Cabins for new gondola arrive at Steamboat Resort — and they have Wi-Fi

A fleet of 48 cabins sit in the grass at Steamboat Resort as workers prepare to load them on the new gondola. The new cabins will offer Wi-Fi and make it easier for people to get on and off the lift.
Larry Pierce

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — You are now free to move about the cabin. And check your Instagram.

A fleet of 48 new cabins, which will transport guests up and down Mount Werner, arrived at Steamboat Resort last week as crews continue work on a new gondola.

Maren Franciosi, digital communications manager for the resort, said all of the cabins will offer Wi-Fi to passengers as they make the 10-minute ride up the mountain two minutes faster than the previous gondola.  

They also will travel flush with the ground during pick-up and drop-off, according to Franciosi, making it easier for guests to get on and off.

The remaining 89 cabins are in transit from a company in Switzerland, which specializes in making such enclosures for resorts and public transportation systems. 

Until their arrival, construction crews are busy installing the equipment that will power and secure the cabins to the lift, such as the bullwheel and haul rope.

“The last 10 days have been filled with a lot of deliveries,” said Dave Hunter, vice president of mountain operations at the resort. 

Crews currently are assembling the hangars that, along with a grip device, attach the cabins to the haul rope, which acts as a pulley.

The haul rope moves around two large, disc-shaped devices called bullwheels. One is located at the lower terminal at the base area, and the other is at the top of the gondola. The latter is connected to the drive shaft and gear box and acts as the primary force moving the haul rope. 

The upper bullwheel, which weighs more than 7 tons, also arrived last week.

“It’s very large and very heavy,” Hunter said. “To get that into the terminal was a very intricate job.”

It was a feat crews accomplished days after the bullwheel arrived. 

To accomplish the task, workers used two cranes, one at each gondola terminal. The lower crane at the base area loaded the bullwheel onto a truck for transport up the mountain. Outside the upper terminal, another crane hoisted the wheel off the truck and onto what Hunter called a “railroad tracks with wheels.” 

Crews then pushed the bullwheel into the terminal and raised it to its final resting place near the ceiling, above the space where the cabins will move on their way back down the mountain. 

“All of these things will lead to the next big thing: installation and splicing of the haul rope,” Hunter said. 

He described the splicing of the rope, more than 3.4 miles long, as a sort of marriage that connects one end of the rope to the other. It is a delicate, painstaking process that involves separating the strands of compacted, galvanized steel and interweaving them with the strands at the opposite end. 

According to Hunter, very few people in the world are qualified to do the job. The resort hired the Knight Equipment Company, based out of Missouri. J.D. Knight, who spliced the haul rope of Steamboat’s old gondola in 2007, owns the company. 

Hunter expects the rope to be spliced and ready for installation by the end of the month.

With heavy construction continuing for the foreseeable future, he also advises people to be safe around equipment and machines. 

Thunderhead Lodge at the top of the gondola remains closed, but the public still can access the multi-use trails around the mountain, according to the resort’s website. People can stay up to date on projects at the resort, including the progress of the new gondola and any closures, on that website

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

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