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Breck gondola is a go

DUFFY HAYES
summit daily news
Special to the Daily
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BRECKENRIDGE ” A modern, $17 million gondola to whisk skiers and riders to the base areas of Breckenridge Ski Resort has been on the town’s wish list for more than 20 years. It seems Santa was listening this year.

Monday, resort operator Vail Resorts and the town of Breckenridge announced that construction of a four-stop, eight-passenger gondola would begin this spring, with a completion date estimated for this coming Christmas.

When finished, the gondola will carry up to 3,000 powderhounds per hour from the free skier parking lots, up through the tony Shock Hill neighborhood, and on to both the Peak 7 and Peak 8 base areas at the resort in seven-and-a-half minutes.

The idea of a gondola has been swirling around town for more than 20 years. Today, skiers and riders, if they want to park for free, are compelled to park well below the lifts, and hop shuttle buses for a winding trip up to the base areas of the resort.

But ideas are making their way from the drawing board to reality in fast fashion these days in Breckenridge. The gondola project is one of the last major steps toward implementing a comprehensive development and transportation plan formalized by the town and Vail Resorts in May 2002.

That plan included the Skyway Skiway ski-back project and the Mountain Thunder Lodge real estate development ” both projects completed in the past year well ahead of schedule.

The May 2002 plan also outlined redevelopment details for the Peak 8 base area of the resort, as well as an ambitious expansion of the newer Peak 7 base area.

The town itself is in the midst of a sweeping transportation project that will re-route the majority of vehicular traffic away from the town’s historic Main Street, making that part of town more pedestrian-friendly. The new main traffic corridor will run right by the site of the gondola’s new town terminal, where a brand new intermodal center will be built.

Of the estimated $17 million cost for the gondola, the town will contribute $6.7 million, and developers of the Shock Hill neighborhood where the gondola will have a stop will ante up $500,000.

Roger McCarthy, co-president of the mountain division for Vail Resorts and chief operating officer of Breckenridge and Keystone, has been a key decision-maker in the redevelopment process between Vail Resorts and the town, crafting much of the original details of the overall plan over five years.

“In this business, you don’t get to build too many gondolas,” McCarthy said. “I have to say that I’m thrilled. It’s such a huge change for the ski area.”

In a press release, Breckenridge Mayor Ernie Blake lauded the cooperation and investment.

“We recognize that Vail Resorts has many choices for its investment dollars and appreciate the confidence it has shown in Breckenridge with this announcement,” Blake said.

The gondola will allow room for ski and ride gear inside, rather than in carriers outside the cabin area. The resort plans to operate the gondola in both the winter and the summer seasons.

Through an agreement with the town, the ski area has guaranteed that it will provide 1,550 parking spaces in the town of Breckenridge, and McCarthy said “they’ll be right around the gondola.”

Today, people park for free in the lots surrounding the site of the proposed new gondola town terminal. That might not be the case next season.

“(Charging for parking) is clearly one of the things that we’re reviewing,” McCarthy said.

Peak 7 development project nearly under way

A partnership between Vail Resorts Development Company and the locally owned Grand Timber Lodge Development Company is behind the expansion and development of the Peak 7 base area at the resort, which currently is but a clearing and the high-speed Independence SuperChair.

The new gondola will have a stop at the Peak 7 base area, before traveling to the final Peak 8 terminal.

After winning final inclusion into the local sanitation district Thursday, the Peak 7 project is set to start Wednesday, with tree clearing near the protected Cucumber Gulch area that abuts the Peak 7 development area.

The new gondola will travel through the environmentally sensitive Cucumber Gulch area, but the town and Vail Resorts have agreed on a number of specific protections in order for the gondola project to move forward.

Gondola details

” 7.5-minute ride time from

Transit Center to Peak 8 terminal

” Two mid-stations at Shock Hill and Peak 7 base area

” 25 towers

” 7,842 ft. in length

” 391 ft. vertical rise

” 143 cabins

” Capacity of 3,000 riders per hour


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