Mountainwatch | News
Thredbo officially launched its new Merritts Gondola today after the project was completed and the “keys” officially handed over by Doppelmayr to the resort last week. Given the size of the project and the difficulties and delays caused by bushfires and the Covid 9 pandemic and restrictions, completing the gondola on schedule is an impressive achievement.
For Thredbo locals it has been fascinating to watch the progress of the build since he gondola cabins were delivered Thredbo from Austria last September. From the dismantling of the old Merritts double chair, to pouring tonnes of concrete for the tower foundations, watching Blackhawk helicopters transporting the new lift towers into place and the crew splicing the cable at dusk on a cold, sleety evening and as you’ll see from the below video it has been a huge summer for all involved.
The basic stats of the project put it all into perspective:
* There are 157 independent footings across the project. This involved 1196m3 of concrete which equates to 2870 tonnes or 574 African Elephants
* The next phase of the construction involves the mechanical install. Hundreds of tonnes of steel and thousands of bolts are required to accomplish this. This equipment was shipped from Austria to Australia in over 40 shipping containers
* Five Towers were flown by a Blackhawk helicopter with loads of up to three tonnes being landed on the Schuss section of the Merritts lift lin
* The rope from Switzerland is then spliced. It is 2784m long….approximately 20 Aussie Rules football fields long or 24 NRL fields long
* The top speed is 5m/s or 18km/h
* The ride is six minutes top to bottom with a bottom elevation of 1370m and a top elevation of 1665m
Normally a project of this size would have a huge official opening with a major celebration with a cast of VIPs and plenty of media in tow. However, given the current circumstances a low-key official opening will take place on Saturday while the media were invited to a virtual media launch today.
It has been a big summer in Thredbo, the resort’s parent company EVENT investing in a huge amount of infrastructure, not just the multi-million dollar gondola, but expanded snowmaking, additional car parking while the resort continues to power all its major resort operations with 100% renewable energy.
The full details are in the following media release:
Thredbo, NSW, June 18: Thredbo Resort, operated by EVENT Hospitality and Entertainment Ltd, has today announced the completion of several developments. This includes the launch of the Merritts Gondola, the only alpine gondola in Australia. In addition, EVENT has also invested in a new car park, improvements to Dream Run including snowmaking, an expanded grooming fleet, and has continued to introduce new sustainability measures all of which contribute to delivering an enhanced experience for visitors to Thredbo.
Thredbo is Australia’s premier alpine resort and has been voted Australia’s Best Ski Resort in the World Ski Awards for three consecutive years. The Gondola investment will further enhance this position, replacing the Merritts double chairlift and quadrupling capacity. The cabin-style lift is similar to those found in Europe and North America and represents the culmination of two years of planning and development, delivering a new crucial inter-mountain link.
Stuart Diver, General Manager of Thredbo Resort today said: “The investment being made in Thredbo is really exciting to see, and I have no doubt Thredbo customers will agree. The launch of the Gondola is a huge event for Thredbo and the entire community who have worked so hard to make this happen. It is a remarkable engineering achievement thanks to the tenacity and depth of knowledge and expertise at Doppelmayr, the world’s leading manufacturer of ski lifts. The completion of this phase of our development plan will enhance the customer experience and continue to ensure we remain Australia’s premier resort.
“Snow lovers will be thrilled with easier access to the Cruiser area and the Friday Flat beginners’ area, and with the improvements we have made to the popular Dream Run, including a new automated snowmaking system.
“We care deeply about our responsibility of operating in a unique natural environment, which is why being Australia’s first ski resort to be powered exclusively by clean, renewable energy was also an important milestone.”
Shaun Turner, General Manager of Doppelmayr Australia said, “Doppelmayr is proud to be delivering Merritts Gondola to Thredbo on time for the 2020 winter snow season. Merritts is the first eight-passenger gondola in the Australian snowfields and offers world leading European quality, safety and green technology.
“Thredbo’s new gondola is driven by a massive slow turning motor which is super quiet and more efficient than a conventional gondola. We would like to commend Thredbo for demonstrating their commitment to sustainability and the environment with the uptake of this innovative technology.”
The investment in the Merritts Gondola provides:
* Easier access for Village guests of all abilities to the Friday Flat and Cruiser area.
* Fast turnaround access from the Gondola Mid-Station to the Top-Station for intermediate and advanced ski and snowboarders accessing the popular Dream Run and its surrounding tree runs.
* Easier access for foot and scenic passengers to the Merritts Mountain House.
* Reduced pressure on the Kosciuszko Express and Gunbarrel Express chairlifts.
Jane Hastings, Chief Executive Officer of EVENT Hospitality & Entertainment said: “As a Group, a key strategic priority is to maximise our assets to enable growth and deliver the best possible customer experiences. Our Thredbo plan is centred on enhancing the skier, hiker and mountain biker experience with targeted investment on mountain that respects the environment we are operating in. Our recent investments in the Merritts Gondola, snowmaking on Dream Run, an expanded snow grooming fleet and increased carparks will enable more customers to enjoy an even better Thredbo experience. I am incredibly proud of our team at Thredbo for their absolute commitment in overcoming the impact of the bushfires, adjusting our operating model for COVID-19 restrictions, and delivering this phase of our strategic plan.”
The winter stage is set with additional snowmaking, car park expansions and continued commitment from Thredbo Resort to power all its major resort operations with 100% renewable energy:
Snowmaking on ‘Dream Run’. This aptly named popular intermediate to advanced run will have its own automated snowmaking system. This will become a link run allowing better access to Friday Flat and the Mid-Station of the new Merritts Gondola.
Additional car parking at Friday Flat with 75 additional spaces available.
Pistenbully snow groomer. A brand new Pistenbully PB600 Polar Free Grooming Cat has been added to Thredbo’s extensive fleet of snow groomers. The Euro V compliant motor sees increased power over its predecessor, while significantly reducing particulate and nitrogen emission. It’s designed to cover large areas quickly and efficiently whilst delivering the best quality groomed runs for our guests.
SNOWsat snow depth technology. Thredbo has invested in new SNOWsat technology to more accurately measure snow depth across the resort. Developed by the snow groomer machine manufacturer Kassbohrer, the technology involves sensors being placed on the grooming machines that relay snow depth measurements via satellite to our server and provides a detailed snow depth map. The snow depth map will deliver efficiencies in both snow grooming and snow making to further enhance the skiing and snowboarding experience.
Renamed trail ‘Frank’s Face’. One of Thredbo’s iconic trails is being renamed after the incredible Frank Prihoda, Australia’s oldest Olympian and Thredbo local who turns 99 on 8 July 2020. The blue (intermediate) trail runs from the top of Karel’s T-bar from Australia’s highest lifted point of 2037 metres to Basin T-bar.
Environmental initiatives. Together with Red Energy and Snowy Hydro, Thredbo continues to lead the industry as Australia’s first snow resort to have all major resort operations powered by 100% renewable energy. New environmental initiatives for 2020 include sugarcane pulp food packaging (certified compostable and sustainable) and a closed loop organics recycling machine, doubling Thredbo’s food waste recycling capacity. In addition, Thredbo has undertaken an extensive rehabilitation native planting project and used repurposed materials in the construction of the new Friday Flat car park retaining walls.
The official Opening of the Merritts Gondola will take place in Thredbo on Saturday 20 June 2020 with key representatives from EVENT, Government tourism and industry organisations invited to the limited capacity event, in keeping with the current COVID-19 restrictions on gathering sizes.