Don't let the door hit you on the way out: Vail to begin new gondola construction April 16

Closing day at Vail is scheduled for Sunday, April 15, and Vail Resorts will barely let the door hit this sad snow season on the ass before looking forward to next winter: The very next day, the company will begin construction on a new gondola from Vail Village to Mid-Vail, a pillar of the resort's plans to gussy up in time for its fiftieth anniversary season.

"The new gondola will be a tremendous addition to the guest experience in Vail, adding significant improvements in comfort, capacity and ride time for skiers and snowboarders out of Vail Village," said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, in a statement released yesterday. "I can't think of a better way to kick off Vail's 50th anniversary than with a new, state-of-the-art gondola in the same location where the very first Gondola One was built in 1962."

The gondola is expected to be finished by opening day, set for November 16, 2012. Here are some specs, released yesterday:

The new gondola will be the first of its kind in North America and with a speed of 1,200 feet per minute, it will be the fastest gondola of its type in the world, creating a 40 percent increase in uphill capacity. The silver gondola cabins, designed by French manufacturer Sigma, will carry 10 passengers each and will feature heated, black cushioned seats and Wi-Fi access for guests. The new gondola will replace the existing Vista Bahn Express Lift (#16) and reduce the ride time from 9 minutes to 7.5 minutes.

The alignment of the new gondola will be similar to the existing Vista Bahn Express Lift (#16). The terminal design will match that of the High Noon Express Lift (#5), featuring tinted windows and a bronze shaded roof, blue paneling and a wood lift house with rock and stained cedar siding. The gondola will allow for easier guest access at the base, a more functional interface with the Look Ma level of Mid-Vail and an easier downloading location from the top.

More than 50 percent of the lift will be manufactured in the United States at Leitner-Poma's Grand Junction plant while other portions will be constructed in Europe.

If you're thinking ahead to next season, too, Vail Resorts is offering early-bird discounts on season passes for the 2012-2013 season through April 15, including the Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, and Summit Value Pass, all of which now include summer 2012 lift access.

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