This winter, Palisades Tahoe will become the first ski resort in North America that is home to an Aerial Tram, a Funitel, and a Gondola. In the past, you might’ve heard the Funitel or the Aerial Tram referred to as a “gondola”, but technically, neither of them is a gondola. Why do these three lifts have different names? What makes a gondola a gondola? In short, each of these lifts has a fundamentally different construction and capacity.
Read on for more information about our Aerial Tram, Gold Coast Funitel, and the brand new Base to Base Gondola, and what makes each of these lifts unique.
The Aerial Tram
- Year Built: 1968
- Cabin Capacity: 85 people with ski equipment. 110 people with no ski equipment.
- Length of Ride: 9 minutes
- Operations: Year-Round, with a brief maintenance break each Spring & Fall
The Palisades Tahoe Aerial Tram connects the Tram Plaza in The Village at Palisades Tahoe with High Camp. Open year-round, the Aerial Tram shuttles hikers and sightseers in the summer and skiers in the winter. The Aerial Tram accesses both Beginner terrain from Mountain Meadow, Bailey’s Beach, and Belmont chairlifts and Expert terrain when the Silverado chairlift is open.
Originally called the “Cable Car”, the Aerial Tram project was initiated by at-the-time resort owner Alex Cushing and overseen by Hans Burkhart, who was responsible for constructing many lifts at Palisades Tahoe, including the Funitel. At the time of its construction in 1968, the Palisades Tahoe Aerial Tram was the largest tramway in the world. The Austrian company Garaventa began surveying for the Aerial Tram in 1966 and, after two years of construction, the Aerial Tram opened on Christmas in 1968. In 1998, the Cable Car was completely modernized with a state-of-the-art electrical system and new cabins.
The Aerial Tram consists of two cabins, which are connected by a single cable and must always run at the same time. Each cabin is configured to carry 110 passengers + 1 driver (without ski equipment) and the journey to High Camp takes approximately nine minutes.
To see one of our historic tram cars, visit the KT Deck this winter and grab a drink at the Tram Car Bar, a 70s-era cabin now converted to a great après spot.
The Gold Coast Funitel
- Year Built: 1998
- Cabin Capacity: 28 people
- Length of Ride: Varies depending on conditions
- Operations: Winter only
On December 19, 1998, North America’s first Funitel opened at Palisades Tahoe. “Funitel” is a portmanteau of the French words “funiculaire” and “téléphérique”. A defining feature of a Funitel is that each cabin has two arms extending from its roof and these arms attach to two cables. A Gondola or Aerial Tram cabin only has one arm, attached to one cable. The extra point of attachment gives the Funitel more stability and allows the lift to run in higher winds than a Gondola or an Aerial Tram.
Traveling at speeds of up to 20 feet per second, the Funitel carries guests to the Gold Coast Lodge on the upper mountain and can transport up to 4,000 people per hour (28 passengers per cabin). The only other Funitel in North America transports sightseers at Parc de la Chute-Montmorency in Quebec, Canada. This means that Palisades Tahoe is home to the only Funitel in the United States!
This summer, our Funitel underwent a $4M overhaul of its electrical, power, and control systems. Additionally, the plaza in front of the Funitel and Base to Base Gondola has been extensively upgraded to provide easier access to these two crucial lifts and to now include a Gondola Plaza. This winter, visit the Funitel Plaza to experience an upgraded access plaza, including access to the Base to Base Gondola to Alpine.
The Base to Base Gondola
- Year Built: 2022
- Cabin Capacity: 8
- Length of Ride: 16 minutes
- Operations: Winter Only
Crews have been hard at work on our new Base to Base Gondola, finishing up the installation of 33 lift towers and 4 terminals. The new Base to Base Gondola, which will connect Alpine and Palisades, is a “gondola” in the true sense of the word: each cabin has one arm connected to a cable.
The Base to Base gondola has four terminals: one in each base area, one at the top of KT-22, and one on private land (no disembarking allowed at this terminal). The scenic ride from one base area to the other will take around 16 minutes and cover 2.4 miles. Each of the 96 cabins can accommodate up to 8 passengers. Plus, the Gondola can be operated as one continuous lift or as two separate lifts from each base area to the top of KT-22.
Thanks for learning about the differences between a tram, a funitel, and a gondola. This season we challenge you to ride all three in one day!