OPINION: 12 months of turmoil | Squamish Chief

OPINION: 12 months of turmoil

It would be an oversimplification to say that one cut changed everything.

After all, the act of vandalism that took down the Sea to Sky Gondola a year ago, on Aug. 10, was much more involved than a simple slash.

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But it's certainly the moment that the gondola's fortunes started to turn for the worse. The broken cable sent cars crashing down, requiring 30 new cars to be brought in, while nine cabins were deemed safe after inspection.

After a half-year closure, the gondola was ready for adventure once again, opening just in time for romantic excursions on Valentine's Day.

Of course, just a month later, operations shuttered again in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, though the gondola has once again reopened with safety protocols in place.

It's inspiring to see the gondola keep at it in the face of such a heavy one-two wallop.

It wouldn't have been keeping in Squamish's character to bow out of the community after the cut, but being winded by the uncertainty of a global health crisis, especially in a tourist town reliant on international visitors, mere days after ramping back up into action would make anyone think twice. Some businesses, unfortunately, have fallen prey to the virus and it appears that others will too before this is all over, and giving credit to the gondola is in no way meant to minimize those brought down by COVID-19.

Digging in and gritting it out, though, makes it clear that the gondola is part of the community and going to stay through tough times — its own or those of the community at large. It was, of course, encouraging seeing gondola staff hustle to quickly distribute unused food to local organizations such as the Squamish Food Bank and the Squamish Helping Hands Society at its own time of panic and confusion.

Beyond its economic impacts, it's clear that the gondola has made an impact on Squamish since its opening in 2014.

The expanded backcountry access, for example, inspired the creators of Sea to Sky Backcountry Map project to not only provide the lay of the land, but also to define ascents and descents in the area.

On a personal note, my wife and I have enjoyed the gondola a handful of times on our own and with guests. Our families, both from the prairies, bonded while tackling a fear of heights by taking a ride up when in town for our wedding. And one of our fondest Christmas memories was immediately using the day passes we received that day and heading up for some snowshoeing and a cup of hot chocolate and Baileys.

That was in 2018, and we'd hoped to make it an annual tradition, which was halted by the service interruption. We haven't been out in public much during the pandemic, but I expect it's a tradition we'll pick up when it's safe to do so.

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