Gatlinburg SkyBridge, set to open to the public on May 17

The wait is almost over.

The nearly 700-feet-long and 150feet-high Gatlinburg SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, opens May 17.

Gatlinburg SkyLift, which runs the year-round chairlift that runs from downtown Gatlinburg to the top of Crockett Mountain, plans to open the new attraction.

The SkyBridge, located at 765 Parkway at the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, stretches 680 feet across a valley and features glass floor panels to let visitors look down.

“Guests will be able to walk across at their own pace, taking in the views and enjoying the spectacular setting before walking back when they’re ready,” reads a post on Gatlinburg SkyLift Park’s Facebook page.

“The SkyBridge is an absolutely spectacular but easily attainable experience you’ll remember for a lifetime — especially as you cross the glass-floor panels in the middle of the span.”

Rebuilding after wildfires

“The Gatlinburg SkyLift is an instantly recognizable landmark in the downtown area, and we wanted to preserve its history and all treasured memories in our expansion,” said Randy Watson, general manager, in a news release.

“The wildfires destroyed the iconic chairlift and shop, and rebuilding has been a labor of love for our team. We’re proud to say that the ‘Best Seat in Gatlinburg’ is back and better than ever with these breathtaking new additions.”

The Gatlinburg SkyLift is currently operating, but guests have been unable to get off and enjoy the landscape since the November 2016 fires. Upgraded to a three-seat lift, visitors will now have access to all attractions for one price, the news release stated.

Guests can purchase tickets at the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park office, in downtown Gatlinburg.

Another long suspension bridge

In January, the News Sentinel reported that the planned bridge was likely not the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, as claimed by SkyLift, citing a bridge on Kelowna Mountain in British Columbia, Canada, that claims to be over 800 feet.

Julie Ard, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Programs for Boyne Resorts, which operates the SkyLift and built the bridge, said a difference in the way the bridges were measured makes Gatlinburg’s the longest in suspended walking space.

“The stated length of ‘over 800 feet long’ is the distance between the points at which the bridge’s anchoring cables enter the ground,” Ard said. “The Gatlinburg SkyBridge is believed to be the longest of its kind in North America.

“Its length of 680 feet is a measurement of the suspended walking surface visitors can experience versus a measurement of the overall components of the bridge.”

No one at Kelowna Mountain responded to the News Sentinel’s requests for comment. Gatlinburg Sky Lift, which was damaged in the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires, has been operated by Boyne Resorts since it opened in 1954, according to the company’s website.

The chairlift takes visitors through the open air of Gatlinburg to an observation deck that sits at 1,800 feet above sea level on Crockett Mountain.

The Sky Lift was closed following the 2016 wildfires and reopened in the spring of 2017 after crews worked to replace damaged parts of the observation deck and lift towers.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jim Gaines

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Published May 10, 2019