All gondola towers are up at Steamboat Resort; next comes the haul rope

Crews from Doppelmayr wait for the cross arm to be moved into position by a crane while placing one of the new gondola lift towers at the base of the Steamboat Resort in July.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After a summer of heavy construction, workers last weekend installed the remaining two towers supporting Steamboat Resort’s new gondola. 

The lift, which officials expect to be operational by the start of the upcoming ski season, will increase capacity and shuttle guests up the mountain two minutes faster than the old one.

Erecting hundreds of tons of metal on the side of a mountain is no simple feat. The effort has required the brawn of military helicopters, a 240-ton crane and meticulous planning, according to Dave Hunter, vice president of mountain operations at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

For the second time this month, a retired Army Black Hawk chopper carried the pieces of the towers — which weigh thousands of pounds — and lowered them to crews from Doppelmayr, who bolted them into place.

“Our original intention was to use a crane,” said Hunter, but the weight of the tower components would have required a larger crane than could travel that far up the slope. 

With all of the towers now in place, the next step is to bring power to the gondola. To that end, crews on Tuesday installed a large transformer in the upper terminal. The haul rope also needs to be put in place, which carries the gondola cabins up and down the mountain. 

Those cabins will arrive Friday, Aug. 16, according to Hunter, but it will be several weeks before they are ready to attach to the haul rope. 

According to Hunter, construction has remained on schedule, a feat he attributes to the preparation he and officials did in the spring.

“We were living each piece of this project as if we were out there doing it,” he said. 

Looking to next winter, Hunter said the new lift will provide a “dramatically better experience” for skiers and riders heading up the mountain.

The new gondola will have the potential to shuttle 3,600 people per hour, compared to the old gondola, which could transport 2,600 people per hour. 

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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