By Andrew Mitchell
Although the neighbourhood overlooks Whistler Creek and Alpha Lake, there’s no doubt that Kadenwood Estate Homes can seem like a long way from anywhere.
Accessed via a winding mountain road from Bayshores, and situated on the highest buildable lots on Whistler Mountain, a round trip by car to the shops at Franz’s Trail can take half an hour or more.
Given the high-end nature of the subdivision — Phase I has sold out and lots in Phase II start at $1.5 million — the local Kadenwood homeowners’ association approached Intrawest with an idea that makes the neighbourhood far more convenient and accessible for residents and visitors renting luxury properties.
Starting in spring of 2008, and set for completion that winter, Intrawest Placemaking will build an approximately $3.5 million gondola to service Kadenwood — Canada’s first lift-accessed community.
The cost of operating the gondola, as well as a new groomer, will fall on the local strata corporation, which will subcontract operation to Whistler-Blackckomb.
“(The gondola) wasn’t always planned but in terms of what Kadenwood is, and with the lead of the neighbourhood homeowners, the gondola makes perfect sense,” said Bryce Tupper, a development analyst for Intrawest Placemaking.
“We’ve been working with the strata and residents and determined that (the gondola) is something that will meet the needs of the community.”
Intrawest announced the gondola project Thursday, Dec. 28, at a launch event at Zen Japanese Restaurant in Whistler Creek. Existing homeowners were invited to the presentation, along with real estate agents and prospective buyers.
The “pulse” gondola will have just four cabins that can carry up to eight-people each, which will be placed in two clusters of two along the cable by means of fixed grips. The cable will slow down as the clusters simultaneously approach the top and bottom stations, and will not speed up again until the clusters are past the load and unload areas. A trip from station to station will take just over six minutes.
The gondola cabins will be open, allowing residents to bring everything from luggage to skis, bikes and strollers up. There will also be a parking area near the top gondola station, allowing residents in Kadenwood easier access when they can’t reach the gondola station on foot or have heavy items to carry.
There is also an option to put up to four more cabins on the line, which would slow the line temporarily as those clusters go through the lift station, and result in slightly slower trips up and down the mountain.
The pulse system is cheaper than a detachable system, and will require less maintenance, according to Tupper.
The bottom station will be located beside the existing gondola at Creekside, and the top station will be at the top of the Kadenwood neighbourhood, along the ski-in from Peak to Creek.
The gondola will be dedicated for residents only, and will be operational whatever hours are set by the Kadenwood strata corporation.
John Morley, the VP of development for Intrawest Placemaking, said that the lift will also make it easier to sell lots in Kadenwood, and there are plans in the works to start selling Phase III once Phase II is sold out.
“The gondola is really in recognition of the recent slowing down in the last few years (of) the economy, and wanting to do something to boost Kadenwood,” he said. “When the homeowners group approached us on this we sat down and looked at all the costs and benefits, and decided the gondola was something we could invest in provided that we could put in place the right operating agreement, which I’m happy to say we achieved in a relatively short period of time.”
One resident of Kadenwood, who asked not to be named, said she was excited about the gondola and believes it will help to entice more people into buying lots in the neighbourhood. She also loved the convenience of the gondola and the fact she’ll be able to send her children to the store to pick up items without making the drive.
“We love the neighbourhood, we love our house, and we love that it’s going to be so convenient to get to Creekside,” she said.
Intrawest has not yet awarded a contract to build the gondola or prepare the gondola line, which will run almost parallel to the old T-bar line from Whistler Creek. The disruption to the base area will be minimal, with a small station near the bottom of the Whistler Kids learner hill and magic carpet.
Total Elevation: 228 metres
Slope Distance: 925 metres
Travel Time: 6.1 minutes
Gondola Cabins: Four in two clusters, each holding up to eight people with skis
Lift Capacity: 160 people an hour, with potential to expand to 320 per hour