If Aspen & KSL Go Lift Shopping, What Will They Buy?

Although both KSL and Aspen have bought lots of new lifts lately, aging machines at many of their new and existing properties could be replaced over the next few years, including this 1989 Poma at Squaw Valley.

It’s been two weeks since the bombshell news that Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners are joining forces to bring twelve ski resorts under a new entity rivaling Vail Resorts.  While the deals won’t close for months, the new partners already say they plan to invest heavily in the guest experience.  “We have earmarked a lot of capital for improvements to be able to continue to reinvest significantly in the communities and the mountains,” KSL CEO Eric Resnick told the Denver Post.  “What’s exciting is being able to bring new opportunities with these communities and with these mountains to those customers who are already so passionate.”  This could come in the form of new lifts ahead of the 2018-19 season and beyond.  Below is a summary of announced plans and my speculation of what might be in store for KSL and Aspen’s upcoming resorts.

  • Alpine Meadows, CA:
    • Alpine Meadows applied for and received approval to replace the Hot Wheels chairlift in a new, longer alignment back in 2012.  A mid-station offload would allow beginner and intermediate skiers to access the lower mountain while others could continue to an unload near the top of Sherwood, providing direct access to Sherwood and Lakeview.  Approval for this lift likely expired in September 2015 but there’s no reason to believe Placer County would not approve it again.

      The top station of Hot Wheels at Alpine could one day be home to a mid-station with a new high-speed quad continuing to Sherwood Ridge, where this photo was taken from.
    • Speaking of Lakeview, it is arguably the largest remaining pod at Alpine Meadows without detachable access.  This 1984 CTEC is older than Sherwood and with approximately the same vertical rise.  A high-speed quad is likely to replace it eventually.
    • Doppelmayr and CTEC have both built lifts at Alpine Meadows while Leitner-Poma has not.  That could change with the unification of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
    • I’ve written before about the Base-to-Base Gondola which is still on the table but still requires multiple government approvals.  It would traverse the White Wolf property between Squaw and Alpine with two angle stations along the way.

      Uncompleted lift towers on Troy Caldwell’s White Wolf property between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows could become home to a public gondola between the two mountains.

  • Bear Mountain, CA
    • Mammoth Resorts has not built any new lifts since it acquired Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in Southern California.  That could change with a cash infusion from Aspen and KSL.
    • Bear Mountain’s lift network includes four Hall and Riblet doubles built before 1981 which could be replaced with new equipment with higher capacities.
    • The Bear Mountain Express is a 1990 CTEC that is approaching the end of its useful life and could be swapped with an upgraded high-speed quad, or better yet a six-pack.
    • New ownership could pursue an interconnect between Snow Summit and Big Bear, which share the same orientation along a common ridge and require a lift or two.
    • Doppelmayr, CTEC and Poma have all built lifts here.
  • Blue Mountain, ON
    • Blue Mountain has one of the most modern lift fleets in the Intrawest empire with five Leitner-Poma six-packs serving 100 percent of terrain.  No need for any lift changes here.
  • June Mountain, CA
    • Mammoth Resorts CEO Rusty Gregory announced in 2012 June would close indefinitely, citing operational losses every year since Mammoth purchased the nearby ski area in 1986.  Thankfully, June reopened in 2013-14.  Still, it’s tough to see significant capital improvements coming, however necessary.
    • There is an interesting lift history here, with the world’s first Funitel once serving the lower mountain.  J1, an old Riblet, now provides the only access to the rest of the mountain, including two Yan-turned-Doppelmayr high-speed quads.  This double really should be replaced, giving high-speed access to most of June Mountain.

      June Mountain’s old Lift Engineering funitel was never replaced but should be.
    • J2 is a 1970 SLI double serving beginner and intermediate terrain that could also be replaced with a high-speed quad.
  • Mammoth Mountain, CA 
    • Mammoth is Mammoth and in no need of expansion.  However, the mountain’s first-generation detachables are nearing thirty years of age and in need of higher-capacity replacements.
    • Broadway Express #1, built in 1988 and one of four lifts from the Main Lodge, should probably join the six-pack club or possibly even become the first eight-passenger lift in the Americas.

      Canyon Express is the main lift from the Canyon Lodge at Mammoth and could be upgraded to a larger-capacity version in the next few years.
    • Stump Alley Express #2 and Canyon Express #16 are also key lifts that could be upgraded to six- or even eight-passenger lifts.  As an alternative to a Canyon upgrade, a Chair 8 detachable would become a desirable alternative to access Cloud Nine and Eagle.
    • Any new lift at Mammoth or June is almost certain to be built by Doppelmayr.
  • Snowshoe, WV
    • Although Snowshoe operates three high-speed quads, it still has a number of long Thiokol and early CTEC fixed-grip lifts in need of upgrades.
    • Powder Monkey, Powderidge, Monrningstar and Cascade could all be on the list.
    • Snowshoe has bought lifts from Doppelmayr and CTEC in the past.
  • Snow Summit, CA
    • While most terrain at Snow Summit is serviced by two high-speed quads, seven Hall lifts here date back to 1981 or earlier.  Lifts 7, 9 and 10 are most in need of an upgrade.  If a six-pack replaced either high-speed quad, that could be moved to one of these spots.
  • Steamboat, CO
    • I wrote an entire post about the Steamboat Master Plan but here are the basics…
    • A second leaving the base area called Bashor would serve a new learning center with two fixed-grip quads at the top.  The Bashor double may also be modernized.
    • A second high-speed quad in the Sunshine pod would add additional lift service to low-intermediate terrain.
    • Thunderhead is proposed to be up-gauged to a six-place.

      Thunderhead at Steamboat experiences 30+ minute lines on peak days and needs more capacity.
  • Squaw Valley, CA
    • KSL applied to replace the Granite Chief lift in 2012 but it never happened.  A high-speed quad could still replace this 1982 Lift Engineering triple.
    • Similarly, the Red Dog lift is slated to be replaced with a 2,400 pph six-pack in the same alignment.  The current triple chair has a ride time of more than nine minutes.
    • The Squaw One Express is an early-model Poma detachable quad built in 1989 and approaching the end of a typical detachable’s lifespan.  A six-pack would be a logical replacement for this nearly 8,000-foot lift to the heart of the mountain’s frontside.
    • Emigrant is the only remaining fixed-grip on the Gold Coast and could be replaced with another high-speed quad or six-place lift.

      Sandwiched between Big Blue and Gold Coast, Emigrant may be upgraded to a faster lift.
    • As mentioned under Alpine Meadows, the Base-to-Base gondola looms on the horizon.
    • Any new lift at Squaw is likely to be built by Leitner-Poma.
  • Stratton, VT
    • Like Blue Mountain, Stratton has a modern lift fleet with four six-packs and a recently-updated gondola.  A high-speed replacement for the Snow Bowl quad has been rumored for years and is sorely needed.
    • Stratton operates a mix of Doppelmayr, Garaventa CTEC and Poma lifts and a new addition could come from either company.
  • Tremblant, QC
    • Intrawest built seven new lifts at Tremblant in the 1990s and two more since, resulting in a solid lift infrastructure.  Le Soleil is a 1988 CLD-260 model Doppelmayr that will need to be replaced eventually and a six-pack would make for a sweet upgrade.
    • Tremblant is Doppelmayr country for the most part.
  • Winter Park, CO
    • I was struck by the shear number of 1990s-era detachables when I skied Winter Park for the first time this winter.  The most pressing candidate for replacement is the Pioneer Express, a Poma Alpha-Falcon built in 1986.  The new version may feature midway loading so that many guests can avoid the flat run out near the bottom station.

      We talk about “aging” lifts but I would call Winter Park’s Pioneer lift “aged.”
    • The Winter Park Master Plan calls for an addition in Vasquez Cirque dubbed Lift 73, a fixed-grip quad beyond Eagle Wind and Pioneer
    • Sunnyside is slated to be upgraded to a high-speed quad.
    • The Zephyr Express will eventually be upgraded to a 6/8 chondola, with the possibility of adding a second stage from Sunspot to Lunch Rock.
    • A re-imagined learning center envisions an 8-passenger Gemini Gondola, high-speed quad at Endeavor and new fixed-grip quad at Discovery.
    • The 1966 Riblet center pole double Looking Glass is still hanging on but won’t last forever.
    • Winter Park is practically a Poma museum and likely to stay that way.

March 2018 will be a key month when not only 2018-19 season pass products are unveiled, but hopefully also a bunch of new lifts.  And you can bet the competition will be watching.

20 thoughts on “If Aspen & KSL Go Lift Shopping, What Will They Buy?

  1. John April 24, 2017 / 10:22 pm

    Squaw Valley’s Squaw One Express has been used, mostly, as an auxiliary access to the upper mountain. Use normally is scheduled for operation on Squaw’s heavy volume days. Has been used when Funitel or the long removed Gondola was down for maintenance.
    Personally I would have placed a mid-station above the Headwall 6-pac and extended it to what is now the Big Blue 6-pac line. It, then, would become a two-stage high-speed alternative to the Funitel, and allow direct lift service from the Base to the top of the always popular Shirley Tree Runs


  2. Ryan April 24, 2017 / 10:37 pm

    I think Steamboat could go either way with Doppie or Poma. Both seem to have served the Boat nicely over the years, and Doppie is in the spotlight right now doing the gondola update. I love the fact that Looking Glass at WP is still going. They do use the lift often but as far as real need for it? I don’t know. They just may remove it when they decide to be done with it?


  3. Thomas Jett April 24, 2017 / 10:51 pm

    Seeing as Mammoth is my home mountain, I think that you might want to read this, and correct your speculations: http://thesheetnews.com/2017/04/21/same-same-but-different/
    Their priorities seem to be on the proposed 15-5 Gondola. If you have time to look over the 2007 master plan, you’ll see that they have a lot more than just upgrades planned. You could write a full article on it.


  4. Cameron Halmrast April 24, 2017 / 11:27 pm

    I think a lot of the older high speed lifts you mention can easily get another 10 to 15 years out of them, maybe more due to design innovation. The only upgrades these lifts may need are electrical upgrades. Some could easily be relocated if they are ever replaced by high capacity lifts. I think one reason why so many older detachables were decommission was due to how difficult it was to get parts, but since so many things have become standardized (same terminal design used for multiple lifts), manufacturers can continue to provide support for these older lifts. I wouldn’t be surprised if Keystone’s Doppelmayr HSQs are relocated to some of its other resorts when the six packs are installed.


  5. julestheshiba April 25, 2017 / 11:09 am

    I have never seen much trouble with Squaw One as it is rarely ever crowded (unless the ski team is using it) Even with the amazing snow year it was never crowded. I know you are suggesting that but KSL has their priorities way out of wack. The Squaw One lift is one of my favorite lifts at Squaw and I do believe that a better solution to get to headwall is a new Cornice I as a quad. Squaw needs to do these things first.

    Replace Hot Wheels at Alpine.

    Replace Red Dog at Squaw

    Replace Granite Chief at Squaw

    Connect the two Resorts with the Gondola


  6. julestheshiba April 25, 2017 / 11:13 am

    Bits of paneling on the old Squaw one came of from the storms this year but I agree with Cameron that it can easily get 10-15 years out of it. It never really gets crowded anyways so I think a Six Pack is Unnecessary.


  7. alexander c boesenberg April 25, 2017 / 2:04 pm

    While I agree its not a top priority, I do think it would be good to eventually replace and realign Squaw One so it does not terminate below Headwall face as this top terminal location leads to many closures due to both wind and avalanche control. For instance, it could make sense to realign it for a first stage along the old Cornice I route, then have a load/offload mid-station up to the top of either the old High Camp or Mainline lifts. This would enable Squaw to open the lower section of a realigned Squaw One during storms , as well as have circulation lift (upper section) for skiers coming from the Saddle (KT, Base to Base, Headwall) as well as more intermediate mid mountain skiing.

    As for lifts that need to be upgraded, I would add Squaw Creek to that list. My opinion would be to upgrade KT with a new six pack, and move the old KT lift to Squaw Creek.


    • RMurphy April 25, 2017 / 7:46 pm

      Never been to Squaw, but could the KT area handle the traffic from a 6?


  8. Matt April 25, 2017 / 4:57 pm

    While the Soleil is an old Dopp HSQ, replacing it with a six pack would be a waste. Too small a trail pod to put that much capacity to. I would say TGV needs to be upgraded to a six pack, that lift gets huge lines. TGV could be reused to replace The Edge, giving that pod HSQ access. And Duncan Express on the north side needs a replacement. Not quite as old as Soleil but close and one heck of a long ride on the North side. I’d say a heated bubble HSS would be nice here.


    • Peter Landsman April 25, 2017 / 5:52 pm

      Someday it will come to the States. The MND Group is already here.


  9. Boardski April 26, 2017 / 1:08 am

    Sunnyside lift at Winter Park is a huge priority for an upgrade. Even a 6 pack lift would be appropriate in this line. On any given day, the lift is stopped for misleads more than it runs and on days when Panoramic chair, the neighboring 6 pack is closed the line is a mob scene. I like the idea of the additional lift in the Cirque. Lift served steep terrain is lacking at Winter Park compared with other resorts and this should help. A rumor was going around for awhile that the current triple version of Sunnyside would be moved to replace Looking Glass and at least make the lift look a little younger. A Triple would definitely serve the Looking Glass line well but the current Sunnyside lift is rapidly approaching 30 years old itself. Gemini gondola sounds interesting but this lift is heavily used by the adaptive ski program and hopefully they will take into consideration accessibility for their guests with physical disabilities. The Endeavor detachable quad would be a waste of resources, the current lift is not that old for a fixed grip and does not even run during the week days. Hopefully this is on the bottom of the priority list. A newer upgraded Discovery lift could be a good idea but hopefully will not overcrowd the limited beginner terrain in that section. Pioneer works good the way it is but probably could benefit from new terminals and line equipment. The other chairs that are aging are the double chairs on the front side of Mary Jane. All built in 1974. Two of the four are used daily. It will be interesting to see when they start replacing those. Overall pretty good upgrades proposed for Winter Park and much needed although Winter Park has always been a decent, well run mountain, I am sure that will continue through it all.


  10. Boardski April 26, 2017 / 1:33 am

    As for Steamboat, so far I have not seen very long lines at Thunderhead but that will change with the addition of the proposed gondola from the base to bottom of Thunder head. Hopefully they might consider a mid station there and have it continue up the line of the old Arrowhead lift to give people more lift options. Another nice improvement would be to upgrade Burgess Creek to a detachable quad and relocate the current late model triple to the Morningside area to improve lift access to the lookers right and provide much need additional capacity back there.


  11. Tom Healy August 9, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    Winter Park resort purchased a plot of land at the south end of the town of Winter Park in order to someday build a gondola interconnect to the mountain one and a half miles away. If that comes back to life, that would be fantastic !

    Liked by 1 person

    • eugenetoyandhobby August 9, 2017 / 11:37 pm

      Tom, have you seen the crazy master plan for Winter Park? There is an old trail map from the early 90s that showcasing a lift empire like no other and this gondola is on it.


  12. Tom Healy August 10, 2017 / 4:45 am

    I have not seen the master plan but I would love to. How can I get a copy ?


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