Avon gondola rides up in the air | AspenTimes.com

Avon gondola rides up in the air

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
The Riverfront Express gondola will take skiers from Avon across U.S. Highway 6 to the Lower Beaver Creek Express lift. The builder, however, says it may not open for use this winter. (Preston Utley/Vail Daily)

AVON ” The towers are in place, the terminals are built, the cable is spliced, and the cars ” at least some of them ” are clamped on.

Avon’s new, public gondola across U.S. Highway 6 to Beaver Creek Mountain has just a few weeks of work left before it’s completed.

But whether it will open to skiers and snowboarders by next ski season is still undecided.

“We hope so,” said Andy Gunion, project manager for East West Partners, which is developing the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa at the base of the gondola.

Because of continued construction, the public plaza at the bottom of the gondola may not be safe enough for pedestrians next winter, Gunion said.

The gondola will have 18 eight-person cars, 11 of which are already in place. They are a bit smaller than the 12-person cars on Vail Mountain’s Eagle Bahn gondola.

The terminals for the lift, called the Riverfront Express ” Beaver Creek lift No. 7 ” were finished in November.

The lift will take skiers and snowboarders to the bottom of Lower Beaver Creek Express in about three minutes, Gunion said. It will take about 17 minutes to get from the base of the gondola to the top of the mountain, he said.

A crew from Doppelmayr, an Austria-based company that specializes in building chairlifts and gondolas, has been working on the gondola for about a year.

The crew is finishing electrical work and construction of a maintenance building at the top of the gondola.

A few weeks ago, the workers completed the difficult task of splicing together the cable into a seamless loop. That requires undoing the ends of the giant cable into strands and then braiding it back together. That happened on Prater Road, which was closed for a few days for that purpose.

This summer, work will begin on a new town of Avon bus hub that will be adjacent to the base of the gondola. A new railroad crossing, also being built this summer, will allow people to walk to the gondola from the bus hub.

The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa will have 210 condos, many of which will be rented as hotels rooms, Gunion said. Ninety-three have been sold already.

That building is supposed to be completed in the summer of 2008.

Orlando, Fla.-based Starwood Vacation Ownership is building another 115 timeshares in two more buildings on the site. East West is building 100 more condos in another building on the site, too.

The entire project is supposed to be done in 2011 or 2012, Gunion said.

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