8.5 miles. 12 stations. 500 cabins. $160-200 million. These are big numbers for a gondola in a town with barely 10,000 residents. Yet Branson, sometimes known as Nashville West, hosted more than eight million visitors last year. Jeff Green, President of American Gondola, Inc., says that fact combined with worsening traffic congestion make the city a prime candidate for one of the world’s largest gondola systems. “The need for a transportation solution when combined with the possibility of an entertainment attraction creates an opportunity to address both issues using a single system like an aerial gondola,” Green told me by email this week.
The privately-funded system along Highway 76 from Downtown to Silver Dollar City would cost riders $15 per day and be geared towards visitors. American Gondola is working with Leitner-Poma and showed a Sigma Diamond demo cabin at their first public meeting a few weeks ago. I asked Jeff Green about the decision to work with Leitner-Poma at this early stage. “Both [Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma] have very competitive products and the ability to provide a solution,” he said. “We have found L-P to be extremely knowledgeable and very interested in working with us to address and resolve all the issues and problems and to help us assure a quality product is delivered.”
The system would most likely be constructed with five separate haul rope loops and cabins interlining between them. American Gondola seeks a Memorandum of Understanding with the city this month and hopes to begin construction in 2017. The company has a long way to go but its list of backers is impressive. “Our financial investors have said, that if we could get the MOU next week, they would have our funding in place by the end of the year,” says Green. Of course, that is contingent on achieving final design, obtaining necessary property agreements, easements and permits. Green is optimistic and noted that the demo cabin was already a big hit. “Everyone, including city officials, appreciated the efforts of AGI and Leitner-Poma to provide an example of a cabin they could actually touch and experience.”
Fast-moving fires tore through Gatlinburg, Tennesee last night, forcing the evacuation of 14,000 people and burning at least 250 structures. The town home is home to the Ober Gatlinburg ski resort, a scenic aerial tramway and the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. While reports are conflicting, Ober Gatlinburg posted on its Facebook page that the ski resort is undamaged and the company is assessing the lower tram terminal downtown. VonRoll built a 130-passenger tramway between the town and ski resort in 1973 and it received new cabins in 2007. The ski area features two Borvig quad chairs, a 1978 Riblet double and 1962 Carlevaro-Savio double.
The Gatlinburg Sky Lift’s lower terminal is apparently standing, but the hillside it ascends burned with unknown damage at the top station. Boyne Resorts Senior VP of Marketing Julie Ard told the Petoskey News-Review, “At this time, we are focused on the well-being of our valued Gatlinburg Sky Lift staff.” The Sky Lift employs 26 people. Ard went on to note, “video posted today by state officials gives us confidence that our street-level building is intact, but status of the lift’s upper terminal and surrounding structures is unknown.” Boyne has continuously operated the Sky Lift since 1954. A Riblet double replaced the original Heron version in 1991.
2015/16 was the second best year in Doppelmayr’s history, the company reported yesterday. Sales increased 5 percent over last year, reaching €834 million ($880.3 million.) Global headcount also rose by 127 employees to 2,673, half of which work in Austria. Net income was €80 million.
The largest market for Doppelmayr in 2015 continued to be Austria, followed by Switzerland, France and Italy. Latin America now accounts for 16 percent of the global total, higher than North America. Southeast Asia, namely Vietnam, is a key emerging market for the company. By the end of next year, Doppelmayr will have completed the world’s longest mono-cable gondola, the longest 3S, the largest aerial tramway and built the tallest towers in the rapidly-developing nation.
Winter resorts accounted for 82 of Doppelmayr’s 103 projects last year. That means about 20 percent fell into the tourism, material transport and urban transportation categories. 103 is actually a ten year low in terms of number of projects, but those realized in 2015/16 tended to be large. Some highlights from last fiscal year include:
Kirchenkarbahn, the first D-Line installation, to be followed by several more this year.
Nine years since opening Montezuma Bowl to skiers and snowboarders for the first time, Arapahoe Basin is expanding again. The White River National Forest today approved the resort’s 338-acre Beavers Expansion as well as replacement lifts for Molly Hogan and Pallavicini. Under the approved plan, the Norway double will also be removed. These improvements will continue sustained capital investment by A-Basin owner Dream Unlimited since acquiring the mountain from Vail Resorts in 1997.
The west-facing Beavers terrain lies between Pallavicini and Zuma Bowl, making for popular lift-served backcountry skiing. Adding a chairlift and performing avalanche hazard reduction will increase public safety while addressing growing demand for high-alpine skiing in Summit County. In approving the plan, Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams noted visits to Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone and Loveland increased by 173,000 between 2002 and 2010.
“The Beavers will provide something exciting — a whole other new and different experience,” said Alan Henceroth, Arapahoe Basin Chief Operating Officer. “It’s just awesome out there. I’m very confident people are just going to love it.” The top-drive Beavers lift will be built as a fixed-grip triple or quad chair with an hourly capacity of 1,800 skiers and vertical of 1,499 feet, topping out at 12,462′. Slope length will be 4,169 feet, just one foot longer than the Zuma Quad. The Beavers lift is expected to open in 2018.
Once that project is completed, Arapahoe Basin will remove its three remaining fixed-grip Lift Engineering lifts, all built in 1978. Norway will not see a replacement given its proximity to the Beavers and redundancy with Lenawee Mountain. Modern fixed grip lifts will replace Pallavicini and Molly Hogan with the same hourly capacities – 1,200 and 1,000, respectively. Leitner-Poma is likely to build A-Basin’s new lifts, having supplied Lenawee Mountain, Zuma, and the Black Mountain Express.