 5, 2017 (293 days)
    – Zugspitze Tramway crash closed September 12, 2018 – December 21, 2018 (100 days)
    – Sea to Sky Gondola sabotage closed August 9, 2019 – ?

    Average of those is 123 days.


    • Donald Reif August 13, 2019 / 1:36 pm

      It also is dependent on the scope of the damage. TGV’s closure at Tremblant was kept so short because they were able to use salvaged parts from the burned lift at Marble Mountain (including at least one chair) to replace damaged parts on TGV. The Marble Mountain lift’s fire was also more damaging because of where it happened, so in their case, Leitner-Poma had to completely replace the terminals, chairs and grips.


    • TME August 13, 2019 / 2:04 pm

      Adding to Donald’s comment, it also depends on the season. An incident in September has a push to get it running by the start of the ski season (in northern hemi). For S2S I do not suspect they are very busy after end of September until say April so pressure to repair may be a bit less (ie ‘cheaper to go slower than rush a fix with all the extra costs of things like air freight). Also, where is a spare cable? Are they actually in stock anywhere or are each made to spec? What is the lead time there? Is there maybe a cable already on a ship to the west coast for something like a cable replacement next spring that can be diverted to S2S? We do not know of course but all could impact repair time.


      • Peter Landsman August 13, 2019 / 4:04 pm

        Discussions probably going on behind the scenes:

        -How quickly can such a big new rope be sourced?
        -Is there an American or Canadian manufacturer that can produce such a rope to cut down on transit time?
        -Could a new rope from Europe be shipped by air? (It’s been done before with a 70 ton rope https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbgrNTZxg5s)
        -Are there enough undamaged cabins to reopen with lower capacity initially?
        -How quickly can new cabins/grips/hangers be produced?
        -Can cabins be shipped by air instead of by the usual ship?

        Despite the terrible circumstances, I’m certain the workers tasked with getting the gondola back up and running will find the work incredibly rewarding.


  12. AvocadoAndy August 16, 2019 / 6:11 pm

    If they’re replacing the full line of cabins, does this mean they’re gonna be sporting some brand new Omega Vs? That’d be pretty dope.


  13. MilanYVR September 2, 2019 / 12:43 am

    Everyone in squamish kind of hates the gondola. It took all the tourism away from the town.

    Many people think the person who cut it may of been an environmentalist, as before the gondola was built it was a giant untouched eco-system. The first nations people’s also did not approve of the project, as the chief provincial park next door is a pretty majestic and beautiful place

    Many people also suggested that this is just another cable cash grab all to common on the sea to sky highway. P2P, Grouse tram.

    I personally enjoyed going up the gondola, however i think i have to agree with the environmentalists and the first nations (squamish peoples) on this. It is also quite expensive and can get busyer the the grouse tram on weekends.


    • Donald Reif September 2, 2019 / 7:05 am

      If it was an environmentalist, then they just damaged their reputation because, as Ralfw nicely pointed out, “wanton destruction doesn’t advance conservancy, it just hardens the corporatists against environmentalists.” Also, I’m pretty sure the gondola is a good thing, no matter what the locals whine about. I’ve never been up there myself, but the views in Peter’s photos look quite lovvely.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s