Cabins hung on very high gondola | VailDaily.com

Cabins hung on very high gondola

Allen Best
Special to the Daily
Vail, COC olorado

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler’s new peak-to-peak gondola now has the first 12 cabins hanging into thin air. The gondola will offer the world’s greatest length of free-span cable at slightly less than 2.5 miles.

Eventually the gondola will have 28 cabins, and each will hold 28 people. Two of the cabins will have glass-bottomed areas, for those who want to stare into the abyss below. At its highest point, the gondola will 1,400 feet above the ground.

As well, the gondola cars will move at a fast clip ” 24 feet per second.

Intrawest, the ski area operator, hopes that the gondola will separate Whistler from other mountain resorts, reports Pique Newsmagazine.

“I think what we have created here is a tourism icon for both Canada and British Columbia and something that will differentiate Whistler from our competition around the world,” Dave Brownlie, the chief operating office at Whistler-Blackcomb

The gondola, Brownlie added, will be a “must-do, must-see experience.”

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City officials hope that the gondola will help fill hotel beds. Currently, the year-round occupancy average at Whistler is 55 percent.

Bob Lorriman, a municipal councilor, said that the hope is that the gondola will get significant television exposure during the 2010 Winter Olympics. That, he said, should allow Whistler to “leverage that experience for the next many years.”

GUNNISON COUNTY “- Water officials in Gunnison County are looking into the possibility of small hydroelectric power projects, also called “microhydro.”

Unlike the big dams that block streams, the microhydro technology allows the power of moving water to be harnessed to produce electricity, but often with no evidence of the turbine within the stream or creek.

“You can actually drop these turbines into the river and anchor them, and you can still raft over them and they don’t impact fish,” said Steve Schechter, a director of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District.

Drawing the district’s attention is a new funding from a Colorado state agency for feasibility studies, plus loans of up to $2 million at low cost.

One potential sticking point, reports the Crested Butte News, is transmission. Power lines are frowned upon in the Gunnison Valley, a place of soothing hay meadows.

The thinking is that if Gunnison County can get a few kilowatts here and there from microhydro production, that will diminish the amount of electricity that must be imported from distant sources. Ironically, most of that electricity is produced by burning coal ” some of it excavated in the northwest corner of Gunnison County, near Somerset, and shipped by rail to distant power plants.