Towers for the first leg of Steamboat Resort’s new gondola are in
New Wild Blue gondola will open between the base and new beginner’s area this winter
A helicopter again roamed the skies above Steamboat Resort on Sunday, Aug. 7, as crews installed four more towers for what will eventually become the longest and fastest 10-person gondola in North America.
Foundations for the Wild Blue gondola towers had been previously installed in a line that will stretch from the base of the ski area up to the resort’s new beginner terrain, Greenhorn Ranch.
Piece by piece, the helicopter picked up sections of the towers near Christie Peak and flew them to where teams were stationed ready to assemble them. Most had two long cables that workers used to guide each section into place. Once positioned, crews fastened the pieces down while the helicopter hovered in place.
Each section required the helicopter to hover for about five minutes while the pilot looked down at the dozen workers hurrying to fasten the tower in place.
The towers installed Sunday are the last four in the first leg of the Wild Blue gondola before it reaches the new mid-station, which will be ready for this winter.
“That out-of-base capacity is huge,” said Maren Franciosi, communications manager for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. “With the addition of a second gondola, we’re going from 6,000 people per hour to 10,000.”
This work is part of a flurry of activity on and around Mount Werner for the second phase of Full Steam Ahead, a multi-year project featuring more than $200 million in planned improvements at the resort. The project started last year with relocating the Steamboat Gondola terminal and demolishing the previous building.
The lower terminal of Christie Peak Express Chairlift — which needed to be moved to accommodate the new Wild Blue gondola — will get set into position later this week. Right next to that, construction on the terminal for the new gondola is well underway.
In Steamboat Square, a new stage has been built over the past few weeks, and much of the remaining work involves staining the wood structure, Franciosi said. The new Range Food and Drink Hall is going up as well, with roof and framing work happening currently. That is expected to be ready by February.
The new ice rink — named Skeeter’s Rink after a nickname for Gladys Werner, Bud Werner’s older sister who organized the resort’s first ski school in 1962 — is also taking shape, as the concrete oval was recently poured, Franciosi said. This area will eventually double as a park in the summertime.
The increased base capacity, relocating and expanding the resort’s beginner terrain and adding more options for skiers and non-skiers alike at the base area all aim to relieve congestion, Franciosi said.
When the resort opens this winter, the lower half of the new gondola will bring people to the Greenhorn Ranch area, which hopes to offer newcomers “a dedicated world-class learning area” with four magic carpets and a new chairlift. This area will have slopes at a variety of angles and will feature “terrain-based learning.”
“There will be snow that is groomed and designed for people to learn the feeling of turning,” Franciosi said. “The way the snow is groomed, there will actually be some features that beginners will be going through that will give them that sensation and help them to learn to start doing it on their own.”
The second leg of the new gondola going atop Sunshine Peak will be put in next year, and the route for it has already been cut through the trees. Much of the helicopter work that took place last month was logging for the lift line.
That work also included cutting the boundary trail for the resort’s Pioneer Ridge and Fish Creek Canyon expansion, which will open in November 2023, as well as cutting the lift line for a new chairlift in that area.
Franciosi said they will continue to post information on its website, FullSteamAhead.Steamboat.com, with updates about the ongoing work for the rest of this year and into the future.
“We have timelines being finalized of when everything is opening,” Franciosi said. “But everything is moving forward as expected.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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