Teton Quad Going Vertical

Breakover towers 13, 14 and 15 have metal plates for sun protection.
Breakover towers 13, 14 and 15 have metal plates for sun protection.

August is when most new lifts really start to take shape.  After months of digging, tying re-bar cages and pouring concrete, the public always seems to wonder whether the lift is going to be done on time.  I’ve been hearing it for weeks from locals on the tram here.  Then towers get set in a matter of hours and the perception changes.  Terminals go up almost as quickly.

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The Teton Lift is at that point with towers and terminals going vertical.  The Ranch parking lot is getting emptier by the day as terminal parts make their way up the hill for installation.  Trail crew is finishing grading the new trails and working on erosion control.

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The return lift shack arrived from Salt Lake last week and boy does it have a lot of buttons.  An automated maintenance lock-out mode.  ‘Start drive station unmanned.’  A really large touchscreen.  I can only imagine the drive controls will look like.  Remote start will be especially nice on a lift with a top drive terminal in a very rugged spot.  On big storm nights, JHMR already has three “night creatures” at the top of the gondola, tram and Thunder to start lifts. (and in the case of the tram, to start digging out the top dock.)   The top of Teton will definitely have patrol and possibly a fourth night man.

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Lift Profile: Collins at Alta Ski Area

Most skiers who ride Collins have no idea they area actually riding two different lifts joined in the middle.
Most skiers who ride Collins have no idea they area actually riding two different lifts joined in the middle.

When it opened at Alta Ski Area in 2004, the new Collins lift was the 66-year old resort’s first base-to-summit lift.  It replaced two older Yan fixed-grip lifts and dramatically improved the skiing experience at Alta.  Collins is actually two detachable quad lifts joined in the middle at a 29-degree angle.  Its four Stealth III terminals were the last off the line following Doppelmayr and CTEC’s merger two years earlier.


The lower section replaced the Collins double in a completely new alignment from the parking lot level of Alta’s Wildcat base area.  The Wildcat double’s bottom terminal was also moved downhill the same summer to be adjacent to Collins.  Stage I is only 2,727 feet long with a vertical rise of 741 feet, nine towers and ride time of 2.7 minutes.  It was designed to be able to operate independently at night with gondola cabins to serve events and dining at the Watson Shelter although this has yet to be realized.

Approaching the 29-degree Collins angle station.

The angle station adjacent to Watson Shelter houses 500-HP drive motors for both sections.  There is no unloading at the angle station but skiers can load empty up-bound chairs.  Automated gates prevent skiers (remember this is Alta – no snowboarders) from attempting to load occupied chairs.  The last time I was at Alta, there was no loading at the mid-station until after 10 am to allow maximum capacity out of the base area.  After that, every 6th chair was left empty at the base to allow for loading at the mid-station.

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Beijing 2022 Olympics: Where are the Ski Venues?

Genting Secret Garden trail map.
Genting Secret Garden trail map.

This morning the International Olympic Committee announced Beijing as the host for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.  This means the next three Olympics after Rio will be held in Asia.  The 2022 games are shaping up to be a lot like Sochi with entire ski resorts being built for two weeks of competition.  In fact, only two of the four planned skiing and snowboarding venues exist today.  At least in China the facilities will probably be well-used after the games, unlike Russia where entire 3S Gondolas sit shuttered.

2012 Doppelmayr Worldbook entry for Genting Secret Garden's chondola.
2012 Doppelmayr Worldbook entry for Genting Secret Garden’s chondola.

The snowboarding slopestyle, halfpipe, and some of the freestyle skiing will take place at Genting Secret Garden near Chongli.  This resort opened in 2011 with two Doppelmayr detachable quads with bubbles and heated seats.  It added a Doppelmayr 6/8-passenger chondola the following year that serves 1,300 vertical feet.  Right next door, the older Wanlong Ski Resort will host slalom snowboarding.  It has three fixed-grip double chairs and a quad that look like the fake Doppelmayr lifts that China built for North Korea.  These lifts may have been fabricated in China or the ones China copied when they built the lifts for the North Koreans.  None of the lifts at Wanlong appear in Doppelmayr’s world ropeway map or Worldbooks despite being built relatively recently.

I think this Doppelmayr lift may be a Chinese-made fake.
Doppelmayr or the the Chinese version of Doppelmayr at Wanlong Ski Resort.

Nearby Wanlong and Genting Secret Garden there is a third resort under construction called Taiwu which will host the snowboard cross and freestyle skiing.  Wanlong, Genting Secret Garden and Taiwu are all in a cluster 140 miles from Beijing.  (For reference, Whistler was 75 miles from Vancouver in 2010.)  None of them get much natural snow so snowmaking will be essential.

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News Roundup: Doppelmayr Garaventa 2015

  • Doppelmayr wins a €9.4 million contract for a detachable gondola in Bogota, Colombia.  The 10-passenger, two mile system will carry 2,600 passengers per hour.
  • The US Forest Service accepts Crested Butte’s new master plan for review.  It includes replacing the North Face lift as well as two new lifts in Teocalli Bowl.
  • Rick Spear, the president of Leitner-Poma, thinks an aerial tram from Staten Island to Manhattan is (not surprisingly) a good idea.
  • Arizona Snowbowl’s new lift announcement gets lots of press.
  • Italy’s Leitner and Aguido are merging.  Leitner built a couple dozen lifts in the US and Canada before their joint venture with Poma began in 2002.  Aguido built the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in New Hampshire.
  • Sugarloaf decides it doesn’t have the money to upgrade its oldest lift to acceptable safety standards so it will be removed without a replacement.  Bucksaw was built in 1969.  After it is removed there will be 23 Stadeli lifts remaining in operation, four of which are older than Bucksaw.
  • Construction on The Balsams has been delayed again.  I’ll believe the hype when lift towers start going in.
  • Rumor on Skilifts.org is SkyTrac will complete the abandoned, half-constructed Stagecoach lift on the Moonlight Basin side of Big Sky.  I believe this Doppelmayr double came from the defunct Fortress Mountain in Alberta.

    The Stagecoach lift was partially completed before Moonlight Basin went bankrupt in 2009.
    The Stagecoach lift was partially completed before Moonlight Basin went bankrupt in 2009.

Vail Resorts Unveils Park City’s New Brand

Park City Mountain's new trail map!
Park City’s new trail map!

At an event this afternoon, Vail Resorts officially launched the brand for America’s new largest ski resort.   The new Park City logo combines the Canyons infinity symbol with a new Park City red color and the tagline “There is Only One.”  This is not terribly surprising from a company whose flagship resort is branded “Like Nothing on Earth.”  CanyonsResort.com now redirects to the new Park City website, which ironically is the old Canyons site.  No doubt the new logo and colors look sharp and will serve them well for years to come.  Many of the lifts have already been repainted in the new red and silver color scheme in preparation for this winter.

The new Park City logo takes inspirations from the now retired Canyons logo.
The new Park City logo takes inspirations from the now retired Canyons logo.

Also unveiled today was a new trail map painted by James Niehues.  The working name for the new gondola (Pinecone Gondola) has been scrapped in favor of Quicksilver Gondola in an ode to Park City’s mining heritage.  I liked the Pinecone name; it was chosen for the ridge the gondola crosses but I imagine Vail was worried about confusion with the existing Red Pine Gondola.  Quicksilver fits well with the mining names already in use at Park City such as Silverlode, Bonanza, Motherlode and Payday.  The new lodge at the base of the Quicksilver Gondola will be called Miner’s Camp.  Although it has mostly disappeared, the Canyons name lives on as the northern base area has been renamed Canyons Village.

McConkey's six pack in the process of being repainted into the new Park City red and silver color scheme.
McConkey’s six pack in the process of being repainted into the new Park City red and silver color scheme.

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Jackson Hole Tower Flying Part II

Brian Jorgenson of Timberline Helicopters flying towers for the Teton lift on July 28th, 2015.

Tower fly day number two for Jackson Hole’s Teton lift went smoothly with crews setting the remaining six towers in less than two hours.  Some of the top and bottom terminal parts were also flown up the hill while the helicopter was here.  With road access at both terminals, I don’t expect to see any more heli work on this project.  Lower Valley Energy is currently running power to the top drive terminal site from Casper and the first lift cabin arrived from Doppelmayr.  Footings for the bottom terminal are about halfway done.  See below for more pictures of today’s flying.

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Arizona Snowbowl to Build First New Lift in 30 Years

James Coleman, the new owner of Arizona Snowbowl and three other resorts in the Southwest has gone lift shopping again.  Snowbowl’s new Humphreys Peak Quad will be built by SkyTrac in Salt Lake City and open for the 2015-16 season.  Coleman already bought two lifts from Leitner-Poma this year – a beginner quad for Sipapu and detachable quad for Purgatory to replace the Legends triple.  Humphreys Peak will be the first new lift at Arizona Snowbowl since CTEC built the Agassiz triple back in 1986.

Flyer for Arizona Snowbowl's 2015 Improvements including a new quad chairlift and snowmaking upgrades.
Flyer for Arizona Snowbowl’s 2015 improvements including a new quad chairlift and snowmaking upgrades.

Snowbowl’s new lift will be located between the Hart Prarie and Agassiz lifts, serving intermediate terrain.  It will be 3,060 feet long and rise 780 vertical feet with a very low hourly capacity of 1,000 skiers per hour.  SkyTrac has committed to complete the project by December despite the late start.  This is SkyTrac’s second complete lift project this summer after Pomerelle, Idaho announced a new triple chair last week.

Snowbowl's master plan includes replacing and realigning several lifts.
Snowbowl’s master plan includes replacing and realigning several lifts.

Arizona Snowbowl also announced today planning for the new Grand Canyon Express which will be the resort’s first high speed lift and serve 90% of its skiable terrain.  Although a timeline was not announced, I would not be surprised to see the project happen next summer.  Arizona Snowbowl’s master plan also includes replacing and realigning the Aspen and Hart Prarie lifts which are both Riblet doubles.  It seems James Coleman has no shortage of money to spend on capital improvements.

Instagram Tuesday: Build More Lifts

Spending my summer, building my winter toy. #jacksonhole

A photo posted by Chris Jagstadt (@board_not_bored) on

Slammin pieces! #timberlinehelicopters #buildthelift @mfm518 @andrewgardneralta

A video posted by Scott Bassett (@bassettscott) on

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Fly Day in Teton Village

Flying a tower tube with a K-Max.

Last night I heard the unmistakable sound of a helicopter flying over my house.  Around here it’s usually a search and rescue chopper but this time I looked out to see the double rotors of a Kaman K-Max.  It’s the same helicopter that did the concrete footings for the Teton lift last week. Doppelmayr started flying towers early this morning and the crew worked their way down from the top, setting towers 15 through 5 before wind and snow shut them down around noon.

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The K-Max can’t fly complete towers at 9,000 feet so the tubes, crossarms and sheave trains were flown separately.  As the wind picked up, the pilot had to call it a day while working on tower 5 so it sits for now missing a crossarm.  Tower 1 can be done with a crane when the lower terminal goes in so there are only a handful left to fly.

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Top Ten Biggest Lifts in North America by VTFH

Vertical transport feet per hour (VTFH) is the best way to measure how lifts move people up mountains.  VTFH combines hourly capacity and vertical rise into one number, usually measured in millions.  Ski Area Management uses this metric each fall when they look at how good of a year it was for the lift-building business.

The second stage of Revelstoke's Revelation Gondola has a VTFH of over 8 million, the highest in North America.
The second stage of Revelstoke’s Revelation Gondola has a VTFH of over 8 million, the highest in North America.

For a lift to score big it has to have a high hourly capacity (think lots of carriers, high speed) and large vertical rise (think big slope length with many towers.)  The Jackson Hole tram has a huge vertical (over 4,000′) but very low capacity so its VTFH is only 2,654,600 – not even in the top 400.  The Peak 2 Peak Gondola has a huge capacity but only rises 119 feet for a dismal VTFH of 243,950.  There are 49 lifts in the US and Canada that move enough people high enough to achieve a VTFH over five million.  Below are the top ten.

1. Revelation Gondola Stage II, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, British Columbia

2007 Leitner-Poma 8-passenger gondola

2,952′ vertical x 2,800 passengers per hour = 8,265,600 VTFH

2. Gold Coast Funitel, Squaw Valley, California

1998 Garaventa CTEC 28-passenger funitel

2,000′ vertical x 4,032 passengers per hour = 8,064,000 VTFH

3. Heavenly Gondola, Heavenly Mountain Resort, California

2000 Doppelmayr 8-passenger gondola

2,874′ vertical x 2,800 passengers per hour = 8,047,200 VTFH

4. Gondola One, Vail Mountain, Colorado

2012 Leitner-Poma 10-passenger gondola

1,996′ vertical x 3,600 passengers per hour = 7,185,600 VTFH

5. Centennial Express, Beaver Creek Resort, Colorado

2014 Doppelmayr 6/10 chondola combination lift

2,102′ vertical x 3,400 passengers per hour = 7,146,800 VTFH

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