Closing the Books on 2015

Since I started this blog last April, it’s been viewed more than 150,000 times and grown into a destination for news and information about lifts. Our busiest day on Monday, December 7th saw 3,949 unique visitors, more than the first three months combined.  In 2015, 81 percent of readers hailed from the United States, followed by Canada, the UK, Germany and Austria.  Below are some of the most popular posts we published in 2015.

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More than 1,100 people clicked on this picture of Park City’s new gondola, our most viewed image of 2015.
  1. Sun Peaks Plans to Double in Size Again
  2. Oldest Operating Lifts in the US & Canada
  3. What $50 Million Looks Like at Park City
  4. Is This Doppelmayr’s New Detachable Terminal?
  5. Quicksilver Gondola August Update
  6. Top Ten Longest Chairlifts in North America
  7. Park City’s New Pinecone Gondola
  8. Touring Utah’s Newest Ski Resort
  9. Cabins and Towers for Park City’s Quicksilver Gondola
  10. Squaw Valley’s New Siberia Express Six-Pack

I am always looking for new topics to write about (and Park City won’t be building a gondola next year!)  You can reach me anytime at peter@liftblog.com or leave a comment with ideas.  Thanks for reading and see you in 2016.

Instagram Tuesday: Rime

A stunning capture of sunrise at the top of the Sunburst Chair by @feliciafox #SunPeaks360 #ExploreBC

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Rope Evac at Sunshine Village Gets Lots of Attention

Sunshine’s Goat’s Eye Express, a detachable quad built by Poma in 1995, had to be evacuated Sunday afternoon due to a gearbox-related failure. Patrol lowered 110 skiers and riders in about two hours.  While these types of evacuations happen at ski areas many times each winter (and earlier this week at Buttermilk and Montana Snowbowl) this one happened to get a lot of social media and press attention.  The good news is no one was injured and repairs are underway.

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News Roundup: Downtime

  • Lift maintenance worker falls 25 feet at Black Mountain, NH.
  • Leitner Ropeways wins a $9.2 million contract to build an 8-passenger pulse gondola in the northern Mexican city of Torreon. Doppelmayr was the only other bidder.  Another Leitner project in Ecatepec, Mexico is more than 90% finished.
  • Purgatory and Leitner-Poma celebrate the opening of the Legends Express.
  • If you aren’t yet tired of seeing Park City’s new gondola, check out this incredible interactive video from Ski Utah.  You can pan 360-degrees using your smartphone or tablet with the YouTube app while taking a virtual ride.  It also works on a desktop but you have to pan manually using your mouse.

Instagram Tuesday: Epic

Sunset over Ruthies on #aspenmountain, what a way to end the week. (📷: @derrin_carelli )

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We're opening Mount Disney at noon! More fresh tracks to be slashed! #highalpineadventure

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What a day! Amazing snow from top to bottom, clear skies & sunny sun sun! ☀️ Photo: @nick.nault #KickingHorseMTN #ThisHorseRules #ExploreBC

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News Roundup: Washout

  • Teams from Mt. Hood Meadows have repaired and re-opened the Shooting Star Express that was damaged by falling trees over Thanksgiving. Now the storm recovery turns to the Mt. Hood Express, which received ten feet of snow in one week.
  • White Pass has more snow than it did at anytime last winter but no one can get there.  Crews have been working around the clock to repair washouts that cut off the resort from both sides of the Cascades Dec. 9th.  The ski area will re-open Wednesday.

  • The Berry family says it’s close to a deal to sell Saddleback to a new owner that hopes to open by late January.  Passholders can get a refund or gift card now.
  • Aspen’s 1971 SLI double on Shadow Mountain will be replaced with a detachable quad or gondola in 2016 or ’17.  The top terminal will move 200 feet to the southwest resulting in a slope length of 3,600′ with 1,390′ vertical and a capacity of 1,200 skiers per hour.
  • Park City and Canyons are now one thanks to the Quicksilver Gondola but judging by snow conditions it’s going to be awhile before you can ski between the two.
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Sugarloaf and Doppelmayr load test King Pine on Dec. 19, 2015.
  • James Coleman opens new quad chairs at Purgatory (Leitner-Poma) and Arizona Snowbowl (SkyTrac) with more new lifts on the way.
  • Doppelmayr secures $27 million European government loan for research and development in Austria.
  • Cherry Peak Resort opens today!  It’s the first all-new ski facility in North America since Tamarack debuted back in 2004.

Squaw-Alpine Applies to Build Base-to-Base Gondola(s)

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8-Passenger Sigma Diamond demo cabin in Squaw Valley’s shop.  Source

Earlier this fall, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings submitted its formal application to the Placer County Planning Department to build the three-stage gondola connecting Squaw Valley with Alpine Meadows that was first announced last spring.  Leitner-Poma will design the system on the heels of completing Squaw’s Big Blue and Siberia six-packs.  LPOA has lots of experience building detachable lifts with angle stations including similar three-section gondolas at Breckenridge and Sunshine Village.

The Squaw-Alpine gondola will be around 13,000 feet long with 37 towers and two ridge-top angle stations.  The unique system will have three haul ropes but only two drives located at the end stations (Breck and Sunshine’s gondolas have just one rope & drive each.)  In this sense, the base-to-base gondola is really two gondolas similar to Whistler Village and Revelstoke. What’s different at Squaw is the center section will operate with the Alpine drive by sharing a common bullwheel where the sections meet.  As such, the Squaw section could be run independently but the other two spans must operate together.  Regardless, cabins will normally make the entire trip from Squaw to Alpine.  The gondola’s hourly capacity will be 1,400 passengers per direction with 8-passenger cabins and a line speed of 1,000 fpm.  Squaw also plans full-speed operations during a power outage with generators at each drive station.

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Updated map with some changes from the original alignment.

The north mid-station on the Squaw side will be sited on private lands near the summit of the KT-22 detachable quad while the south mid-station will be in the Tahoe National Forest within Alpine’s existing permit boundary.  Skiers will be able to access some pretty awesome terrain from both mid-stations when conditions allow.  The Squaw Village terminal will sit between KT-22 and the Squaw One Express while the Alpine terminal will be between the Roundhouse Express and Hot Wheels. The gondola will actually fly over Alpine’s base lodge and under Squaw’s Funitel.  One interesting point from the application is that the Alpine mid-station at just over 7,700 feet in elevation will have no permanent road access or power line to it, which is part of why the central section has no drive motor of its own.  The terminal control systems, lights, etc. will run off a line generator and diesel genset.

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More on Doppelmayr’s D-Line

More pictures and details are filtering out from Hochgurgl, Austria where the Kirchenkarbahn opened Dec. 10th.  This 10-passenger gondola wouldn’t be particularly notable but for the fact that it’s Doppelmayr’s first production model of the next-generation detachable lift called D-Line.

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First a little history.  Doppelmayr introduced the Uni-G terminal in 2000, replacing the “Spacejet” model of the 1990s.  After the merger of Doppelmayr and Garaventa in 2002, the company continued to offer Stealth III and Uni-G detachable lifts in the US.  In 2003, Doppelmayr CTEC added a North American-design called the Uni-GS and built 88 of them before discontinuing the model in 2009.  With the Stealth gone since 2004, the Uni-G became the only Doppelmayr detachable product worldwide until now.

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Doppelmayr graphic shows terminals getting shorter over the years despite  faster line speeds.

German architect Werner Sobek designed the D-Line terminal and he’s apparently well known-enough to have an English Wikipedia page.  His enclosure is almost entirely composed of windows with a modern, boxy look that I’m not sold on.  Setting appearance aside, Doppelmayr says D-Line can support line speeds of up to 7 m/s or 1,378 feet a minute.  This is a big deal; the fastest circulating ropeway I know of today maxes out at 1,212 FPM.  The Kirchenkarbahn uses a gearbox from Eisenbeiss and controls from Frey Austria.

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Instagram Tuesday: Poma

The calm before the storm. 😍 Good Morning #aspenmountain! #humpday #snowiscoming (📷: @pcookiemonster)

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