With less than a month before the Sea to Sky Gondola's reopening, the attraction's public relations team shared what it was like to have the world's attention in the aftermath of the Aug. 10 sabotage.
Christy Allan, the director of sales and marketing for the Sea to Sky Gondola, shared a glimpse behind the scenes with more than 40 members of the Canadian Public Relations Society on Jan. 30. During her presentation, she recounted waking up in the early hours of Aug. 10 to a series of texts and missed calls from general manager Kirby Brown: "Catastrophic rope failure. Cabins on the ground. Code red."
The damage was visible from the highway. Nearby campers heard the crash. And Brown had started giving interviews to the media.
The news quickly spread around the world, and the Sea to Sky Gondola had a team of two people — Allan and Brown — answering interview requests in the wake of the unprecedented incident. Allan told the attendees that they soon had a media reach of more than one billion.
Around four hours after the gondola was cut, at 8:40 a.m., the Gondola staff referred all media requests to the RCMP. A press conference was hosted that afternoon to announce the police investigation.
Allan said she was thankful no one was injured in the incident or later during the repairs.
For the Gondola staff, the work was far from over once the interviews wrapped up.
Staff wanted to ensure customer confidence continued and began a series of tourism and local partnerships for passholders as well as outreach to the local community. While they were able to keep 75 core staff, many of their employees were let go. A job fair was organized within five days to help the unemployed find new work.
Allan said only around five customers asked for refunds, others wanted to buy passes to have access to the passholder deals with other tourist attractions.
In Squamish, approximately 40% of the population has an annual pass to the gondola.
A wedding scheduled for the night of Aug. 10 was moved to Norman Rudy's — the first of 22 weddings the Gondola had to cancel or reschedule.
"That was tough," Allan said.
"Speaking to those brides and grooms, now that was one thing that I look back on and think we could have done differently. We did have our catering manager send information out to wedding planners, thinking all the information was getting to the brides and grooms, and I think we could've been more personal with that communication."
One of the big questions was why it took so long to fix the Gondola, to which Allan explained the parts needed to be ordered, created and shipped from Europe before they could be installed.
"One of our chief millwrights said, 'You know Christy, it's like having 20 light plane crashes up a mountain, and we have to start cleaning this up,'" she said.
Questions still remain: Who cut the Gondola? Why?
"I don't know about you guys, but every single dinner party or gathering I go to, everybody wants to know and everyone has a theory as to who did this. Why was it done? These are questions that are still out there. We are reopening with these questions," Allan said. "We know the RCMP is doing everything they can on their side."
Allan assures the public that such an incident cannot happen again, and it impossible while people are aboard because of the gondola's protocols.
The Sea to Sky Gondola is scheduled to open to the public on Feb. 14. Since the Gondola ordered 30 new cabins — then found out nine of the original cabins are still in perfect condition — they may be able to add more capacity in peak seasons.
*Please note this story has been updated to correct a misspelling of Christy Allan's last name.