Giant on the mountain: 240-ton crane installs gondola towers at Steamboat Resort (with video)

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

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A crane has installed four towers this week near the base of Mount Werner as a new gondola takes shape at Steamboat Resort. 

Some complications prevented the installation of a fifth tower, but the overall project is still running on schedule, according to Dave Hunter, vice president of mountain operations at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

Further construction, including the installation of the rest of the gondola towers, may lead to some trail closures on the mountain in the coming weeks. 

Maneuvering a 240-ton crane up a ski mountain is no simple task. Hunter said preparation becomes paramount, involving careful route selection to determine where the crane and support equipment can travel. 

The towers arrive in two pieces, and a machine — either a truck, 18-wheeler or a “glorified forklift” — assists in bringing the assemblage to the installation site, according to Hunter.  

As the crane operator was driving to the third tower earlier in the week, he realized the road was too narrow for such large equipment to pass through, Hunter said. Construction crews found a way to work around the problem, scheduling a smaller crane to install the third tower Tuesday, July 9. 

“You’re using big equipment a lot, so you’re always ready to adapt,” Hunter said.

He added that such flexibility has been necessary to keep construction on schedule amid June snow storms and muddy conditions.

Fortunately for workers, the new gondola has just 26 towers to install, as opposed to the old lift, which had 31. 

A Black Hawk helicopter will assist in transporting and installing the remainder of the towers, Hunter said, except for the two uppermost towers, which also will be assembled using a crane. The helicopter will be on the mountain in mid-July to lay a concrete foundation for each of the upper towers, returning for a final time to put the pieces in place.

As the project progresses, certain parts of the ski area may experience temporary closures, according to Loryn Kasten, the resort’s director of communications. These mostly will impact the multi-use trails around the gondola and should not affect base area activities like the Outlaw Mountain Coaster and climbing wall. 

“Our crews are working diligently to proceed with the gondola project but to minimize the impact on the guests,” Kasten said. 

Officials say the new Doppelmayr gondola will be operational in time for the opening day of the upcoming winter season. They claim the gondola will improve operations at the resort, with a ride time of about 10 minutes, as opposed to the 12 minutes people typically spent riding up the gondola last winter.

The public can stay up to date on projects around the mountain, including the progress of the new gondola and any closures, on the resort’s website

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

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