skiway-tram

The Skiway Tram didn't last long, but an updated Mt. Hood Gondola has excellent potential.

Timberline Lodge management is investigating the feasibility of a new Mount Hood Gondola connecting Government Camp with the historic lodge at 6,000 feet.

The push to develop a new aerial connection gained new momentum last summer when RLK and Company, the enterprise that manages Timberline lodge and Ski
Area, purchased the Summit Ski Area in Govy.

Timberline representatives have been meeting with community members and stakeholders to discuss the possible gondola. Timberline Public Affairs director Jon Tullis says project specifics will be included in the Summit Conceptual Master Plan, expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Mount Hood locals and visitors have been wondering about the possibility of an aerial connection to the lodge ever since the infamous Skiway Tram was discontinued in 1953 amid unpaid bills and investor losses. The Skiway Tram generate a lot of publicity, but questionable design choices probably guaranteed its failure.

Despite the Skiway debacle, or perhaps because of its legend, an updated Mt. Hood Gondola has been the subject of speculation around the mountain for years. It emerged as the most popular of 40 Mount Hood transportation improvements in 2013. 48 percent of the more than 2200 people who responded to the 2013 transportation survey  including a tram/gondola in their top five lists.

In a 2015 interview with Shred Hood, RLK President Jeff Kohnstamm described a Mount Hood Gondola as "pretty cool" and "very doable

The current push for a Mount hood Gondola also includes an effort to tap into federal transportation money to improve the troubled state of Highway 26 during the peak of the snow season. State-funded improvements have not addressed the key issue of just one lane returning west from the mountain to Portland, and stop-and-go-traffic on icy roads has become the peak-season norm.

One alluring possibility that would be politically challenging but absolutely doable from an engineering perspective would link Summit to Timberline Lodge, and then continue on to connect Timberline with Mt. Hood Meadows at Vista Ridge. The distance from Timberline to Vista Ridge is only 1.59 miles as the raven flies, and an aerial connection could put a dent in the ridiculous traffic jams that form between Meadows and Govy. However, that development would require crossing a wild and scenic river and a wilderness area in White River Canyon.

A more realistic outcome would be a simple aerial connection from an updated Summit Ski Area with greatly expanded parking capacity to the ever-popular historic lodge and associated skiing, hiking, and mountain biking trails. The new gondola could fit in well with Timberline's plans to develop a new lodge and parking area at the base of the Molly's chair - or not. It depends on the details. More to come on this story as it develops.