State of Vermont Shuts Down The Hermitage Club

A former employee of the Hermitage Club sent this picture to the local newspaper showing a notice from the state and letter from management.

Notices posted on buildings at America’s second largest private ski resort are clear.  “Please take notice that Hermitage Club LLC failed to post the bond required by the Vermont Commissioner of Taxes…and may not conduct any business at this location.”  News of the closure comes less than a month after a Massachusetts bank filed a $16.6 million foreclosure complaint against the club related to three separate loans now in default.

The Hermitage Club features one of only five bubble chairlifts with heated seats in the United States.  It opened just over two years ago.

The Hermitage owes the State of Vermont more than $1 million in rooms, sales and meals taxes.  The two parties had been operating under a payment plan that allowed the ski resort to open on weekends this winter.  A $112,000 payment wired to the state on Friday was enough to keep the lifts spinning until Sunday.  A note to members posted at the club yesterday says, “We are working diligently to secure the funds to allow us to open for this coming weekend and will keep you posted.”  The local newspaper reports employees were escorted from the property by police.  I can only imagine the frustration they must feel losing their jobs after months of uncertainty.

Opened in 2011 on the site of the former Haystack Mountain ski area, the Hermitage Club currently owns a 2015 Doppelmayr bubble high-speed six place lift, two recent Skytrac quads, a 1985 Poma triple and a 1987 CTEC triple.  As I wrote a few weeks ago, lots of legal maneuvering likely lies ahead and many of these lifts could find new homes in the event of a liquidation.


Whistler Blackcomb Hosts Summer Projects Open House

The new two stage Blackcomb Gondola will feature 184 Omega IV 10 LWI cabins from CWA.

Monster Doppelmayr UNI-G XXL terminals are headed to British Columbia for the first time.  Whistler Blackcomb and Vail Resorts held a community open house last night to detail plans for what will be a packed summer building four new lifts on both iconic mountains.  The largest component of the $52 million project is a new Blackcomb Gondola announced in December.

The beastly gondola will load where the current Wizard lift does before continuing to a very large mid-station located below the current Solar Coaster base.  An even larger cabin parking facility will be built in the trees to the west of the dual terminal.  The second stage of the gondola (separate haul ropes and drives) will continue after a slight angle change to Rendezvous just below the current Solar Coaster unload.  10-passenger cabins will depart every nine seconds yielding a 4,000 passenger hourly capacity – second highest ever in North America.


Also on Blackcomb, a new, longer Catskinner four place detachable will start to the southwest of the existing Yan triple chair.  This lift will have 97 chairs reused from Emerald Express and 14 new towers.  Emerald’s Spacejet-style terminals will also come over from Whistler.

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High-Speed Rollback in Georgia Injures Eight

While we in North America were sleeping, a serious lift incident unfolded in the Caucasus Mountains, where Europe and Asia meet.  Videos posted to YouTube and Facebook show a Doppelmayr fixed-grip quad picking up speed in reverse and chaos ensuing on an already crowded powder day.  Any riders who didn’t jump were thrown from the lift at the drive bullwheel or pinned between mangled chairs.  Georgia’s Ministry of Economy says eight people sustained non life-threatening injuries.

Another picture shows chairs piled up after the lift came to a stop on what would normally be the arrival side of the drive station.  Some grips held on while others were ripped from the haul rope after going around the bullwheel.

From looking through Doppelmayr Worldbooks, I believe the lift in question is called Sadzele, built in 2007 as one of six lifts at the Gudauri ski resort.  Note that fixed-grip lift models Doppelmayr sells in the U.S. and Canada differ significantly from those found in Europe and elsewhere.

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News Roundup: Intentions

  • Poma breaks ground on Medellín’s sixth urban gondola line as Doppelmayr prepares to open La Paz’s sixth on March 24th.
  • Gearbox issue strikes Camp Fortune, Quebec and 130 guests are roped off a Blue Mountain quad chair.
  • As Beantown weighs a gondola, Boston Globe staff travel to experience Leitner’s Mexicable.
  • Boyne Resorts acquires six mountain resorts plus the Gatlinburg Sky Lift it leased from CNL Lifestyle Properties and later Och-Ziff Capital Management.  “This opportunity will enable us to accelerate and fine tune the execution of our reinvestment plans for these spectacular properties, which will boost our competitive advantages and support our focus on continuous enhancement of the guest experience,” says Boyne President Stephen Kircher.
  • Don’t let this go unpunished at your resort.
  • The Australian man who was supposed to buy Maine’s third largest ski resort is caught on tape saying, “We’re not going to deliver on Saddleback,”  “Opening the mountain is not a primary concern for us,” and  “We’re not going to lose any sleep with regards to it,” acknowledging it was mostly about cashing in on the EB-5 immigrant investor program.
  • Triple Peaks’ Okemo, Crested Butte and Mt. Sunapee join the Epic Pass through a long-term alliance with Vail Resorts.
  • Anti Edmonton gondola editorial argues “challenges to a gondola could include its operational reliability in a harsh winter climate.”  Guess again.

Instagram Tuesday: Stars

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

Alterra Building New Lifts at Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park

Alterra Mountain Co., the new operator of eleven leading North American mountain resorts, today announced a transformational capital investment of $130 million to be followed by hundreds of millions more over the next five years.  New lifts will debut at Winter Park Resort in Colorado, Mont Tremblant in Quebec and Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont in time for next winter.  Competitor Vail Resorts revealed a similar $150 million plan for 2018-19 with six new lifts across its resorts last December.

Goodbye massive lines at Zephyr, hello gondola.

The largest single project for Alterra is a 10-passenger Zephyr Gondola at Winter Park replacing the current 1990 high-speed quad, the key people mover out of The Village at Winter Park.  The new $16 million Leitner-Poma lift will be capable of moving 3,600 guests per hour to Sunspot, up from 2,600, and is the first new lift at the resort since 2007.  It will feature Leitner-Poma’s DirectDrive technology, reducing energy consumption and the number of moving parts that can lead to down time.  The new lift may also get a new name.  “Zephyr is certainly on the table but nothing’s been decided yet,” said Steve Hurlbert, a spokesman for the resort.

Winter Park’s first true gondola will sport Sigma Diamond 10 cabins.

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Disney Skyliner Reaches Skyward

Walt Disney World is currently building America’s inaugural Doppelmayr D-Line gondola, actually three gondolas.  Although Orlando is a long way from the mountains of Wyoming, the world’s most visited resort is also one of Earth’s most photographed places.  So, through the magic of the internet, I am able to give a construction tour of the Disney Skyliner from afar.

Let’s start at Epcot.  Foundations for this key station are taking shape but the bulk of work still lies ahead.  Though they look like lift terminals, the dark green roofs are actually related to ferry boats the Skyliner will partially replace.

Next up is an angle station that Disney says will showcase the inner workings of the Skyliner as riders pass.  No loading or unloading will take place here but the line will deflect around 110 degrees (double grooved bullwheel, maybe?)  This one is also just beginning to be formed in what used to be a pond.

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News Roundup: Never Ending

  • Arizona Snowbowl files paperwork with the Coconino National Forest to replace the Agassiz lift with a combination Telemix/chondola as soon as this summer.
  • Bromont in Quebec looks to build a Doppelmayr six place chair in place of its 1985 vintage detachable.
  • It’s not every day you read about lifties being caught in an avalanche at the bottom of a high-speed quad.  Thankfully no one was injured.
  • I’m thinking President Trump’s 25 percent tariff on imported steel (and 10 percent for aluminum) will have negative implications for the ski lift business, though Mexico and Canada are exempted for now.
  • Doppelmayr Canada seeks an experienced construction manager for its four lift megaproject at Whistler Blackcomb.
  • Triple double Massachusetts mountain Bousquet is on the block.
  • Tenney Mountain opened for skiing yesterday for the first time in eight years.
  • When a T-Bar turns into a chairlift
  • Doppelmayr pitches a 3S gondola to connect Oakland with Alameda Island in San Francisco Bay.
  • Antelope Butte’s two Riblets will see significant work this summer in advance of a possible reopening.
  • Another viral video shows a child falling from a lift at Bear Mountain.
  • Edmonton gondola idea wins a design competition, beating hundreds of other entries.
  • New owner of Mt. Norquay eyes building a gondola from Banff for improved access.
  • Vail Resorts posts strong second quarter results with net income up 58 percent and lift revenue up 6.6 percent despite skier visits dropping 4.9 percent. In addition, Vail is raising its corporate minimum wage to $12.25.
  • Doppelmayr proclaims Big Sky’s upcoming 8-seater the most technologically advanced lift the company has ever delivered.

Big White Upgrading Powder Chair to a Leitner-Poma Quad

British Columbia’s third largest ski resort will retire its oldest lift this summer, a Mueller which dates back to 1979 called Powder.  A new $3.1 million Leitner-Poma Canada Alpha quad chair will be capable of moving 1,900 skiers per hour versus the current 1,710.  Big White calls the outgoing lift one of Canada’s oldest and most popular triple chairs with more than 15 million rides logged to date.  “I’m proud to be leading the third generation of our family owned business, which was established in the summer of 1985,” said Peter Plimmer, president and CEO of Big White Ski Resort Ltd. in a press release announcing multiple summer projects worth $10 million CAD.  “My grandfather, Desmond Schumann, would be proud of what we’re doing here at the resort.”

Big White’s Powder chair on a snowy Saturday last month.

Next season Big White will operate a fleet of a dozen Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma lifts including a six-pack and gondola.  The new Powder Chair is the second announced Leitner-Poma fixed-grip project for 2018 after Arapahoe Basin’s Beavers installation.  Last year, most of the Leitner-Poma Group’s fixed-grip orders went to Skytrac, though that division has yet to build a lift in Canada.  New lifts are also coming to Blackcomb, Whistler, SilverStar and likely Sun Peaks in BC next winter.

Big Sky to Launch North America’s First Eight Passenger Chairlift

This afternoon couldn’t have been a more beautiful one for unveiling what will be America’s biggest lift.  Over the next nine months, Big Sky Resort and Doppelmayr will create Ramcharger 8, a machine packed full of technology on Andesite Mountain.  The current Ramcharger high-speed quad will move to Shedhorn and replace one of Big Sky’s most popular high-alpine lifts while a two-stage North Village gondola and more will eventually follow as part of Big Sky 2025.  “The Biggest Skiing in America is getting bigger and better, again,” said Big Sky Resort General Manager and President Taylor Middleton before the bombshell announcement.  Never before has America seen an 8-passenger chair of any kind, let alone one packed with every bell and whistle available.

We trail Slovakia in 8-Passenger chairlifts, Stephen Kircher noted to laughter in the gathered crowd.  Not anymore.

I was lucky enough to be invited by Big Sky Resort and the Kircher family to be part of this momentous day in the Mountain Village, where Boyne Resorts’ Stephen Kircher detailed plans for being the North American ski industry’s D-Line launch customer.  Kircher emphasized Big Sky’s lengthy path to this point and how the community has really come together in the past decade.  “My family is proud of its 42-year commitment to southwest Montana and will continue the momentum that is underway at Big Sky Resort,” he said. “We are excited to bring the biggest chair in the world to Big Sky, and to work with the resort team and community to recognize the Resort’s full potential – rivaling the best of the Alps and our North American brethren.”  With a huge snowpack, the Biggest Skiing in America is on track to have its best season ever with more than 500,000 skier days – a feat once only dreamed of here.

Lone Peak on an afternoon that turned into a historic one in Big Sky, Montana.

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