Squamish’s Sea to Sky Gondola ready for spring opening

A Squamish gondola project that some tourism analysts are calling B.C.’s top new attraction for 2014 is on track to open in May, the developers have announced.

The $22-million Sea to Sky Gondola project, just south of the Stawamus Chief, should attract over 200,000 visitors in its first year, while enhancing Squamish’s reputation as an outdoor recreation mecca.

“The gondola itself is just one component,” said Jayson Faulkner, general manager and a founding partner of the project. He said the project is a good fit for Squamish, which calls itself the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. “It’s a much bigger facility, with a lot of other amenities.”

Bored with Grouse Mountain’s gruelling Grind? Get ready for a new ‘GrindTrail’ for the hardiest of hikers that’s planned to open in 2015 as part of the project.

Proponents promise it will take hikers up 853 vertical metres on a 2.5-kilometre trail to a 9,000-square-foot lodge — also opening next spring — where they can have a beer and a burger on a large deck overlooking Howe Sound.
“There will be a restaurant, group private function facility, café, retail and a spectacular deck,” Faulkner said. “Out on the deck will be the place to go to watch the sun go down with a glass of wine.

Hikers can then take one of the 20 Swiss-made Dopplemayr eight-person gondolas back down. “The only hitch we’ve had, which was a surprise, was the snow load,” Faulkner said. “We had to double the size of beams and our construction cost of the upper facility to accommodate a seven-metre snow load.”

A 110-metre-long suspension bridge at the summit with 360-degree views of Howe Sound below is almost complete but will open with the gondola and lodge.