News Roundup: Skyride

  • MND Group secures $6.7 million private investment to support future growth.
  • Whitewater’s new Leitner-Poma quad chair project update.
  • Sunday River blasts some rock to make way for Spruce Peak 2.0.
  • Timberline Helicopters, the company that flies the majority of lift towers in the West, plans to build a new $3 million home on 93 acres in Northern Idaho.
  • SeaWorld San Diego commemorates 50 years of operation of its VonRoll Skyride, one of only 11 remaining in the U.S.
  • Tragedy in Gulmarg, India as seven die following tree strike on the world’s second highest gondola.  The accident was blamed on an ‘act of god’ and the gondola deemed mechanically fine.  More trees will be cut before reopening.
  • Human error caused 14-year old girl’s fall from a chairlift at Six Flags Great Escape.  After video gets millions of views, editorial in the local paper calls for locking restraint bars.
  • Colorado tram board votes against disciplinary action in Granby Ranch case.
  • A Walt Disney World gondola update.
  • Much-maligned New York State Fair gondola project is dead.
  • Anakeesta load tests new Chondola.
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Wood-paneled terminal sections arrive at Breckenridge from Leitner-Poma for the new Falcon SuperChair. Photo credit: Benjamin Bartz
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Saddleback is Back and Getting Two New Lifts

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The 4,550′ Rangeley double serves most of Saddleback’s terrain and will be replaced with a new Doppelmayr quad chair following the sale of the mountain to an Australian businessman.

The Majella Group of Australia has agreed to purchase Maine’s Saddleback, among the largest American resorts ever to go dark, and plans to build two new lifts as soon as possible.  Doppelmayr will install the lifts – a 1,500 pph Tristar fixed-grip quad to replace Rangeley, and a 1,200 pph T-Bar in place of Cupsuptic – a 1960 Hall. “The Rangeley Lift and T-Bar replacements have been carefully selected after a thorough analysis of the mountain operations,” Majella said in a press release. “We understand the importance of maintaining the serene trail experience and supreme trail conditions for which Saddleback is well known.”  Both lifts are being designed to be as wind-resistant as possible.

It’s been two years since the Berry family announced the possible closure of Saddleback if they could not secure financing for a new Rangeley lift.  The family spent some $40 million to upgrade the Kennebago and South Branch lifts to quad chairs and build a new base lodge between 2004 and 2008, but the business kept losing money with 80,000-100,000 annual skier visits.  By 2012, the Berrys put the mountain up for sale, asking $12 million.  With no takers, a Kennebago loan fell through in 2015 and the Berrys decided not to open again without a new lift serving the heart of the mountain.

Since 2015, sale rumors abounded and the nonprofit Saddleback Mountain Foundation attempted a crowdfunding campaign to buy the operation.  The group raised less than half of the $9 million needed for the mountain and a fixed-grip quad and confirmed last night they were not the buyer.  In the end, a more traditional investor emerged with plans restore Saddleback to its place as Maine’s third largest mountain with the goal of creating a premier four-season resort.  “We believe Saddleback requires a plan to create more lodging, more restaurants, and additional on-mountain opportunities,” Majella CEO Sebastian Monsour said today at the mountain’s base lodge, surrounded by locals and dignitaries from across Maine.

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Instagram Tuesday: Arrival

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

#sunrise in the high country. #ridethetram #jhdreaming #jacksonhole #thatswy #wyoming

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The new bullwheel has arrived, here comes the Eldo Express! #Eldora6 #Colorado @doppelmayr_

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Montana Snowbowl Readies TV Mountain Expansion

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A 1,088-acre expansion onto TV Mountain will include six new ski runs and a used double chairlift at Montana Snowbowl for 2017-18.

If all goes according to plan, Montana Snowbowl will add up to 1,088 acres of ski terrain next winter in a homecoming of sorts.  Expanding onto neighboring TV Mountain, Snowbowl will nearly double in size, going from a modest two Riblet doubles and a Doppelmayr T-Bar to a major Montana player with seven lifts and 2,243 acres.  Construction is underway and legendary artist James Niehues is currently painting the trail map for North America’s biggest expansion of the year.

The Forest Service finally approved Snowbowl’s TV Mountain expansion in May 2014 after ten years studying a connection to the long-lost Snow Park Ski Area.  Owner Brad Morris acquired the Burlingame and High Alpine doubles from Snowmass (for free) in 2015 and the first of four new lifts will open this season.  Work started last fall, but early storms forced crews to pause over the winter.

Montana Snowbowl does not have a true beginner or low-intermediate lift, in part because most Missoulians learned to ski at Marshall Mountain until 2003.  Facing a need to broaden its appeal beyond advanced skiers, Morris worked with the Forest Service on the expansion plan which he submitted for approval in 2004.  Thirteen years later, the beginnings of a new lift dubbed ‘B’ stretch 4,900 feet from the original Snow Park base area to the summit of TV Mountain with 23 towers under construction.  In contrast with the Grizzly chair that rises steeply from the current base area, the new lift will ascend a modest 1,440′ vertical west of TV Mountain’s namesake towers.  Ride time will be 11 minutes with a capacity of 1,200 skiers per hour.  Burlingame’s tension-return station is already standing while the drive station up top will likely be High Alpine’s.

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News Roundup: New York

  • Colorado posts its second best season with nearly 12 million skier days. Vermont was up 21 percent year-over-year and New Hampshire went +30 percent.
  • Valemount opening pushes back to 2019-2020.
  • Rumors swirl of possible lift surveys at Saddleback.
  • Doppelmayr Cable Car and Transport for London extend operations & maintenance contract for the Emirates Air Line for another five years.
  • The government of Venezuela owes Garaventa $14.5 million!
  • Belleayre’s Catskill Thunder Gondola will be a Doppelmayr opening this December.
  • Partek’s only 2017 project is underway at Mt. Peter.
  • Peak Resorts plans to spend $9 million to expand Hunter Mountain and add a new high-speed chairlift in 2018.
  • Arapahoe Basin and Sugarloaf prove even relatively small lift projects make for interesting off-season reading.
  • Vermont’s defunct Maple Valley is for sale along with three Hall lifts for $950,000.
  • Val Gardena, Italy is the launch customer for Sigma’s innovative Symphony 10 gondola cabin and the new Leitner station.
  • Could North Korea’s ski resort with counterfeit and relocated Doppelmayr lifts host Olympic skiing?
  • Doppelmayr removes Wildcat at Snowbasin to make way for Utah’s first six-pack outside of Park City.  Thanks @ozskier for the photos!

Instagram Tuesday: Construction

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

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News Roundup: High Country

  • Watch LST Ropeways build its first detachable lift in three minutes.
  • A Swedish company has developed a new, more comfortable T-Bar carrier called Boardie.
  • Doppelmayr moves into new $62 million Wolfurt headquarters.
  • Grand TargheeJackson Hole, BrundageSun ValleyMt. Hood Meadows and Tamarack are operating a total of 13 lifts on August 21st for the first total solar eclipse visible from the United States since 1979.
  • Sunlight’s end-of-season survey includes some insightful tidbits:
    • “Sunlight is evaluating the addition of a high-speed detachable lift.”
    • “Understanding that lift ticket and season pass prices would likely increase with the addition of a high-speed lift, please rank how favorable this would be.”
  • Vail and Replay Resorts break ground on LIFT development set to anchor future detachable Sunrise lift at Park City’s Canyons Village.
  • Preliminary gondola tree cutting and construction work spotted at Walt Disney World.
  • Waterville Valley secures $7.5 million for future projects including multiple unspecified lift upgrades.  “To answer one burning question, we do have multiple options in development regarding the High Country lift,” the resort says on Facebook.
  • Utah sets another all-time record for skier visits.
  • Two new Skytracs in St. Maarten won’t open until late summer but are already getting rave reviews.

Silver Star Announces New Gondola for 2018

Silver Star Mountain Resort in Vernon, British Columbia will build a Summit Gondola next year, ending a three-year drought for new lifts in the region.  The 8-passenger Doppelmayr will replace the Summit double, a 4,000′ Mueller built in 1970.  The lift will open in July 2018 and serve summer guests before opening to skiers and snowboarders for 2018-19. After the upgrade, Silver Star will operate one of the most modern lift fleets in Western Canada with seven Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr lifts built since 2002.

A new gondola at Silver Star will complement the Comet Express six-pack with a 4.5 minute ride for both summer and winter visitors in the approximate location of the existing Summit double.

An initial fleet of 21 Omega IV LWI cabins in the five colors of the Silver Star logo will provide an uphill capacity of 1,200 passengers per hour, with the ability to add 22 more to meet future needs.  “These new cabins will whisk guests from the bottom to the top of the summit in a third of the time of the existing double chair,” says Silver Star Director of Operations and Maintenance Brad Baker. “The ride will now take four and a half minutes from village to summit traveling at five meters per second.”  Slope length will be 3,487′ and vertical rise 961′.  In a unique move, all foundations and the top terminal will be completed this fall with the remainder of the lift going in next spring in time to celebrate the resort’s 60th anniversary.  The addition of a gondola is a huge milestone for any resort and Silver Star will be no exception.

Doppelmayr to Build Arizona Snowbowl’s Third New Lift in Three Years

The new Hart Prarie quad at Arizona Snowbowl will be among the first Doppelmayr Alpen Stars in a top drive configuration.

After debuting the Humphreys Peak Quad in 2015 and the Grand Canyon Express in 2016, Arizona Snowbowl will replace its Hart Prarie lift this summer, marking another major investment by owner James Coleman.  Surprisingly, the contract went to Doppelmayr and Snowbowl will operate new lifts from all three major manufacturers next winter.  In a blog post announcing the project, General Manager J.R. Murray noted, “Arizona Snowbowl enjoys having the best learn to ski and snowboard progression terrain in the entire western US with Hart Prairie boasting a wide open and gentle meadow, allowing beginners to learn and gain confidence on the slopes. Snowbowl is where Arizonans learn to ski and snowboard because of the fantastic and easy terrain.”  The new quad chair will only improve that offering.

Hart Prarie is a 1981 Riblet with center-pole double chairs, one of two such lifts remaining at the resort.  The new top drive, Alpen Star-model Hart Prarie will feature a Chairkit loading carpet, padded seats and footrests.  An 1,800 skier per hour capacity doubles that of the previous lift.  The alignment will be slightly shorter – 2,533 feet – with a vertical of 518′.

With new Skytrac, Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr chairlifts built since 2015, Snowbowl will have increased uphill capacity by 85 percent next winter. Impressive indeed.

Instagram Tuesday: Austria

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

Demontage der Rollenbatterie. ©Zillertaler Gletscherbahn #mountaintalk

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