This week, we learned Willamette Pass in Oregon has put their base-to-summit six-pack up for sale for $2.65 million. The Eagle Peak Accelerator was built in 2002 by GaraventaCTEC for $3.5 million. After three terrible seasons in a row, the ski area says it can no longer afford to operate such an expensive lift. This winter, Willamette Pass got 7 percent of its normal snowfall and essentially didn’t operate. The plan is to buy or trade the detachable for a fixed grip lift and reuse the existing tower tubes. If this happens Willamette Pass will become the first resort in North America to remove a six-pack. (Mount Washington on Vancouver Island might not be far behind – they have a similar lift and barely opened the last two winters.)
The list of “lost” detachable lifts is short. Ascutney Mountain in Vermont spent $2 million to build the North Peak Express in 2002 but went into foreclosure in 2010 and never reopened. Creditors sold their flagship lift to Crotched Mountain, NH and SkyTrac moved it there in 2012.
Tamarack’s Wildwood Express might have the most interesting backstory. It was built by Doppelmayr CTEC for $4 million in 2005 as part of Tamarack’s second batch of brand new lifts. It operated until Tamarack ran out of money and closed abruptly on March 5, 2009. Over three seasons, Wildwood accumulated less than 2,000 hours. Its sister lift, a fixed-grip quad called Buttercup, was built at the same time and both were financed through Bank of America. When Tamarack stopped making payments and the bank foreclosed on the lifts, the homeowner’s association purchased Buttercup for $400,000. But Bank of America wanted over $2 million for the Wildwood Express. The homeowner’s association estimated annual maintenance costs for the detachable would exceed $100,000 so they let it go. Bank of America hired Highlander Lift Services to remove it in 2012 (Ironically Doppelmayr hired the same guys to build it 7 years earlier.) The lift sat in an Idaho parking lot until last summer when Doppelmayr re-installed it at Brian Head in Utah.
Who will buy the Eagle Peak Accelerator? The new Park City seems like a logical option as the proud owner of nine Stealth detachables and numerous lifts that need replacing. Deer Valley could also upgrade one of its busier high speed quads with this lift. Big Sky already has a similar six pack and could use this one to replace Shedhorn, Explorer, or the Lone Peak triple. Squaw has been looking to replace Siberia with a six-pack and it would be a virtual twin of their Far East Express. In the east, Sugarloaf needs a new King Pine and already has 2 GaraventaCTEC detachables. Many of the resorts on the west coast that might be interested just had a bad season like Willamette Pass. I think there’s a decent chance this lift stays where it is. $2.6 million (plus removal, transport, new tower tubes, re-engineering and installation) is a lot for a 13-year old detachable.