The Needles Gondola is quickly going to the dogs.
In addition to the usual bikers and hikers who frequent the Snowbasin lift -- the only one that runs during the summer season at the popular resort -- there's also been an influx of dogs accompanying their human companions to the top of the ride, at 8,726 feet.
"Our fastest-growing rider category is dogs," according to Jason Dyer, PR and marketing manager for Snowbasin Resort. "It's funny, you can even get a dog pass, for novelty's sake, if you'd like. For $10, you get a season pass for your dog -- with the dog's photo on it."
Of course, the $10 is just to cover the novelty item, as dog passes aren't required. Fido can actually ride free with his master.
Aside from the canine visitors, Dyer says bikers and hikers make up the bulk of summer riders on the Needles Gondola. But there are others, as well.
"We actually see a solid split of bikers and hikers on the lift," Dyer says. "But people sometimes just ride it to get lunch or brunch at Needles Lodge."
The Needles Gondola was built in 1998, as part of an expansion plan preparing Snowbasin Resort for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The men's and women's downhill, super G and combined races were held at Snowbasin during the Salt Lake City Games.
The "Needles" name is taken from nearby Needles Peak, a rock formation adjacent to the top of the gondola.
Each Needles Gondola car can fit eight people, or two bicycles -- passengers do not ride with bikes. It's a 12-minute ride to the top, with a vertical rise of 2,317 feet.
During the summer, the Needles Gondola is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. It is also open for Saturday night dining only, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Summer daily rates for the Needles Gondola are $15 for adults, $6 for youths ages 7 to 17, and free for age 6 and younger and 75 and older.
Day rates for mountain bikers, which includes a second gondola car for your mountain bike, is $20 for adults and $16 for youths.
A summer season pass is $85 for adults and $45 for youths.
A word of warning: You'd better be quick if you still want to get in a ride for the 2013 summer season, as there's only one more weekend left -- the last day to ride the gondola is Oct. 6. It then closes until the resort opens for winter sports, sometime around Thanksgiving.
Although the Needles Gondola is the only one that operates at the resort during the summer, Snowbasin has one other gondola -- the Strawberry Express Gondola, in the Strawberry Basin area. Snowbasin also boasts the Mt. Allen Tram in the John Paul area of the resort. That larger car holds 15 passengers, and offers a short, but steep, vertical rise.
What can you do in conjunction with a ride on the Needles Gondola? Among the things Dyer recommends:
* Mountain biking
* Bird watching
* Taking in views of the Ogden Valley
* Mountain wildflower watching
* Leaf peeping
* Sunday brunch
* Saturday lunch
* Saturday night dancing
And, of course, once the resort opens for the winter again, you can add:
* World-class skiing and snowboarding
"I would encourage anyone to come and just try it," Dyer says of the Needles Gondola experience. "You don't have to be a hiker, mountain biker or skier. You can just ride up and ride down, if you want. It's just breathtaking, the experience and beauty you get to see with going on the Needles Gondola."
Contact reporter Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/mark.saal.
Needles by the numbers
* NAME: Needles Gondola
* YEAR BUILT: 1998
* CAPACITY: Eight people, or two bicycles
* TRAVEL TIME: 12-minute ride to the top
* BASE ELEVATION: 6,409 feet
* TOP ELEVATION: 8,726 feet
* VERTICAL RISE: 2,317 feet
* HOURS OF OPERATION: Summer season, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Winter season, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily
* COST: Summer season day rates, $15/adults, $6/youth, free/children and seniors ($20 and $16 for mountain bikers). Summer season pass is $85/adults, $45/youth. Winter lift-ticket rates have not been released yet.
* MORE INFORMATION: 888-437-5488