VAIL - Vail Mountain is on pace to complete the replacement of the Vista Bahn Express lift with a new, state-of-the-art gondola in time for its Nov. 16 opening day.
The new gondola, named Gondola 1 after Vail's original gondola in the same location, will carry 10 passengers in cabins featuring heated seats and Wi-Fi.
The new ride also will boast a speed of 1,200 feet per minute, the fastest gondola of its type in the world, according to Vail Resorts and Leitner-Poma of America, the gondola's manufacturer.
Rick Spear, president of Leitner-Poma of America, calls Gondola 1 a "tremendous advancement in lift technology."
More than half of the gondola will be manufactured at the Leitner-Poma plant in Grand Junction. The cabins and a few other portions of the gondola will be constructed in Europe.
Vail Mountain lift director Clyde Wiessner said the construction is looking good and is on schedule.
Construction began April 16, the day after the resort closed for the 2011-12 ski season. The first step: disassemble the Vista Bahn chairlift, which took 37 days.
In July, a helicopter helped construction crews lay concrete on the gondola tower bases by flying containers of wet cement to the tower locations not accessible by roads. The foundations for both the Mid-Vail and base-area terminals also are complete and construction on those terminals is continuing.
For updates, including pictures of construction milestones, visit blog.vail.com/gondola-update or www.vail.com/mountain/new-vail-gondola.
• Most utilities have been relocated.
• All of the electronic drive equipment is in place on the upper terminal site.
• The terminal concrete slabs have been poured, most of the paver slabs have been poured, and the majority of the pavers and stairs will be completed soon.
• Most of the tower foundations have been poured and are expected to be finished by the end of next week.
• The upper terminal storage building should be done by the end of September.
• The return terminal and drive terminal grip conveyance equipment is expected to arrive around the third week of September.
• The haul rope is expected to arrive in Vail toward the end of September.
• Vail Resorts will be receiving gondola cabins in September through mid-October and should have all cabins prior to the haul rope being installed.
• Vail Resorts expects to see the towers, sheave assemblies and cross arms arriving in Vail beginning the second week of September, and they will undergo additional assembly and prep work prior to being installed with helicopter support in early October.
• Acceptance test for regulatory compliance will take place in early November.