For the third time in four months, a major European lift has been knocked out of service by fire, this time in the Pyrenees of France. A Doppelmayr six pack called “Le Family” ignited Monday evening at a mid-sized ski resort called La Pierre-Saint-Martin. The station that burned is the return and included a parking facility for all 80 chairs. The mile long lift cost €7 million to build back in 2014. Like many lifts in France, much of the terminal was clad with wood. Due to the intensity of the fire, the haul rope appears to have snapped with chairs on the line. Thankfully, no one was injured as the lift had already closed for the day when the fire started.
Around 40 percent of the ski area is now inaccessible, though the rest of the mountain will remain open. The caused of the fire is still under investigation. Back in September, a fire destroyed two aerial tramways near Chamonix and on December 3rd, a blaze damaged the bottom terminal of a 10 passenger gondola in Zillertal, Austria.
Just weeks after declaring the Teocalli lift wouldn’t spin this season due to needed maintenance, Crested Butte Mountain Resort today announced the Riblet double will be replaced with a new fixed-grip quad next summer. Teocalli opened in 1979 and was the last operating Riblet lift at the resort. Pending Forest Service approval, the larger lift will increase capacity by more than 50 percent. The lower terminal will remain in its current location while the top station will shift closer to the Red Lady Express summit.
“The realignment and improved capacity of the lift will provide an elevated on-mountain experience via quick terrain access, improved egress to the resort base area and access to Uley’s Cabin – one of CBMR’s premier on mountain restaurants,” said Tim Baker, general manager of the resort in a blog post. “We believe this investment can provide a significant benefit to a variety of guests in the near future, and we’ll continue to listen to feedback and evaluate other potential investments that will have a similar impact for a spectrum of guests moving forward.” Ten of Crested Butte’s eleven lifts are of Leitner-Poma lineage but no manufacturer was specified. The new lift is the third to be announced by Vail Resorts for 2019, following the company’s commitment to replace two chairlifts at Stevens Pass next summer. Both Crested Butte and Stevens were acquired by Vail last summer.
With 52 new ropeways servicing ski slopes, fairgrounds and theme parks, 2018 marks the fifth straight year of lift construction growth that began in 2014. All manufacturers did well this year and numbers were particularly strong in the Eastern United States and Canada. With North America’s first eight passenger chairlift, pioneering double loading gondolas, the first direct drives from two manufacturers and the first D-Line detachables, 2018 will be remembered as a pivotal year for North American lift building.
Forty three lifts were brand new this year while nine were relocated. Killington moved two lifts to new spots on the mountain, Doppelmayr relocated high speed quads at Whistler Blackcomb and Big Sky while Skytrac reinstalled Poma fixed grips at Catamount, New York and Spider Mountain, Texas.
Months ago I nicknamed 2018 the year of the gondola with a record ten new installations including combination chair/gondola lifts at Bromont, Quebec and Copper, Colorado. New gondolas sprouted coast to coast in both the United States and Canada in a year that won’t soon be repeated.
Bubble chairlift construction also surged with big installations this winter at Big Sky, Copper Mountain and Killington. The new American Flyer is the longest bubble lift in the world with 182 six place chairs set to carry skiers and snowboarders very soon. Copper, Winter Park and Big Sky’s new lifts are the first in North America with direct drives that cut gearboxes out of the equation for increased reliability.