The Wild Blue Gondola: Transformational and Impactful at Steamboat Resort
One of Steamboat Resort’s most anticipated on-mountain improvements will be fully complete for the 2023/2024 ski season: the Wild Blue Gondola. With both sections fully installed, it will become North America’s longest and fastest 10-person gondola, transporting skiers and riders from the base area to the top of Sunshine Peak in an impressive 13 minutes.
Section one of the Wild Blue Gondola was operational for most of the 2022/2023 ski season, transporting skiers and riders from the base area to Greenhorn Ranch at six meters per second. Section two will be operational for the 2023/2024 ski season, transporting guests from Greenhorn Ranch to the top of Sunshine Peak at seven meters per second. These two sections can run independent of one another, or all together, making it highly functional and adaptable.
With a total of 171 cabins (58 on the lower section, 113 on the upper section), the Wild Blue Gondola will increase the out-of-base capacity from 6,000 people per hour to 10,000 people per hour. Helping significantly in redistributing skiers and riders across the mountain, Wild Blue will especially ease morning congestion at the base area and afternoon congestion at the Sundown/Elkhead saddle.
Featuring the single largest direct drive in the world, Wild Blue brings state-of-the-art technology to Steamboat Resort. By installing a direct drive, which is a mechanical concept that comes from the windmill industry, a traditional gearbox is unnecessary. Most issues arise in gondolas and chairlifts due to a failure within the gearbox, and when it happens during the winter, 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.
Spanning a distance of 3.16 miles, the Wild Blue gondola will give skiers and riders quite the scenic ride across Steamboat Resort. With two spans over 1,100 feet and the highest point reaching 136 feet above ground as you cross the Rainbow Saddle, Wild Blue will not only ease skier and rider traffic but will also provide a stunning and fast ride to the top of Sunshine Peak.
“I think our guests are going to be blown away. When they experience it, I think everyone will truly understand how transformational this gondola is to this world-class ski area,” explains Dave Hunter, Vice President of Mountain Operations.
Transformational indeed, the Wild Blue gondola if one of the most impactful projects within the scope of Steamboat Resort’s Full Steam Ahead improvements. It will give skiers and riders quick and easy access to the highly cherished and coveted Sunshine Peak area trails and will make for a seamless progression for SnowSports school from Greenhorn Ranch to the top of Sunshine. Skiers and riders will also have an option to download at the end of the day if their legs are tired, or more easily move around the mountain for lunch at the various lodges.
In August, crews are still working hard towards the completion of Wild Blue. Concrete is being transported to the top terminal, and crews are installing the second leg of the independent haul rope, which weighs in at an impressive 160,000 pounds.
As we approach three months until the start of the 2023/2024 ski season, excitement is certainly building in Steamboat Springs over the completion of Wild Blue. Scenic, functional and hugely impactful, the Wild Blue gondola is sure to transform your experience at Steamboat Resort in all of the right ways.
Written By: Erin Campbell