Grand Junction firm selected to build fastest gondola in the world

A Grand Junction manufacturer has been selected to construct what’s billed as the fastest gondola of its type in the world.

Leitner-Poma of America expects to install the gondola in Vail Village in time for opening of the next ski season.

“We’re thrilled not only to have the opportunity to work with Vail once again, but also to bring such a tremendous advancement in lift technology to the industry in North America,” said Rick Spear, president of Leitner-Poma.

The new gondola will feature cabins that carry up to 10 passengers each and offer heated seats and wireless Internet access. With a speed of 1,200 feet a minute, the gondola will be the fastest of its type in the world. The new gondola will cut the ride time on the route from 9 minutes to 7.5 minutes while increasing uphill capacity 40 percent.

“This new gondola will establish a whole new standard for comfort in lifts and – combined with speed and uphill capacity increases – will significantly improve the guest experience at Vail Mountain,” said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.

The new gondola will replace the Vista Bahn Express Lift and follow the same alignment. The gondola is scheduled for installation following the end of the ski season in April and should be ready for operation on the opening day of the next season, set for Nov. 16.

More than half of the gondola will be manufactured at the Leitner-Poma factory in the Bookcliff Technology Park just west of Grand Junction Regional Airport. The cabins and other components of the gondola will be constructed in Europe.

Leitner-Poma installed 10 chair lifts for the ski season now under way, two of them in Colorado. Other lifts were installed in Oregon and Wisconsin as well as in Canada. The company typically handles 12 to 16 such projects a year as ski resorts replace outdated lifts or install new lifts as part of expanded operations.

The new gondola in Vail constitutes another high-profile project for Leitner-Poma. The company also will join in a project to erect the world’s largest observation wheel in Las Vegas.

Leitner-Poma expects to manufacture 28 spherical cabins that will rotate around the 550-foot tall High Roller observation wheel planned by Caesars Entertainment. The wheel is the main attraction of a $550 million project planned for the Las Vegas strip.

Spear said Leitner-Poma will expand operations and increase staffing in Grand Junction to build cabins for the High Roller project.