Powder days are coming to Colorado, and when they get here, you're going to want to get as many laps as possible between first chair and last. One Colorado ski resort will cutting down on chairlift times this winter when it unveils the longest, fastest 10-person gondola in North America.
The finishing touches are being put on Steamboat Resort's Wild Blue Gondola, part of a $200 million improvement project, hoping to time its launch with opening day on November 22. The gondola will whizz skiers and riders from the base of the resort at 6,900 ft to Sunshine Peak at 10,384 ft – that's 3.16 miles in distance – barely enough time to bother taking your ski gloves off.
The gondola, affectionately known as "the monster," is so big that it's been built in two phases. According to reporting in the Steamboat Pilot & Daily, the lower section opened in December and ferried skiers about half way up the mountain all season, and engineers and employees from the resort and Doppelmayr USA have been working on the upper section all summer. A month ago, a team of six specialists from Switzerland traveled to Steamboat Springs to oversee the splicing process which connected the cable of the lower and upper sections.
“There is no other lift in the U.S. that has this kind of capacity and payload,” says Doppelmayr engineer Peter Wiedemann.
On September 27, the resort finally sent the first gondola cabin up to the top of the mountain on a test run, officially launching a machine that operates using the largest gondola motor in the world, weighing 68,000 lbs. The tallest lift tower is 98 ft, the longest distance between towers reaches almost 1,200 ft and the upper section cable weighs 250,000 lbs, which is more than a Boeing 757. Basically, this thing is an absolute beast. And if it goes down on a powder day? It has three massive backup generators made by Rolls-Royce with 2,800 horsepower.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.