News Roundup: Wish Lists

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Whitefish Plans a Fourth Detachable

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A new detachable quad will soon join the lift fleet at Whitefish Mountain Resort, although the exact timeline is uncertain.  The Chair 4 Express (name TBD) will be the first detachable lift servicing the mountain’s new day lodge, where nearly 70 percent of Whitefish skiers now start their day.  The big lift will replace Great Northern, a Stadeli triple which opened in 1978 but loads higher than the replacement.  The top terminal will be very close to where the old Chair 5 unloaded.

The new lift will open a half hour earlier than the workhorse Big Mountain Express and relieve pressure from the Base Lodge and Bad Rock beginner lifts.  Hourly capacity will be 2,200 skiers, more than double Chair 4 on the rare occasions it is open.  A number of trails will be re-graded to converge at the new load point.  “When people stand at the current carpet lift and look up the mountain when this project is done it will look very different from how it looks today,” says Whitefish.

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The new Chair 4 will be approximately 7,000 feet long with 2,200 feet of rise, even more than the current triple.

The resort did not release a timeline or manufacturer although planning is well underway.  Whitefish is already seeking Forest Service approval for its Hellroaring Basin improvement project, which includes two new lifts.  If approved, all three new lifts will be well worth the wait on an already great Big Mountain.

Instagram Tuesday: A First

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

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Alpine meadows mid station is up🤸🏽‍♂️

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Disney Skyliner Returns to Service

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Disney Skyliner is transporting guests around Walt Disney World Resort again this morning, eight days after a malfunction caused a few cabins to stack up in the Riviera angle station.  The system has been operating since then but without passengers.  Hours today are 8:00 am to 10:30 pm for all three gondola lines.  New signage reminds riders that Skyliner flights may occasionally be interrupted with stops and delays.  “Following a complete review with the manufacturer, we’ve made adjustments to our processes and training, and we are improving how we communicate with guests during their flight with Disney Skyliner,” a statement from Disney read.  “We again offer our deepest apologies to the guests impacted by the malfunction that resulted in extended operating delays on October 5th.”

According to the Skyliner website, temporary closures will follow this week for “system updates.”  On Wednesday, the Hollywood Studios line will be closed all day while the Epcot and Pop Century/Art of Animation lines will spin from 1:00 pm to 10:30 pm.  Thursday and Friday, all lines will be closed in the morning and open at 1:00 pm.

Skyliner launched on September 29th, linking Hollywood Studios to Epcot and four Walt Disney World resorts.  Doppelmayr designed and built the lifts and maintains them through its Doppelmayr Cable Car subsidiary in partnership with Disney.  “We greatly appreciate your ongoing patience and understanding, and we look forward to welcoming you back aboard Disney Skyliner,” the theme park operator told guests.

News Roundup: Super Cool

 

Instagram Tuesday: Rockies

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

 

Disney Skyliner Closed Following Partial Evacuation

An in-station collision on the Epcot line of the Disney Skyliner caused a stop that left people stuck in gondolas for more than two hours Saturday night and led to a partial evacuation.

The first tweet about the situation at Walt Disney World Resort appeared at 8:43 pm eastern time, followed by pictures of stacked cabins in one of the outgoing sections of the Riviera Resort angle station.  Riviera is the second of four stations on the longest Skyliner line, which links Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Epcot’s International Gateway.

The unfortunate incident happened just a week after the gondola system opened to the public.  Crews practiced repeatedly in the months prior to launch for such a scenario.  Each cabin is equipped with two way communications, emergency supplies and water.

As of 9:30, Reedy Creek Fire Department trucks and specialized lifts were being used to evacuate people from a few cabins.  The Epcot line passes over a narrow body of water plus multiple roads and buildings, necessitating a variety of rescue equipment.  The shorter Hollywood Studios and Pop Century/Art of Animation lines were unaffected but unloaded as a precaution.

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Loon Mountain & Waterville Valley Look to Build Big New Lifts

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The current Loon Mountain trail map shows two lifts on the lower mountain which are now slated to be replaced.

The Interstate 93 corridor in New Hampshire could soon be a hotbed of lift construction.  Four exciting projects appeared on the White Mountain National Forest proposed actions page this week.  In what would be a major move, Loon Mountain is seeking to replace the Kancamagus detachable quad with an eight seater chairlift.  Next, the Seven Brothers triple would be replaced with a detachable quad, presumably utilizing equipment removed from the Kanc.  This project would be similar to one Loon’s owner Boyne Resorts completed last year at Big Sky.  There, the Ramcharger detachable quad was replaced by North America’s first eight passenger chairlift and the old machine moved to replace a Heron-Poma double.

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The Kancamagus quad at Loon is 24 years old and in need of more capacity at peak times.

Just to the south at Waterville Valley, the White Peaks Express is proposed to be replaced by a six passenger detachable lift.  The current machine was built in 1988 and shortened to its current length in 1996.  In a second project, the Sunnyside triple would be swapped for a fixed-grip quad and the Northside double removed.  Both of these lifts were built decades ago by Stadeli.  Waterville Valley has been independently owned and operated by a local group of investors since 2010.  They recently replaced another aging Stadeli lift with an LST T-Bar.

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The White Peaks Express is one of just three lifts in North America utilizing a unique 1988 design from Poma.  The others are at Crystal Mountain, Washington and Sunshine Village, Alberta.

It is unknown whether any of these new lifts will feature bubbles and/or heated seats, which have become popular across New England.  The Forest Service expects to make decisions on whether to approve the projects in December.

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With new White Peaks and Sunnyside lifts, Waterville’s seldom-operated Northside double would no longer be needed.

News Roundup: Powerhouse

Gondola Eyed to Link Timberline & Summit Ski Areas on Mt. Hood

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When the family that operates Timberline Lodge & Ski Area bought nearby Summit Ski Area last year, an interconnect immediately entered the realm of possibility.  The Forest Service recently accepted RLK and Company’s new Summit Master Development Plan, which includes a 10 passenger gondola from the Summit base area in Government Camp to historic Timberline Lodge.  The combined resort would feature a vertical drop exceeding 4,500 feet, longest in the United States with all lifts open.

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A Timberline Gondola would span 12,952 feet with a vertical ascent of 1,890′.  It would require a boundary expansion of 228 acres between the top of Summit’s Homestead double chair and the bottom of Timberline’s Jeff Flood Express.  Importantly, the Summit base area would become a transit and parking hub for both mountains, reducing congestion and parking demands at higher elevations.  An approximately 30,000 square foot base lodge would replace the existing one at Summit.  Guests from Portland would save almost 12 miles of driving each day, instead enjoying an 11 minute flight from Government Camp to the base of Timberline’s Magic Mile quad.  “The gondola would not only provide direct, aerial access to Timberline from the Summit’s base area, for both guests and employees, it would also alleviate the congestion on Oregon Highway 173 and re-prioritize the need for additional parking at the bottom of Timberline’s Molly’s Chairlift,” notes the master plan, which was prepared by SE Group.  The gondola would travel up to 1,200 feet per minute with a capacity of 2,400 passengers per hour in each direction.  It would operate approximately nine hours per day in both winter and summer, serving skiers, snowboarders, sightseers and mountain bikers.

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Additionally, the plan prescribes replacing Summit’s 1980 Riblet double with a fixed grip quad called Summit Pass.  This lift would parallel the gondola for 1,933 feet and terminate at 4,290 feet in elevation.  “By upgrading the existing chairlift conveyance, the overall guest experience would improve by having updated lift technology, allowing ski school and parties of four or less to ride the chairlift together,” the plan notes.  Capacity would increase from 1,200 per hour to 2,000.  A new carpet lift would also be installed.

The Forest Service’s acceptance of the master plan does not constitute approval of individual projects and, if approved, gondola construction is likely still years away.  Timberline’s immediate next lift project is set to be a detachable replacement for Pucci, benefiting beginner and intermediate skiers.  The gondola link would be even more impactful with major environmental and guest service benefits year round.