The new, $15 million gondola at Steamboat Resort is proving to be a workhorse during the busy holiday season.

The Doppelmayr-produced gondola replaced the existing gondola with 12 additional cabins. Ride time was reported as going from 12 minutes to eight minutes. The time spent waiting in line was supposed to be cut by about 15 minutes.

My background is in journalism, so I tried to remain objective and somewhat scientific when coming up with a way to review what has been dubbed the fastest gondola in North America. The strategy was simple. How long it would take me to snowboard 10,000 vertical feet using only the gondola as my uphill transportation? I was impressed with the results.

The steady line for the gondola

The experiment started at 8:05 a.m. with a run during First Tracks. I got back down the mountain just in time for the regular 8:30 a.m. gondola opening time.

It took me a total of two hours, 18 minutes to snowboard 10,737 vertical feet at a leisurely speed on runs that included Heavenly Daze, Ted’s Ridge, Vagabond, Vogue and Betwixt. The distance I traveled while riding the gondola and snowboarding totaled 20.37 miles. I’m confident this could not have been accomplished a year ago in the same amount of time.

Gondola cars seen from Heavenly Daze

Possibly the biggest question has been what impact the new gondola would have on the time spent in line. In previous years, the gondola line sometimes could stretch into the One Steamboat Place plaza. It was not what you wanted to see if you were trying to sneak away from work for some quick turns.

Other than that, Steamboat Resort has not been known for its long lift lines. I occasionally see pictures of lines from other resorts and realize how spoiled we are. We are now even more spoiled.

I went through the singles line five times and did not stand for very long.

Here were my wait times:

  • Line #1: No wait
  • Line #2: 5 minutes, 26 seconds
  • Line #3: 1 minutes, 14 seconds
  • Line #4: 3 minutes, 22 seconds
  • Line #5: 8 minutes, 41 seconds

The flow of lines is steadier, and there is less time spent standing around.

During my fourth ride up, one of the two passengers in the car with me pointed out the gondola was maybe too fast. We had five empty seats in our eight-passenger car because people could not load fast enough. Perhaps we all need to be a little more focused when it comes to loading and handing our skis/snowboards to the army of staff members who are there to help.

Ride times:

I timed the gondola ride time from when the doors closed at the bottom to when they opened at the top.

  • Ride #1: 9 minutes, 26 seconds
  • Ride #2: 9 minutes, 26 seconds
  • Ride #3: 8 minutes, 56 seconds
  • Ride #4: 8 minutes, 19 seconds
  • Ride #5: 7 minutes, 55 seconds!

On that last ride, we actually surpassed the advertised eight-minute travel time. Kudos to the team at Doppelmayr on a magnificent piece of engineering. I love it.

A gondola car leaves the lower terminal