News Roundup: Study

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I’m in Colorado for a few days checking out this year’s new lifts. There are six!
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4.9 Miles! Lift Length Record Falls Again

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The Hon Thom-Phu Quoc Cable Car in Vietnam is the newest of three record-length gondolas in Vietnam.  Photo credit: Fatzer AG

It’s finished!  The new longest lift in the world, spanning a ridiculous 26,000 linear feet with just six intermediate towers, is undergoing testing and will open soon off the southern tip of Vietnam.   With this latest achievement, the Doppelmayr Garaventa Group breaks its own record held since February 2, 2016 by the Fansipan Legend, a 20,755-foot 3S gondola to the highest summit in Southeast Asia.  Before these two 3S lifts launched, the lift length record belonged to the Ba Na Cable Car, a monocable gondola stretching 19,032 feet that opened on March 29, 2013 in, you guessed it, Vietnam.  With completion of the Hon Thom-Phu Quoc 3S, Da Nang-based Sun Group now operates the three longest gondolas in the world as well as the planet’s largest aerial tramway with the tallest ropeway towers.  Silver Mountain’s gondola, the world’s longest when it opened in June 1990, is now fourth at 16,350′.  The lengthiest gondola in multiple sections remains the Bursa-Uludag three stage system built by Leitner in 2014 at almost 29,000 feet.

Hon Thom Phu Quoc MapThe new record-breaking gondola hopscotches from the large Phu Quoc Island over two smaller ones to an emerald isle called Hon Thom (Pineapple Island), previously undeveloped and encircled by white sand beaches.  $458 million of development is planned for the area which currently is a small fishing community with a state-of-the-art gondola station.

Setting aside its length, the rest of the gondola’s stats are also remarkable.  Hon Thom-Phu Quoc is the world’s fastest gondola, with cabins transiting at 8.5 m/s or 1,673 feet a minute (another Doppelmayr 3S built for the Sochi Olympics can also go 8.5.)  Sun Group’s latest system has more cabins than any other 3S – 70 CWA Taris models for 30 passengers each.  At 3,500 passengers per hour per direction, it would be the fourth highest capacity gondola in North America (Peak 2 Peak, the only 3S in the Americas, moves 2,050 an hour.)   A ride will take only 15.6 minutes at full speed and the lift’s six towers reach up to 525 feet above the Gulf of Thailand.  Four track ropes supplied by Fatzer are a crazy 58.5 mm thick with a 52 mm diameter haul rope.  The haul rope loop is so long that it had to be manufactured in two sections totaling 54,212 feet.  The new gondola will open to the public sometime this spring and we’ll see what Sun Group and Doppelmayr come up with next as they push the boundaries of ropeway technology in Vietnam.

Instagram Tuesday: Flood

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

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Construction of Disney’s Skyliner is Well Underway

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A new rendering of the new Pop Century/Art of Animation gondola station, part of the Skyliner gondola system opening in 2019.

We’re somewhere around a year-and-a-half away from the grand opening of Walt Disney World Resort’s innovative Skyliner gondola network and it’s becoming clear this will be North America’s most expensive lift project ever.  Yes, much more costly than the $52 million Peak 2 Peak Gondola, way beyond the $57 million Portland Aerial Tram and many times more than the eight-figure Blackcomb Gondola, also set for construction this year.

I have never been to Florida but luckily there are die-hard Disney fans who charter helicopters on a weekly basis to photograph the goings-on at the world’s most-visited resort.  This week, they are beginning to spot tower foundations for the first of five gondola segments.

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In Whitefish, a Disused Lift is Born Again

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A 35-year old chairlift is proving very popular in Whitefish, Montana this season after moving from an alignment redundant with other lifts to an underutilized corner of the mountain.

Exactly half of the 14 lifts at Whitefish Mountain Resort stand in a second location, with some even finding a third home in Northwestern Montana.  By strategically re-engineering and relocating lifts from elsewhere on the mountain and beyond, Whitefish has been able to grow faster than many of its competitors and now encompasses 3,000 acres of glades, groomers and chutes.  This year’s move of Chair 5 creates the East Rim lift and turns a machine that sat idle for years into a dedicated lift for some of the finest advanced terrain in the Inland Northwest.

wmr_trailmap_frontside_1718For the first 50 years, every lift on Big Mountain was purchased new from a manufacturer.  That changed in 1999 and 2000, when the the Bigfoot and Sunrise T-Bars joined the Whitefish fleet just as consolidation and new technology were making new lifts increasingly expensive.  In 2002, the ski area acquired a Hall triple for a new beginner lift.  Continuing the pattern, Big Mountain, as it was then still known, snagged Moab’s failed Skyway experiment for another new beginner pod.  When the first-generation Glacier Chaser detachable needed to be replaced the following year, Whitefish had no choice but to go new for the flagship Big Mountain Express.  But instead of scrapping the old Doppelmayr, it shifted west to become the Swift Creek Express.  That summer’s lift shuffle also turned the old Easy Rider triple into Elk Highlands, a real estate egress lift.  In 2011, the Bad Rock lift was brought in all the way from Pennsylvania and now runs out of the base lodge in both winter and summer.  With a major lift renewal complete, Whitefish set its sights on expansion for winter 2014-15, opening the Flower Point lift and 200 additional acres.  That machine came from across the border, the old Rosa triple from Kimberley (and the predecessor to the Whistler Village Gondola before that.)  To summarize, Whitefish impressively built “new” lifts in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2014 and now 2017.

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This morning’s scene on the East Rim.

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Chairlift Coming to New Woodward Park City

Many people don’t realize Powdr Co., the privately-held firm behind Copper, Killington and Mt. Bachelor, still owns the Gorgoza Park tubing area along I-80 despite losing nearby Park City Mountain Resort to Vail in 2014.  With unanimous approval Tuesday by the local planning commission, Powdr plans to break ground this summer on its sixth Woodward action sports park on the tubing site and build a chairlift in Park City for the first time since 3 Kings went up seven years ago.

This land hosted as a ski resort twice in the past.  A 2,070′ Hall double stood from 1978 through the early 1980s before being removed.  An even earlier iteration on Parley’s Summit featured a T-Bar and possibly another chairlift.  Powdr acquired the property and built the current tube park in 2000.

WWPC-Overview-SketchA 400′ vertical fixed-grip quad along with a new and existing carpet lift will provide uplift for skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking.  “Woodward provides aspiring athletes a place to safely progress their skills,” said John Cumming, Founder and CEO of Powdr in a press release announcing construction. “Having a Woodward in a venue that has hosted Olympic-level action sports competition, will, I believe, help to further inspire kids and enable them to develop. Park City is our home and we are extremely proud to be in a position to bring Woodward to our community and realize our initial vision for Gorgoza Park.”  A plan before Powdr Co.’s legal spat with Vail Resorts would have placed the new Woodward in town at the base of the First Time lift.

The company’s Woodward brand also has outposts at Boreal and Copper Mountain along with non-ski ones in Southern California, Pennsylvania and Mexico.  The Park City location will be the first with a dedicated chairlift and will open by the summer of 2019.  While the manufacturer of the new quad is not yet known, Powdr has also announced a new fixed-grip lift for Killington next summer which could be lumped into a single contract.

Schweitzer Commits to Two New Lifts in 2019

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Outback Bowl at Schweitzer is currently serviced by three lifts, the longest of which will be replaced by two new ones in 2019.

Pacific Northwest favorite Schweitzer Mountain Resort will replace one long double with two new chairlifts in 2019, says CEO Tom Chasse.  The first lift will service the lower two thirds of the current Snow Ghost double, a 1971 Riblet with a 13-minute ride time.  The second one will replace Snow Ghost’s upper segment, servicing the Lakeside Chutes in a new alignment topping out near the new Sky House restaurant.  “We don’t have enough lift capacity right now,” Chasse told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.  “We think it’s going to be a draw and will bring in more people.”  The Bonner County Daily reported Schweitzer wanted to replace the nearly 2,000′ vertical lift a year ago but the $6-8 million project depended on financing becoming available.  Schweitzer completed a project very similar to this one in 2007, replacing the lower section of Chair 1 with a high-speed quad and the upper section with a realigned Doppelmayr CTEC triple.

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Snow Ghost is a sweet lift but its time will soon come.

Outback Bowl has a cool lift history.  The current Snow Ghost lift used to be called Chair 6 and went from the very bottom of the bowl to the Siberia Runout.  You can still see the old lift line in person and on the trail map.  In 1987, the entire machine was moved to start and end higher with a mid-station added, leaving the lower part of Outback serviced only by Chair 5.  That lift was replaced by a uniquely-themed six-pack called Stella in 2000.  Schweitzer skiers can enjoy another season and a half of Snow Ghost but 2019 can’t come soon enough!  No word yet on specific models or a manufacturer for the new lifts.

Introducing: Alterra Mountain Company

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Combine altitude and terrain and you get a portmanteau called Alterra.  Starting today, it’s the new name for the affiliate of KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company (owner of Aspen Skiing Company) that brought 12 major mountain resorts under one umbrella last year.  Based in Denver, Alterra now rivals Vail Resorts in scale but promises each of its resorts will retain an independent character.  “Alterra Mountain Company is made up of unique mountain destinations, each with a personality and spirit that has delighted visitors for generations,” said David Perry, President and COO of the company in a release.  “Our vision at Alterra Mountain Company is to protect and enhance what makes each destination special, inviting guests back to their favorite mountain, and enticing them to visit new destinations on their bucket list.”  Alterra’s dozen resorts operate a combined 196 lifts while Vail has 228 across its 13 North American resorts.

Hopefully you’ll be reading about Alterra often on this blog in the coming years as the group makes lift investments across its mountains.  They include Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in California; Stratton, Vermont; Snowshoe, West Virginia; Deer Valley, Utah and Tremblant and Blue Mountain in Canada.

News Roundup: Snapped

  • SkyTrans Manufacturing announces the passing of its founder and president, Jerry Pendleton, who began his career with O.D. Hopkins in 1960.
  • John Dalton’s tale of how two brand new lifts survived the Category 5 hurricane in St. Maarten is a must read.
  • A dangling Mammoth Mountain guest escapes a fall from a chair unharmed; lifty who caught her isn’t as lucky.
  • Snowbird’s in-house magazine demystifies how detachable lifts work with a sweet diagram from Doppelmayr and copy from a guy you might have heard of.
  • Hatcher Pass, Alaska moves toward building a SkyTrans triple chair ASAP.
  • Video of a swinging Austrian bubble chair with two skiers struggling to hang on goes viral worldwide.
  • The Hermitage Club comes within days of having its water and sewer services shut off and is still working through other payables.
  • A gondola cabin blew off an outdoor parking rail at Sunday River during last week’s storm and a slew of other lifts suffered damage but are now back in action.
  • 9-year old unharmed after falling 15 feet from a lift at Boyce Park, PA.
  • A three-station gondola is one of ten finalists for a signature attraction in Edmonton, Alberta.  You can vote for it in an online public advisory poll.
  • Fernie’s White Pass lift will be closed for awhile while new bullwheel bearings are sourced and installed.
  • Powerful storm snaps a 30 mm wire rope on Mont Blanc’s iconic panoramic cable car, which was not operating and typically only runs in the summer.
  • Granite Gorge’s sole chairlift has yet to open this season, apparently due to gearbox issues.

Instagram Tuesday: Shades

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

Night creature sunrise!

A post shared by Chris Eckerson (@ceckerson) on

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