Skiers and riders at Jackson Hole are counting the minutes until the new tram begins service. The resort's new tram opens to the public Saturday, Dec. 20 after opening ceremonies.

The resort and Garaventa tram installation company tested the new tram in mid-November to ensure its readiness for its December opening. "To simulate a fully loaded cabin we use 55 gallon plastic barrels, filled with water," says Tim Mason, VP of mountain operations, in a written online update. "Each barrel weighs approximately 456 pounds. The load capacity for each cabin is 19,700 pounds."

Each cabin will carry 100 guests plus one operator. That's almost double the capacity of the original tram. The shorter ride time of nine minutes and greater carrying capacity will permit the tram to haul 650 skiers uphill per hour. Starting up the tram on Saturday will allow skiers and riders to climb the 4,139 feet of vertical to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain on one lift instead of four.

The new tram will run daily at 9 a.m. There is no extra charge to ride the tram; use of the tram is included in regular daily lift tickets.  

Advanced skiers and riders can get early tram rides before it opens to the public each day. Jackson's ski and snowboard school teaches both half-day and full-day private lessons that start with an early tram ride. Four-hour lessons cost $500. Seven-hour lessons cost $625. Both begin at 8:30 a.m. for the early tram ride to the summit.