Breck modifies plan for gondola |

Breck modifies plan for gondola

Jane Stebbins

When Roger McCarthy realized a gondola from a Breckenridge parking lot to Peaks 7 and 8 was going to cost at least $22 million, he headed back to the drawing board.

Together with lift director Jon Mauch, the Breckenridge Ski Resort chief operations officer has since added a panoramic gondola to the list of possible lift conveyances to transport people from town, over Shock Hill and Cucumber Gulch and to the bases of Peaks 7 and 8.

He sold the idea to the town council Tuesday evening and now he wants to sell it to the public.

“We don’t want to be part of the, ‘We showed you this, we’ll give you that,'” McCarthy said. “We don’t want to do some kind of bait and switch.”

Costs caused planners to change plans for a gondola at another mountain owned by Vail Resorts. Beaver Creek drastically revised plans to build a gondola from Avon to top of the mountain. A less-ambitious series of a gondola and high-speed chairlifts is now being considered.

The Breckenridge panoramic gondola differs only slightly from a traditional gondola, McCarthy said. The one the ski area is considering is round, surrounded by windows and accommodates eight people. The ride to Peak 7 is estimated to take six minutes; those who continue on to Peak 8 will be on the lift for another minute.

“This is different than what we promised the community,” Mayor Sam Mamula said. “We have to bring the community back into the process, explain that the panoramic gondola is not a traditional gondola. But just remember what you’re replacing. You’re replacing a school bus.”

The idea behind the gondola is to connect the town to the mountain to reduce traffic and minimize damage to the wetlands in a gulch over which it would pass.

Additionally, whatever is built must be done in a financially viable manner, McCarthy said.

“When we saw the cost to build a 12-passenger, sit-down gondola was over $22 million, we said, ‘This is going to be a long conversation if this is stuck at $22 million,'” McCarthy said. “We can all dream in Technicolor, but at the end of the day, we have to get this thing built at a (reasonable) cost. We need to look at different options.”

The bulk of that cost comes in the form of a 25,000-square-foot building needed to store the gondola cars, whose windows and rubber parts are susceptible to erosion in the harsh, high-altitude sun. Additionally, the complex door mechanisms increase the cost of maintenance, Mauch said.

Ski resort officials also entertained the idea of an open-air cabriolet at a cost of about $11 million. But that idea came under fire because of the potential for intentional or accidental littering in the gulch below.

A six-passenger, high-speed lift would cost about $7 million, but would likely be rendered inefficient because there are six stops planned along the route between the town and Peak 8, and it would need mazes and ramps to accommodate people wearing skis and snowboards.

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