Jasper SkyTram Proposes Gondola Replacement


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.

The current stations are neither wheelchair accessible nor capable of handling demand on peak days.

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 redevelopment@jasperskytram.com.

News Roundup: Fighting

  • The first of many Omega 10 passenger gondola cabins is spotted at Walt Disney World.
  • Saddleback Mountain Foundation plans to make a second offer for Maine’s third largest ski area, which has been closed for nearly three years.
  • Santiago, Chile awards the contract for an $80 million, four station urban gondola to Doppelmayr.
  • The first indoor ski area in the Western Hemisphere plans to open March 1, 2019 with a Doppelmayr CTEC quad chair and platter that were installed back in 2008.
  • A gondola is one option being considered to improve mobility in Little Cottonwood Canyon, home to Alta, Snowbird and lots of traffic.
  • A Basin’s Al Henceroth updates us on Norway’s removal and hints more lift changes may be in store for Lenawee Mountain.
  • Members of Congress from four states pen a letter to the Forest Service asking for Arizona Snowbowl to be reopened or further explanation given as to why its extended closure is necessary.
  • Doppelmayr scores another project in Canada – a $1.8 million fixed-grip quad with loading carpet at Sugarloaf, New Brunswick.
  • Rope evacuating 20-25 mountain bikers turns into a four hour affair at Marquette Mountain.
  • Ikon Pass destination number 27 is Thredbo, Australia.
  • Jumbo Glacier Resort is fighting to reinstate its construction permit.
  • A spokesman for the new owners of Maple Valley, Vermont says reopening for skiing is a long term goal that could take many years to accomplish.
  • Loveland seeks a good name for the new Lift 1.
  • Loon Mountain is buying brand new CWA Omega cabins for its gondola this fall.
  • Tremblant says goodbye to the Lowell Thomas triple, making way for a detachable quad.
  • The first Hermitage Club property auction yields a $1.2 million winning bid. “There will be more of these coming up,” says the Windham County Sheriff.
  • A breakdown at the Jasper SkyTram leads to an 18 hour helicopter evacuation of 160 guests.

Top Ten Steepest Lifts in North America

Below is a list of the top ten steepest lifts in the US and Canada.  I calculated these using a ratio of slope length to vertical rise using data from the manufacturers. To give you some perspective, Snowbasin’s tram has the lowest ratio at 1.11 while Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak has the highest ratio at 120.  The average lift is 4.65, meaning 4.65 feet of length to rise one vertical foot, on average.  Only three of the top ten are chairlifts and only five serve ski-able terrain.

Snowbasin's Mt. Allen Tram, built for the 2002 Olympics, is the steepest lift in North America.
Snowbasin’s Mt. Allen Tram, built for the 2002 Olympics, is the steepest lift in North America.

1. Mt. Allen Tram, Snowbasin, Utah – 1998 Doppelmayr 15-passenger tramway

1,165′ slope length x 1,047′ vertical rise = 1.11 length to vertical ratio

edit: Ski Area Management’s lift construction survey had the incorrect vertical for this lift.  It is actually 510′ making the Mt. Allen Tram about half as steep as posted above.

2. Mt. Roberts Tram, Juneau, Alaska – 1996 Poma 60-passenger tramway

3,098′ slope length x 1,746′ vertical rise = 1.77 length to vertical ratio

3. Lone Peak Tram, Big Sky Resort, Montana – 1995 Doppelmayr 15-passenger tramway

2,828′ slope length x 1,450′ vertical rise = 1.95 length to vertical ratio

4. Sulphur Mountain Gondola, Banff, Alberta – 1959 Bell 4-passenger bi-cable gondola

4,498′ slope length x 2,292′ vertical rise = 1.96 length to vertical ratio

5. Honeycomb Return, Solitude Mountain Resort, Utah – 2002 Doppelmayr CTEC quad

1,300′ slope length x 655′ vertical rise = 1.98 length to vertical ratio

Continue reading