Vail Gondola Construction Update

Nov. 9, 2012

Vail is building a new Gondola for the 50th anniversary this winter season! This post will give you an inside look at the construction process. Updates are in chronological order, with the most recent on top!

November 9, 2012

With one week until opening day, gondola construction is complete!

After months of preparation and work, the Leitner-Poma and Vail Lift Maintenance crews did the last two big jobs: installing the 26 lift towers and splicing the cable. The best way to appreciate the work of these crews is to see the images and hear the explanation from the workers themselves:


October 26, 2012: snow storm in Vail

The top terminal of the new gondola is almost ready for opening day:

New gondola cabin in snow

October 23, 2012: New gondola cabins and photos from the upper gondola terminal

Vail Village is quite a sight with lines of shiny, new gondola cabins waiting to make their debut on Vail’s Opening Day November 16.

Vail gondola cabins

The gondola cabins fit 10 seated riders on the heated, composite-leather seats.

The equipment racks were designed specially by the Vail Lift Operations team. As more skiers embrace fat powder skis, the lifts team made sure to create a rack that will hold most larger ski designs – including the tapered tips. The racks also hold up to 8 snowboards placed base-to-base. Vail new gondola rack

The Mid-Vail gondola terminal continues at a fast pace with electricians and workers putting the finishing touches on the space.Vail gondola upper terminal

The upper gondola terminal houses 6 motors – 4 950 horsepower and two backup 150 horsepower motors. On a typical day the gondola runs on 2 of the 950 horsepower motors. gondola 950 horsepower motor

 October 16, 2012: Behind the scenes at the Leitner Poma factory in Grand Junction, Colorado

October 12, 2012: Haul rope arrives in Vail

Vail Gondola Haul Rope

90 tons, requiring a trailer with 13 axles!


October 11, 2012: Towers flown in

Workers reach for guide wires on Vail gondola tower

Workers reach for a guidewire on a tower being flown in  (P: Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts)

September 26, 2012: VIDEO.

Earlier this summer a Huey Helicopter helped pour concrete bases for the new gondola lift towers that were inaccessible by road. Here’s what it looks like to pour 110 yards of concrete at the rate of about 1/2 yard per pick by the helicopter. Towers 19, 17, 8 were poured on day one and 9 & 4 on day two. Shot with a Sony FS700.

September 22, 2012: Gondola terminal construction is well under way.

Gondola tower installation Vail

A tractor clears the way for lift tower installation.


Vail gondola terminal

The lower gondola terminal 9/18/2012


lower gondola terminal VailAnother perspective on the lower gondola terminal 9/18/2012

Mid-Vail Gondola terminal

The Mid-Vail gondola terminal 9/19/2012


September 9, 2012: What does the construction of a gondola look like?

We went behind the scenes at the Leitner-Poma factory in Grand Junction where the majority of the parts are built. This facility has been a part of the manufacturing of  all types of large projects such as lifts at ski areas around the world,  mass transit systems, and unique projects like the Roosevelt Island Tramway in New York. Most skiers and snowboarders riding the new gondola this year will have no idea that it was built at a world class facility like this only two hours away from Vail!

The tour included observing the plasma cutter creating the contours of the gondola terminal from sheets of steel. Welders then have the task of piecing this massive terminal together.   [portfolio_slideshow] Jon Mauch of Leitner-Poma says that about 70% of the gondola construction has happened right here in the US, which factors in the components, labor, installation and engineering work done both at the Grand Junction facility and at Vail Mountain.

All that work is going into one impressive piece of machinery. The new gondola has the capacity to carry 3,600 skiers and riders per hour. The two mile journey up the mountain will take a mere seven minutes. A multiple redundancy backup system ensures that even if there is a power outage, the gondola can still run. And even with all these advancements, the electronics are so efficient that it will use less power than the Vista Bahn Express it replaces.

Perhaps most exciting to the individual rider are the aesthetic upgrades. The gondola features a ski and snowboard rack attached to the outside of the cabin that has been specially designed by the Vail team and Leitner-Poma engineers. The Vail team wanted to create something that can fit just about any size fat ski or snowboard. The extra-tall 2.1 meter cabins feature composite leather heated seats. These seats can be charged both at the top and bottom docking stations and work much like a car’s seat heater.


August 16th, 2012 – Gondola construction continues with work focusing on the terminals. We’re looking forward to installing lift towers next month and are still on track to have the Gondola ready for Opening Day November 16th.

The following photos were shot from August 7th – 16th:

Gondola construction update

Lower terminal construction at the gondola’s base in Vail Village


Vail gondola construction

Progress on the Mid-Vail terminal

July 24th, 2012 – A Huey Helicopter is helping crews to complete the laying of concrete on the Gondola tower bases today and tomorrow. The helicopter flies containers of wet cement to tower locations that are not accessible by road. Once there, ground crews maneuver the containers into position while the chopper hovers above them.
The helicopter pilot monitors the location of the concrete container.
  Ground crews maneuver the wet concrete containers.


Click here for the full photo album.





































June 29, 2012 – This winter we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary with a state-of-the art gondola to replace the Vista Bahn Express Lift (#16) in Vail Village. Crews got to work dissembling the Vista Bahn the day after the mountain closed, deconstructing the lift in an impressive 37 days. Vail’s Environmental Manager, Adam Bybliw, reported that in that time “30 semi trucks hauled a staggering amount of steel”, recycling 594,920 lbs. of steel and 87,920 lbs of steel cable stretching over 3 ¼ miles. Much of the remaining material is being kept for use across Vail Resorts, from chair footrests and seat-backs to tower tubes that will be used as features in Vail’s Terrain Park. The removal of the lift towers was no small feat, involving precision helicopter work by pilot Tim Norton of Mountain West Helicopters. Video featuring an interview with Mr. Norton below:

At this stage of construction, crews are wrapping up laying foundation for both the upper and lower terminal stations and continuing to excavate and pour concrete for the lift towers. Cody O’Kelly, Senior Project Manager, reports “The base area site work and operators station will begin taking its final shape over the next few weeks, with final grading and framing to be complete by mid-July. The Storage building at Mid-Vail will have its foundation complete this week, clearing the way for the contracting team to finalize grades in preparation for the new plaza area.”

Vail Gondola construction

Laying foundation for Mid-Vail terminal station. Photo by Senior Project Manager Cody O’Kelly.

If you’re disappointed to have missed the helicopter at work, don’t worry, you have more opportunities. The helicopter is tentatively set to return the third week of July to assist in laying concrete on lift tower foundations set in difficult terrain. Bookmark this page for further updates on Gondola construction throughout this summer!

Frequently Asked Questions about Vail’s new gondola

What makes this gondola one-of-a-kind/fastest single-cable, 10-passenger gondola in the world?
This will be the fastest single-cable, 10-passenger gondola (or gondola of its type) in the world. There are other 10-seat gondolas with heated seats. None of them have Wi-Fi or are designed to travel at 1,200 feet per minute.

How is ride time calculated?
Design speed x the length of the lift.

Where is the lift being manufactured?
More than fifty percent of the lift will be constructed in the United States at Leitner-Poma of America’s Grand Junction plant. The cabins and portions will be constructed in Europe.

Why isn’t the new gondola planned to extend beyond Mid-Vail to PHQ?
We are not using the planned gondola to replace the Mountaintop Express Lift #4) because:
    1) The alignment to both provide access to Mid-Vail and to put a turn station in a location to provide the access that the Mountaintop Express Lift #4) currently provides doesn’t work

2) Our guests would not want to have to take skis/boards off every time they rode the length of the Mountaintop Express Lift (#4). A gondola makes great sense in replacing the Vista Bahn (#16) because Vail guests don’t typically cycle (make laps) on it

3) There would not be enough capacity available when cabins arrived at Mid-Vail to accommodate those who wanted to ride from there to the top.
Therefore, the significant incremental cost associated with installing the gondola to Mid-Vail with a turn station and then to the top, plus replacing the Mountaintop Express Lift (#4) at some point soon doesn’t make sense

It is true that this will add more volume at the Mid-Vail area during the morning hours as skiers use the gondola to access the mountain, but Vail will likely replace the Mountaintop Express Lift (#4), adding uphill capacity in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, unlike when they get to the bottom of the Vista Bahn Express Lift (#16), guests do have more than one option at Mid-Vail – they can ride the Wildwood Express Lift (#3), go to the Northwoods Express Lift (#11) or the Highline Express Lift (#10) or the Avanti Express Lift #2), or all the way down to the base again.

Who is the manufacturer of the gondola?
Leitner-Poma of America.

Will the new gondola operate for foot passengers during the day? At night? In the summer?
We will be looking carefully at our operational needs and how to balance both the Lionshead and Vail Village gondolas.

When will removal begin? What will happen to the Vista Bahn Express Lift (#16) or where will it go once it’s removed?
Construction on the new gondola began on April 16, 2012, immediately following the close of the 2011-2012 ski and snowboard season, and will be operational for opening day of the 2012-2013 season on Nov.16, 2012.

The majority of the Vista Bahn Express Lift (#16) will be recycled and some components will be kept at Vail Mountain as well as at some of the Vail Resorts’ other mountains as spare inventory.