Wild Blue: Steamboat’s Second Out-of-Base Gondola
A new and additional gondola named Wild Blue will begin running this upcoming ski season from the Steamboat base area to Greenhorn Ranch, the new ski school headquarters now located in the previous Bashor Basin area. Ultimately, once complete with both the upper and lower sections in the 2023-2024 season, Wild Blue will transport skiers and riders from the Steamboat base area to the top of Sunshine Peak at an impressive speed, taking only 12 and a half minutes. Scenic, fast, efficient and smooth, the Wild Blue gondola is an exciting addition to Steamboat Resort!
The lower section of the Wild Blue gondola will have 58 cabins to take skiers and riders from the base area to Greenhorn Ranch. For the upcoming 2022-2023 ski season, this will be the only section running, and mostly transporting ski school guests. However, section two is slated to be ready for the 2023-2024 ski season and will be running with an additional 113 cabins to transport guests to the top of Sunshine Peak. All in all, Wild Blue will have 171 cabins, each with a capacity of 10 people per cabin. Ski racks will be on the exterior just like the Steamboat Gondola that will still be in place and running from the base area to the top of Thunderhead.
Previously, the Steamboat Gondola and Christie Peak Express were able to transport 6,800 people per hour, and now with the addition of Wild Blue, another 3,200 people will be transported per hour onto the mountain. This equates to a capacity increase of nearly 50% and a total of 10,000 guests per hour being transported onto the mountain from the base area. Obviously, this capacity increase will allow for quicker accessibility to the upper mountain, but it will also allow for a more efficient experience skiing lower mountain as well.
Blue gondola cars paired with a longer and scenic ride across Steamboat Resort inspired the name Wild Blue. Not only will Wild Blue provide a scenic ride, but it will also provide a fast ride from the base to the top of Sunshine Peak. Section one (base area to Greenhorn Ranch) will transport guests at a speed of 6 meters per second, which equates to 4 minutes of transit time. Section two (Greenhorn Ranch to the top of Sunshine Peak) will transport guests at the fastest speed in North America at 7 meters per second and exactly 8.8 minutes from Greenhorn Ranch. Put those numbers together and it will only take you about 12 and a half minutes to get from the base area to the top of Sunshine Peak! Skiers and riders will be able to load at the base area and ride all the way to the top in 2023-2024, with the doors opening at the mid-station for anyone unloading at that point.
The Wild Blue gondola also features the biggest direct drive in the world with state-of-the-art technology to give passengers a top-notch ride. By installing a direct drive, which is a mechanical concept that came from the windmill industry, a traditional gearbox is unnecessary, ultimately making the operational side more efficient and more simple. Section one of Wild Blue will feature a 2-ring direct drive and section two will feature a 5-ring direct drive. These two sections will be able to run independent of one another, or all together, making it highly functional and adaptable. Most issues arise in gondolas and chairlifts due to a failure within the gearbox, and when it happens during the winter season, it can be especially hard, if not impossible, to repair. By eliminating the gearbox all together, the direct drive will provide skiers and riders with a smooth, fast and highly efficient ride, which is especially exciting when Champagne Powder® is falling!
If you have been in Steamboat this summer, you have likely heard the helicopter activity at Steamboat Resort. All foundations and towers are in place for section one to be running this upcoming ski season. While the towers are not yet in place for section two (that will happen next summer/fall), all of the foundations for those 27 towers will be complete by the start of this ski season. All rebar was flown in at the end of August and all of the concrete is expected in by the end of September to complete the foundation work for section two. While the visibility may not be there as the foundations are buried in snow all winter, once summer arrives next year, it will be time to install the remaining towers needed to complete the full span of the Wild Blue gondola.
With so many improvements happening as part of Full Steam Ahead at Steamboat Resort, the addition of the Wild Blue gondola is certainly one of the most visible and most exciting. You’ll have a chance to see section one of Wild Blue this upcoming season, but the real excitement will begin with the 2023-2024 ski season when the Wild Blue gondola is officially complete. With two gondolas and one high-speed quad running from Steamboat’s base area, accessing Steamboat Resort will become highly efficient and provide a nice variety for all skiers and riders.
Written by: Erin Campbell