News Roundup: Setbacks

snow-king-master-plan-jackson-wy
Snow King’s latest master plan concept abandons a lift east of Rafferty in favor of a south-facing lift.  The Summit double would be replaced with an 8-passenger gondola.

News Roundup: Oregon

News Roundup: Out of Commission

  • Leitner-Poma, Georgetown University, ZGF Architects host urban gondola forum with speakers from the Portland Aerial Tram and Medellín Metrocable, among others.
  • With one of three chairlifts out of commission, Big Tupper, NY is unlikely to open this winter.
  • 14-year old boy falls from the Emerald Express at Whistler.
  • Costa Rican officials and Doppelmayr Mexico sign letter of intent to build Central America’s first urban gondola.
  • $15 million Arthurs Seat Eagle debuts in Australia.
  • Brest Cable Car (shown above) shuts down after only two weeks of operation.
  • Nakiska’s sole summit access lift has been down since November 27th.
  • The latest D-Line chairlift installation Waidhofen is reportedly also the first in the world supplied with Doppelmayr Direct Drive (DDD.)
  • Loon Mountain restores a 1966 Hall Skycruiser gondola with help from Lutsen.
  • The Boston Globe Magazine explains how a non-skier in Fort Lauderdale came to run two of Vermont’s major ski resorts.
  • Grand Canyon Escalade legislation heads to the second of four Navajo Nation committees on Tuesday.
  • Granite Peak releases more details about its proposed lift and trail expansion.

News Roundup: Leitner

Grand Canyon Escalade Debate Heats Up

confluence escalade route
The proposed Grand Canyon Escalade would descend more than 3,000 vertical feet into the Grand Canyon.

This week could prove pivotal in the fight over the future of the Grand Canyon and the proposed gondola adjacent to one of America’s most treasured National Parks.  On Monday, a member of the Navajo Nation formally submitted legislation to authorize $65 million for construction of a road to the site and infrastructure for the Escalade near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers.  Confluence Partners LLC, a non-Navajo corporation based in Scottsdale, proposes a 1.4 mile gondola and related facilities to be located entirely on Navajo land but within a quarter mile of Grand Canyon National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Escalade idea is nothing new.  Confluence Partners has wanted to build a gondola from the canyon rim to the bank of the Colorado for years.  Under the proposed arrangement, the company will give the tribe between 8 and 18 percent of the Escalade’s revenue depending on ridership.  In addition to the gondola, the Escalade site plan includes a hotel, elevated river walk, amphitheater, restaurants and a gift shop.  Most of the 420-acre development would be on the canyon rim with the gondola connecting to a smaller complex 3,000 feet below along the Colorado.  The gondola could carry up to 10,000 passengers per day to the bottom of the canyon that today can only be reached by foot, boat, mule or helicopter. Confluence Partners says it will create 3,500 jobs on a reservation that suffers from 44 percent unemployment.  The jobs number sounds extremely optimistic to me.

Conceptual-Riverwalk-Restaurant-Plan_V2
Riverwalk and lower gondola station site plan.

Under Navajo Nation law, a five-day public comment period lasts through Saturday and then the 23 members of the Navajo Council will vote on the bill.  For comparison, public comment periods for ski area master plans in National Forests last 30 days.  The President of the Nation has vowed to veto the Escalade bill but that could be over-ridden by a two-thirds majority, creating a mad dash by groups on both sides attempting to sway undecided members of the council.

The Grand Canyon Trust, American Rivers, Save the Confluence and others are circulating petitions this week and soliciting public comments to send to the tribe.  There’s no question the gondola is technically feasible and would provide a unique experience.  Whether such a development is appropriate for this particular location is an entirely different question.  You can tell the Navajo Nation what you think by emailing comments@navajo-nsn.gov by 5:00 pm Saturday, September 3rd.