Alta Wants a Tram, Chondola & More

Alta submitted some grand plans to the Forest Service last week – 12 projects including at least five new lifts.  The 77-year old ski area wants to replace more than half of its chairs in the next five years and build a low-capacity tram up 11,068′ Mt. Baldy.  If approved and implemented, these would be the biggest changes to Alta’s lift system since the two-stage Collins high speed quad debuted in 2004.

Beaver Creek-style lift coming soon to Alta?
A Beaver Creek-style Chondola coming soon to Alta?

Five lifts would be replaced with three new ones.  Sunnyside, one of only two detachable triple chairs remaining in North America, would be subbed with a higher-capacity Chondola with chairs and gondola or cabriolet cabins.  It would utilize the existing lift line and tower tubes where possible and have a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.  Albion, a 1980 Yan double running adjacent to Sunnyside, would be removed without being replaced.

Supreme detachable quad lift line with angle station unloading for beginners.

Higher on the Albion side of the mountain, Cecret and Supreme would be replaced by a single detachable quad with an angle station, much like Collins’ mid-station.  Cecret and Supreme are both Yans built in 1981.  The new detach would follow the first third of Cecret’s current lift line before joining the Supreme line so it could utilize some of the current towers.  With these upgrades, the Albion side of Alta would go from five lifts to three.  That’s before a new lift called Flora is added. Flora would be a short (985 foot) double chair replacing the East Baldy Traverse with a lift to get from the top of Sugarloaf to the top of Collins.  The top-drive chair would move 1,200 skiers per hour out of Sugarbowl and have just four towers.

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Big News! Leitner-Poma Acquires Skytrac

Leitner-Poma acquired Skytrac this week in a deal revealed today.  Even more exciting is Skytrac will continue to operate as a subsidiary brand of the Leitner-Poma Group.  “We would like to welcome Skytrac to our family,” said Anton Seeber, CEO of the European parent company of both Leitner and Poma. “Like Leitner-Poma, Skytrac also will be managed autonomously and independently to make sure the Skytrac team can focus on its strengths and hone its skills, all while having access to the Group’s resources to be able to benefit from particular synergies.”  Leitner and Poma have experience operating in Europe as separate brands while sharing technology such as the latest-generation LPA detachable grip.

SkyTrac made a name for itself providing smaller resorts like Pomerelle in Idaho with modern lift systems like this one.

Jan Leonard and other former CTEC employees started Skytrac in 2010 to fill a niche retrofitting older lifts and building economical fixed-grip lifts in Salt Lake City.  The company has built 19 complete lift systems to date, mostly at small-to-medium sized ski areas from Washington to Massachusetts.  Skytrac had its best year in 2014, building as many new lifts as both Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr that year.  In addition to building complete lifts, Skytrac also specializes in outfitting older lifts with new terminals and control systems.

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News Roundup: Big Lifts

Instagram Tuesday: Projects

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Big Sky Moving Forward with Bubble Six-Pack & Challenger Replacement

Boyne Resorts has firmed up an approximately $10 million deal with Doppelmayr USA to build a flagship detachable lift in The Bowl at Big Sky Resort and replace the damaged Challenger double with an all-new fixed-grip triple chair this summer, according to multiple sources.  The resort announced back in February that two new lifts were coming but has yet to officially say much else.  These will be the first new lifts built in Big Sky since Moonlight Basin, Spanish Peaks and the Yellowstone Club went bankrupt in 2008-10 and a sure sign that the region has bounced back.

Doppelmayr bubble chair with heated seats at Sunshine Village, similar to what will be installed at Big Sky.

The big story here is the six-pack replacement of the Lone Peak triple which will be just the sixth lift in North America to feature chairs with bubbles and heated seats.  The others are at Park City, Sunshine Village, Okemo and the private Hermitage Club in Vermont.  The new six pack’s alignment will be altered from the current lift for better traffic flow and the bottom station will feature 90-degree loading.  The lift will be just over 3,000 feet long with a vertical rise of approximately 800 feet and ride time of just three minutes.

The new Challenger lift will be a bottom drive/bottom tension fixed-grip triple with loading carpet, capable of spinning up to 500 feet a minute for a 9.5 minute ride.  The Challenger double chair that broke in February only ran 396 fpm.   Challenger will most likely feature Doppelmayr’s Tristar drive/tension terminal and an expanded unloading area next to the summit of the Headwaters double.

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Mt. Bachelor Announces Expansion and Cloudchaser Detachable Quad


Mt. Bachelor will open the long-awaited east side expansion served by a new high speed quad called Cloudchaser in time for Christmas.  Powdr Corp. has signed a nearly $6 million contract with Doppelmayr to install the lift this summer.  The project will add 635 acres of skiable terrain to Mt. Bachelor, making it the 5th largest ski area in the United States.  This will be the first new terrain serviced by a new lift since the Northwest Express was added in 1996.  With the addition of Cloudchaser, Mt. Bachelor will have eight detachable quad chairs serving more than 4,300 acres.  The new lift will rise 1,448 vertical feet with a slope length of 6,576 feet and 21 towers.

Cloudchaser lift line seen this week.  It’s hard to believe a lift will be operating here in six months.

Mt. Bachelor will host a Cloudchaser launch party on May 7th with free skiing and entertainment.  “This is an exciting milestone for the entire team here at Mt. Bachelor and for you, our loyal pass holders,” interim General Manager John McCleod wrote in an email  to season pass holders.  “Powdr’s investment in this lift underscores a commitment to Mt. Bachelor and provides us a new way to enjoy our favorite mountain.”

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News Roundup: Hauling

Caberfae Peaks staff bring tower tubes to the summit of North Peak for a new triple chair.  Thanks to Lawrence W. for the photo.

Instagram Tuesday: Mountain Planet

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Feds Seize Jay Peak & Burke Mountain, Allege $200 Million Fraud

Jay Peak and Q Burke Mountain Resorts have new management today courtesy of the federal government.  In a joint press conference with Vermont’s governor and state regulators this morning, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission released an 81-page complaint alleging Q Resorts Inc. owner Ariel Quiros and CEO Bill Stegner defrauded investors and misused $200 million over the past eight years in a “Ponzi-like” scheme.

The EB-5 Visa program gives foreign investors permanent U.S. residency in exchange for investing $500,000 and creating jobs at American businesses.  Funds are supposed to be used for specific projects such as the snowmaking expansion at Mt. Snow.  At Jay Peak, Mr. Quiros and Mr. Stegner raised $350 million with 700+ investors from 74 countries for seven different projects.  At least $200 million of that money was instead redirected to pay off loans used to buy both ski mountains, purchase a condo for Quiros at Trump Place in New York and pay personal income taxes.  “The alleged fraud ran the gamut from false statements to deceptive financial transactions to outright theft,” said Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s enforcement division.

The alleged flow of funds is so complicated the State of Vermont set up an interactive page to view it.
State of Vermont diagram showing the alleged flow of funds.
What does this all mean for the ski operations?  The SEC froze assets yesterday and appointed Kansas City-based Leisure Hotels and Resorts to operate Burke and Jay.  The company has no ski resort experience but owns numerous hotels in the Midwest. Jay’s Communications Director said this afternoon that Quiros and Stegner no longer have any authority to conduct business or direct operations until the case has concluded.

Longtime Chief Marketing Officer Steve Wright has stepped in as General Manager for now an

Jay Peak is open for skiing today with 4 

lifts spinning.

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Grand Targhee Replacing Blackfoot Lift

As rumored for weeks, Grand Targhee confirmed yesterday on Facebook it will replace the aging Blackfoot double chair with a fixed-grip quad over the summer.  The Doppelmayr-built lift will increase capacity by 40 percent and run in an improved alignment, although it will be slightly slower than the old lift.  Targhee’s Director of Marketing said in a release, “The entire resort team is excited to replace and upgrade the Blackfoot chairlift.  The resort ownership is committed to reinvesting in the resort with ongoing improvements that enhance the guest experience. This is the largest and most visible of many recent capital investments.”

Some will miss Blackfoot’s double diamond loading and unloading ramps, others will not!

Blackfoot is a Riblet center-pole model that’s faithfully served skiers for 42 years.  The lift is 3,236 feet long with a vertical rise of 1,200′ and hourly capacity of 1,300.  A non-profit in Valdez, Alaska is hoping to buy the lift to create that region’s first lift-served ski area. With a new Blackfoot, Grand Targhee will have four modern quad chairs.  The resort also plans to add a third high speed quad in the near future on Peaked Mountain in the area currently used for cat skiing.  Removal of Blackfoot begins this week although Targhee will spin its other lifts through April 24th.  With this announcement, new lifts in North America are pacing above last year, with 30 projects already announced and hopefully many more to come.