First the gondola stations go in, then the towers and finally the cable.
The 14 towers, to be placed along a two-kilometre route up a bluff between Shannon Falls and the Stawamus Chief, mark a critical point in the $25 million Sea to Sky Gondola project, general manager Jayson Faulkner said. Scheduled to be built before the end of the month, alignment of the structures that support a four-kilometre-long cable is paramount, he noted.
“They have to be perfectly aligned,” he said. “They can’t be a fraction off.”
Work on the gondola’s top and bottom stations is well underway. Getting it done has required some unique steps. To overcome the steep terrain to the top station — on a bluff below the peak of Mount Habrich — specialized trucks were brought in to haul equipment and materials up the mountainside. The vehicles are hooked up to a loader, also known as a rock truck, to add additional power for the climb.
“They have an amazing ability to pull loads,” Faulkner said.
Final touches are being placed on a viewing platform and suspension bridge at the summit. The bridge hangs 95 metres above the ground, travelling from bluff to bluff. The bridge boasts almost the same height as the Capilano Suspension Bridge, but not length, Faulkner said.
“It’s got a different feel to it,” he said, noting that the bridge is high above the trees.
The Spirit Deck, the summit’s viewing platform, juts out from a 1,000-foot cliff. It’s got a real sense of exposure and isn’t for the faint of heart, Faulkner said.
Since unveiling the project, proponents have fielded a huge number of wedding inquires. As a result, an area in the forest close to the top base was cleared, Faulkner said, adding that developers dubbed it “nuptial meadows.”
The gondola has also aroused outdoor recreation enthusiasts, Faulkner noted. International alpinist Colin Haley explored the area’s granite this summer. He discovered four old routes on a cliff he named Ultraviolet Cliff. Originally developed in the 1980s, the climbing area is situated on a rock face no more than 200 meters from the top gondola station.
Watching the gondola take form is amazing, Faulkner said. The community has gotten behind the project, offering expertise on everything from climbing routes, to trails and public art, he noted.
“It is extraordinary to watch it come out of the ground,” Faulkner said.