The Peak-to-Peak Gondola at Whistler Blackcomb.
Peak-to-Peak = More Powder Skiing
If you’ve never seen the Peak-to-Peak gondola at Whistler Blackcomb, I can assure you that it’s an arresting sight. If you’ve never ridden it, it’s a hypnagogic experience. Having never done either I was blown away when I saw and rode it for the first time this week.
The thing is an amusement park ride for the first-time-rider. The oversized views tilt your orientation even more towards perplexed than it already was and yes – you’re very excited to ride it. The gondys are big, comfy, and window wrapped.
The Peak-to-Peak = More Powder Skiing for the ski freak because instead of skiing to the bottom and riding two chairs (Blackcomb) or one long extremely uncomfortable gondola (Whistler) back to the top, he/she can simple dangle across the gap right to the upper portion of the opposing mountain saving time and energy. This all adds up to quicker access to more powder skiing, less time on lifts, and more time ripping that thing we all love called powder.
Eliel Hindert skiing in ‘The Cut” below the Peak-to-Peak gondola
The most incredible thing about the Peak-to-Peak might be the ski access it’s provided. During construction, they had to cut swaths of trees down in vertical lines so they could lay the cables down before elevating them. Those treeless lines (called ’the cut’) are now stupid long ski runs that hold the potential to be the best run of your life. When Whistler gets big low elevation snow, these lines become some of the sickest lift access pillow-tree runs anywhere.
Peak-to-Peak Gondola. photo: bian bredberg
Peak-to-Peak Gondola Facts:
- The longest unsupported lift span in the world (3.024 kilometers / 1.88 miles / 9,921 feet)
Peak-to-Peak Gondola. Whistler Blackcomb
- Nearly 2 miles across
- Highest lift of its type in the world with an elevation of 435 meters/1,427 feet off the ground
- $52 million to build
- Construction began in 2007 and ended in 2009
- 2,400-horse power terminal at Whistler provides the power (normal operation is 900-hp)
- Tallest of the 4 towers is 213 feet tall. Combined they weight 441 tons and their foundations required 141,000 cubic feet of concrete
- The 28 gondolas hold 28 people each and travel at 17 mph, taking 11 minutes to cover the 2.7 mile gap
- Moves 4,100 people per hour
- 2 glass bottom gondolas provide straight down views and a freaky feeling
- A 270-horse power diesel backup drive is capable of sending 4 rescue cars onto track ropes to grab and haul back stranded gondolas
- Obstacle Collision Avoidance System is a radar to track nearby aircraft. If an aircraft is detected, lights flash on the towers and a warning is broadcast on all aircraft radio frequencies that should freak the pilot out enough that he misses the cables
- 4 stationary carbon-steel cables (track ropes) support the gondolas. Two for each direction. Each 97-ton cable can support 767,723 pounds and stretch to a length of 15,092 feet. Multiple ropes allow safe operation in winds up to 50 mph.
“This year (2009), five monstrous spools of cable were shipped from a Swiss factory, through the Panama Canal, and up to Washington state. A train then took them to Whistler, where they were loaded onto a 48-wheel trailer that was pushed and pulled by haul trucks up a winding gravel road at an average speed of 1 mph. It took three months, and the help of helicopters, to string the cables across the valley. The gondola, which opens in December, will allow visitors to the largest ski resort in North America to move quickly be” – popularmechanics.com