With winter on the way, the Sea to Sky Gondola is preparing a new set of activities for visitors.
Once the snow flies, walking, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing and tubing will become the emphasis for the outdoor aspect of the guest experience atop the gondola. While inside, the menu will change to reflect the season, featuring stews, fondue and crepes.
The summer season finishes November 2, and after annual maintenance (inspection, cleaning and replacing any worn components on the lift), the business will re-open November 27. The winter will run a limited schedule: Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until April 30.
“Our eventual goal is to be open year round, but we thought let’s just go into the first winter and just see where the market is,” said David Greenfield, Sea To Sky Gondola principal.
The gondola is planning to have over 25 km of walking and snowshoeing trails – most of which will be established and maintained by staff on snowshoes. They are also in the process of acquiring a snowcat and a smaller tracked vehicle for transporting goods and trail grooming.
Tubing (ride down, walk up) is to take place in a 6,000 square metre park. It will include four tracks of different intensities.
As during the summer, backcountry access is available from the top. Greenfield noted the potential hazards of snowshoeing and ski touring in the backcountry.
“There are people who will zip over to Canadian Tire and buy some snowshoes and get out in the backcountry and have never done it before and get into trouble. We’ve got to make sure that all the signage we have at the top is very clear.”
Other notable activities planned for the winter are Christmas choirs, visits with Santa, children’s story times and candlelight dinners.
With the change in season, the number of staff will be reduced to about 70 part-time and full-time employees, and 24 on-call, emergency responders.
“A lot of people in this part of the world, even in Squamish, don’t necessarily get a chance to go into the snow because you’re not in the snow line down here. Certainly from Vancouver it’s a place people would be able get to, relatively easily, to get to the snow,” said Greenfield, adding they expect to see 60,000 to 75,000 visitors between December and April.