Public gets first look at new aerial tram for Pipestem Resort State Park


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PIPESTEM — State officials joined local people Monday to see the progress being made at a new aerial tram system scheduled to open this fall at Pipestem Resort State Park.

Gov. Jim Justice and officials with the state parks and state tourism offices visited Pipestem Resort State Park Monday to discuss the new aerial tram project. The aerial tram has been a fixture in southern West Virginia since 1970.

"It's really, really great to be a part of and work for West Virginia state parks," said Chief of State Parks Brad Reed. "So what you see here today is just one more example of progress that we have made under Gov. Justice's administration. This tram is an amazing project. Those of you who have been around Pipestem all your lives know that the old tram, that it was ready. It was time for us to move on and bring a new tram here like in Hawks Nest. Honestly, there are projects like this all over the parks system that were undone that are now done."

"This tram that you see before you today is a product of West Virginia engineering," Reed said.

West Virginia Secretary of Tourism Chelsea Ruby said when she told the governor that the aerial trams at both Pipestem and Hawks Nest State Park in Ansted had to be replaced and only one could be done, he insisted that both be replaced.

"It's been absolutely incredible to watch as our parks system has seen a complete transformation over the past seven years. We can never thank Gov. Justice enough for his commitment to making our state park system the very best in the country," Ruby said.

Justice said that Pipestem Resort State Park was "a jewel beyond belief for West Virginia" and repeated that both state park aerial trams needed to be replaced.

"When I heard the old tram was in disrepair, I didn't think twice about replacing it. This tramway has been an iconic spot in West Virginia for many, many years. It's a place where hundreds of thousands of folks have created memories over the last 50 years, and I'm just thrilled that we've found a way to bring it back better than ever before," Justice told the people gathered at the lodge. "I've ridden it down into the gorge to fish more times than I can remember, and I plan to be among the first to ride it down again this fall."

Justice said the tram replacement project is part of $200 plus million in state park improvements made while he has been in office. Replacing Pipestem's tram would cost around $12.4 million and the one in Hawks Nest would cost about the same amount.

Opening this fall, the new tram will transport guests down the same path into the Bluestone Gorge.

It descends 3,410 feet, an elevation difference of 1,200 feet. The new pulse gondola system will allow for more efficiency and greater capacity within each cabin as well as a freight car to transport bicycles, kayaks and other sporting equipment down to the Bluestone River and Mountain Creek Lodge, the governor and other state officials said Monday.

A wide ramp leading from the parking lot to the tram will make the system fully accessible.

"I think it's amazing, especially for Mercer County residents who have grown up coming to Pipestem and riding the trams since they were little," said Jamie Null, executive director of the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "I rode the tram when I was in first grade and I think the last time I rode it was maybe a year or two ago. To have something like a new, state-of-the-art tram in a local park is amazing."

Investments have been made across the state at its 36 parks, nine forests and three rail trails.

The projects include creating two new state parks, Cacapon Resort State Park's new lodge, renovations at every lodge and cabin in the system, hundreds of new campsites built or upgraded, new recreational facilities and much-needed infrastructure upgrades systemwide, state officials said.

"I'm thrilled to witness the enhanced experience that the new tram will bring to our guests, ensuring their satisfaction for years to come," said DNR Director Brett McMillion. "This project exemplifies exactly what our state parks are all about, creating opportunities for people to make lifelong memories and enjoy new experiences in our beautiful state."

"This is a great example of how we are investing in the infrastructure and assets of our parks that increase the visitor experience," said Secretary of Commerce James Bailey.

The original Pipestem aerial tram opened in April 1971, nearly a year after Pipestem State Park's official opening on Memorial Day of 1970.

The old tram served the park and many visitors for over 50 years.

The old tram operated 12 cabins with a capacity of four persons per cabin. The previous system would not operate if winds rose above 24 mph.

The new tram, with several safety applications built into the system, permits safe operation through winds reaching up to 54 mph, state officials said.

— Contact Greg Jordan at

Contact Greg Jordan at