Steamboat Springs Talks are under way between the developer of Wildhorse Meadows and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. to collaborate on a people-mover gondola.
Resort Ventures West President David Hill, the developer of Trailhead Lodge and the Wildhorse Meadows development, confirmed the ongoing talks with Ski Corp. officials.
"We are working with the Ski Corp. to look at options for building a joint gondola," Hill said this week.
Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond said Thursday there remain many challenging details to be worked out. However, he said both parties are philosophically committed to the goal of building a gondola that would better serve the public as well as residents and guests of Wildhorse Meadows. Wildhorse Meadows is adjacent to the Meadows skier parking lot at Mount Werner and Pine Grove roads.
"We've been talking about this for years," Diamond said. "We're closer to the end (of discussions) than we are to the beginning. I do think that we're close to making it happen."
Four years ago, Diamond took the position that Ski Corp. could more economically transport day skiers from the Meadows parking lot to the base of the ski area with its fleet of shuttle vans. Circumstances have changed, he said. The path of redevelopment at the base area is much clearer now, and ownership of the ski area changed in the past year, among other factors.
"I think we've all learned a lot since that time," Diamond said.
Hill said if the talks prove successful, the result would be a lower terminal that is closer to the Meadows parking lot than what currently is planned. The people-mover gondola would travel from the area near the public parking lot to a second loading area next to Trailhead Lodge, then angle to the east for the trip up the hill to the base of the ski area.
Additionally, the pulse gondola that is currently planned would be changed to a faster detachable-car gondola. Detachable gondola cabins offer the advantage of comfortable loading without slowing the rest of the cars. Hill said the resulting change in uphill capacity would jump from about 500 people per hour to about 3,000 passengers per hour.
Hill said ongoing discussions include financial arrangements and engineering changes that would need to be made to the lift system. He said City Planning Director Tom Leeson is being consulted.
Diamond said perhaps the biggest design challenge is how to relocate the upper gondola terminal, which has previously been planned for a location in the new public plaza under construction at One Steamboat Place.
Hill agreed with Diamond. He said the size and weight of the higher-capacity gondola could not be accommodated at One Steamboat Place.
Continuing discussions involve where to place the upper and lower terminals to meet the needs of both parties, as well as how to realign the course of the gondola, Diamond said. Ensuring that the new gondola alignment clears vehicular traffic and deciding on the best elevation within Gondola Plaza for the upper terminal are technically challenging, he added.
Much still needs to be learned about how the higher-capacity gondola would mesh with existing transit centers and modes of ground transportation, Diamond said, and the city is being consulted closely in those matters.
As an example, Diamond said, there is an open question as to whether some guest shuttle vans could be diverted from the gondola transit center to the lower terminus of the people-mover gondola.
Resort Ventures West previously has said its gondola would be completed in 2009.
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