Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2017 - 31
The rebuilt Gatlinburg Sky Lift features three-seater chairs instead of the former two-seaters.
Sky Lift Comes Back
Gatlinburg Sky Lift rose again on May 26, climbing 500
feet to the top of 1,800-foot-high Crockett Mountain
in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, after being shuttered for five
Open since 1954, the iconic attraction fell victim to
the wildfires that devastated Gatlinburg and the Great
Smoky Mountains on Nov. 28, 2016. Flames ravaged
the upper observation deck and burnt down the upper
landing area, says longtime General Manager Randy
"It burnt the whole mountain that our Sky Lift is on.
The critical damage was at the top," Watson says. "The
fire burnt so fast with 87 mile-per-hour wind ... Everything was lost as far as gift shop and souvenir shop, the
picture-taking area. It was a total loss up there."
Even before the flames, Sky Lift officials had talked
of upgrading the lift chairs from two-seaters to threeseaters, partly to accommodate families who wanted
both parents to ride with a child, Watson says.
"We had been pitching that around. Then when
the actual damage came through, it pretty well made
our decision for us."
Installing the all-new set of 92 yellow chairs marks
a $1.6 million upgrade for the attraction. But for the
next several months, riders are offered only an 18-minute-long, round-trip ride-with no unloading at the
top of the mountain, Watson says.
Views, still, provide priceless scenes of the Smokies-including evidence of fire damage. "The ride actually tells a story-yes," says Watson. "When you're getting to the top, you see all of the very-very hot spots,
right and left. Nature, Mother Nature, is recovering
well. It's coming on now."
Now, too, Watson adds, plans are in the works to install a new sky deck plus a sky bridge on Crockett Mountain-with construction to begin in late 2017.
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