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Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Six Decades of Adventure and Renewal

As the golden rays of the desert sun caress the rugged cliffs of Chino Canyon, a majestic feat of engineering stands proudly against the backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, a true symbol of innovation and adventure, is celebrating a remarkable 60-year journey throughout the month of September. This anniversary is not only a testament to its enduring popularity but also a tribute to the $13-million Mountain Station renovation, a fitting commemoration of its rich history.

Ascending to New Heights

Over the course of six decades, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has carried nearly 22 million passengers to its recently rejuvenated Mountain Station, offering them access to the awe-inspiring 14,000-acre expanse of Mt. San Jacinto State Park & Wilderness. It has become a signature attraction for Greater Palm Springs, magnetizing thrill-seekers from around the world who come to dine, hike, soak in the breathtaking views, and savor the exhilaration of ascending nearly 6,000 feet through the heart of Chino Canyon. Yet, this marvel was a vision that took nearly three decades of meticulous planning and relentless construction to bring to life.

The Visionary Dream

In the year 1935, a young electrical engineer named Francis Crocker dared to dream of an escape from the sweltering summer heat of the desert floor to the refreshing embrace of the Alpine forests on Mt. San Jacinto. His dream was the seed that would eventually grow into the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

After enduring numerous setbacks and delays, the ambitious project received a boost with the raising of $8.15 million in private revenue bonds and a generous land donation from local businessman Culver Nichols for the Tram’s Valley Station. The culmination of years of hard work arrived in July of 1961 when construction finally commenced. On a momentous day, September 12, 1963, the then-Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown ceremoniously cut the ribbon, officially opening the Tramway to the world.

Innovations That Soar

The year 2000 marked a milestone as the Tramway completed a $15-million modernization program. This initiative introduced North America to the first-of-their-kind rotating tramcars, a spectacle that continues to captivate visitors to this day. These tramcars are not just unique in North America; they stand as the largest rotating tramcars on the planet.

Preserving History and Vision

In 2019, a new chapter in the Tramway’s history unfolded as the Mountain Station embarked on its inaugural renovation journey, culminating in early 2023. With a budget of $13 million, this ambitious endeavor not only modernized electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems but also breathed new life into the original architectural vision of renowned Mid-Century architect E. Stewart Williams.

Nancy Nichols, General Manager of the Tramway, shares her enthusiasm, stating, “We are elated that the completion of our Mountain Station renovation aligns perfectly with our 60th anniversary. The members of the Mt. San Jacinto Winter Park Authority, our guiding force, dedicated over a decade to make this dream come true. What a splendid way to welcome our 60th anniversary visitors!”

Celebrating Six Decades of Adventure

In honor of this significant milestone, a month-long celebration has been planned for September. Visitors can anticipate exciting giveaways for every 60th guest, a 60th-anniversary celebration quiz on the Tramway’s mobile app, a complimentary 60th-anniversary sticker for every visitor on September 12, continuous screenings of the newly-restored original 1960s Tramway film “The Miracle at Palm Springs” in the Santa Rosa Theater, and an array of other special displays and exhibits.

As the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes flight into its seventh decade, it continues to be a beacon of adventure and a tribute to the enduring spirit of innovation and determination. For generations to come, it will serve as a cherished symbol of the remarkable fusion of engineering and natural beauty that defines Greater Palm Springs, making it a destination like no other.

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