“Belleayre Mountain is one of the crown jewels of the Catskills and a major driver of the region’s tourism economy,” Governor Cuomo said today.“With this investment, we are supporting vital upgrades at this mountain to ensure it remains an unparalleled year-round recreation destination and continues to leverage economic growth for the entire region for generations to come.”
The new 8-passenger lift will feature 65 cabins, a six-minute ride time and vertical rise of 1,300 feet. A manufacturer and timeline were not specified but the cost will be approximately $5 million, which sounds like a screaming deal. The last new lift built at Belleayre was the Superchief Express, a 2006 Doppelmayr CTEC. All five of Belleayre’s current chairlifts will likely remain after installation of the gondola in 2017 or 2018.
The Walt Disney Co. is like Apple. It doesn’t like to reveal plans for its theme parks until it has to. However, a user on a fan website called Walt Disney World Magic yesterday unearthed a recent watershed permit drawing that includes buildings looking an awful lot like those for a multi-stage gondola system. I’ve heard similar rumors for months and apparently the theme park world has too. Major newspapers joined the fray today, including the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal. If true, this could become the largest lift project in North America since Peak 2 Peak.
The forum thread on WDWMagic now has 656 replies and users have pieced together a conceptual five-stage alignment based on the permit application that would require at least two haul ropes, some 200 cabins and three angle stations. The system could connect Disney’s Boardwalk, Caribbean Beach Resort, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, the latter of which is slated to house Star Wars land beginning in 2019 and all of which are scheduled for expansion/improvements in the next few years. Visitors currently go between these hotels and attractions by car or bus and gondolas would certainly be more in keeping with the Disney brand.
Let me start by noting this post, like all others here, is my own and not an official account of my employer, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Tuesday nights are my Sunday nights at home before I start my work week every Wednesday. I was watching the news last Tuesday when our risk manager casually posted on Facebook that the power was out in Teton Village. I didn’t think much of it on a day when the roof of the local bowling alley had collapsed due to snow and with both a Winter Storm Warning and Flood Watch in effect. Unlike at some ski areas, losing power is a rarity for Jackson Hole (Crystal Mountain, where I grew up skiing, has its own dedicated power plant for such occasions; Kirkwood and Mt. Baker run without grid power every day.)
Seven minutes after the initial Facebook post, another employee wrote, “the power poles along the village road totally toppled,” just as thousands of workers and guests were headed home. We later learned seventeen 75-foot steel transmission poles had indeed fallen to the snow along ‘the windy mile,’ that last stretch of Wyoming 390 before Teton Village. The time was 6:05 pm, the stamp that would grace the webcams on jacksonhole.com for days. It was no doubt howling that night, but the poles had withstood forty years of fierce winds Wyoming is known for.
Lower Valley Energy is the electricity provider in Teton County. It’s a co-op, owned by 15,000 members like myself. While our tiny utility got to work recruiting much-needed regional help, ski area employees who could make it rallied first thing Wednesday morning. Instead of heading up, cat operators headed out to push ten feet of snow away from the power corridor. Lower Valley conceded at 9:40 am to “expect Teton Village to be out of power for 5-7 days,” and the resort announced it would not open until at least the following Monday. The internet thought it was crazy, we knew it was not.
Complicating matters, Teton Pass has closed earlier that day and ended up staying closed for almost five days amid the biggest storm cycle since 1986. WYDOT also closed the two canyon routes leading into Jackson Hole due to avalanches relentlessly coming down across them. The Teton Village substation also serves the Jackson Hole Airport and all Tuesday night flights were canceled. Whether it was workers, generators or fuel, it became tough to get anything we needed. The mountain was able to buy every available 2000-watt generator from a Honda dealer in Afton, Wyoming.
Three months since a wildland fire ripped through Gatlinburg, Tennesee, two brand new lifts are under construction as the gateway to the Smoky Mountains rebuilds. As many suspected, the Gatlinburg Sky Lift will be replaced with a new version this spring. “We are investing in a total replacement and are excited to be in process with installation of a new scenic chairlift,” spokeswoman Julie Ard of Boyne Resorts tells the Mountain Press. The Riblet double’s haul rope and chairs have already been pulled in preparation for tower removal. The new Sky Lift will be the third version following the original Heron that operated from 1954-1991 and the Riblet that followed from 1991 until last November. I’ve reached out to Boyne for the manufacturer of Sky Lift 3.0 and am waiting to hear back. Update 2/6/17: The new lift will be a Doppelmayr Alpinstar triple chair with custom wooden seats.
Before the fire, Boyne Resorts had planned for and received approval to build an adventure park on the site, where the company has operated continuously for more than sixty years. Zip lines, a suspension bridge, walking trails and more will eventually occupy 17.5 acres. While that expansion will take some time, the lift project is progressing quickly. “Reopening of the Gatlinburg Sky Lift is expected to be April/May 2017,” says Ard. “Just as our past guests who want to come back to Gatlinburg to continue traditions of experiencing this iconic attraction, and locals who are aware of its draw among tourists, we are eager to have this lift spinning again just as quickly as possible.”