Vail resorts HAD to put this gondola in to fulfill a bunch of contracts with people to whom they sold real estate. On paper it might look silly, low vertical, it just brings people to the base, serves the "free" parking lots. However, they sold A LOT of condos in the vicinity (Thunder Butte (or is it Ridge?) is one project, and I'm pretty sure there were others), and part of the sales pitch was that they were going to be installing this gondola. I even think there was a timeline involved (i.e. they had to install it sometime in the next 10 years (that 10 year period starting 5 or 6 years ago)).
Ultimately, this gondola will make several of those condo projects technically "ski-in/ski-out" (there will be some official extensions off of 4 O'clock - locals are using them somewhat now, with this gondola, I'm sure they will become "official" and put on the trail map), and making these condo's (and houses in areas developed by Vail Resorts) ski-in/ski-out, or very, very close to it is their contractual obligation right now. There's a lot of real estate owners who speculated on this promise from Vail, looks like they will be able to start reaping the benefits next year when they can rent (and sell) their places using those magic words in ski town real estate: "ski-in/ski-out."