The long-awaited Sea to Sky Gondola is finally set to take its first passengers.
Situated in Squamish, about one hour north of Vancouver, the gondola will begin whisking visitors from sea level to a height of more than 885 metres on May 16.
The $22-million facility is situated on a strip of land between the famous Stawamus Chief Provincial Park (better known as “the Chief”) and Shannon Falls. After a 10-minute ride in plush, eight-person gondola cars, passengers disembark on a mountain peak situated high above Howe Sound.
Up top, there’s an entire adventure centre tucked away high in the Coast Mountains. A 9,000-square-foot lodge offers visitors a place to grab a beer or bite to eat and enjoy the views from multiple viewing platforms. Meanwhile, a network of walking trails provide access to the kind of alpine scenery usually accessible only to serious hikers.
Hop on the Panorama Trail for a 1.6-kilometre trek through woods and across cedar bridges to a one-of-a-kind viewpoint, a special, cantilevered platform extending right off the side of the mountain. For a taste of local First Nations culture, explore the 400-metre Spirit Trail, which offers an interpretive account of the local aboriginal community, the Squamish Nation.
In addition, there’s a wobbly suspension bridge hung across a deep gully separating two peaks (at 100-metres-long, it’s only a bit shorter than the world famous 140-metre Capilano Suspension Bridge). Plus, more experienced hikers can also access serious backcountry trails from the top of the gondola.
While the project has not been without some controversy (including opposition from activists who fear the impact on nearby Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and its iconic, 700-metre granite dome), it’s also being lauded as a way for people of all ages and skill levels to experience a pristine piece of mountain scenery. The gondola is expected to provide some 60 full-time jobs and inject $3 million into the economy of Squamish, the so-called “Outdoor Capital of Canada.’
The Sea to Sky Gondola officially opens on May 16. Adult tickets are $34.95, with discounts for seniors, youth and family groups.