VAIL, Colorado - Vail Mountain will begin construction on a new gondola in Vail Village the day after the ski season ends.
Construction will begin April 16, and the gondola will be operational for opening day of the 2012-13 ski and snowboard season Nov. 16, just in time to celebrate Vail's 50th anniversary.
"The new gondola will be a tremendous addition to the guest experience in Vail, adding significant improvements in comfort, capacity and ride time for skiers and snowboarders out of Vail Village," said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. "I can't think of a better way to kick off Vail's 50th anniversary than with a new, state-of-the-art gondola in the same location where the very first Gondola One was built in 1962."
The new gondola will be the first of its kind in North America and with a speed of 1,200 feet per minute, it will be the fastest gondola of its type in the world, creating a 40 percent increase in uphill capacity. The silver gondola cabins, designed by French manufacturer Sigma, will carry 10 passengers each and will feature heated, black cushioned seats and Wi-Fi for guests. The new gondola will replace the existing Vista Bahn Express Lift and reduce the ride time from 9 minutes to 7.5 minutes.
The alignment of the new gondola will be similar to the Vista Bahn. The terminal design will match that of the High Noon Express Lift, featuring tinted windows and a bronze shaded roof, blue paneling and a wood lift house with rock and stained cedar siding. The gondola will allow for easier guest access at the base, a more functional interface with the Look Ma level of Mid-Vail and an easier downloading location from the top.
More than 50 percent of the lift will be manufactured in the United States at Leitner-Poma's Grand Junction plant while other portions will be constructed in Europe.
The majority of the Vista Bahn, which the gondola will replace, will be recycled and some components will be kept at Vail Mountain as well as at some of Vail Resorts' other mountains as spare inventory.