New gondola will run in summer, too | VailDaily.com

New gondola will run in summer, too

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com

VAIL — Vail Village will be a home base for summer lift access this summer for the first time since the summer of 2008.

Gondola One, which opened last November, will begin running on weekends only June 7 to 9 and June 14 to 16, followed by daily operations beginning June 20 through Sept. 2. The Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead will follow the same daily operations schedule, but will not be open for weekends before that. The Lionshead gondola will run on weekends during the tail-end of summer, however, through the month of September.

Businesses in Vail Village welcome the news after four summers without summer lift access. Vail Mountain announced in April 2009 it would no longer run the Vista Bahn chairlift during the summer because there wasn't enough traffic volume to justify the operating expenses. Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot told the Vail Daily at the time that the daily average use on the Vista Bahn in the summer of 2008 was just 145 users.

Gondola One, however, has opened the doors to a new and improved on-mountain experience. The new Mid-Vail restaurant, The 10th, which opened during the 2011-12 winter season, will play host to many weddings and other events this summer, and Vail Mountain's Epic Discovery proposal, if approved, is expected to pave the way for new hiking and biking trails across Vail Mountain accessible via both gondolas.

ADVENTURE RIDGE

Adventure Ridge, at the top of Lionshead's Eagle Bahn Gondola, remains the summer activity center at Vail Mountain. The Epic Discovery proposal will add even more activities there, including a ropes course, zip lines and an alpine coaster, which Vail is calling a Forest Flyer, in future years.

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But for now, having an operating gondola in both villages is something business owners — especially in Vail Village — are thrilled about.

A clerk at Gorsuch said the store expects more consistent foot traffic because of the new gondola.

Cheryl Ann Peter, owner of the Artful Sol gallery on Gore Creek Drive, said there's "no doubt" it will bring more business.

"Summers have been tenfold from what they were about five years ago in terms of traffic and money," Peter said. "The gondola is nothing but a win-win situation and we encourage our customers and tourists to take the ride and enjoy the beautiful nature that is up on top of the gondola."

When the Vista Bahn closed for summer operations in 2009, Vail Village hadn't yet experience the growth in summer revenue that occurred over the next four years. Sales tax collections in the town of Vail last summer were at record highs. The collaboration between the Vail Local Marketing District and the Commission on Special Events brought five brand new events to town last summer alone, accounting for more than 5,000 participants, according to Marketing District Advisory Council chair Beth Slifer.

A saleswoman at Kemo Sabe, a boot store in Vail Village, agrees that people already come to the village in the summer, but a new gondola is nothing but positive.

In Lionshead, Vail Mountain's only summer base area for years, the traffic is expected to continue to Adventure Ridge. Some feedback Chris Bahr, a clerk at the Lionshead General Store, has heard, though, hasn't been entirely positive. He said the general feeling in Lionshead is that most town of Vail events are centered in Vail Village, so anything that brings more people to Lionshead — such as it being the only village that had a summer gondola previously — is better for Lionshead businesses.

"I don't know if (Lionshead businesses) were necessarily stoked there was going to be a gondola over in the (Vail) Village," Bahr said.

Providing MORE OPTIONS

Vail Mountain's perspective is that the additional lift gives people more options in the summer.

"Having Gondola One open in addition to the Eagle Bahn Gondola adds a great option for guests who are staying in or visiting Vail Village and want to take a scenic ride up the mountain," Vail Mountain spokeswoman Liz Biebl said. "This should be particularly good news for hikers and mountain bikers, as it allows them more variety through a second portal to access trails between Lionshead and Vail Village or those trails east of Vail Village."