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Sea to Sky Gondola to open May 16

Summit activities include sightseeing, hiking and trips into the backcountry above Squamish

There's only one true grand opening and Jayson Faulkner wants to make the best of it when the Sea to Sky Gondola officially kicks off operations.

Faulkner, the operation's vice president, said a week out from the grand opening that everything is ready.

"In a business's life, this only ever happens once where you open," said Faulkner at the gondola base during a media preview day.

He said an enthusiastic team of workers that wants to create something special has been assembled to take visitors on a 10-minute gondola ride up to what Faulkner described as a quintessential Squamish experience.

"It is the singular point in time where everyone is focused on exactly the same goal, which makes it very powerful and very motivating," Faulkner said. "It's very exciting and very rewarding."

Trevor Dunn, the general manager of the operation, is also looking forward to hosting a long list of dignitaries for the first official day of moving paying customers 885 metres above Howe Sound. Dunn is particularly proud of the accessibility of the Sea to Sky Gondola.

"We're actually really excited to have Stephanie Cadieux coming to our grand opening.

"It's about everybody being able to come up here to enjoy it," said Dunn.

Cadieux is the MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale and Minister of Children and Family Development. She has used a wheelchair since the age of 18, when she was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed. The tourist attraction is fully wheelchair accessible. The summit lodge features wide aisles and wheelchair ramps.

While wheelchairs are welcome, the operators aren't ready yet to accommodate mountain bikes.

Dunn said mountain-bike planning is still underway, so it will be at least a year before bikes will be carried up to the Summit Lodge.

"Squamish is probably the most intelligent mountain-biking community in the world, so we didn't want to open up with something that wasn't absolutely stellar," said Dunn. "What we've committed to is to work through this summer trying to figure out where the trails should be and then start to get into the construction over the next year, year and a half, so when we do open we can have a really great network of trails that meet the expectation people have in Squamish."

Faulkner said adventure seekers looking for new hiking trails will find it at the gondola summit.

"It can be anything you want it to be," he said of the adventures available at the top. "We're just giving you an opportunity to access a really nice corner of B.C."

According to Faulkner, summit activities can range from simply viewing the ocean and the mountains to walking on the easy trails at the summit or setting out on an eight-hour hike to Sky Pilot or Mount Habrich.

The Sea to Sky Gondola will hold its grand opening on Friday, May 16.

Dunn and Faulkner are founding partners of the operation along with David Greenfield, Michael Hutchinson and Dave Smith.