News Roundup: Millions

Nordic Valley Seeks to Add a Fourth Chairlift

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Mountain Capital Partners no longer plans to build nine new chairlifts and one of the world’s longest gondolas in Northern Utah but a scaled back expansion of Nordic Valley is moving forward.  The previous vision hinged on use of Forest Service lands and received chilly public reception.

The resort recently applied for a conditional use permit to add a new lift on 347 acres of entirely private land south of the current ski area.  The updated project includes 50 acres of new snowmaking coverage and an approximately 4,400 foot chairlift dubbed Lift 5.  Photos included with the application depict Skytrac lifts, indicating the new lift would be fixed-grip.

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Back in 2018, Mountain Capital Partners forged an agreement to operate Nordic Valley, becoming the firm’s first property in Utah.  MCP specializes in modernizing historically under-capitalized resorts across the Southwest.   “The proposed project will allow for an improved guest experience for the surrounding communities and will compliment and improve the existing ski operations at Nordic Valley,” said the Colorado-based company.  “With the addition of snowmaking, Nordic Valley will be able to minimize the impact of low natural snowfalls and offer a more consistent product to its customers.”

Instagram Tuesday: Ice Coast

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

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A massive shout-out to Lift Maintenance and our groomers! About 1/4 of an inch was coating our trails and lifts before the snow fell and they spent much of the evening chipping ice and tilling the mountain and continue this morning due to the high winds. Every tower has to be cleared which makes for tedious work especially after freezing rain. It's amazing how much can change within 24 hours. Five inches since yesterday on top of five inches before the rain a total of ten inches in the past three days! . . . . . . . #snow #snowfall #powpow #powder #ice #freezingrain #frozen #liftmaintainence #snowboarding #skiing #skitheeast #skivt #skivermont #vermont #snowstorm #icestorm #winterstormkade #winterstorm #shoutout

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As the saying goes, "it takes a village“ and we’re lucky enough to have a passionate, hardworking village so to speak. We’d like to recognize our lift maintenance crew who spent all day yesterday AND last night out on top of towers in challenging weather working to keep lifts running and prepare them for today. That initiative takes a lot of effort and fortitude, but that’s the kind of dedicated people we have at Killington and Pico. We also want to shine a light on the support of other departments that stepped up to assist lift maintenance while still fulfilling their own duties. The snowmaking and lift operations staff worked alongside lift maintenance for most of yesterday and into the night with groomers pitching in to provide light where they could. Everyone showed true teamwork yesterday! If you see one of our dedicated employees, we encourage you to express your appreciation. As for this morning, we're waking up to 4" that fell overnight. Adding to the 3" from yesterday, we're sitting at a storm total of 7". We'll take it! Stay tuned to the conditions report for updates. #beast365

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New York State Ski Areas Plan New Lifts for 2020-21

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As part of a proposed budget, three more lifts similar to Belleayre’s new Lightning quad would be built at ORDA ski resorts in 2020 and 2021.

New York’s state-owned Olympic Regional Development Authority plans to spend a whopping $147 million to upgrade its facilities during 2020 and 2021.  Those venues include Belleayre, Gore Mountain, the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex and Whiteface, which together saw three new lifts over the last three years.  On Friday, the agency issued a formal request for proposal for three more fixed-grip quad chairlifts to be built over two years.

This summer, both Gore and Whiteface would see new lifts replacing Riblet models.  Gore proposes replacing the Sunway double with a fixed quad capable of moving 2,400 guests per hour.  The previous lift dates back to 1986.  The new alignment would end slightly higher than the current lift, with a 566 foot vertical rise and 3,102 foot slope length.  This machine would be bottom drive, bottom tension with a loading carpet.

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Also in 2020, Whiteface plans to replace the Bunny Hutch triple with a quad.  The current lift opened in 1997 with used Riblet equipment.  The new lift would be about 450 feet longer with a vertical rise of 364 feet.  This quad would also be bottom drive/bottom tension and may include a loading conveyor.

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Following in 2021, Gore would see a replacement for the High Peaks double.  The existing lift is a quirky Riblet-CTEC hybrid that experiences long lines during peak times.  The new lift would be a bottom drive fixed-grip quad with a design capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.

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No new lifts are planned for Belleayre, understandable considering the Catskills mountain got two of the last three projects.  There’s no guarantee ORDA will follow through on these specific plans but the RFP gives us a pretty good idea of the authority’s wish list.  Potential suppliers have until March 5th to bid and, if funded and approved, construction would be complete by November 15th of 2020 and 2021.

News Roundup: Big Game

Waterville Valley Eyes Terrain Expansion and a Gondola

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A gondola may finally link the Town of Waterville Valley with its ski area in the coming years, just one of many exciting projects outlined in the new Waterville Valley Master Development Plan.  Recently accepted by the United States Forest Service, the MDP will guide upgrades at the mountain over the next decade.  It’s the first such comprehensive plan for Waterville since 1999, when Booth Creek owned the resort.

Waterville is seeking a 140 acre boundary expansion and 15 new trails on Green Peak, which saw its first lift installed in 2016.  The resort now features two summits accessed from one base area.  A proposed new portal would separate different user groups and improve the guest experience.  A two stage gondola or chondola is planned to link the Waterville Town Square to the new base area and on to Green Peak.  Two sections would be capable of operating independently with an angled mid-terminal.  The exact alignment of the first stage, which would be located on private land, has not yet been determined.

“The most remarkable element of the plan is that it includes the eventual installation of a gondola that will start in the Town of Waterville Valley near Town Square and transport guests to the summit of Green Peak,” said Waterville Valley CEO John Sununu.  “Connecting our pedestrian village to the ski resort will be incredibly exciting for our resort and community.”  The gondola would be a major undertaking, spanning some 9,000 linear feet with 1,400 feet of vertical and eight passenger cabins.  It would operate in both winter and summer.

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Green Peak would also see a second triple chair servicing 500 vertical feet of beginner and low intermediate terrain.  Two conveyor lifts in the existing base area would be relocated to a new ski school facility at the gondola mid-station.

Two lift upgrades are planned, which Waterville filed to construct back in October.  The White Peaks Express, nearing the end of its useful life, would become a six place detachable in the existing alignment.  Sunnyside is targeted to be replaced with a fixed grip quad.  Two other lift modifications are included: removal of Northside and lengthening of the World Cup T-Bar.  Outside of the scope of the new development plan but on the horizon is further expansion onto Green Peak’s South Ridge.

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“We’re thrilled to continue Waterville Valley’s development and look forward to fulfilling our team’s vision,” said President and General Manager Tim Smith in a statement announcing the Forest Service acceptance. “This is just the first step in a long process, but it marks an exciting milestone towards progressing Waterville Valley into the future.”

Chairlift-Winch Cat Accident Injures Four in Switzerland

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Four people were injured when their chair fell approximately 30 feet from the upper section of the Stoos-Fronalpstock chairlift in central Switzerland last night.  It is believed the chair came in contact with a snow cat’s winch cable before falling.  Such cables are commonly used to assist with grooming steep slopes.  The lift involved is a Garaventa detachable quad with bubbles.

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The accident occurred around 10:00 pm when employees of the Lindt chocolate company were descending from an evening private event.  Two of the four victims sustained life-threatening injuries.  “We are in close contact with the medical team and family members and wish our employees to heal as quickly as possible,” said a spokesperson for the chocolatier.  Six people in two other chairs were rescued uninjured.  The lift will remain closed while an investigation and repairs are completed.

Sunday River Unveils Ten Year Plan for New Lifts & More

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With ambitious improvement plans recently crafted for Big Sky and Loon Mountain, Boyne Resorts has turned to updating its capital spending vision for Sunday River, Maine.  Spanning eight peaks in the beautiful Mahoosuc Mountains, Sunday River offers more than 50 miles of trails and a beast of a snowmaking system.  Though the terrain and scenery are top notch, many lifts were installed during the American Skiing Company boom years and are showing their age.  The plan prescribes replacing at least six lifts and building a lift-served real estate development on a ninth mountain called Merrill Hill over the next ten years.

Lift wise in the short term, the two biggest priorities are Barker Mountain and Jordan Bowl.  The former is no surprise as the Barker Mountain Express was originally built by Lift Engineering and converted to a quasi-Poma high speed quad decades ago.  While no specific model was specified, I expect the replacement will be a six or eight place signature lift.  The Jordan Bowl Express is newer, built by Doppelmayr in 1994, but also ripe for up-gauging given the vast amount of terrain it services.  Another near term project is the Merrill Hill lift, providing access to a new ski-in, ski-out neighborhood near North Peak.  During this phase, the White Cap quad is slated to gain a loading conveyor to increase speed and efficiency.

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After those projects, Sunday River is targeting the White Cap and North Peak lifts for replacement.  The former is a 1987 Yan fixed grip quad with a ride time in excess of 10 minutes.  North Peak is a 1997 Doppelmayr detachable quad.

Near the end of the 2030 plan, the Aurora Peak and South Ridge lifts would be addressed.  Aurora is another Yan fixed grip that moves very slowly.  It’s newer than White Cap, having been installed in 1991 as one of Yan’s last-ever installations.  South Ridge is one year newer and was built by Poma.  Not all of these installations will necessarily be brand new machines.  Boyne plans to shuffle lifts within and between resorts in the coming years, including the outgoing Swift Current from Big Sky and Kancamagus at Loon Mountain.  The company also wants to purchase the bubble six place lift from the Hermitage Club, which would go to one of Boyne’s three northeast mountains.

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The workhorse Barker Mountain Express services six of Sunday River’s most popular trails and is planned to be replaced early in the 2030 vision.

The Sunday River 2030 vision includes more than just lifts.  RFID ticketing technology will be implemented resort-wide.  An observation deck on North Peak and mountain coaster are planned.  At the top of the already spectacular Jordan Bowl pod, a signature summit restaurant is envisioned.

Looking at the history of Sunday River, it’s quite remarkable how many lifts and terrain expansions Les Otten was able to complete before American Skiing Company ran out of cash.  Otten purchased 18 different chairlifts and grew the resort from 40,000 skier visits to more than a half million annually.  Boyne’s plan will build on that success, replacing up to six lifts and adding another peak. “We are incredibly grateful for our guests, our team, and the Boyne Resorts family for helping to guide and determine our future,” noted Sunday River President and General Manager Dana Bullen.  “The next decade will be one of the most transformational in our 60-year history, assuring that Sunday River will remain one of the top resorts in the Northeast.”

Agreement Paves the Way for Squaw-Alpine Gondola Construction

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows today announced a comprehensive agreement with the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League regarding the proposed California Express gondola.  The environmental advocacy group will drop its lawsuit contesting approval of the project in exchange for new conservation efforts by the ski resort.  The Forest Service issued its Final Record of Decision approving the gondola on January 31st.  With these developments, all major hurdles have been overcome.

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“We are very happy to have worked collaboratively with the League to address their concerns so that resources could be directed to environmentally beneficial purposes, rather than funding an extended lawsuit,” said Ron Cohen, president and chief operating officer of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.  “We are eager to get going on this game-changing transportation project.  We thank the League for its productive approach to resolving the dispute.”

The current Squaw-Alpine connection is a long and tedious shuttle ride. The bus stops are nice though!

Squaw Alpine will set aside approximately 27 acres of private property for conservation.  These lands, which include pristine wetlands and natural ponds, have the potential to serve as habitat for the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog.  Additionally, the resort agreed to provide funding to study recovery of this endangered species.  Squaw will also grant money for the Truckee Donner Land Trust to acquire parcels elsewhere in the vicinity of the Granite Chief Wilderness.

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Instagram Tuesday: Midwinter

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

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Tram laps.

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