Avalanche Damaged New Zealand Lift is Down for the Season

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In the end, the haul rope sealed the deal.  Turoa, one of the two ski resorts on Mt. Ruapehu, announced today that its summit lift will not reopen this season following damage from a large avalanche last week.  The top terminal of the High Noon Express is located inside a building and was spared, however snow caused the tube of tower 15 to give way.  Communication from the resort, particularly chief executive Ross Copland, has been stellar from beginning to end.  Here’s a recap.

Mr. Copland posted a Facebook update from the site within hours and an entertaining selfie video soon after.  “It’s a pretty sorry state as you can see behind me.  Tower 15 has taken the brunt of a massive snow loading.  The shape of the building for the return of the High Noon Express has actually protected it really nicely.  The snow has come down right over the roof and basically launched right into the top tower.”  He exclaimed at the end “It’s not the first time we’ve had to replace a tower on the High Noon Express!”

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Instagram Tuesday: Hanging Out

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

News Roundup: Must Read

  • planning document shows Big White has applied to build two lifts east of Black Forest Express called Backcountry and Backcountry Connector.
  • Snow King Mountain’s expansion officially enters the National Environmental Policy Act pipeline.  Proposed lifts are a 1,500 pph gondola with cabin storage, a 3,015′ backside fixed-grip quad, one 679′ T-Bar or platter and two new carpets.
  • The iconic Volkswagen funitel marks 15 years of operation, having delivered over three million vehicles from factory to test track.
  • A proposed urban gondola in Loveland, Colorado would be built by Leitner-Poma with up to five stations.
  • Arapahoe Basin drops its new trail map showing the big Beavers expansion.
  • An avalanche takes out the last tower of a Doppelmayr six-pack in New Zealand.

  • Skytrac is hiring for project foreman and general construction positions.
  • Denver Post alum Jason Blevins, now writing for the Colorado Sun, traces the remarkable ski industry journey of the Mueller family from Vermont to Colorado.  Insights from his must read piece: Tim and Diane Mueller took out a second mortgage on their home to buy Okemo, invested in Catamount before it failed, nearly bought Steamboat and once bid to operate Winter Park.
  • Windham’s retired F lift heads to Greek Peak to upgrade lifts 3 and 5.
  • The New Mexico State Fair will sport a new skyride-style chairlift beginning next month.
  • Alterra Mountain Company hires an Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer from Wall Street and looks to name a Vice President of Planning and Resort Development.
  • Enjoy the most detailed glimpse yet of the world’s longest lift.
  • The name game continues: Wolf Creek’s newest high speed quad is now Charity.
  • One of the world’s oldest high speed quads is going away in favor of a six pack.
  • I’m in New Mexico this weekend checking out as many lifts as I can.  First stop: Taos, where this yet-to-be-named Leitner-Poma detachable quad is the fourth new lift in five years!

Instagram Tuesday: Concrete

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

Sesselproduktion Leitner Telfs #leitnerropeways #seilbahnen

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Three New Lifts Rise Across the Wasatch

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Vail Resorts is enhancing the beginner experience at Park City Mountain with a new High Meadow teaching zone above Canyons Village, one of three lift projects in the Beehive State.

Utah ski resorts will debut three new chairlifts for the 2018-19 season and although none of them service new terrain, each will make lives better for skiers and snowboarders.  One of my stops this weekend was Park City Mountain, where Vail Resorts announced the creation of a reimagined High Meadow Family Fun Zone back in December.  A new Doppelmayr detachable quad, opened up runs, upgraded snowmaking and candy cabin are coming together above the Red Pine Gondola.  The new lift will have 8 towers, down from 11 on the old CTEC quad, which is sitting under the Cabriolet for now.

Across old town Park City at Deer Valley, another Doppelmayr detachable quad is replacing another CTEC fixed-grip quad.  Highlander Lift Services & Construction is assembling Homestake Express in the existing alignment but again with fewer towers.  I think the new number is eight, down from a dozen in this high traffic area above Silver Lake Lodge.  For its second winter under Alterra, Deer Valley will operate an impressive 13 high speed quads this season.  The 1999 version of Homestake is bound for Utah Olympic Park.

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News Roundup: For Sale

  • In a decision the Durango Herald calls a “bombshell,” the Forest Service proposes granting road access to the controversial Village at Wolf Creek, which would include two new lifts near Wolf Creek Ski Area’s new Meadow quad.
  • Magic Mountain’s new Green lift is set to debut this winter but the Black Line Quad may not spin until 2019.
  • Tawatinaw Valley, a county-owned ski hill in Alberta with three T-Bars, will go out of business on October 1st due to continued losses.
  • The price of steel is up up 33 percent in the United States so far this year and companies like Caterpillar and Polaris are increasing prices as a result.
  • The first Doppelmayr/Garaventa lift with D-Line cubic glass enclosures comes together in Switzerland.
  • A Yan triple from Squaw Valley hits the market in Idaho (looks like East Broadway, retired in 2012.)

  • Loveland’s new high-speed quad gets a name: Chet’s Dream.
  • Opening of the Transbay Transit Center tramway in San Francisco slips to September.
  • A refurbished Riblet quad from the closed ski resort in Drumheller Valley, Alberta goes up for sale.
  • Alterra officially takes the reigns at Solitude.
  • Leitner-Poma of America President Rick Spear goes on the MarketScale Transportation Podcast to discuss the ski lift business and growth of urban cable transport.
  • With two Mueller lifts in need of work, Mt. Timothy, BC will likely close if it can’t find a buyer.
  • Big White’s retired Powder triple is headed to Red Mountain.
  • Copper Mountain commits to building its fourth new lift in three years, a Leitner-Poma triple on Tucker Mountain in 2019.
  • The Miriam Fire is burning uncomfortably close to White Pass Ski Area.

Instagram Tuesday: Alluring

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

News Roundup: More Cabins

  • A live streaming webcam shows New Hampshire’s largest and fastest gondola going in at Bretton Woods.  Some tidbits on the lift from the New Hampshire Tramway Board: line speed will be 6 m/s with 36 cabins and a design capacity of 2,600 using 62 cabins.  SkyTrans is taking the retired B double and the gondola’s load test is slated for December 20th.
  • Sunrise Park Resort abruptly ends all summer operations.
  • In Europe, some pulse gondolas are on the way out.
  • As it works to finalize its lease of Mt. Sunapee, Vail Resorts assures New Hampshire residents the company is in for the long haul and doesn’t plan any real estate development at the state-owned mountain.
  • A stack up of at least nine cabins on the White urban gondola line in La Paz last Monday is deemed the result of human error.  No passengers were on the lift at the time.
Photo credit: Página Siete

A Deal to Save The Hermitage?

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Five chairlifts currently sit idle at the Hermitage Club, the subject of foreclosure action in southern Vermont.

Restructuring could resolve what is currently the nation’s largest ski resort foreclosure case, according to a report from the Brattleboro Reformer.  Jim Barnes, founder of the financially-troubled Hermitage Club, sent an email last night informing members of two important developments.  First, the Club has secured a bridge loan to maintain key staff working toward a restructuring with Berkshire Bank and other creditors.  Secondly, a nonbinding term sheet has been signed with Oz Real Estate to provide new capital to the ski and golf resort.  “The potential transaction with Oz Real Estate contemplates the club’s debt with Berkshire Bank to be restructured or bought out,” Barnes wrote.  The bank is owed more than $17 million while a foodservice distributor is out more than $1.5 million and a hotelier $1.2 million along with others owed smaller amounts.

Oz is the parent company of Ski Resort Holdings LLC, which bought 14 major ski resorts from CNL Lifestyle Properties in 2017.  Most of them were sold to Boyne Resorts, Vail Resorts and other operators over the past year.  “Oz Real Estate invests in both opportunistic real estate private equity and real estate credit in the U.S. and Europe,” the firm says on its website.  “Founded in 2003, Oz Real Estate has raised approximately $3.8 billion of dedicated real estate capital and completed more than 107 transactions across 19 diverse real estate asset classes.”  Mr. Barnes also named a new Club President, Harper Sibley.

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The Hermitage is currently closed under a court-ordered receivership with FTI Consulting on site maintaining assets.  “The primary goal of the Hermitage Club is to close this restructuring and prepare for a successful 2018/2019 fall and winter season,” Barnes stated in his email.  “The proceeds from the restructuring will provide the means to settle claims and disputes that have arisen due to the lack of cash flow from closed club operations.”  Nonbinding is a key word and the Club made a similar announcement about $26 million in possible funding from an unidentified financial company on April 30th.  It’s unclear whether that deal was to be with Oz or a different outfit altogether.  Berkshire Bank assistant vice president and marketing officer Heidi Higgins told the Reformer the lender is “not in a position to talk about this specific instance due to privacy and legal concerns.”  Nonetheless, the news is a sign Mr. Barnes and his staff continue to work hard toward a resolution four months from ski season.

Weighing the Next 42 Years at Sunshine Village

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This high-speed quad is the only lift on Goat’s Eye Mountain at Sunshine Village, a peak which could eventually be home to four lifts.

I wrote briefly a few weeks ago about Parks Canada’s proposed site guidelines for Sunshine Village, the second largest ski resort in Banff National Park.  Banff Sunshine operates a unique gondola and nine quad chairlifts within a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by spectacular scenery – the only resort to span two Canadian provinces.  This document will govern the public-private partnership between Sunshine Village Corporation and Banff National Park through 2060.  Currently, Sunshine’s capacity is capped at 6,000 skiers, though Sunshine says it only has enough parking for 4,500.  The future could allow for more visitors – but exactly how is up for debate.

Site guidelines Parks Canada proposed last month set a new skiers at one time figure of 8,500 at build-out compared with the 11,500 settled upon at Lake Louise and 3,800 at nearby Mt. Norquay.  Sunshine says it “reluctantly” agreed to the 8,500 number a few years ago even though the resort could theoretically reach 12,900 persons at one time (PAOT).  The new Parks Canada plan includes a gondola reliever lift as well as three new lifts in Lower Meadow Park, Hayes Hill and Goat’s Eye II, areas which currently sit within the Sunshine lease area.

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A gondola or tramway could reach the top of Goat’s Eye Mountain with just one tower.  But Banff National Park does not currently support this idea.

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