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Forget the Chairlift

Sun Valley prepares to debut new gondola

No need to brave the wind chill in Sun Valley this winter, not when going uphill is about to become a whole lot swankier thanks to the addition of the resort’s first gondola.

While the resort has always been considered one of the grand dames of the ski world, it always lacked that little something extra that has skiers and boarders lining up at resorts like Jackson Hole and Snowbasin.

But this season, visitors can jump on the shiny new gondola at River Run Plaza at the base of the mountain and be hauled up 2,000 vertical feet in heated comfort to the Roundhouse Lodge at mid-mountain, where they can access not only the restaurant, but Seattle Ridge.

The gondola is the first phase of the resort’s 50-year master plan, which eventually calls for the gondola to be expanded to connect the ski hill with the town, said Jack Sibbach, director of sales, marketing and PR at Sun Valley Resort.

For now though, the resort is banking on the draw gondola’s 56 cabins (holding eight passengers each) will have among both skiers and those who would rather skip the sliding-down-the-hill part and just hit Roundhouse for lunch.

Non-skiers—or “foot traffic” as they have been officially named—can pony up $20 to ride the gondola up and back (eight minutes each way) to catch lunch or late afternoon drinks at Roundhouse. Tickets for ages 12 and younger cost $10.

Even less skilled skiers can take advantage of the gondola, using it to access easier trails on Seattle Ridge, then riding the gondola back down to the base.

To accommodate additional interest, Sun Valley is adding breakfast service to Roundhouse, allowing skiers to fuel up early and get the jump on the competition for first tracks. Plans also call for the gondola to operate through the summer for sightseeing and hiking.

While the resort is busy making snow with an eye on a Thanksgiving Day opening, it will hold a ribbon-cutting celebration for the gondola on Saturday, Nov. 21.

The Gondola ’Ganza, will include free rides from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., as well as free hot chocolate and apple cider, ski patrol and snowcat demonstrations, snowmaking displays, merchant booths, raffles and prizes. Kids can also test out a jib park (kind of a mini-terrain park) throughout the day.

Visitors can also check out the Tastes of the Mountain event from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., where they can buy samples of some of the cuisine that will be served at the various lodges on the mountain this season.

And while riding up the hill in the gondola seems to be the way to go, some highly motivated athletes will race from the base to the top terminal of the gondola in a foot/snowshoe race, depending on snow conditions. The race will start at 11 a.m., and competitors will be running for bragging rights alone. Preregistration can be done up until 10 a.m. the morning of the event.