When the Utah Department of Transportation unveiled three Little Cottonwood Canyon mobility alternatives, many Utahns were pleased to see a gondola included. However, two criticisms emerged: a lack of on-site parking at the bottom terminal and a low hourly capacity of 1,050 passengers per direction. A new proposal by a private landowner and developer seeks to address both of those issues by requesting UDOT amend the location of the bottom terminal to a 37.5 acre site adjacent to Highway 210. The alternative base station would be located near the LaCaille estate, seven tenths of a mile from the mouth of the canyon. The requested amendment to the current gondola plan would provide enough room for a public parking garage as well as transit center for bus riders to transfer directly to the ropeway.
Chris McCandless is the former Sandy City Councilman behind the proposal along with Wayne Niederhauser, a former Utah State Senator. Their company, CW Management, owns the site and plans to develop it but is willing to preserve the land needed for use as a gondola station if UDOT approves of this new option. If the gondola loads there, a non-loading angle station would be required in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon to avoid the alignment passing over designated wilderness. A second angle station at Tanners Flat, like in UDOT’s alternative, would also be included. Cabins would slow down just enough to make turns at these stations and gondola doors would stay closed.
CW Management consulted with Salt Lake-based Doppelmayr USA, which confirmed such a gondola is feasible. McCandless envisions an up to 4,000 passenger per hour 3S travelling at a speed of 8.5 meters a second. The Department of Transportation planned cabins arriving only once every two minutes, diverting only 30 percent of skiers out of private cars. Under the LaCaille vision, cabins would arrive every 30 seconds and divert up to 10,000 people off the highway during a peak three hour period. Ride time would be 27 minutes to the Snowbird Center with no need to ride a shuttle bus. The four 3S segments would range in length from 6,700 feet to 17,550 feet with cabins transferring seamlessly between multiple haul rope loops. As an alternative to the larger 3S gondola travelling to Alta, a second gondola, probably a monocable or 2S design, could connect Snowbird to Alta.
Some big players have already expressed support for a Little Cottonwood gondola and further study of the alternate CW Management proposal, including Alta Ski Area, Snowbird Resort and Doppelmayr. Snowbird notes that if a gondola is successfully designed and implemented, the company would consider placing additional private land it owns in the canyon under permanent conservation.
Between crush loads of cars, large avalanches and frequent collisions, Utah State Route 210 can be a nightmare in winter. The 13.5 mile road connects the Salt Lake Valley to Little Cottonwood Canyon’s legendary Alta and Snowbird resorts. Utah’s Department of Transportation is currently studying ways to improve mobility in and out of the canyon with a focus on peak winter demand. Starting with 105 possibilities, the DOT last week narrowed its focus to three options: enhanced bus service, bus service combined with road widening and a hybrid bus/gondola option.
Stretching more than eight miles, the gondola would be among the longest in the world with more stations than any 3S system built to date. A tricable design was chosen for its ideal balance of speed, capacity and tower spacing. The lift would begin at the bottom of LCC, pass through an angle station at Tanners Flat and arrive at Snowbird 24 minutes later. Another 10 minute hop would link the eastern terminus at Alta Ski Area. The premise of the gondola is not to replace the road but rather divert a portion of trips to the air. This would be the second lowest capacity 3S ever built with thirty 30 passenger cabins arriving at stations every two minutes. A modest capacity would help manage costs and allow for towers spaced thousands of feet apart.
The Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola could operate in winds up to 68 miles per hour and strategically placed towers could keep it running when snow slides and crashes close the road. Guests and employees would enjoy an aerial journey through the canyon unlike anything in the United States. The system would cost $393 million, $77 million less than road widening but $110 million more than an enhanced bus solution. The gondola itself would run $240 million while the other $153 million is associated infrastructure such as parking and tolling. The aerial option would cost the least to operate, just $4.5 million per year versus $6.2-9 million annually for the bus options.
Teams from Mt. Hood Meadows have repaired and re-opened the Shooting Star Express that was damaged by falling trees over Thanksgiving. Now the storm recovery turns to the Mt. Hood Express, which received ten feet of snow in one week.
White Pass has more snow than it did at anytime last winter but no one can get there. Crews have been working around the clock to repair washouts that cut off the resort from both sides of the Cascades Dec. 9th. The ski area will re-open Wednesday.
The Berry family says it’s close to a deal to sell Saddleback to a new owner that hopes to open by late January. Passholders can get a refund or gift card now.
Aspen’s 1971 SLI double on Shadow Mountain will be replaced with a detachable quad or gondola in 2016 or ’17. The top terminal will move 200 feet to the southwest resulting in a slope length of 3,600′ with 1,390′ vertical and a capacity of 1,200 skiers per hour.
Park City and Canyons are now one thanks to the Quicksilver Gondola but judging by snow conditions it’s going to be awhile before you can ski between the two.
Its been six weeks since the Berry family, owners of Saddleback, Maine, said they would close the resort if they could not find financing to order a new lift by August 1st. Regardless of the outcome, this has been a PR disaster with a desperate announcement and then silence. Not a good sign when the general manager refuses to talk to the state’s largest newspaper. My take: despite the bluff they will find a way to open.
Ligonier Construction awarded $4.6 million contract to re-build the State of Pennsylvania’s Laurel Mountain Ski Area. The project includes a new quad chairlift but I could not find a lift manufacturer identified in the bid documents. Nearby Seven Springs Mountain Resort will operate the ski area on behalf of the state.
Not one but four 15-passenger gondolas proposed to link a cruise terminal with George Town in the Caribbean’s Cayman Islands. I’m thinking even that won’t be enough when Royal Caribbean’s newest ship shows up with 6,000 passengers tired of being on a ship with 6,000 passengers.
“No one has contributed more to the task of transporting skiers and snowboarders up the ski mountains of the United States than Jan Leonard,” said the President of the NSAA in the Salt Lake Tribune’s obituary. Services will be held tomorrow.
A “3S” is a detachable gondola with two track ropes and one haul rope. It combines the speed and stability of a tram with the capacity of a gondola. Cabins generally hold about 30 passengers. 3S systems can move up to 4,500 passengers per hour at up to 8.5 meters per second. They can withstand high winds and traverse long spans between towers. These highly capable lifts are also expensive. Only 12 3S gondolas have been built. Perhaps the most famous of them, Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak, cost $51 million!
The 3S was developed by VonRoll of Switzerland. The first one to open was the Alpin Express at Saas-Fee in 1991. A second section opened in 1994. When Doppelmayr merged with VonRoll in 1996, they inherited the 3S technology. Doppelmayr built its first 3S in 2002 at Val d’Isere, France. Called L’Olympique, it accesses the famous ski area of Escape Killy.
Kitzbuhel, Austria opened the 3S Bahn in 2004. It connects two ski areas across a valley with an 8,200 foot-long unsupported span. Four years later, Doppelmayr connected Whistler and Blackcomb with the Peak 2 Peak, featuring an even longer unsupported span of 1.88 miles. Peak 2 Peak’s highest point above ground is an incredible 1,427 feet. It remains the only 3S gondola outside of Europe.
Leitner got into the 3S business in 2009 with a system in northern Italy. The towns of Renon and Ritten were connected by a 2.8 mile-long 3S. This was the first 3S built outside of a ski resort. Another urban 3S was built across the Rhine River in Koblenz, Germany in 2010. This Doppelmayr system moves 3,800 passengers per hour in each direction. Also in 2010, Doppelmayr built the Gaislachkogl 2 at Solden, Austria.