The operator of Canada’s oldest aerial tramway is looking to the future in the form of a major redevelopment and eight passenger gondola. The Jasper SkyTram opened in 1964 and currently carries 30 riders at a time up Whistlers Mountain from March through October. Built by Pohlig-Heckel-Bleichert of Germany, the tram is approaching the end of its operational and economical life with facilities that no longer meet visitor expectations.
A replacement gondola could run in a more environmentally and geologically sound alignment with all new terminal and tower locations. The bottom station would sit along the Icefields Parkway at significantly lower elevation than the current base. Shortly after departing the valley, gondolas would make a sweeping turn and eventually reach a top terminal with a modern interpretive center, restaurants, trails and barrier-free views. The lift would become one of Canada’s largest, rising nearly 4,000 vertical feet over 2.75 miles. The retired access road, stations and tower locations would be allowed to return to a natural state. New terminals would be accessible for visitors of all abilities and the project would include additional parking, transit and bicycle facilities.
I know first hand the limitations of aerial tramways for today’s visitors and Jasper is not the first location to consider alternatives. Heavenly’s scenic aerial tram was effectively replaced by a gondola in 2000 and Grouse Mountain is considering making a similar move. Gondolas are both comfortable and efficient, offering guests their own cabins and secure seating. Under the proposal, lift capacity would increase from 200 per hour to 950 with less waiting and no need for standing in crowded cars. Gondola technology would also enable year round operation.
The concept is just that and no decisions have been made. The SkyTram Partnership and Parks Canada are seeking public feedback, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.