Sterling Vineyards to Debut New Gondola in 2023

The one-of-a-kind gondola at a California winery will not run again, Sterling Vineyards has announced. The 1972 Hall installation, which travels in a triangle alignment, was closed in 2020 due to Covid and subsequently damaged by a wildfire. In its place, Sterling and Doppelmayr USA will partner to construct a detachable eight place gondola running in a similar historic alignment. “Over the past twelve months, our team has been working diligently to safely assess and stabilize the property and fully scope this major project,” the company wrote. “We are excited to share that we are now moving into reconstructing the winery in preparation of a re-opening in Spring 2023.”

“After careful assessment, it was determined that our beloved and historic Aerial Tram must be replaced,” the statement continued. “The Aerial Tram has been, and will continue to be, central to our visitor experience, as well as an iconic feature of the winery. We anticipate a full year of hard work ahead of us, to bring this special property back to you safely and beautifully.”

The new lift will be as modern as the old one was quaint, becoming the first D-Line lift in California and featuring Omega V cabins from CWA. The one way journey will remain similar with three stations and drive/tensioning systems located at the valley station. There will of course still be a glass of wine waiting for each rider at the first angle station. “We welcome you to join us behind the scenes as we give you sneak peeks through photos and videos of the site during construction and watch Sterling Vineyards literally rise from the ashes, regaining its historic splendor, and bouncing back to once again be one of the most visited sites in the Napa Valley.”

News Roundup: Consolidation

Cascade Mountain to Add New Quad

Popular Wisconsin destination Cascade Mountain will replace its Mogul Monster triple this summer with a brand new Leitner-Poma quad. The outgoing lift is a 1987 Borvig utilizing towers from the mountain’s original chairlift first opened 60 years ago today.

“This offseason, we’ll be replacing our current Mogul Monster triple passenger lift with a brand-new fixed grip quadruple passenger chairlift,” Cascade Mountain said in an anniversary announcement. “Looking a lot like our B-Dub lift, this quad will help us improve our uphill capacity and clear up a little more congestion in the base area compared to the current Mogul Monster Lift. We’d like to thank both our customer base and staff for your continued support over the last 60 years and to the next 60+ to come!”

Powder Ridge, Minnesota to Build New Chairlift

A second quad chair will debut at Minnesota’s Powder Ridge next winter. The ski area today announced the Powder Puff double, originally built by Miner-Denver, will be retired at the end of the season and replaced with a modern Skytrac quad. It will be the mountain’s first new lift since 1992.

This is the first lift project announced in Minnesota for the 2022 construction season. Lift installations across North America are pacing about 50 percent higher than last year with 50 different projects already announced.

Kimberley Lift Fire Was Deliberately Set

Last month’s fire which destroyed a lift operator house at Kimberley Alpine Resort was no accident, police revealed today. The blaze torched key electrical components of the Northstar Express the morning of December 18th, rendering the lift inoperable on just the second day of the season. “Further investigation that included scene examination has led investigators to believe this fire is arson and was deliberately set,” said Kimberley Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detachment Commander Sgt. Steve Woodcox.

The fire has limited operations across Kimberley Alpine Resort, which relies on Northstar for out-of-base capacity. Faced without its key chairlift, the ski area has been utilizing a passenger snowcat from sister resort Kicking Horse, another on loan from Revelstoke Mountain Resort and third from a local logging company to move guests to two backside chairlifts. Another option for skiers is to hike 20-40 minutes to the base of the Tamarack double. The resort has also set up temporary food and beverage operations and warming tents on the backside of the mountain for guests while the frontside remains inaccessible. Tourism Kimberley estimates that despites these efforts, there has been a roughly 40 to 50 percent decline in bookings due to the situation with the quad chair.

“Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and Kimberley Alpine Resort’s maintenance experts have been in constant contact with the lift manufacturer, and they are putting a plan together to get the Quad Chair up and operating as soon as possible,” said General Manager Ted Funston in a late December update. “The fire completely demolished the lift control building, along with all the specialized electronic equipment that runs the lift, and so the difficult reality is that it is going to take some time to get the lift operating again, most likely measured in months rather than weeks,” he continued. The Kimberley RCMP requests anyone with information that could assist in their arson investigation to call (250) 427-4811.

Chair Detaches from Wildcat Lift

Photo credit: Mic Murphy

A triple chair fell near the base of Wildcat Mountain’s Snowcat lift this afternoon, sending one person to the hospital. The lift involved is a 1974 Riblet servicing beginner trails out of the base area. At 1:30 pm, Wildcat posted that Snowcat would remain closed for the day due to maintenance.

“We can confirm an incident occurred on Jan. 8, 2022 at Wildcat Mountain involving a 22-year-old male,” read an emailed statement from Wildcat’s parent company, Vail Resorts. “The guest was transported to Androscoggin Valley Hospital. The incident involved the Snowcat Triple, which is closed until further notice. Guests were safely unloaded off the lift at approximately 1:35pm. This incident is under investigation and we have no further details to share at this time,” Vail continued.

Chairs utilizing Riblet insert clips have fallen on occasion in recent years including last season at Indianhead, Michigan and 49 Degrees North, Washington. Within Vail Resorts, a Riblet triple chair fell from Heavenly’s North Bowl triple in 2016. Approximately 275 Riblet lifts currently operate worldwide, mostly in the United States.

Broken Water Line Sprays Lift Riders at Beech Mountain

An unfortunate situation was caught on video yesterday at Beech Mountain, North Carolina when a skier hit and broke a snowmaking hydrant under the #1 double. Now viral videos show guests struggling to stay in chairs as high pressure water hits them from below. Some chairs swing violently and it appears a few riders jumped or fell from the lift. At one point the lift stopped with two people directly in the path of the spray.

“On Friday, January 7, an uninjured guest skied into a water and air hydrant during snowmaking operations,” read a statement from resort management. “The hydrant was under a loaded chair, resulting in several patrons getting wet. Our operations and safety team worked diligently to unload the lift and drain the system safely. Avery EMS transported two patrons to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. We believe everyone is okay outside of the unfortunate situation, and operations are on a regular schedule.”

A similar incident occurred at Stratton Mountain, Vermont in 2018. In that case, a snowmaking pipe burst and sent water toward gondola cabins, causing them to swing. No one was injured in that mishap.

News Roundup: Growing Pains