Public gondola planned for 2009 |

Public gondola planned for 2009

Wildhorse project moving forward

— The developers of Wildhorse Meadows have formalized plans to link their multi-phase residential project with the base of Steamboat Ski Area via a new gondola.

Resort Ventures West President David Hill announced last week that Wildhorse Meadows has entered into an agreement with Leitner-Poma to engineer the public gondola that will ferry passengers from the new Trailhead Lodge to an upper terminal near the ski area’s gondola building.

“The gondola will come in two phases,” Hill said. “You’ve got to design it and then final price it.”

Resort Ventures West Vice President Brent Pearson said his company has provided Leitner-Poma with a $3 million letter of credit that assures owners in the development that the gondola will be completed.

Leitner-Poma also is building the ski area’s new Christy Peak Express chairlift. The company has a manufacturing plant in Grand Junction.

Construction on the Wildhorse gondola will begin next summer, but it will not be ready to carry passengers until the beginning of the 2009-10 ski season. Completion of the gondola must be timed with the construction of another project under separate ownership because its upper terminal will be located in a public plaza that will be part of the One Steamboat Place resort-style development.

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“Initially, we’ll do the bottom terminal and the towers in Wildhorse Meadows and perhaps the towers on the knoll,” across Mount Werner Circle, Hill said. “The upper terminal can’t be built until the parking structure for One Steamboat Place is built. The city has to sign off on the plaza area for the gondola to be ready.”

Construction that takes place next summer will help to ensure completion of the gondola in time for the winter of 2009-10, Hill said.

“If all we have to do (the second summer) is that upper terminal, that’s great,” he said.

When the complex process is complete, it will dramatically change the appearance of the lower ski base, with groups of enclosed gondola cars rising out of a new resort village and spanning a public street on their way to the lifts that take skiers to the slopes.

“It’s a public lift,” Hill said. “But it will not handle the (passengers generated by) the whole Meadows Parking Lot. It’s not designed for that.”

Hill said ski area surveys reflect that the skiing public enjoys the convenience of having its shuttles meet them at their car in the parking lot. Members of the general public on foot in the Wildhorse plaza, or pedestrians wishing to travel to the lower ski base, are welcome to ride the gondola.

The new Wildhorse gondola will be distinctly different from the ski area’s gondola, which features cabins that detach from the haul cable as they come through the terminals.

Wildhorse’s “fixed-grip pulse gondola” will have four groups of three cabins, each cabin accommodating six people. Each group of three cabins will leave the terminals in a pulse and then slow down upon arriving at the next terminal. The two groups of cabins at the midway point when others reach the terminal also will slow down because they are fixed to the haul cable.

The gondola will travel at 1,000 feet per minute and produce trip times of about 4 minutes, 30 seconds, Hill said. A detachable gondola might make the same trip in 2 minutes, 30 seconds, he added.

– To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

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