News Roundup: Bailout

  • The Forest Service approves issuance of a special use permit for Mountain Capital Partners to operate Elk Ridge.
  • Another new ski resort opens in North Korea with more lifts that look like knockoffs of a certain European manufacturer.
  • Arctaris plans to close on Saddleback December 23rd, but a last minute call for donations raises some questions.  A detachable quad is no longer planned but rather fixed grip lift replacements.
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort, the only hotel with its own dedicated Disney Skyliner station, opens Monday.
  • Facing repeated annual losses and falling skier visits, Spirit Mountain gets a bailout from the City of Duluth.
  • Sasquatch Mountain names its new Leitner-Poma quad Yeti Cruiser.
  • The nonprofit which operates Sky Tavern receives a new lease despite objections from nearby Mt. Rose.
  • New Sea to Sky Gondola cabins arrive in Squamish.
  • The Forest Service begins review of Lutsen Mountains’ possible expansion onto public land.
  • Crystal Mountain, BC may not reopen this season as hoped.
  • Utah’s 15th ski area launches tomorrow.

Instagram Tuesday: Cotton Candy

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

Vail to Build New Lifts at Four Resorts in 2020

Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Okemo will all add new lifts next year in a mix of expansions and replacements.  Parent company Vail Resorts made the project announcements alongside a quarterly earnings report this afternoon.  “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts, creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests and generating strong returns for our shareholders,” said Vail Chairman and CEO Rob Katz.

At Beaver Creek, a new detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone.  “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company.  A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.

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The Peru Express opened in 1990 and will be supplanted by a higher capacity lift.

At Keystone, the Peru Express will be replaced by a six pack subject to government approval.  The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve overall circulation.  Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair.  “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.

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News Roundup: Stellar

 

 

Indoor Skiing Comes to America with Big Snow

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Olympians catch the first chair at Big Snow American Dream in New Jersey.

This was the first and hopefully last opening day ever for Big Snow American Dream, the only year-round, real snow ski area in the Americas.  New Jersey is now one of the most accessible places to learn ski and snowboard, with two thirds of guests expected to be beginners.  About a dozen similar snow parks operate in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

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The mountain made of steel is one of what will be hundreds of tenants at American Dream, a $5 billion shopping and entertainment destination just five miles from midtown Manhattan.  With Big Snow plus a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, Legoland Discovery Center and DreamWorks waterpark, American Dream hopes to buck the trend of malls in decline by focusing outside of retail.

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The BIG Express Quad, built in 2008, opened to the public today for the first time.

Canadian developer Triple Five Group managed to finish a job which first broke ground in 2004.  What was then known as Meadowlands Xanadu had its lifts installed in 2008, only to see zero snow and not a skier for 11 years.  I’m told the big lift had only about 50 hours on it until a few weeks ago.  After taking over the troubled project, Triple Five principal Don Ghermezian partnered with Snow Operating to bring the ski experience to life.  Snow is the ski industry disruptor behind Mountain Creek Resort and the Terrain Based Learning program in use across the country.  Before today’s first chair, Snow Operating President and CEO Joe Hession presented the Ghermezian family an Austrian bell like those seen at many Doppelmayr lift openings.

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Steamboat Gondola to Reopen Tomorrow

The Steamboat Gondola will once again carry guests Thursday morning, ten days after a gearbox issue halted operation of the brand new lift.  Through a holiday week and major snowstorms, teams worked diligently to make repairs including new parts shipped from Europe.  During the downtime, the Christie Peak and Thunderhead Express lifts provided access to terrain normally serviced by the gondola.

Doppelmayr would like to apologize to the Steamboat community for the interruption in service on the gondola, which was caused by a failure of the main gearbox after only two days of public operation. The backup systems functioned properly and the Steamboat team reacted quickly and appropriately after the gearbox failure. Our technicians and engineers worked around the clock with Steamboat personnel and technical experts from Germany, Austria and Canada, to replace the failed gearbox and associated components. We also took additional steps to improve the overall design and brought in a technical expert to eliminate vibration that contributed to the original failure. We have conducted numerous tests and are happy to report that the gondola will return to service on Thursday. We offer a sincere thanks to Rob Perlman, Dave Hunter and Kurt Castor, and to the Steamboat community for their patience and support. We are confident and proud of the Steamboat gondola and look forward to years of use for skiers and snowboarders.

– Mark Bee, President, Doppelmayr USA

The new Steamboat Gondola is the product of a two part, $15+ million replacement project.  This past summer, upgrades included new level walk-in cabins, grips, hangers, controls, tensioning systems, drive equipment, towers, line gear and parking.  With the number of cabins increased to 137 and line speed pushed to six meters a second, travel time to Thunderhead Lodge is now under ten minutes.  Capacity has increased by 38 percent versus the previous Silver Bullet Gondola.

Sometimes setbacks happen, especially with large scale projects such as this one.  As the video above demonstrates, lifts are built by teams of dedicated people.  I look forward to being one of the thousands to enjoy the new gondola in the coming weeks thanks to their hard work.

Instagram Tuesday: Frosty

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

Powdr Buys SilverStar, BC

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Powdr has purchased SilverStar Mountain Resort from owner Jane Cann, marking the Park City-based firm’s first foray into Canada.  Located in British Columbia’s Okanagan region, SilverStar operates seven modern lifts including a brand new gondola on 3,282 acres.  “SilverStar is a world-class destination that fits well with who Powdr is, what our properties are community favorites—and our commitment to protecting and enhancing the authentic year-round adventure experience for generations to come,” said Justin Sibley, Powdr co-president.  “The resort team is impressive and they have an incredibly strong relationship with the community, which we hope to build upon.”

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“I am thrilled to pass the torch to such a competent and qualified operator as Powdr, who shares the same mission and beliefs for the SilverStar resort community and is committed to delivering memorable experiences and enhancing people’s lives,” said Jane Cann, whose father developed both SilverStar and nearby Big White into leading destination resorts.  “Powdr is an enduring company focused on patiently making each of its destinations the best version of itself locally.  I am confident that their scale and expertise will be beneficial in working toward the realization of SilverStar’s newly approved Master Plan.”  Current season pass partnerships will remain in place for the 2019-20 season.

Powdr has been investing heavily in its properties of late and now operates eleven resorts in six US states plus one Canadian province.  Alterra Mountain Company, Boyne Resorts and Vail Resorts all also compete in the British Columbia market.

News Roundup: SkyDream

Instagram Tuesday: Mixing Things Up

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