Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway
Sandia Peak Ski Area
New 2016 tram car
LocationAlbuquerque, New Mexico
CountryUnited States
Coordinates35°11′26″N 106°28′46″W / 35.19056°N 106.47944°W / 35.19056; -106.47944
Sandia Peak
No. of stations2
OpenMay 7, 1966; 57 years ago (1966-05-07)
OwnerSandia Peak Ski Co.
OperatorSandia Peak Ski Co.
Ridership10,050 trips/year
Fare$33 Adult roundtrip
Technical features
Aerial lift typeDouble Reversible Jigback Aerial Tramway
Manufactured byBell Engineering
Line length2.7 miles (4.3 km)
No. of support towers2
No. of cables7
Cable diameterCable diameter 4 x 40mm lock coil track cables, 2 x 32 mm stranded haul cable , 1x 18 mm stranded Emergency Cable
Installed power600 HP DC electric winch; Ford industrial engine (evacuation drive)
Operating speed20 ft/s (13.6 mph; 21.9 km/h)

The Sandia Peak Tramway is an aerial tramway located adjacent to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It stretches from the northeast edge of the city to Sandia Peak on the ridge line of the Sandia Mountains[1] and has the world's third longest single span.[2] It is the longest aerial tram in the Americas, and was the longest in the world from 1966 until being surpassed in 2010 by the Wings of Tatev in Armenia.[citation needed]


Main article: Sandia Peak Ski Area

The Sandia Peak Ski Company was cofounded by balloonist Ben Abruzzo and Robert Nordhaus[3] (father[4] of Nobel Prize-winning economist William Nordhaus). Nordhaus was inspired to build a tram to the ski slope after seeing other trams during a ski trip to Switzerland.[5][6] Bell Engineering of Lucerne, Switzerland, constructed the tramway. The project took over 5,000 trips by helicopter, airlifting workers and materials, to complete. The tram cars pass over two towers, and the second alone required over 2,000 of the 5,000 helicopter trips to build.[7] The tramway has carried more than 12 million passengers since its maiden voyage on May 7, 1966.[7] New tram cars were installed in 1986, and new track cables in 2009.[2] New tram cars were again installed in May 2016.[8]

New Year 2022 incident

On New Year's Eve, 2021, a winter storm caused the emergency cable to ice over and droop onto the track cables, causing the tramway to stop mid-course. 19 employees from the restaurant TEN 3 at the top terminal and 1 Sandia Peak Tram Cabin Operator , were aboard the downhill tram car evacuating the restaurant due to the approaching storm, and were trapped for over 17 hours, likewise 1 cabin operator was stranded in the uphill tram car too. All were rescued on the afternoon of January 1st, 2022. Members of the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council helped the passengers rappel down the upper tower and hike to a point where they could be rescued by a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office helicopter. Ongoing wind and snow hampered the rescue operations. All passengers and crew were rescued without injury.[9]


An older tramway car ascending the Sandia Mountains

The tram is a type known as a "double reversible jigback aerial tramway," where "jigback" implies that when one tram car is ascending, the other is descending. Its two cars are capable of carrying 50 passengers each and have numerous safety and backup systems, such as multiple emergency braking systems and a grounding system that ensures the safety of passengers in the event of a lightning strike. The tramway ascends the steep western side of the highest portion of the Sandia Mountains, from a base elevation of 6,559 feet (1,999 m) to a top elevation of 10,378 feet (3,163 m). A trip up the mountain takes 15 minutes to ascend 3,819 ft (1,164 m), and the normal operating speed of the tram is 20 feet per second (13.6 mph; 21.9 km/h). Approximately four "flights" leave every hour from the base and top termini. The viewshed from the tram includes all of Albuquerque and roughly 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of the New Mexico countryside.

An overview of the tramway and a view of metropolitan Albuquerque from the upper terminal.

The tramway has only two support towers. The first tower, which is 232 feet (70.7 m) tall, is situated at an elevation of 7,010 feet (2,137 m) above sea level and built as an inclined tower with an inclination angle of 18 degrees. The second, just 80 feet (24.4 m) tall, is situated at the end of a major spur of the mountains at an elevation of 8,750 ft (2,667 m) and was built by the aid of over 2,000 helicopter trips, with support rods driven up to 40 feet (12 m) into the granite.[7]

The longest span is between the second tower and the top terminal. This span is the third-longest clear tramway span in the world, at a length of 7,720 feet (2,353 m). Mid-span, the cables are 900 ft (274 m) above the mountainside. This span passes over Domingo Baca Canyon, part of which is referred to as TWA Canyon. This is the site of the crash of TWA Flight 260 on February 19, 1955, in which the lives of all 16 passengers and crew were lost. While much of the wreckage was removed during construction of the tramway, some still remains on the canyon floor and may be visible to riders of the tram.

Activities on top

Sandia Peak Ski Area

At the top of Sandia Peak there are many year-round recreational options. The restaurant, TEN 3 (stylized as 10|3), is directly adjacent to the top tram terminal and offers scenic views to the west.[10] Many Forest Service trails offer recreational hiking, backpacking and nature hikes to visitors. Additionally, the tram terminal is located at the top of Sandia Peak Ski Area, which is on the opposite side of the mountain from the tramway and the city. Skiing is available in the wintertime, and during the summer more than 26 miles (42 km) of mountain biking trails are available. Bikes cannot be taken onto tram cars. There is no public transportation in this area of Albuquerque; the tram is accessible only by car, bicycle, or foot.[11]


  1. ^ The upper station of the tramway is at a point on the main crest of the Sandia Mountains at elevation 10,378 feet (3,163 m), about 1.5 mi (2.4 km) south of Sandia Crest, the high point of the range. The operators of the Tramway term this point "Sandia Peak", but this is a misnomer, as this is not an official name, and it is not a "peak" in the sense of having any topographic prominence.
  2. ^ a b "Sandia Peak Tramway factsheet" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 April 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Onward and Upward". May 2016.
  4. ^ Davenport, Coral (2014-05-10). "Brothers Battle Climate Change on Two Fronts". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "BOB NORDHAUS - ROBERT NORDHAUS, 10TH VET, NEW MEXICO PIONEER". Sandia Peak Tramway. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  6. ^ "History & Technology". Sandia Peak Ski & Tramway. Archived from the original on 8 August 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "History & Construction | Sandia Peak Tramway". Retrieved 2023-11-12.
  8. ^ "Sandia Peak Tramway rings in 50th anniversary with new cars". Washington Post. May 9, 2016. Archived from the original on May 10, 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  9. ^ Reisen, Matthew (January 1, 2022). "High-flying rescue starts year". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved January 4, 2022.
  10. ^ "Sandia Peak Ski & Tramway - Sandia Peak Tramway". 2018-03-22. The Restaurant atop the Tram has been demolished and construction of a new facility to replace it has begun with an anticipated opening of Spring 2019.
  11. ^ "Albuquerque Tourism & Sightseeing Factory".