News Roundup: Sadness

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Instagram Tuesday: Metropolitan

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

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News Roundup: Express

  • Both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma show off gondolas at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions expo in Orlando.
  • A startup venture is restoring Hall, Riblet and Heron-Poma chairs for sale online.
  • Snow King Mountain says the outcome of a rent dispute with the Town of Jackson could affect its ability to replace Summit with a gondola.
  • Afton Alps ditches Lift 8, a 1969 Heron triple, for a terrain park.
  • Re: Saddleback sale, an investigative report by the Portland, Maine NBC station concludes, “the money isn’t there” and “the deal could fall apart entirely.”
  • Killington switches from a James Niehues-painted trail map to a VistaMap this year; Whiteface and Belleayre ditch VistaMap for Kevin Mastin paintings.  Gunstock goes from a computer-generated map to a James Niehues one and Mt. Snow does the opposite.
  • The first lift sporting Leitner Ropeways’ new station design is almost finished.

  • A county supervisor in San Diego who gets gondolas does a great interview about them.
  • Aspen-affiliated KSL resort group to have a name by Christmas, launch a new pass product next year and continue participating in the Mountain Collective.
  • Doppelmayr releases fiscal 2016/17 global results: project count up 2.9 percent to 106, employee headcount up 1.8 percent to 2,720, revenue down 4 percent to €801 million ($948 million.)
  • T minus 14 days ’til Vail Resorts reveals preliminary lift plans for next year.

Lift 1 at Loveland to Go High-Speed Next Year

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America’s third largest ski resort remaining without a detachable lift will take the plunge next year.  The Clear Creek Courant reports Loveland will remove and replace Lift 1 with a detachable quad chair in 2018.  An eight minute ride on the current 1981 Yan will drop to just three minutes, Chief Operating Officer Rob Goodell told the Clear Creek County Commission on November 14th.  “One of the driving forces was the next generation of the Loveland family, the kids and the grand kids,” he said.  “We’re very much looking toward the future because this lift is going to be there for 40 years.”  No word yet on a manufacturer but Leitner-Poma has built every new lift at Loveland since 1996.

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Lift 1 is usually among the first lifts in the country to open each fall.

 

Lift-Served Skiing Likely Coming to Hatcher Pass, Alaska

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An approved day-use ski area on Hatcher Pass includes two chairlifts and support buildings.

A group planning to open a rare new American ski area just got a big boost, securing $500,000 towards building chairlift number one yesterday.  Despite encompassing 425 million acres and with more residents than Vermont and Wyoming, the great state of Alaska includes just five lift-served public ski mountains, three of which are in close proximity to Anchorage.  The proposed Hatcher Alpine Xperience sits in the Mat-Su Valley, well north of the Alyeska, Hilltop and Arctic Valley ski areas, where locals have been dreaming of their own mountain for decades.

Not satisfied with dreaming, citizens formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2015 and got to work.  Already, they’ve completed a federal environmental impact statement, forged an agreement to operate within the Government Peak Recreation Area, cleared trails and built a maintenance facility.  An access road, parking lot and utilities are also in place.  This winter, trails will be groomed but without lift service.  Hatcher Pass tentatively plans to acquire a used triple chair from SkyTrans next spring and install for a 2018-19 opening.  Just today I learned Vail Resorts removed Chair 8 from Afton Alps, Minnesota over the summer – a 1969 Heron which was 1,280′ x 190′ – and might be the lift in question.  It’s just a theory, but no other recently-removed triple chair matches the stats.

The Alaska Pacific Mining Company proposed building a 6,300′ Riblet double chair on Hatcher Pass in the 1960s which was never built. Photo credit: Alaska Public Media

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Instagram Tuesday: At Sunset

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

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In California, Parks & Zoos Wow with Gondolas

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Oakland Zoo stepped up its game this year, building a major expansion accessed exclusively by gondola, one of many across California.

From flying over bison to coasting through redwood forests, wine tasting and beach cruising, visitors to California can do it all by gondola even when far from ski country.  In every major region of the vast California Republic, gondolas greet more than 250 million annual tourists, providing unique experiences and spectacular views in one of America’s most diverse states.

California Trail – Oakland Zoo

California’s newest gondola debuted at the Oakland Zoo in June, whisking guests on a three minute safari to an $80 million experience called California Trail, which features animals native to the Golden State.  In some ways this is America’s first urban gondola with the top terminal located in the basement of a combination transit station, restaurant and visitor center.  The Doppelmayr UNI-G system sports 17 cabins that can move 1,000 guests each hour between California Station and the new hub for wolves, bears and mountain lions.  Even though the exhibits don’t open until next year, the gondola is already so popular that the zoo’s chairlift rarely runs anymore as guests binge-ride the California Trail lap after lap.

Skyfari – San Diego Zoo

The VonRoll-built Skyfari is a big reason why the San Diego Zoo grew to become the most-visited zoo in America.  Since 1969, 42 four-passenger cabins have transported some 75 million riders from the east side of the park to the west.  Today, the Skyfari operates more than 3,300 hours a year and an impressive 60 percent of zoo guests choose to take the ride, making it by far the most-ridden gondola in this most populous state.  The lift’s four towers reach up to 89 feet, yielding zoogoers spectacular views of their surroundings and downtown San Diego.  Now presented by Alaska Airlines, the ride is impeccably maintained and features updated Doppelmayr controls and automated cabin launching.  Just based on ridership, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it replaced with a modern system with more capacity in the coming years.

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News Roundup: Resources

  • Amid zip line dispute, Peak Resorts threatens to close Hidden Valley, remove five chairlifts and sell the land to a residential developer.
  • “I’m very confident we’re going to have new resources we haven’t had in previous years,” Steamboat COO says of Crown/KSL ownership.  Deer Valley President and COO Bob Wheaton makes similar comments in Park City.
  • Saddleback sale to Australian firm still hasn’t closed.
  • Bear Valley’s six-pack looks great in green and now has a name: Mokelumne Express.
  • Who says detachable terminals must be symmetrical?  Leitner experiments in Europe.
  • T-Bar area in Edmonton, Alberta shuts down.
  • At the end of a tough year, Granby Ranch goes up for sale.
  • New Heavenly trail map confirms Galaxy won’t spin again this season, leaving a big hole in Nevada.
  • Epic Passes account for 43 percent of Vail Resorts revenue.
  • New lifts at the Yellowstone Club get names: Eglise, Great Bear and Little Dipper.  A few hundred families now enjoy the 14th largest lift fleet in the country.

Instagram Tuesday: Stealth

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

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Belleayre Gets Its Gondola

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The first gondola in the Catskill Mountains stands nearly complete at Belleayre Mountain, owned and operated by New York State.
Governor Andrew Cuomo surprised many back in February when he committed $8 million in public money to erect a gondola and make other improvements at Belleayre, the smallest of New York’s three state-owned ski resorts.  Reaction was swift with a vocal group of critics questioning the use of funds at a mountain with a modest 135,000 annual skier visits.  “Gondola to nowhere,” one user wrote on the NY Ski Blog.  “The stupidest lift ever built in the world,” said another passionate New Yorker.  Yet another, simply “a waste.”  Then came an anti-gondola petition.

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The Olympic Regional Development Authority stuck to its guns and Doppelmayr USA won the contract, beginning work on June 21st.  Just four and a half months later, a grand new machine stands with 13,615 feet of haul rope, 60 cabins and 16 towers coming together.  The new lift rises 1,350 feet from Discovery Lodge to the summit with super views along the way.

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