News Roundup: Replacements

  • Suit filed against Ski Liberty by family of boy who dangled from a chair for seven minutes after mis-loading.
  • Mi Teleférico’s four gondola lines transported 194,971 passengers last Wednesday, an impressive single day record.
  • Squaw|Alpine now wants an extension of permit for replacing Hot Wheels.
  • Doppelmayr remembers past CEO Artur Doppelmayr, who died May 12th.
  • Apparently the Utah Olympic Park is adding two new chairlifts this summer, although I am still trying to confirm.
  • Steamboat’s gondola rebuild is taking longer than expected and reopening has been pushed back two weeks to July 15th.
  • Vail Resorts will re-use chairs and towers from Keystone’s Montezuma Express in building the new Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.
  • Saddleback Mountain Foundation needs $11.2 million to purchase Maine’s third largest ski area, including $3.2 million to replace the Rangeley lift with a fixed-grip quad.  So far, the group has only raised a fraction of that amount.
  • Sunday River’s new Spruce Peak triple will be a Doppelmayr Tristar, Boyne Resorts’ fourth.
  • Schweitzer works toward $6-8 million Snow Ghost replacement.
  • “It is not rocket science about lift geometry,” Aspen Council member says in frustration re: Lift 1A. “There is enough expertise in this community to know where a lift goes.”
  • Mont Ripley offers $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of arsonist(s) who damaged lift.
  • Longtime Whistler Blackcomb COO and Peak 2 Peak visionary Dave Brownlie is leaving to pursue new opportunities just seven months into Vail ownership.

Instagram Tuesday: Pulling

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

A chilly -4.5 right now, a light dusting and a cracking sunrise…#winteriscoming #Hotham

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#rakusko #lyzovacka #stubai #leitner #3s #stubaiergletscher @gretka_k

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Six Months After Flames, Gatlinburg Sky Lift Returns Friday

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This new and improved Gatlinburg Sky Lift replaces a Riblet double chair destroyed by wildfire on November 28th, 2016.  Photos credit: Everett Kircher

Two days shy of six months since an intentionally-set wildfire killed 14 people and destroyed more than 2,000 buildings near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the iconic Gatlinburg Sky Lift will reopen this Friday.  On November 28th, 2016, Sky Lift employees left the lift running on its auxiliary diesel as they fled the fire, saving the haul rope.  However, the top terminal and some towers were so severely burned that the entire lift needed to be replaced.For 62 years, Boyne Resorts has operated a chairlift on Crockett Mountain and the company chose a Doppelmayr Alpinstar triple chair for its third incarnation.  Previous versions were a Heron double recycled from Sugar Bowl in 1954 and Riblet double brought to Tennessee in 1991.

Boyne Resorts announced construction of the new $2.4 million lift in early February and received its operating permit less than three months later on April 27th.  Doppelmayr and Boyne collaborated to re-create the Sky Lift’s iconic appearance with 11 orange towers and 92 yellow chairs with wooden slats in place of galvanized ones.  Although guests cannot yet get off at the top due to ongoing construction, the new lift is sure to be as popular as it has been for generations.  When Boyne sold and leased-back the Sky Lift operation in 2005, it attracted 400,000 annual visitors and was valued at $19.9 million.  Not bad for a 1,300′ double chair!

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Loen Skylift – World’s Steepest Tramway – Opens in Norway

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A new Garaventa aerial tram opened today along a Norwegian Fjord with a vertical rise of more than 3,000 feet and only one tower.  Photo credit: Hoven Loen AS

From Fjord to Sky in Five is the tagline for the Loen Skylift, a spectacular new sightseeing tramway and adventure destination in Norway that debuted this morning.  Rising from the sea to 1,011-meter Mt. Hoven, the brand new Garaventa aerial tram becomes the steepest jig-back built in modern times and is already being hailed as one of the world’s great lifts.  “The Loen Skylift is the quickest and easiest way to explore the best of what Norwegian mountains have to offer,” said Richard Grov, general manager of Loen Skylift. “The trip from the fjord to the mountain only takes a few minutes.”

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The Loen Skylift is 2.5 times steeper than the mechanically similar Jackson Hole Aerial Tram, which only averages 19.1 degrees. Photo credit: Hoven Loen AS.

An ascent from dock to dock is 3,248 feet over a slope length of 5,021 feet, yielding an insane average grade of 53 degrees.  That’s much steeper than every lift in North America, the steepest of which averages only 34.3 degrees.  At seven meters per second, a Skylift ride takes just five minutes and the machine can transport 460 passengers each hour in two 45-passenger CWA Kronos cabins.  As the Doppelmayr annual brochure notes, “[The Skylift] features one strongly-overhanging tower standing on two feet and anchored back with a tie bar.  The tramway has two sets of track ropes and no track rope brake.”

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Forest Service Green Lights Big Lookout Pass Expansion

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In a plan approved today, Lookout Pass will upgrade Chair 1 to a quad and add two new lifts serving a 650-acre Eagle Peak expansion.

Lookout Pass is the only ski resort in America spanning two states, two National Forests and two time zones.  While markedly low-key, this local favorite on the Idaho-Montana border has grown rapidly from one lift to four since 2002.  A Record of Decision published today by the Idaho Panhandle and Lolo National Forests gives Lookout approval to build two new lifts on Eagle Peak, upgrade Chair 1 and add 15 new trails spanning 654 acres.  Vertical rise will increase more than 40 percent to 1,650′ as the lift-served summit moves from Runt Mountain to Eagle Peak.  Taken alone, the expansion will be larger than all but four ski areas in the Eastern United States.  When combined with current terrain, once little Lookout will provide more than 1,000 acres of terrain for a growing number of skiers in the Inland Northwest.

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Lift 1, a 1982 Riblet double, will be upgraded to a fixed- or detachable-grip quad in the existing alignment.  A new fixed-grip double, triple or quad chair on Eagle Peak dubbed Lift 5 will be 5,200′ long by 1,300′ vertical with around 24 towers.  A smaller 2,800 x 800′ Lift 6 was approved as a double chair ending on the same summit.  A 12,000′ power line will need to be trenched to both relatively remote new bottom drive terminals.  “The new lifts will incorporate components recycled from the Lift 1 upgrade as well as used components purchased from other ski areas to promote resource conservation and to reduce costs,” the ROD notes.  Lookout Pass already operates four Riblet fixed-grips, three of which were relocated from other resorts. Fittingly, one of the new lifts will be located in Idaho and Pacific Time, the other in Montana on Mountain Time.

Not wasting a moment, Lookout Pass said in a statement, “Phase One projects will be initiated starting this summer.  Specific projects are subject to logging bids and contracts plus additional ski lift and building plan review.  We will announce the proposed projects timeline as soon as possible.”  You can learn more and follow the progress here.

News Roundup: Turnover

  • Squaw seeks extension for permit to replace Red Dog lift.
  • MND Group turnover increases 15.1 percent year-over-year.  The company aims to double sales by 2020 partially through LST Ropeways subsidiary.  Referencing the new Cannon Mountain T-Bar in the latest magazine, MND notes “success has enabled LST to penetrate the US market, paving the way for other promising opportunities.”
  • Doppelmayr will begin building its next tri-cable gondola in December.  Who would have guessed Kenya would get a 3S before the United States!
  • Forest Service gives final green light for Breckenridge and Keystone six-place upgrades.
  • A slow landslide continues to move tower 6 of the Barrows lift at Howelsen Hill.
  • SE Group will study placement of Aspen Mountain’s future Lift 1A.
  • Denver Post publishes two part interview with Larry Smith of the CPTSB re: Granby Ranch.
  • The LiftDigital safety bar display system with integrated Wi-Fi will launch in Colorado for 2017-18.
  • New PomaLink newsletter features the Grand Canyon Express and a six-station gondola at a zoo in China.
  • Poma’s 2016 Reference Book includes LPOA installations but not Skytrac ones.
  • Mountain Creek files for bankruptcy protection with debts totaling $40+ million including $500,000 balance on 2012 Partek chairlift loan.
  • One of Heavenly’s original 1962 tram cars is for sale.  Email me if you’re interested.
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  • Artur Doppelmayr died Friday at age 95.  May he rest in peace.

Instagram Tuesday: Carriers

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

#kitzsteinhorn #seilbahn #doppelmayr

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Granby Ranch Investigation Report Released

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The Quickdraw lift at Granby Ranch, Colorado is a 1999 Leitner detachable quad where a “rare dynamic event” last December caused a a chair to contact this tower, killing one and injuring two children.

The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board released its 151-page final report on last December’s fatal accident at Granby Ranch this afternoon.  The investigative team included seven professional engineers with more than 250 years of combined lift experience with support from Leitner-Poma and Granby Ranch personnel, among others. The team conducted extensive tests on the Quickdraw lift from the afternoon of the accident through January 5th and spent months writing this detailed analysis, identifying contributing factors and making recommendations for changes.  Appendices include witness statements, photographs and prior inspection reports but the core of the document is 13 pages which everyone who works on ski lifts should read.  I’ve done my best to summarize below.

Chair 58 contacted tower 5 at a 40-degree angle that morning due to two contributing factors.  The first was the tuning of a new drive installed last Fall by an independent contractor.  Two specific parameters may have created pulses of energy and rope instability, the report notes.  “It is probable that the combined effect of [these two settings] may have resulted in the drive trying to respond too aggressively to lift demands when changing from ‘Fast’ to ‘Slow’ and back to ‘Fast’ again.”  The second contributing factor was the influence of one or more speed changes leading up to the incident.

Other potential contributing factors were:

  • Control system complexity resulting from the new ABB DCS800 drive’s interface with older Pilz/Leitner low-voltage controls.
  • A control board replacement from February 2016.
  • Possible damage to the electric motor encoder.
  • Unknown electrical cycle shown in data logs that had occurred at a 3.7 second interval over the entire life of the lift.
  • Tension factor(s) that would require more testing to determine.
  • Natural instability of the profile.  “There appears to have been a very unique combination of rope tension, carrier spacing, tower spans, tower height, carrier loading and natural carrier movement that led to the transverse carrier swing that resulted in Carrier 58 hitting Tower 5,” the document states.
  • Natural harmonic response of the haul rope.

Wind was not found to be an outside influence, nor was passenger conduct.  “The incident that occurred on December 29th, 2016 at Granby Ranch was unprecedented,” the investigative team wrote.  “Although many factors may have combined to amplify the effect of the rope instability leading to Carrier 58 colliding with Tower 5, the performance of the new drive is considered to be the primary cause of the incident.”  The report explains electronic drives such as the DCS800 added to Quickdraw last year and used on many lifts are also used in a wide variety of other applications.  The tuning and “fine-tuning” of a drive is complex and unique to each application and lift.  “It appears the new drive was not comprehensively tuned to this particular lift during installation,” the document says.

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News Roundup: Pass Wars

  • The latest Wir highlights Doppelmayr Connect, various drive concepts and the Sweetwater Gondola.
  • U.S. skier visits climbed 3.7 percent last season to 54.7 million.  479 ski areas operated in 2016-17, up from 464.
  • Silverton Mountain is not a fan of the Epic Pass.
  • Royal Gorge Bridge & Park considers chairlift down to the Arkansas River.
  • Intrawest re-invested 8 percent of revenues at its resorts between 2013 and 2017 (compared with 11 percent across Vail Resorts.)  The company had 173 interested buyers, 16 of which were ski industry players.
  • Early summer update from the Magic Mountain rebirth and Green Chair project.
  • Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group buys Frey AG Stans, a leading global provider of ropeway control systems.
  • Lifts from the defunct Talisman Mountain Resort have been sold; one is headed to Sunridge, Alberta.
  • Granby Ranch investigation update.
  • LA mayor suggests gondola to the Hollywood sign from Universal Studios.
  • Ghost Town in Maggie Valley, NC goes up for sale, including Carlevaro-Savio chairlift that last operated in 2012.
  • Nonprofit nearing purchase of Frost Fire, ND, hopes to repair two chairlifts and reopen skiing next winter.
  • Government considers building world’s longest gondola into the world’s largest cave in Vietnam.
  • Here’s a recap of what we missed at Interalpin.
  • Lutsen Mountains’ six-lift expansion plan moves forward.
  • The Denver Post reports a joint Aspen/Intrawest/KSL/Mammoth pass is in the works for 2018-19, meaning the Mountain Collective could lose seven members and 43 percent of its lifts.  The MAX Pass might fare better, losing the six Intrawest resorts and 85 lifts (20 percent.)  I chart one scenario below.

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Instagram Tuesday: Night Moves

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

Lined up and ready to launch!

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