Whistler-Blackcomb is hailing the arrival of monster cables that will carry a new gondola from the top of one mountain to the other.
The cables arrived at Mons Crossing on Tuesday at about 8:15 p.m. Produced by Fatzer AG, a Swiss company, they will soon make their way up Blackcomb Mountain where the two-three month job of stringing the cables between the two mountains will begin.
“It’s really a lift unlike any other in the world,” said Dave Brownlie, chief operating officer of Whistler-Blackcomb, at a press conference Wednesday. “This will connect the top of the mountains. That will ultimately, I think, change the experience here at Whistler-Blackcomb, both in the winter and in the summer forever.”
The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is a $52 million project that carry people from one mountain to the other in 10 minutes.
Five cable reels arrived by train on Tuesday night after a journey of 18,000 km. It took 11 weeks for them to get to Whistler after trips by truck, barge, boat and rail. Beginning in Switzerland, the cables traveled up the Rhine River, across the Atlantic Ocean and through the Panama Canal before stopping in Washington State, the only place near Whistler that had a mobile crane big enough to move them. They were then loaded on to a train and ushered into Whistler on Tuesday night.
The spools, which are bigger than the wheels of a Caterpillar truck, will now be taken 4,000 feet up Blackcomb Mountain in separate trips that will take eight hours each, according to Stuart Rempel, a spokesman for Whistler-Blackcomb.
The cables themselves are enormous. Brought to Whistler on four reels, the track “ropes”, which will carry gondola cabins from peak to peak, weigh 90 metric tonnes each and stretch 4.4 kilometres. They are 56 mm in diametre.
The haul rope, which will pull the cabins along the track rope, weighs 80 metric tonnes and stretches about 9 kilometres. It is 46 mm in diametre.
“You have a bull wheel on each end, and the whole rope goes around,” Rempel said. “Instead of the carrying cable being the hauling cable, this rolls just like railroad tracks through the sky, so the track ropes are like railroad tracks through the sky.”
There will be 28 cabins carrying 4,100 people each hour, according to a Whistler-Blackcomb news release, with a wait time of 46 seconds. The cabins themselves will travel at a speed of 7.5 metres per second — faster than any high-speed quad chair.
At over 3 kilometres, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola will be the longest unsupported span for a lift of this kind in the world. At 436 metres, it will also be the highest lift of its kind, as well as part of the longest continuous lift system in the world when connected with the Whistler Village Gondola, the Solar Coaster and the Wizard Express.
The cost of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola will necessitate an increase in the price of season passes. Rempel estimated that those looking to buy season passes will pay an additional $60 to $70 on an unlimited season’s pass for use of the gondola, while price increases on daily tickets have not yet been confirmed.
Whistler-Blackcomb expects that the Peak to Peak Gondola will be a tourist attraction on the scale of the Grand Canyon Skywalk or the CN Tower.