Arizona Snowbowl sets the bar for the state’s alpine experience with Arizona Gondola
Arizona Snowbowl is planning to start the 2020-21 season with the highly anticipated state-of-the-art Arizona Gondola, its new high-speed lift, which is the longest, highest and most advanced lift in the state. The Arizona Gondola will run as a combination detachable chairlift and gondola. It replaces the Agassiz lift. Each eight-person cabin will be interspersed with two six-person chairs through the upcoming ski season.
“With the Arizona Gondola, we are ushering in a new era,” said Arizona Snowbowl General Manager Rob Linde. “More than an upgrade, this high-tech combination lift will redefine the alpine experience at Snowbowl and set a new standard for ski areas across the state.”
The name change from Agassiz to Arizona is part of Snowbowl’s larger developing theme, identifying the ski resort’s location and providing immediate recognition beyond the local market. “Snowbowl now has the Grand Canyon Express and the Arizona Gondola, names that support the broader region’s tourism and economic development efforts,” said J. R. Murray, Chief Planning Officer for Mountain Capital Partners (MCP), the management company for Arizona Snowbowl. “As 2020 has been a year of change, our team feels the timing of the name change is perfect with the addition of the new lift. We plan to continue expanding the Arizona theme across the resort, with input from the community.”
Only six similar gondola/chair combination lifts currently exist in the United States. The sleek new terminals and towers of the Arizona Gondola look much like those of the Grand Canyon Express high-speed lift, which was installed at Snowbowl in 2017. However, in order to accommodate the cabins, the entire lift was designed and engineered for gondola-specific operations that require longer terminals and more complex internal components. Skiers will load and unload like they do on Snowbowl’s other lifts while cabin passengers will load and unload on the opposite side of the terminals.
The Arizona Gondola will transport guests up 2,000 vertical feet in just seven minutes, less than half the time of the legendary Agassiz lift it replaces. “We, of course, are all very nostalgic about the Agassiz lift, which had been the beating heart of Snowbowl since 1986,” said Murray. “The spectacular views will still be the same and we are confident our long-time season passholders will be very excited about the speed and comfort that this new technology offers,” he said, adding that a chairlift has been operating in this location on the mountain since 1961.
The new lift is designed to maintain the same capacity per hour as the previous lift and is not expected to increase congestion at the top of the mountain. The summer installation of the Arizona Gondola has been one of the largest such projects in North America this year. It was approved by the Coconino National Forest last fall, following the completion of an Environmental Assessment (EA), in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The Arizona Gondola is fully flexible, allowing for varying combinations of cabins and chairs, and is particularly adaptable for future summer and fall Snowbowl Scenic Chairlift rides. Snowbowl officials say it will be easier for guests of all ages to load and unload and minimize downtown from weather such as rain, wind and cold temperatures.
Arizona Snowbowl is scheduled to open to skiing and snowboarding Friday, Nov. 20, with public safety measures in place. “We will be managing attendance levels on peak days and creating new flow areas to accommodate physical distancing,” said Snowbowl Marketing Coordinator Li Cui. “Also, we are going to all on-line ticket sales to reduce contact.”
Pre-season discounts of up to 50% on season passes remain in effect through Oct. 9. For more information, visit snowbowl.ski.