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Sea-to-Sky Gondola Returns, Hopes to Find New Glory

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The Sea-to-Sky Summit, located on the territorial land of the Squamish First Nation, features enduring landscapes overlooking Howe Sound and the iconic Stawamus Chief monolith. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

If there is an embodiment of what the tourism industry in British Columbia has endured during the past 16 months, the Sea-to-Sky Gondola may be it. The attraction in Squamish has been through turbulent times, which date back to before the COVID-19 pandemic. But things are looking up — fitting for a ride that climbs 885 metres (2,904 feet) to a summit that reveals a view so stunning your heart might continue to rise long after your feet have stepped off the tram.

The operations staff reports sales of annual passes ($179 per adult or $399 for a family of your) are five times higher than 2020. That might not seem so fantastic of an achievement when the pandemic is taken into consideration, but many passes are sold at holiday time, which would have occurred in late 2019, before the public-health crisis.

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The Sea-to-Sky Gondola is about 45 minutes north of Vancouver and roughly the same distance from Whistler. At the Summit, visitors can soak in spectacular mountain views and alpine scenery. (Vacay.ca file photo)

The fresh excitement from the public to venture on the ride and experience the hikes, play areas, and dining facilities at the Sea-to-Sky Summit portends good news for the rest of the province’s tourism industry that has been decimated by the pandemic’s effects. The gondola attraction was even more debilitated than others. On September 14, 2020, a vandal cut the cable in the early morning. The crime damaged dozens of the cable cars and immediately caused the closure of the tourist draw that was trying to carve out as much revenue as it could when COVID-19 cases had dipped low enough in August and September to allow for carefully managed visits. It was the second time since 2019 that the cable had been cut and the RCMP continues to actively investigate both crimes.

British Columbia Gondola Draws Crowds Again

The pandemic made the devastation of the vandalism even more cruel. But it hasn’t deterred the attraction from advancing its hospitality goals. While not all of the programming has immediately returned with the 2021 reopening, several favourites are back, including an invigorating Via Ferrata that takes climbers along the rock face of Mount Habrich, named after the local resident who first marked trails on the peaks in Squamish.

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How did the chicken cross the Sea-to-Sky suspension bridge? Since you’re at least as brave as a chicken, you’re about to find out! The suspension bridge is a heart-pounding, one-way connection to the other side of Mount Habrich. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

Also still in place is the thrilling suspension bridge that connects the summit to the Wonderland Loop and Spirit Trails. The bridge is 100 metres (328 feet) in length and keeps your knees knocking as you cross. You’ll need a breather after the bridge and the hikes, and the Sky Pilot restaurant and bar won’t disappoint. Although the dining experience has been revamped it still offers quality choices, and wine and beer lists focused on British Columbia options.

New for this summer is a loop series of trails — which facilitates social distancing among visitors — and additional interpretive stations on existing routes.

When it debuted in 2014, the Sea-to-Sky Gondola was an immediate success, attracting more than 300,000 visitors in its first year. It has inspired other attractions in places such as Nova Scotia and Banff, and helped stamp Squamish as a destination that can entice international visitors as well as day-trippers to visit.

With its trying times behind it, the Sea-to-Sky Gondola appears to have many good days on the horizon. And don’t we wish those same words could be said for us all.

MORE ABOUT THE SEA-TO-SKY GONDOLA

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The Sea-to-Sky Gondola cable cars carry passengers to the top of the summit in about 10 exhilarating minutes. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

Location: 36800 Highway 99, Squamish, BC (see map below)

Online Ticket Cost: Day tickets cost $55.95 (adults, 19-64); free for children 5 and under. The cost is slightly more if purchased in person. Annual pass holders receive additional benefits such as:

  • 20% off food & beverage costs (excluding alcohol)
  • 20% discount on day tickets for up to friends
  • 20% off regular-priced retail items

Website: www.seatoskygondola.com

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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.

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