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.

supremeline
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.

baldytram
The 15-passenger tram up Mt. Baldy would be longer than Snowbasin’s but shorter than Big Sky’s.

On the Wildcat side of the mountain, a high speed quad would replace the Wildcat lift and double hourly capacity to 2,400 skiers per hour.  It would create a more attractive alternative to the popular Collins high speed quad.  Alta also wants to build a “beer can” tram up Mt. Baldy similar to the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky and the Allen Peak Tram at Snowbasin.  The tram would start at Germania Pass, just below the top of Collins and reach Mt. Baldy’s summit with no intermediate towers.  The tram would allow Alta Ski Patrol to retire the Howitzer and Avalaunchers they currently use for control work on Baldy.  But the tram would also be open to the public with a limited capacity of 150 skiers per hour. For comparison, Big Sky and Snowbasin’s 15-passenger jig-backs move 200 and 360 skiers per hour, respectively.

altaoverview

Noticeably absent from the proposal is a lift up Grizzly Gulch which would be Alta and Snowbird’s link to One Wasatch.  The black line at the bottom left corner of the above map is the top of Solitude’s Summit Express.  The white shaded areas of the map are Wasatch-Cache National Forest lands, the blue Alta Ski Lifts’ private parcels.  Yes, Alta actually owns the land under some of Solitude’s new lift.  You can see how, with careful placement, a Grizzly Gulch lift could be built entirely on private property.  Leaving Grizzly out of this batch of projects doesn’t prevent it from being proposed down the road.

Alta Ski Area spokesperson Connie Marshall told the Salt Lake Tribune, “This latest set of proposals is based on 10 years of study and conversation.  It reflects Alta being a mature ski area figuring out some of our fine-tuning.  We’re not trying to be totally innovative in our field, but protecting our experience and our brand.”  Of course, Save Our Canyons isn’t thrilled that a ski area which prides itself on being old school is going all-in on high speed lifts.  “The hike to Baldy has been a rite of passage for a lot of folks,” said the group’s Executive Director, Carl Fischer.  “Talking with a lot of our members and people who ski Alta regularly, if these projects go forward, it will really hurt the skiing experience that draws people to Alta.  They’re falling into the trap of high-speed quads and things like that, which will really change the ski experience.  With this, the powder will be gone in the matter of an hour.”

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19 thoughts on “Alta Wants a Tram, Chondola & More

  1. RMurphy April 30, 2016 / 4:22 pm

    I’m surprised this is a fight SoC took. It’s not usually like them to oppose something already in a ski area boundary is it?

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  2. Somebody... May 1, 2016 / 6:38 am

    Alta should reinstall supreme from the bottom of sugarloaf to the top of Collins (as flora), Cecret and Wildcat off the back of Supreme, and install sunnyside somewhere between the Sugarloaf mountain and Point Supreme. (Just opinions here)

    As for the chondola, I think it would probably be more like Telluride’s (4 person cabins, 4 person chairs: http://www.coloradoskihistory.com/images/telluride_jan08a_0127.jpg ).

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    • RMurphy May 2, 2016 / 12:19 am

      Cecret and the Cat are probably nearing the end of their lifespans. In the article, the mention about finding parts for older lifts is about them. Sunnyside can get crowded and Alta is usually pretty good about loading lifts well, so I’m expecting a 6/8 Chondola.

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      • Somebody... May 2, 2016 / 2:27 pm

        I’d say Cecret and Wildcat probably have 10 years left on them (you have to factor in that these lifts were installed in the 80s and aren’t quite as old as they seem). With Albion removed, that would leave a lift to sacrifice for parts. They probably could get by with reinstalling one of them and using two of them for parts. As for the chondola, I think a 4/4 or 4/6 would make more sense seeing as the article mentions the lift having a 2400 P/H capacity, the Beaver Creek chondola has a 3400 P/H capacity and the telluride chondola has 2000 P/H, and the telluride gondola has pretty big chair spacing : http://www.skiresort.info/typo3temp/pics/63f216ec93.jpg

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  3. jaytrem May 1, 2016 / 8:32 am

    Where’s the other detachable triple? I’m drawing a blank on that. I know Bachelor and Gore both upgraded theirs to quads. Thanks.

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    • Peter Landsman May 1, 2016 / 8:50 am

      Ruthie’s at Aspen Mountain. The lift was built as a quad but it has triple chairs.

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      • TJ May 1, 2016 / 9:14 am

        it actually is a detachable double with triple chairs

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      • Michael May 2, 2016 / 4:44 pm

        Is there a reason why Aspen did not install Ruthie’s as a detachable double with double chairs. This would be more economical and alleviate the need for supervision.

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  4. jaytrem May 1, 2016 / 9:30 am

    Oh yeah, the Aspen double/triple, thanks. I actually rode that as a triple. Not sure if they ever enforce the “double rule”. Place was empty that day. Heavy snow storm and apparently Europeans don’t ski when it’s snowing, or so i wast told.

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    • Somebody... May 1, 2016 / 2:34 pm

      They seem to get more lenient about it by the day, and with 1A replaced they probably will go something like this, “We basically already load 3, and they load 4, so why not just load 3?”

      And when that happens, Aspen will regret installing it as a HST, because it will get flooded by people coming off of 1A.

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  5. Ty May 2, 2016 / 2:41 pm

    Interesting, I learned to ski at Alta on Sunnyside in second grade. Alta definitely is an area that takes pride in being low key and laid back, like the old days of skiing is what it reminds me of. I definitely love the new lift ideas, I just hope they’ll be able to keep their small charm.

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  6. Philip Keeve May 2, 2016 / 8:05 pm

    They should sell Sunnyside to Park City to replace the dreadfully slow Town triple. It’s not a high-capacity lift but boy is it slow.

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    • TJ May 3, 2016 / 4:06 am

      town is over 2000 feet longer than sunnyside
      park city would have to add some towers

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      • Philip Keeve May 3, 2016 / 7:47 pm

        Probably okay. They had a new towers fabricated for the “new” Motherlode Express.

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      • TJ May 4, 2016 / 3:46 am

        I think a better relocation would be Sunnyside to Wilcat

        Like

  7. Unnamed... November 14, 2017 / 9:49 pm

    New Alta master plan has Grizzly on it!

    Like

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