It’ll soon be a quicker ride to zip to the chalet of North Vancouver’s iconic Grouse Mountain.
Grouse Mountain Resort will start work next month on a project to add a state-of-the-art gondola system to carry skiers and tourists up the mountain.
Work will start Sept. 9 on the $35-million project, which will replace the 56-year-old blue tram which has been used only for carrying freight and resort employees for the past several years.
When finished, the new gondola will operate alongside the current red Skyride tram, approximately doubling the number of people per hour who can be whisked from the parking lot at the base of the mountain to the chalet at the top.
The two lifts will be able to carry about 1,900 people per hour and cut down on line-ups at peak times, said Melissa Taylor, spokesperson for the resort.
The red Skyride, which can carry 900 guests per hour, will still be in use for the foreseeable future. The new gondola will have a capacity of 1,000 guests per hour, making the trip in 5.5 minutes.
Plans are to complete the gondola project by the spring of 2024 – in time for celebrations marking the ski hill’s centennial year in 2026.
The first double chairlift was built at the North Vancouver ski resort in 1949.
The blue Skyride tram, which the gondola will replace, first opened on the mountain in 1966.
In addition to being much newer, the gondola will be a different lift system than the Skyride tram currently used to carry guests up and down the mountain.
The current system is often referred to as a gondola, but it’s actually a tram, said Taylor.
Trams operate by pulling one or two larger cabins attached to a cable up and down the mountain. Gondolas involve loading multiple smaller cabins continuously as part of a looping system.
The new lift system at Grouse will include 13 towers and 27 eight-person gondola cabins, which the resort said would allow the ski hill to return to its original capacity when both the blue and red Skyrides were fully operational.
The first phase of the project this September and October will be clearing trees on the easement for the existing blue tram to allow for construction of the 13 tower bases.
An environmental assessment pointed to low environmental impact, said Taylor, because construction will take place in previously disturbed areas of the mountain. An environmental development permit for the project was issued by the District of North Vancouver July 28 while a tree permit was issued Aug. 4, according to district spokesperon Courtenay Rannard.
Building of the tower foundations and plateau stations is planned between January and August of 2023, said Taylor, with tower construction and cable line work scheduled for the fall of 2023.
Some of the clearing and construction work on the new gondola may be visible from the Skyride, said Taylor, but that tram and the chalet won’t be impacted by construction.
Public feedback on the project so far has been “incredibly positive,” said Taylor. “People know it’s needed.”
A second phase of the project is also planned that will include new offices and retail space at the base of Grouse, and expanded parking that will add 193 spaces for a total of 1,047. That work won’t get underway until work on the gondola is complete.
So far there’s been no decision about what will happen to the old blue tram, said Taylor. “It’s a piece of our history, of course,” she said. “So we want to make sure that we do honour it.”
Since 2020, Grouse Mountain Resort has been owned by Northland Properties.