Grouse Mountain is receiving a much-needed capacity and reliability boost for its aerial transportation system between the parking lot at the lower base and the chalet at the peak of Vancouver.
The resort announced today that construction on a new gondola system will begin on September 9, after the busy Labour Day long weekend period.
This will serve as the replacement of the existing Blue Skyride, which is rarely used to transport visitors, and is mainly only active for freight and emergencies. Blue Skyride’s upper terminal is located inside the chalet.
While the existing Blue Skyride uses two large aerial trams, the new state-of-the-art gondola system will consist of 27 eight-person gondola cabins. The new gondola’s upper terminal will be located on the east side of the chalet.
- You might also like:
- Grouse Mountain to build new $35 million gondola from parking lot
- Burnaby City Council confirms official support for SFU Gondola's quickest route
- TransLink's plan to double bus service, add SFU Gondola was just approved
- Sightseeing gondola attraction proposed for Fraser Valley
A total of 13 towers will be erected along a 14-metre-wide easement area for the gondola, with the clearing along the mountain slope — the first step for construction — taking place throughout September and October 2022. According to the resort, the project’s environmental assessment has determined there will be a low impact on the area as the gondola will mainly travel over previously disturbed areas on the mountain.
The existing Red Skyride will be retained, and remain fully operational during construction. The Red Skyride’s upper terminal is located west of the chalet.
The construction of new foundations and terminal stations will take place between January and August 2023. The new towers and gondola line will be installed in Fall 2023.
By Winter 2023/2024, if all goes as planned, testing will begin on the new gondola system for its scheduled opening in Spring 2024.
The Blue Skyride opened in 1966, while the Red Skyride opened in 1976. When complete, the combined new gondola and the continued use of the existing Red Skyride will allow Grouse Mountain to return to its original capacity when both the Blue and Red Skyrides were fully operational.
Unlike the existing Skyrides, which use two large aerial trams, the gondola provides the ability for continuous boarding, helping reduce wait times and crowding. With only the use of the Red Tram, mountaintop lines for a ride down can sometimes stretch all the way to the Lumberjack Show area during busy periods.
Grouse Mountain has been operating at 50% of its original design capacity ever since the Blue Tram ceased being used for visitors, with the Red Tram only providing a capacity of about 900 passengers per hour. With the new gondola, the resort will return to its original capacity, adding 1,000 passengers per hour for an ultimate capacity of 1,900 passengers per hour combined on both the Red Tram and gondola.
It is also anticipated that the redundancy introduced by the new gondola will eliminate the existing practice of temporarily closing Grouse Mountain for a week to conduct maintenance on the Red Tram.
The new gondola’s travel time will be about 5.5 minutes each way, significantly shorter than the 10 to 15 minutes on the existing Red Tram.
The project is being timed with Grouse Mountain’s 100th anniversary in 2026 and represents the first and largest phase of renewing the resort’s facilities.
The second phase will entail renovations to the existing base buildings, and improvements to parking and ground access. The parking lot will also be expanded, with capacity increasing by 193 additional parking stalls — from the existing 925 stalls to 1,118 stalls across four lots. Improvements will be made to the existing area for TransLink’s public transit buses.
Grouse Mountain first made public its intention to replace the Blue Skyride in 2019, and it revealed its proposal for the new gondola system in September 2021. At the time, it was stated the new gondola would cost $35 million.
“We are thrilled to be embarking on this transformational project as we approach the 100th anniversary of the first official ski season at the Resort,” said Michael Cameron, president of Grouse Mountain, in a statement.
“Since the world’s first double chairlift was built at the Resort in 1949, Grouse Mountain has had a rich history of investing in modern recreational technology. The installation of the new gondola is the latest development to further enhance our four-season operations to welcome both the local and global community.”
These upgrades are fully funded by Northland Properties, which acquired Grouse Mountain in early 2020. It also owns Revelstoke Mountain Resort, three restaurant chains (Moxie’s Grill & Bar, Chop Steakhouse & Bar, and Denny’s Restaurants), the NHL Dallas Stars, and over 50 hotels across Canada, including the Sandman Hotel Group and The Sutton Place Hotels brands.