The Sea to Sky Gondola is set to reopen in a month, a little over half a year since its operations were brought to a halt when someone cut the gondola cable.
On Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, guests will be able to once again ride in 30 new cabins.
"We are opening earlier than anticipated and the task has been huge. Our industry partners were there every step of the way, from assisting in the clean-up and assessing needs to delivering major components with absolutely no notice. Our amazing team rose to the challenge and have done everything required to get us back up and running as quickly as possible so we can get back to connecting people with nature and the beauty of Squamish," the Sea to Sky Gondola general manager Kirby Brown said in a press release.
"We are so excited that on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2020, we get to carry our passholders and guests back up the mountain on a brand-new cable, in brand-new cabins. Our community stood by the gondola and showed us overwhelming support, confidence, and love through the last six months, and for that, we are so grateful."
Those with a sharp eye may notice the new trail and foundations in place for the Sky Spiral. Brown said visitors will be able to see the new construction going up over Panorama Ridge in May or June.
"We kept going with that project as part of our desire to reopen and offer something fresh and new and a whole new perspective on Squamish and the sound. We anticipate the spiral itself — this 100-foot walkway into the sky — will be complete by mid-summer," Brown said in an interview with The Chief.
Other new features will include a new website for the gondola, and most importantly new security installations. While Brown said he was advised not to go into detail about their security measures, he said they are "robust."
"The stuff we have put in already and are working on right now is absolutely state of the art," Brown said. "Some of it wasn't available to the consumer marketplaces as early as last year. It's a massive investment in the ongoing security of the lift."
With the new cabins comes a new 4.4-kilometre haul line. Technical Safety BC will do a safety inspection in early February. Meanwhile, the RCMP investigation into who cut down the gondola on Aug. 10 is ongoing.
To those who may be hesitant to ride the gondola again, as the perpetrator has yet to be apprehended, Brown said those feelings are natural.
"I just ask people to keep in mind that this act of vandalism could only have occurred the way that it did. You cannot do that kind of damage to an operating lift line. Even minor damage, like very, very minuscule, minor damage, we pick up just through our morning protocols and via the intelligence of the lift design," he said.
"People are very safe on these lifts. There are many thousands of them operating world-wide. This is a unique event, and while we haven't caught the person, certainly the deterrents we've put in place and the security system that we have installed and continue to upgrade will make us the most secure lift installation anywhere."
As for staff, Brown said more than 70 core staff members were retained since the Aug. 10 incident. Now that operations are getting ready to take off, a locals' recruiting fair will be held on Jan. 17 and 18 at the Squamish Adventure Centre. Brown said they'll be hiring full- and part-time positions.
Brown said they hope to have former employees return to the gondola, although he said many of the seasonal employees will have moved on. He added they also hope to see new local faces.
For opening day, Brown said there will be a few treats and surprises, especially since it will be on Valentine's Day. The gondola will be giving out vouchers to 'share the love' with Squamish, and to thank the community for its continued support.
*Please note this story has been updated with an interview from general manager Kirby Brown, since it was first posted.