Helicopters at Steamboat Resort are helping prepare for Wild Blue Gondola
Additional work continues on the mountain at Greenhorn Ranch
Over the past week there has been frequent helicopter activity at Steamboat Resort as the second phase of Full Steam Ahead, a multi-year, $200 million dollar capital investment project, is in full swing.
This round of helicopters has been clearing logs to make way for the second leg of the Wild Blue Gondola, which will be completed next winter.
“We expect this round of helicopter work to last through July,” said Loryn Duke, director of communications at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. in an email. “But there are a lot of factors that don’t allow for a specific timeline, weather being the biggest.”
The helicopter is expected to start work around 6 a.m. and continue working through the late afternoon, depending on weather.
As a result of the activity, multi-use trails on resort will see closures, detours and delays.
Updates about impacted areas will be posted at fullsteamahead.steamboat.com/helicopter-activity-impacts.
Wild Blue Gondola
Heavy equipment has spent the spring clearing the base area and large swaths of trees up on the mountain to make way for the Wild Blue Gondola. The first leg of the gondola is slated to open for the 2022-23 winter season, stretching from Steamboat Square and the base area to Greenhorn Ranch, the new beginner area located near Bashor Bowl.
That leg of the gondola will be about a five minute ride, increasing uphill capacity out of the base area from 6,000 people per hour to about 10,000.
“People who have historically been stuck in the base area, can now get on the mountain, and what we mean by that is beginners,” Duke said. “Normally if you’re going to learn how to ski or snowboard, you are stuck in the base area because you can’t get on a chairlift and the gondolas go too far up on the mountain. … The way to get people to fall in love with our sport is to fully immerse them in the mountains. Having a beginners area that’s on the mountain, in the mountains, then they’re not just learning a sport, they’re inspired.”
It also allows for spectators to travel up the mountain to watch their relatives learn how to ski, even if they’re just wearing shoes. That helps maintain Steamboat’s identity as a family-friendly resort while getting crowds out of the base area, which will be a far more pleasant place to spend time thanks to additional renovations at Steamboat Square.
In order to make room for the Wild Blue gondola loading area, Christy Peak Express terminal was shifted, while Preview lift, the mountain coaster and mini golf course were removed.
Greenhorn will eventually serve as the midstation, as the ride continues to the top of Sunshine Peak.
When completed, Wild Blue will be the longest, fastest 10-person gondola in North America, spanning 3.16 miles in 13 minutes.
Greenhorn Ranch, located at the area formerly known as Rough Rider Basin, will serve as the beginner’s learning area.
Work began in 2021 as crews cleared and graded the terrain which will serve as the centerpiece for the new learning experience at Steamboat Resort. Crews continue to work in the area this summer in preparation of an opening in the winter.
“Greenhorn Ranch is going to be terrain-based learning,” Duke said. “What this means is we’re going to use the snow and the dirt and that elevation to create an experience where we’re not working against the hill, or forcing people to go down the hill, we’re actually using the terrain to get the sensation of, ‘This is how your skis go. This is how your snowboard should go.’ It’s a really cool concept.”
Duke equates the terrain to a flow trail, in which the trail guides what direction you’re traveling and helps create speed.
Beginners will access the area via Wild Blue Gondola, but once there, will get around using four magic carpets. Some will be recycled from previous locations at Steamboat Resort, however, two will be new.
Those two will be side by side, with a median in the middle, and will be covered by a bubble.
“It’ll be long, it’ll be a good way to learn, it’ll be weather protected,” Duke said. “The bubble part is what’s really cool.”
Additionally, there will be a new quad in that area as well to help learn how to ride a lift and access different terrain.
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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