Winter Park gondola officially opens for busiest weekend of season
After months of anticipation, Winter Park Resort opened its new 10-person Gondola Thursday afternoon, just in time for the busiest weekend at the resort.
Steve Hurlbert, director of public relations and communications for the resort, said the opening has been a long time coming and the words relieved and excited don’t do the feeling of opening it justice.
“It’s been a ton of hard work, but just to see it open and see people’s faces when they get to ride it has been so worth all the trials and tribulations to get to this point,” Hurlbert said.
A line of skiers and riders gathered excitedly once the resort announced the Gondola would be open to the public around 3 p.m., but the line dissipated quickly as the Gondola whisked people up the mountain.
“It’s awesome and needed,” Brian Turner, a Denver resident, said after riding the Gondola. “We’re a real resort now.”
The Gondola replaced the Zephyr Express lift and runs from the base of the resort to the top of the mountain at Sunspot Lodge. Its 10-person capacity is a significant upgrade from the four-person Zephyr lift and the Gondola holds 75 cabins total.
Hurlbert said the Gondola increases the uphill capacity by 3,600 people an hour and cuts the wait by 15 minutes during peak times. Also, the Gondola remains accessible for differently-abled skiers and riders through an adaptive mobility device, similar to a wheelchair, an extra wide gondola door on each cabin and a zero entry height.
Many resort guests who had already taken their first rides up the mountain noted the speed of the Gondola. Jim Graeber, a Denver resident with a property in Fraser, said he was in love with the new Gondola because of its ability to “clear people out quick.”
Graeber added that it was nice to be able to take a warm break in between runs.
Turner agreed, saying he enjoyed being able to sit with his whole family and catch up while they took the five minute ride to the top.
Hurlbert said the next step will be to see how the Gondola helps cut lines over the New Year’s weekend, which is typically the resort’s busiest time.
“I think people are going to see on our busiest days (…) it go through the line as quickly as it’s done, so I think it has really shown people it’s a great addition,” Hurlbert said. “It’s so much better than the old Zephyr Express experience.”
While the resort has already started selling the limited-edition, one-of-a-kind tequila that commemorates the Gondola’s opening, the resort will start its Mountaintop Apres from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday starting Jan. 3. It will also feature live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
On Wednesday through Sunday, people can access the gondola for free beginning at 4 p.m. There will be no free foot passengers on Monday or Tuesday, but foot passengers can buy a gondola ticket for $29, as well as before 4 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays.
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