By Bella Butler Chief Editor
BIG SKY – The scraping sound of excavators picking up rock and dirt echoes off the walls of the Bowl at Big Sky Resort. It’s June 1 and the mountain cirque on the northeast face of Lone Mountain is seeing more action than usual for this time of year.
Although the resort has been closed to skiers for over a month, snow is still covering the ground and more is falling from the sky. Longtime station employees point out that this spring is no different than 1995, when the station opened the first Lone Peak streetcar. It is a relevant parallel to be made today with the laying of the first stone of the station’s brand new tram.
Big Sky Resort announced in February that it would replace its 27-year-old iconic tram as part of Big Sky 2025, a 10-year growth vision that has already produced superlative-worthy infrastructure like Ramcharger 8, the world’s first eight-person chairlift. places in North America, and this year’s Swift Current 6, among the fastest lifts on the continent. Construction has already begun on the tram’s new lower terminal, located at the base of the Bowl rather than the top, where the current tram base rests on a slow-moving glacier. The new tram will take two summers to build and will be operational for the 2023-24 winter season, station officials said.
“We are so excited about this new design, it will be the flagship of the most technologically advanced elevator system in North America,” said Troy Nedved, General Manager of Big Sky Resort, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Works.
Nedved was joined at the event by representatives of the extensive team that will be tackling various aspects of this massive project, from builders to architects to station executives.
While taking visitors to the 11,166-foot summit of Lone Mountain, just as the old tram has done since its debut in 1996, the new tram will be the epitome of technological innovation and passenger comfort, according to Mike Unruh, senior vice president of Boyne Resorts. .
Big Sky Resort also announced in February that it would replace the current Explorer Elevator with a gondola that will connect base visitors directly to the bottom of the new tram. The station has not yet revealed the capacity of the new tram, but confirmed that the cabins will hold more people than the current cabins, which each carry up to 15 people.
“We have dimensioned the capacity of the tram for the future, and we will operate it for the day,” Unruh said.
Among other differences from the old streetcar, the new streetcar will travel over 600 feet of additional elevation. It will also have the ability to travel 10 meters per second for a journey of less than four minutes, compared to the 5 meters per second at which the current tram operates.
According to the station, the new tramway and future Explorer gondola will also allow the first-ever pedestrian access to the summit from the base area.
Construction projects of this magnitude come with unique obstacles. Chad Wilson, director of construction management, said the biggest challenges will be the steep terrain – the new tram line will stretch from the bottom of the Bowl over the ravines and up to the top – as well as logistics transportation of materials.
The new tram is a milestone marking a new era for Big Sky Resort as it forges ahead with ambitious plans, just as the elevator it replaces marks another inflection point in the resort’s growth. .
“[The tram] transformed Big Sky, finally put us on the map, put us in the big leagues with a lot of others,” Nedved said. “Getting access to this fantastic high mountain, big mountain terrain – it was a game changer for us.”
Memories made while queuing, riding in the cabin, or skiing atop the original tram may forever define the Big Sky Resort experience for many, but few know the seminal elevator as intimately as Laurel Blessley, Director elevator maintenance. Blessley has worked on Big Sky elevators for some 20 years, many of whom operate or oversee the tram. She spoke fondly of early morning snowmobile rides to the lower terminal, shoveling the trench and, of course, lots of skiing.
Big Sky Resort President and COO Taylor Middleton is another longtime employee who has been around since the first tram was built.
“It’s just another phase for me,” Middleton said of the new streetcar. “There were new phases 25 years ago and there is a new phase today and there will be a new phase tomorrow. It always changes if you do it right.
During the groundbreaking, the three project leaders drove their shovels into a pile of dirt, symbolically launching a new phase for Big Sky Resort.
“It’s going to be the easiest thing we’ll do on this project,” a rep said.