Concrete bases were poured this week for some of the 10 tower bases needed for the new Wildhorse gondola. The lift between Trailhead Lodge and One Steamboat Place is expected to open by February 2010.

Photo by Tom Ross

Concrete bases were poured this week for some of the 10 tower bases needed for the new Wildhorse gondola. The lift between Trailhead Lodge and One Steamboat Place is expected to open by February 2010.

Public gondola going up

Wildhorse towers expected to be installed in October

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Wildhorse gondola at a glance

- Cost: More than $3 million

- Open to the public

- Six-passenger cabins, tall enough to stand in

- Initial capacity of 340 passengers per hour

- Ride time: About four minutes

- Travel distance: About 2,000 feet

- Manufacturer: Leitner-Poma in Grand Junction

— A new ski lift in Steamboat typically translates into a very large whirlybird hauling heavy iron over the base of Steamboat Ski Area. But there won't be a need for a helicopter in October when towers for the Wildhorse gondola are set.

"I was pushing for a helicopter, but everything's accessible," said Resort Ventures West Director of Sales and Marketing Kerry Shea. "They can just come in there with cranes."

The public Wildhorse gondola being built by Resort Ventures West, developers of Wildhorse Meadows, won't deliver people to the top of a ski run. But it promises to change the face of the Gondola Transit Center when it becomes operational no later than February, Shea said. The gondola will move arriving skiers and snowboarders from Trailhead Lodge, First Tracks, The Range and Meadows Parking Lot to Gondola Square and ski area lifts, including the Steamboat gondola and Christie Peak Express.

Before they arrive in an upper terminal in the new One Steamboat Place development, the six-passenger gondola cabins will cross over automobile traffic on Mount Werner Circle.

The Wildhorse gondola is different from the Steamboat gondola the new, pulse gondola will comprise four groups of two cabins. The lift will stop for loading and unloading when a group of cabins arrives at the terminal.

The trip will take about four minutes, Shea said.

There is the potential to increase uphill capacity with additional cars. The new gondola will be free to the public; expect to see a separate lift line that favors Wildhorse owners and guests, not unlike the ski school line at the ski area lifts.

The new gondola will ride on 10 towers. Concrete bases for some of the towers were poured this week. The gondola is being built by Leitner-Poma at its Grand Junction manufacturing facility.

At Trailhead Lodge on Wednesday, inspectors from the Routt County Regional Building Department were making final inspections.

In other Wildhorse Meadows news, the development's lap pool is complete and has been filled. Workers were adjusting the placement of natural stones in the hot tub grotto Wednesday to ensure the flow in waterfall feature is dialed in before the stones are mortared into place.

Shea said Resort Ventures West has sold seven of 63 contracted condominiums. He expects another series of closings within the next two weeks but acknowledges getting financing in place has been a lengthy process for buyers.

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