$22-million Squamish Sea to Sky Gondola Set to Open outside Vancouver

Photo sourced from seatoskygondola.com

Photo sourced from seatoskygondola.com

Ready for a faster way up the Chief?

Construction is officially underway on a brand new gondola that will carry passengers from the Vancouver suburb of Squamish to a summit 850 metres above scenic Howe Sound.

The Sea to Sky Gondola will take passengers on an eight-minute ride from sea level to a strip of alpine land between Shannon Falls and the famous Stawamus Chief, a 700-metre granite dome popular among rock climbers and hikers.

Work began earlier this winter on the $22 million initiative, which will be completed by the summer of 2014 and serve an estimated 200,000 riders in its first year of operation. The special Swiss-made gondola cars hold eight passengers each.

Plans for the project include an outdoor activity centre at the summit.  A 9,000-square-foot lodge will offer cultural activities, as well as a restaurant.  Interpretive trails will lead to special viewing platforms overlooking Howe Sound, as well as a suspension bridge high in the mountains and access points to backcountry hikes.  In winter, the facility will also offer snowshoeing and other seasonal activities.

Meanwhile, the base will feature a cafe, kids play area and the all-important gift shop.

The Sea to Sky Gondola is located in Squamish, roughly one hour outside of Vancouver and halfway to Whistler along the picturesque Sea to Sky Highway.  Already known as the “Outdoor Capital of Canada,” Squamish is hoping that the new project will provide access to the outdoors to people of all ages and skill levels.

The gondola is also expected to provide an economic boost to the community, which is often overlooked by travellers on their way to the Whistler mountains.  It’s forecast to provide more than 60 full time jobs and inject some $3 million into the local economy annually.

What do you think about the new Sea to Sky Gondola? Let us know below. 

For more updates on attractions in Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza

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10 Responses to $22-million Squamish Sea to Sky Gondola Set to Open outside Vancouver

  1. Andy Albright

    On climbing the Chief under one’s own power, one gets a sense of accomplishment and also a feeling of camaraderie with others atop the chief. This will be removed with cheap and easy access.
    I also believe there should be some places that are inaccessible to people who use motorized transport. I am sad that another lovely location is falling victim to unnecessary technology.
    Finally, plenty of people already make it to the three summits and I think this will lead to overcrowding, and possibly even unsafe crowding. I would definitely like to see this project halted.

    • Harvey

      Wow…it would seem that many opinions are based on rumour and pure conjecture. Allow me to issue a few corrections for the record.
      First point – there are 9.5 million people who drive the StS highway which is substantially more tourists than Banff gets. Banff Park gets 3.2 million visitors each year thru the Trans Canada hwy. There are 500k people who stop at Shannon Falls and the Chief now, almost 100k more than the Banff Mtn gondola attracts in a year. The tourists AND locals AND other outdoor enthusiasts will use it because it is inexpensive and provides access. Just like Europe where they figured it out a long time ago, if only 5% of the population can ever get up 4000 ft of vertical to enjoy a mtn experience….then you don’t get people switched on to a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Access allows people to have an outdoor experience they would otherwise never have. How do you expect an urban society to give a damn about nature if they have zero connection to it…are not inspired by it? 2nd point – this is not a Disneyland ride. Clearly you haven’t been to Disneyland to make that comparison. Third point -Destroy a park? In what way? It already has 500k people crawling over it now with climbers cutting down trees, bolting steel into the rock, scampering hikers all over the Chief at a rate of 150k per year! Pristine wilderness it is not. Fourth point – pay a bunch of climbing developers? Who pays? Already several new routes and a complete crag have been developed by climbers with hardware and access paid for by the developer. New hiking and biking trails, improved road access to Shannon Creek watershed, etc. Guess what, that is exactly what is happening at the top and beyond. You got your wish and you didn’t even know it.

  2. Murray Gamble

    I agree with what Andy said. In addition, I’m confused. The developers claim that the business model is based on the existing ride in Banff. The part that confuses me is that Banff already has 6 times as many tourists as Squamish. That makes it a lot easier to find customers. In addition, Squamish has 6 times as much precipitation as Banff. How much are people willing to pay to stand in the rain at a higher (colder) altitude?

  3. Guy Main

    The gondola doesn’t go up the Chief, its on the mountain next to it, (separated by a huge gorge) so those wanting to climb the Chief the two-legged way, can still do so and there wont be any more crowding than there already is on the Chief itself. I suggest y’all make a drive up there and check it out.

  4. dubnorix

    I don’t believe in the numbers they used to boost the project in the community. What I believe is that this project will cost a lot – period.
    What I would have done with that money is improve the Squamish experience: pay a bunch of climbing developers to clean new climbing areas, improve and expand camping sites, improve Squamish tourist offer in the downtown area, open new hiking trails, biking trails…
    Oh well. You know, nothing works unless you pay a developer and destroy a park… Sad.

  5. Observer participant

    Deciding whether to build this gondola the only motivation is tourism dollars.

    It’s a sad bit of Americana claptrap parasiting quite ugly on the side of the Chief proper.
    I’ve passed the construction a few times-an awful feeling every time.
    I had little opinion before but seeing what a crass commercial blight on this beautiful space is really disheartening.
    I’m into ‘progress’ and ‘accessibility’ but Squamish is dying not because it needs to pimp itself out more but perhaps all towns and cities need substance not grubby-Disneyland-shill subsistence.

  6. Great idea!

    Take land out of a protected class A provincial park, give nothing back to the park. Avoid legal process, build a useless gondola that does not even go to a summit in an area with 3 possible months worth of clear days in an entire year, & say you are doing it for Squamish. What a joke, this thing will be bankrupt in 5 yrs max & us, the faithful taxpayers will be on the hook. As well they are building a trail that will use the first 1/2 of the chief backside trail in the park so YES, there will be (further) overcrowding.

  7. Wow…this is going to be spectacular! Can you imagine the views you get? I can’t wait to have a go in it.

  8. Sounds like heaven! The scenery is spectacular, the mountains are breathtaking and I think this will make for an amazing retreat.