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Canada

Fall expansion plans for Sea to Sky Gondola uncertain after sabotage

The shutdown of the Sea to Sky Gondola after its cable was deliberately cut may delay the start of an expansion for the popular Squamish attraction. Construction was scheduled to begin in the fall.

“Right in the midst of all of this, we don’t know how that’s going to affect” plans, said David Greenfield, who owns the company with fellow former Intrawest executive Trevor Dunn and Michael Hutchison.

The cable was severed early Saturday in what police are investigating as an intentional act, sending more than half of the 30 cars crashing to the ground.

As many as 20 of the cars need to be replaced and damages are likely in the “millions” of dollars, said Greenfield, who said the company is insured.

He didn’t know when the gondola could be running again.

In February, the company unveiled plans to build a 2.5-kilometre covered walkway in the trees and wetlands of Panorama Ridge at the top of the gondola, and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District approved a development permit.

The project is still subject to local and provincial government approvals and First Nations engagement but the goal was to break ground this fall so it could open next spring.

“We’re hoping to try to keep going and not delaying” said Greenfield. “Nothing has been delayed right now. We’re talking to our insurance company and to our banks.”

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Greenfield said the company has handed over to Squamish RCMP for its investigation “any and all evidence we’ve deemed to be relevant.” Asked if that included video surveillance, Greenfield said he couldn’t comment on specifics.

Squamish RCMP spokeswoman Const. Ashley MacKay said on Thursday there was nothing new to report on the investigation.

Greenfield said both the top and bottom of the lift was under “constant surveillance” and the system was equipped with sensors to detect anything unusual.

“We follow strict protocols” for the security and operation of gondola, he said. “There was nothing from our perspective that was left off the table.”

But he said the gondola, which rises almost a kilometre above sea level, is “two kilometres long and it goes through a provincial park and a large portion crosses Crown land and there are lots of places to get access to the gondola if you’re motivated.”

He said police are in contact with the company daily but have been given no information about any possible suspects.

“They are making progress but they told us you have to have patience,” said Greenfield.

Losses would include the damages and lost revenue during shutdown, including money from the 1,500 to 3,000 daily visitors.

Greenfield said he was in “complete disbelief and shock” when he got the call early Saturday morning about the shutdown.“It was one of those moments when you had to put the phone down and take a minute about what you just heard,” he said.

The founders spent years getting approvals, licences and permits before opening the gondola five years ago.

Greenfield said there was some opposition to the gondola but nothing vociferous or violent and for its five years of operation, it’s been a “well-loved and accepted” feature of Squamish, which gives “access to everyone of all ages to the beautiful outdoors.”

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