GATLINBURG (WATE) – The Gatlinburg Sky Lift is 1,800 feet high at the top of Crockett Mountain and it’s the best seat in town. Now the iconic landmark is back open after several months of renovation.
“We’re just thankful to see this day come,” said Randy Watson, the general manager of the Gatlinburg Sky Lift.
It took six months of construction work to renovate the lift after the November wildfires caused significant damage. The reopening means much more than just excitement to staff.
“We had five of our actual staff members lose everything in the fires. Most of those people were here through this whole process, doing everything they could to get this lift spinning again,” said Watson.
Now the Sky Lift is new and improved with 92 chairs that seat up to three people each. The orange towers and cross arms are taller than they were before, meaning riders will be 8 to 10 feet higher when in motion.
Watson adds, “It’s a little bit more of a thrill.”
The thrill lasts 18 minutes long. It takes nine minutes to go up to the top and nine minutes to go back down. Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner and Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters rode the first chair up.
“What a smooth ride. What a gorgeous view,” said Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner.
Taking in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the reason why people have come back time and time again since the ride opened in 1954.
Lottie Lamport and her husband visited several years ago. Riding to the top has always been one of their favorite memories. They’re just glad to see it’s still standing.
“It’s really sad to see the destruction, but you also have a thankful heart that Gatlinburg could have been gone,” said Lottie Lamport from Jackson, Tennessee. “Structures like this, that they’re rebuiliding them so that future generations can enjoy the beauty that we’ve enjoyed through the years is awesome.”
The Gatlinburg Sky Deck is still closed, so you won’t be able to get off at the top of the mountain. Crews hope to finish up construction work on that area in the fall.