Skiing: Whistler and Jackson Hole gondolas and trams go to new heights

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Courtesy Whistler Blackcomb Resort

The first peak-to-peak gondola in North America opens at Whistler Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia, Canada, on December 12. Its 28-person cabins will zip 2.73 miles from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain in 11 minutes—saving skiers valuable time that they can use to tackle over 8,000 acres on both mountain faces.

The aptly named Peak 2 Peak gondola operates at a record breaking white-knuckle height; it's suspended 1,427 feet above the valley floor. Daily lift tickets, which include rides on the gondola, start at $66 (U.S. dollars), depending on the time of year.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has also been thinking big and will unveil a faster, spiffier aerial tram (the TramFormation, nicknamed the "Big Red Box") on December 20. It will transport 100 people from Teton Village to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain in nine minutes. That's 50 people and one-and-a-half minutes better than the original tram, which closed for renovations in 2006.

From the top, a staggering 10,450 feet above sea level, thrill-seekers can ski one of the largest vertical drops in the United States: 4,139 feet down snaking black-diamond trails.

The tram is imprinted with Wyoming's iconic silhouette of a bucking bronco, and it has large glass walls on all sides that offer dramatic views of neighboring Grand Teton National Park. An $82 lift ticket gives skiers unlimited access to the new tram, all the slopes and lifts for the day, while a $20 sightseeing tram ticket lets non-skiers scope out the magnificent views.

—Helen I. Hwang

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