August Tram Diaries - A Little History
Welcome to Jackson Hole’s Tram Diaries, a monthly update on the construction of the new 100-passenger aerial tram, opening December 2008.
A Little History:
After a 2005 study revealed that the nearly
40-year-old tram would need major maintenance and upgrades, the
Kemmerer family pledged (in August 2006) to fund the $25 million
required to build a new one.
Designs for the new 100-person tram were released and approved in early 2007.
Demolition and construction began in April, 2007, the day after the mountain closed for the summer season.
Swiss company Doppelmayr CTEC is building the new steel tram towers,
terminals and mechanics in Switzerland. In March 2008, the company will
ship all these components via 50 sea containers to Houston, Texas,
where they will arrive via rail and road to Jackson Hole, WY.
The temporary East Ridge chairlift currently installed in Rendezvous
Bowl will provide lift service to the top of Rendezvous Mountain for
winter 2007/08 and will remain in place for backup access to the summit
for approximately one full winter season after the new tram is
The Project:Over the next year and a half, crews will continue
and finish construction of two new tram terminals and five towers. The
old bottom terminal will be demolished and a new one erected in its
place, complete with a new steeple, while the top terminal will move
slightly east and be enlarged to allow for more efficient operation.
With a 100-passenger capacity, the new lift will be able to carry
nearly twice as many passengers to the top in about half the time.
The Progress:During summer 07, local Zaist Construction
Management completed the foundations for the five replacement towers,
along with the foundation for a new mountain station at the summit,
which will deposit passengers a few feet from where they used to unload.
All summer, crews used the old tram plus all-terrain trucks to haul
materials to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. Building materials and
supplies for Tower 2 have been brought in by helicopter or by using the
existing tram, which will be fully removed upon completion of the new
tram. An existing 300-foot segment of road to Tower 4 has been
refurbished and a temporary access road near Tower 5 is being used to
move materials and equipment. Once construction of Tower 5 is complete,
the access road will be reclaimed and restored to pre-existing
“Right off the bat, starting when we closed, we plowed a road right up
the mountain,” said Tom Spangler, general manager of Jackson Hole
Mountain Resort. “We started early. The below average snow year helped
the construction - annoyed the skiers, but helped the construction.”
Crews first poured the foundations for Towers 2 and 4, then Towers 3
and 5. The new towers will be anchored with micropile foundations that
stabilize and strengthen the foundation, adapting to the stress and
movement of tremendous loads. Micropiles, basically big round pieces of
pipe, are pushed into the ground then filled with concrete.
Tower 1 wasn’t as dire, Spangler said, as it’s close to the valley
floor and therefore easily accessed. Still, he said, crews have been
working four 10-12 hour shifts all summer to get the foundations poured.
“It’s not every day that someone gets to be in charge of building a
tram,” Spangler said. “There’s only anywhere from three to five every
year built in the world and some years there’s none built. … There’s
not going to be another tram built in the US that we see in our
industry. There are only seven of them in North America, so it’s a
pretty unique project... It’s a pretty big project for myself and for
my crew here and for the town of Jackson. There’s a whole team effort
and everybody’s into it.”
Other summer updates included getting approval from County
Commissioners for the bottom terminal, which is on private land owned
by the Kemmerers. The top terminal is on US Forest Service land, and
was approved earlier this year. The bottom terminal - designed by
Jackson architect and JHMR board member John Carney – was also
completed this summer.
This winter, a “weather-mitigating bubble” will cover the bottom
terminal site through the winter, allowing contractors to continue work
on the new terminal foundation.
September’s progress will be reported during the first week of October,
and October’s during the first week of November and so on. Stay tuned
“It’s all been planned out as a two year project to open December of
‘08,” Spangler said. “The end product is going to be the best tram in
North America, and maybe the world.”