In any given year, about a third of ski areas’ “new lifts” are actually lifts removed from other locations that are finding a new home. There are entire websites dedicated to the buying and selling of second-hand ski lifts. By my count, at least 374 lifts in the US and Canada have been re-engineered and re-installed at new places, either at the same ski resort or clear across the country.
The ski area that has sent the most lifts to other places is, not surprisingly, Whistler-Blackcomb. Ten of its former chairlifts live on at ski areas across the US and Canada. Some resorts operate fleets of lifts pieced together entirely from other places. Big Sky Resort operates nine used lifts, many of them hand me downs from other Boyne Resorts. Removed lifts that don’t get snapped up by other ski areas often end up at amusement parks and zoos.
A handful of lifts have been moved multiple times. The Dreamscape lift at Park City (formerly Canyons) is in its third location on the same mountain. Originally installed by Garaventa CTEC in 1996 as the Saddleback quad, it was replaced the very next season by a detachable quad. The fixed-grip quad became Raptor, which served the runs between Super Condor Express and Golden Eagle for three seasons, after which it was removed (and still not replaced.) That same summer, Raptor went to the opposite side of the mountain to anchor a major expansion called Dreamscape. I would not be surprised to see Vail Resorts replace Dreamscape this coming summer, giving the still-not-that-old quad chair a chance at a fourth life.
An interesting case study of the economics of used lifts is the 2014 replacement of the base-to-summit T-Bar at Camden Snow Bowl in Maine. Because the ski area is owned by a municipality, the documents related to buying the lift are public record. The ski area decided to purchase a 30-year old Riblet triple in 2010 from another Maine ski area for $120,000. As the documents linked above show, the cost of buying the used lift paled in comparison to the costs involved with upgrading and re-installing it. The Snow Bowl paid $30,000 for preliminary engineering and transportation from Shawnee Peak. Another $260,000 went to buy a new haul rope, terminal supports and a new drive. The largest expense was $350,000 to put the machine up. By the time the project was finished more than two months behind schedule, the City of Camden spent more than $750,000 to re-install a 30-year old lift. Was it the right decision? Doppelmayr had argued against it and I suspect they were right but there’s no way to say for sure. A new lift would have cost the town’s residents at least $1.5 million.
Over the past few years, I’ve attempted to put more of the used lift puzzle together. Sometimes resorts are proud to say when they are recycling a lift while others make no mention of where their “new” lift came from. The below spreadsheet is a work in progress and if you can fill in any blanks or correct data please leave a comment.
View the list in full screen here.