Vail Resorts wins historic vote as Interconnect Gondola approved | ParkRecord.com
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Vail Resorts wins historic vote as Interconnect Gondola approved

by Jay Hamburger, THE PARK RECORD

The Interconnect Gondola that will link Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort won a City Hall approval on Wednesday night, a historic vote that allows Vail Resorts to move ahead with its plans to create the largest ski area in the U.S.

The Park City Planning Commission cast a unanimous vote in favor of the gondola and other improvements the Colorado firm intends to make prior to the next ski season. Adam Strachan, a member of the Planning Commission, did not participate in the discussions and did not vote as a result of a conflict of interest.

Vail Resorts, which owns PCMR and operates Canyons Resort as part of a long-term agreement with the Talisker corporate family, sees the Interconnect Gondola as the centerpiece of the improvement plan. The company has said it intends to spend more than $50 million this year as the two resorts are molded into a single property.

High-level Vail Resorts officials were at the meeting. Park City Manager Diane Foster and Mark Harrington, the Park City attorney, were also in the room as the Planning Commission dealt with the gondola. The audience on Wednesday was larger than many other Planning Commission meetings, and it appeared at least some in the crowd were there to observe the discussion about PCMR and the vote.

The eight-passenger gondola will travel between a point close to the base of the Silverlode lift at PCMR to a location at the Flatiron lift at Canyons Resort. The route covers 7,650 feet, nearly 1 1/2 miles. There will be an unloading point just off the top of Pine Cone Ridge.

The Planning Commission in the Snyderville Basin approved the section of gondola that will be outside the Park City limits at an earlier meeting. The Snyderville Basin panel also cast a unanimous vote in support of the connection.

"It feels great. We’re embarking on, really, transforming the Park City Mountain Resort experience," Blaise Carrig, the president of the mountain division of Vail Resorts, said in an interview afterward.

Carrig led a contingent from Vail Resorts at the meeting. Kristin Kenney Williams, the firm’s director of mountain public affairs, and PCMR Chief Operating Officer Bill Rock were also in attendance.

Carrig said survey teams will finish their work shortly. He anticipates starting prep work for the gondola construction as soon as the ski season ends, including sending crews to the sites of the terminals to begin clearing snow. The excavations for the terminals and the towers will be planned in May and June, followed by concrete pours between June and August. The terminals and the towers are expected to be installed in July and August. The cables and gondola cabins would be put in place in September for an October completion. PCMR typically opens for the ski season in November.

The work at PCMR during the upcoming construction season — the gondola, the Snow Hut restaurant expansion and other lift upgrades — will involve helicopters, cranes and heavy machinery. The Park City Building Department will craft what is known as a construction mitigation plan that will regulate the crews. That plan will be completed later.

The gondola was the most closely watched part of the Vail Resorts’ package of improvements. There was discussion about the gondola colors, the windows and its visibility from points outside the resorts. There was testimony in support of the gondola in both jurisdictions. Hans Fuegi, a longtime Park City businessman, spoke in favor of the package of upgrades during the Wednesday meeting as he commented that Vail Resorts has done a "remarkable job" thus far.

In its vote, the Planning Commission also approved the expansion of the Snow Hut restaurant. Vail Resorts says the larger restaurant will be needed as a result of the connection.

The Planning Commission spent time discussing plans to preserve historic sites on the PCMR acreage. There are numerous silver mining-era relics on the land. Carrig said some of the preservation work will be conducted soon to ensure the relics are protected from collapsing.

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