Mapping Mammoth’s Next New Lifts

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America’s third most-skied resort could see a bunch of new lifts over the next decade following its purchase by a new company rivaling Vail Resorts.

“One hundred million dollars” is how Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory responded when asked about capital improvements in the wake of the recent purchase of Mammoth Resorts by Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners this spring.  While I can’t find a comprehensive online version of the 2007 Mammoth Master Plan prepared by Ecosign, the vision includes 17 lift additions and replacements including up to four new gondola stages.  A vast majority of the changes are likely to be realignments and capacity upgrades of existing lifts rather than the opening of new terrain.  Still, the possibilities are exciting at this already monster mountain.

mammoth-masterplan

Mammoth currently operates the largest second largest lift fleet in the United States, with 27 machines averaging 27 years old.  All 14 lifts built before 1995 are Yan, while the 13 added post-1996 are exclusively Doppelmayr.  Remarkably, every lift Mammoth has built since 1998 has been detachable, 15 in a row with DT grips (the two Yan detachables got them in 1996.)  At some point, Mammoth’s impressive fleet commonality will have to end, but the streak may not be over just yet.

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Mammoth Mountain’s current trail map showing 3,500 acres serviced by 27 lifts.

As Mr. Gregory said in April, a major goal is adding a second multi-stage gondola on the Canyon side of the mountain to mirror the popular twostage Panorama Gondola.   “Take Eagle Express and turn that into the gondola it is,” he told the local paper.  The second, longest stage would stretch from the top of the current Eagle to the summit of the new High Five Express.  A short but spectacular third stage would soar to the 11,060-foot summit, meeting Panorama Stage 2 and creating a five stage link.  An option in Ecosign’s plan adds a second stage to the 15-passenger Village Gondola from Canyon Lodge to the Eagle Gondola’s first mid-station, creating a seven-gondola network unmatched in North America.  Mammoth’s gondola goals raise some interesting technical questions – whether Eagle Express could be converted to a gondola and whether a second stage could be compatible with a 20-year old Village system.  I think the answer to both questions is yes, with caveats.

The new Eagle Gondola would have a truly unique profile with two mid-stations and two high spans along its 2.5- mile length.

Mammoth was relatively slow to join the six-pack club with only the Eagle Express and Cloud Nine Express built to date.  That is set to change, with the possibility remaining for Mammoth to build North America’s first eight-passenger chairlift(s.)  The mountain’s two Lift Engineering-turned-Doppelmayr machines – Canyon and Broadway – serve the hearts of their respective pods and are likely to be replaced sooner rather than later with higher-capacity models.  The 1997 Stump Alley Express is also poised to go big.

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While a slew of Yan fixed-grips are due to be replaced, at least four will stay.  Some have already received upgrades, including this tower on the legendary Chair 23.

Chair 25 is planned to be replaced with a high-speed quad in a new alignment starting at the base of Cloud Nine.  High-speed quad replacements are also eyed for Chair 12 and Chair 14, both built in 1972 on the backside with the latter project a higher priority.  Chair 7 at Canyon could also go detachable to supplement the successful Schoolyard Express addition.  New, shorter beginner lifts are planned for the Main Lodge, Canyon Lodge and both ends of the Eagle Express.

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Rendering from the perspective of the Village at Mammoth with planned new lifts in red.

Really the only all-new lift is a surface lift with a big turn on the cirque above Cloud Nine. There’s also a short new chairlift planned next to Stump Alley for skiers only seeking to return to the Main Lodge.

Chutes above Cloud Nine will become more easily-accessed with a new curved surface lift above Cloud Nine.

The multi-billion dollar Aspen-KSL-Mammoth-Intrawest deal is expected to close soon, paving the way for the first crop of capital investments in summer 2018.  My thoughts on the rest of the soon-to-be-acquired resorts are here, but you can bet that Mammoth Mountain will be near the top of any new lift agenda.

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11 thoughts on “Mapping Mammoth’s Next New Lifts

  1. Philip Keeve July 10, 2017 / 11:34 am

    I thought Park City was the largest in the United States in terms of number of lifts. They have 40, right?

    Like

    • Peter Landsman July 10, 2017 / 11:39 am

      You’re right; 37 by my count. Old habits die hard like thinking of PC and Canyons as two separate resorts.

      Like

  2. Ryan July 10, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    Does Mammie operate the largest number of Yans?

    Like

    • Peter Landsman July 11, 2017 / 8:15 am

      Yes, Mammoth wins by far. These are all the mountains with 5+ Yans remaining:

      Mammoth Mountain 14
      Mt. Snow 9
      Snow Valley 9
      Squaw Valley 8
      Killington 7
      Kirkwood 7
      Copper Mountain 6
      Sierra at Tahoe 6
      Steamboat 6
      Alpine Meadows 5
      Brian Head 5
      Deer Valley 5
      Park City 5
      Sunrise Park 5

      Like

      • Max Hart July 12, 2017 / 4:15 pm

        Sunday River also has 5

        Like

    • Michael July 13, 2017 / 7:03 am

      Mammie?

      Like

  3. Ryan July 10, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    Great article as well, Peter. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thomas Jett July 11, 2017 / 12:42 am

    Nice write up. I have a link to the 2007 master plan, but it’s really low-quality.

    The general gist is that 1, 2, and 16 become D6C’s. 10 isn’t in the plan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they make that a D6C as well, to help flow at the end of the day. On 15 becoming a gondola: Rusty said in a town hall that it was originally designed as a D8G, so they might only need to change the cabins for that part of the upgrade.

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  5. julestheshiba July 11, 2017 / 6:34 pm

    I am still waiting to hear more about KSLs plan for Squaw Valley

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  6. Craig Remillard July 20, 2017 / 3:08 am

    Ugh, Mammoth doesn’t need more lifts on the same real estate. It needs more lifts on more real estate. Crowds there are obscene, parking is atrocious, on storm/wind days the terrain is cut in half or worse, and fresh tracks are gone 20 minutes after lifts open. I don’t understand how the mountain saw themselves being penned in on all sides with the Wilderness Act over the last 40 years and not try to fight it? I’m pretty sure the story of Wilderness areas in a century will be how a noble idea got hijacked by few rich white people who managed to finagle the rest of us out of some of the greatest land on the continent so they could have it to themselves. If you’re not wealthy enough to fly to Salt Lake or Tahoe every other weekend, screw you I guess.

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  7. Matt July 20, 2017 / 11:23 pm

    Great article, Peter!

    From what I’ve heard the beginner lift at Eagle Lodge will likely be one of the first projects to be completed from that master plan. (Other than Chair 5).

    The Eagle-Summit Gondola poses many challenges and I’ve never heard any mention of it around the mountain. While Chair 15 was overbuilt with the option to be easily converted to a gondola —
    long UNI-G terminals, large-diameter sheaves, and fully symmetrical line uphill and downhill allowing for full capacity downloading — extending it upwards to the summit seems hardly feasible. Most notably, the prevailing winds will likely be prohibitive to its alignment. Section 2 of the Panorama Gondola is fairly well protected (especially considering it being over 200 feet above ground) and the SW wind tends to blow straight down the line which allows it to stay open (albeit at 3 m/s or less) when many other lifts across the mountain cannot. Sections 2 and 3 of the Eagle Gondola will be subject to violent crosswinds. Additionally, the alignment would have the gondola reach the actual summit of Mammoth Mountain, subjecting it to even more severe winds. The top station of the Panorama Gondola is tucked away on the side of the mountain some 30 feet below the summit. Weather considerations aside, it just doesn’t make too much sense from a skier’s point of view. The Eagle Lodge side is dominated by beginners. Whereas intermediate skiers and riders can take Road Runner from the top to Main Lodge, there is only advanced and expert terrain leading towards Eagle Lodge. And plus considering how fast Mammoth gets tracked out already, is doubling the capacity to the top really a good idea?

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