Sea to Sky Gondola | BCBusiness
With the rise of the Sea to Sky Gondola, has mainstream tourism in Squamish finally arrived?
The B.C. Mountaineering Club was founded in Vancouver more than a century ago. A model of gender equality, it represented a wide variety of professions in the young city: lawyers, land surveyors, bankers, nurses, stenographers, a cigar maker and a piano tuner among them. The group was among the cognoscenti of the alpine world and Squamish was one of its go-to destinations. With the rise of Squamish’s new $22.5-million Sea to Sky Gondola, expected to open in May this year, everybody will finally have the opportunity to see why.
Sightseeing lifts are common in the European Union, and Alberta has recognized their tourism potential with the gondola ferrying visitors to a complex of gift shops and restaurants atop Banff’s Sulphur Mountain. B.C., however, has been slow to follow—a gross oversight, according to Jayson Faulkner, the Sea to Sky Gondola’s general manager.
“You look at this corridor and the tourism it drives now—I don’t think people realize just how big the Whistler motor is,” he says in reference to Whistler’s draw for visitors from around the world. “It’s 22.3 per cent of the total export tourism dollars in B.C., and it was a no-brainer to add to that infrastructure in a complementary way.”
Stuart Rempel, senior vice-president marketing and sales for Whistler Blackcomb, says the Sea to Sky Gondola is “an entirely different product” than Whistler/Blackcomb’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which in 2012 saw 2.6 million riders (including skiers).
Riding the Sea to Sky Gondola
Each car on the Doppelmayr gondola will hold eight passengers as it rises 850 metres and more than two kilometres above the Sea to Sky Highway over the Shannon Creek Valley. The trip will take about 10 minutes.
The gondola ride will end at Summit Lodge. The 9,000-square-foot building will sit 885 metres above sea level. Inside will be a restaurant, bar, teahouse and retail shop.
The Spirit Viewing Platform will join to the 400-metre-long First Nations interpretive Spirit Trail. The Panorama Trail (not shown) will be 1.6 kilometres long and leads to the Chief Viewing Platform.
The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge will be more than 65 metres high and 95 metres long (Capilano Suspension Bridge is 70 metres high and 237 metres long). It will connect the Summit Lodge Viewing Deck to the Spirit Viewing Platform.
The Summit Lodge Viewing Deck will span 5,000 square feet with a cantilevered portico that juts out from the cliff face. It will face west/southwest, with a view up Howe Sound and toward the Co-Pilot and Sky Pilot mountain peaks of the Coast Mountain range.