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.

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News Roundup: Tallying

  • Just in time for summer, the Sea to Sky Gondola welcomes ten more cabins to the line, increasing capacity by 50 percent.
  • The Idaho Springs, Colorado city council may vote Monday on rezoning for a proposed 17 tower, 27 cabin gondola lift.
  • Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes explains his reorganization plan but for now, a receiver remains in place.
  • Snowshoe is purportedly planning to replace Powder Monkey with a fixed grip quad next summer.
  • Although it doesn’t build lifts in the United States, Bartholet has built some very slick machines lately.
  • The Indy Pass grows to 28 resorts.
  • A rocket from Syria damages a ski lift at Israel’s Mt. Hermon, where a Leitner gondola is also currently under construction.
  • Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz launches a podcast with a great first episode about the Park City acquisition.
  • The City of Steamboat is still weighing options for bringing in a private operator and/or replacing Barrows at Howelsen Hill.
  • California Express notches another approval but litigation could be coming.
  • Vail Resorts reports a great quarter: skier visits up 14.3 percent and lift revenue up 16.4 percent with season pass sales for next year trending up 9 percent and 13 percent in units and dollars.  “We are still absolutely aggressive on looking for additional resorts that we think add to our network and make the experience that we provide our guests better,” says Rob Katz on the quarterly conference call.
  • Quebec tallied 4.6 million skier visits last winter, a ten year high for a province with three new chairlifts already under construction for next year.
  • New Hampshire resorts logged 100,000 more skier days than 2017-18.
  • Colorado is king with 13.1 million estimated skier visits, a new record.
  • This was supposed to be the summer the town of Grafton, Illinois celebrated a new gondola.  Instead, 2019 will be remembered for the flooding that has thrown a wrench in its construction.
  • Teo II is approved but has no timeline for construction yet.

News Roundup: A Long Time Coming

Instagram Tuesday: Deep

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Instagram Tuesday: Breakover

Every Tuesday, we feature our favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

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Cloud hopping // 🇨🇭// #switzerland

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Instagram Tuesday: CWA Omega

Every Tuesday, we pick our favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

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Instagram Tuesday: Springtime

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Instagram Tuesday: Evac Practice

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Lift Profile: Sea to Sky Gondola

I got a chance to check out the Sea to Sky Gondola during its first few months of operation last summer.  It’s located along the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler.  The system is just over 7,000 feet long and goes from a parking lot at sea level to a lodge 3,000 feet above.  There are 20 CWA 8-passenger cabins that take riders to the top in 7.1 minutes.  The summit lodge has expansive views of Howe Sound in addition to hiking trails and snow tubing in the winter.  The project cost $22 million to build and is owned by a small group of private partners.

The bottom terminal has a unique wooden roof over it.  No snow to worry about here.
The bottom terminal has a unique wooden roof over it. No snow to worry about here.

Doppelmayr began building the gondola in April 2013 and it passed its acceptance test in January 2014.  The bottom drive terminal has a unique wooden structure over it instead of the normal Uni-G terminal.  The lower section climbs an 800 foot cliff and none of the lift line is accessible by road.  Many of the 14 towers were anchored directly to bedrock.  Most trees under the line were left standing which would make for a challenging evacuation.

The first 3 towers have a combined 80 sheaves.
The first 3 towers have a combined 80 sheaves.

The gondola had a major accident on February 4th, 2014.  At the time it was only open for construction workers and the media.  The system stopped automatically around 8:30 am due to two rope position faults at tower 7.  The only personnel on-site were two operators, the Mountain Manager and an employee from Doppelmayr.  It took the Doppelmayr employee almost two hours to reach tower 7 on foot where he found a cabin on the ground.

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