California Express Draft Environmental Impact Statement Released

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A 16 minute flight between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows took a jump forward this morning as the Truckee National Forest and Placer County released the draft environmental impact statement for the California Express gondola.  The big three stage lift was first proposed by the owner of both mountains, KSL Capital Partners, more than two years ago and is now being championed by Alterra Mountain Co.  At 808 pages, the EIS required under the National Environmental Policy Act outlines three possible alignments which could unite the steeps and village at Squaw Valley with the beginner and intermediate paradise of Alpine Meadows.

Two of the alternatives are new while the other two should be familiar to readers of this site.  Other concepts such as a pulse gondola, expanded shuttle service and even an underground train were eliminated as part of the preliminary review, which was completed by SE Group and Ascent Environmental of Sacramento.  Alternative 1 is the required no-action option, which would keep Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows separate but equal.  Shuttle buses would continue running every 30 minutes between the two mountains, which already share a common lift ticket.

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The lift would move 1,400 skiers per hour in 8-passenger cabins painted white to blend in with the winter environment.  It would operate from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm with skiing allowed from the mid-station(s) when conditions permit.  There would be separate drive systems and separate cabin parking facilities at each end so two sides could operate independently.  The middle section of the lift would operate as part of the Alpine Meadows side and approximately 40 percent of the cabins would be stored at Squaw Valley with the remaining 60 percent at Alpine during storm events and the summer.

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Mayor, Dodgers Back a 3S Gondola in Los Angeles

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One of the last remaining Major League Baseball stadiums not serviced by permanent public transportation could be reached by gondola in 2022, says a group with early support from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Mayor Eric Garcetti.  Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies LLC presented the idea to the Metro regional transit authority this morning as part of its Extraordinary Innovation unsolicited proposals program.  The tricable system would link Dodgers Stadium to Union Station, the busiest rail hub in the Western United States.

The 3S would be capable of transporting 5,000 passengers per hour and direction along a 1.25 mile route before, during and after Dodgers Stadium events.  It would cross over Chinatown and Interstate 110 with a terminus on the southeastern side of the ballpark with an unknown number of towers in between.  Utilizing 30 to 40 passenger cabins, the lift would be the largest gauge gondola in the western hemisphere and was selected for its optimal capacity and ease of accessibility.  “This is a major investment in the future of Los Angeles, with a zero-emission, sustainable technology that is increasingly popular for urban areas throughout the world,” noted Martha Welborne, project director for ARTT in a press release. “We look forward to working with Metro to make it a reality.”  Welborne is a former Senior Vice President of Corporate Real Estate at Disney and also served as Chief Planning Officer at LA Metro.

Mayor Garcetti commented on the project too, saying, “Dodger fans know better than anyone: making history means swinging for the fences and never stopping until you get home.  Our team has been at the center of so many landmark moments for Los Angeles, and this bold idea to ease congestion could transform how Angelenos — and millions of visitors — experience our city on their way to and from the ballpark.”  Lakers legend Magic Johnson also tweeted his support.

The estimated $125 million project would be funded privately but require the blessing of various public entities, especially to secure a lease at or near Union Station.  The founding principal of ARTT is McCourt Global, whose Chairman and CEO Frank McCourt formerly owned the Dodgers.  Much work lies ahead for the group including specific route selection and public outreach.  Operations are eyed for 2022, six years before Los Angeles hosts the Olympics for a third time.

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News Roundup: Connected

  • See for yourself is how Aspen parks its gondolas for the offseason.
  • The supremely-talented James Niehues is painting an all-new map of Copper Mountain to debut next winter along with two new lifts.
  • This month’s Poma Link spotlights good stuff from Europe…a new brand platform, details on Diamond Evo cabins and new sheave liners coming in 2019.
  • The Leitner Ropeways 2017 annual report is packed full of photographs and drawings for 32 new lifts the company completed last year.
  • The world’s tallest tubular lift tower goes up in La Paz at 194 feet!
  • A man who said he was stuck on a Gore Mountain chairlift the night of April Fool’s Day is charged with making false statements.
  • Two hackers say they were able to access the Doppelmayr Connect control system for an Austrian gondola in March, raising cyber security concerns.  Doppelmayr says the issue has been fixed and no riders were ever at risk.
  • The first Skyliner station is going up in Florida and it’s a monster that appears to have two separate turnaroundsA sea of lift parts is also on site at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Leitner unveils cabins clad with Swarovski crystals for the new Matterhorn 3S.
  • Berkshire Bank pays propane, electric and tax bills to keep the heat on and prevent a tax sale as it asks a judge to allow a receiver to take over operations at the Hermitage Club.
  • Doppelmayr names a new managing director set to take over later this year.
  • LST combines wireless operator controls, 3D cameras, RFID tags and LED lighting to encourage safety bar usage and increase loading safety.
  • The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management approve Sun Valley’s Cold Springs Canyon project.
  • Big Sky teases an updated rendering of Ramcharger 8 and the first photo from the factory.
  • I’ll end this week’s roundup with some interesting thoughts on recent ski resort sales and valuations from Mike Krongel.

Instagram Tuesday: Seasons

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

Vail Proposes Upgrading Game Creek Lift

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The Game Creek quad is one of seven first generation Doppelmayr detachables built on Vail Mountain between 1985 and 1989.  Only three remain as Vail Resorts renews the fleet, which could continue this summer.

When Vail Resorts unveiled its $150 million 2018 spending plan in December, it included seven new lifts in Australia, British Columbia, Nevada and Utah.  Notably, none were earmarked for Colorado, where the company operates four of the largest resorts in the state with nearly 80 lifts between them.  We learned on Thursday Vail Resorts’ North American skier visits were down 1.9 percent this season through April 15th but lift ticket revenue increased 3.7 percent, keeping MTN on solid financial footing.  Commenting on the season, CEO Rob Katz told investors, “We are pleased with our results as the 2017/2018 ski season concludes, particularly considering the historically low snowfall across our western U.S. resorts for much of the ski season.  Our results throughout the 2017/2018 ski season highlight the stability provided by our season pass, the benefit of our geographic diversification and the success of our sophisticated, data-driven marketing efforts.”

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Now the mothership – Vail Mountain – could be getting in on the new lift action as neighbors Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain, Loveland and Winter Park do the same this summer.  A Vail Resort Summer 2018 Construction project page posted Thursday on the White River National Forest website notes that Game Creek #7 is proposed to be upgraded.  While there are no supporting documents yet and the project is listed as “developing proposal,” recent history would indicate the 1985 high-speed quad will be replaced with a new detachable quad or six place chairlift.  Vail has already added ten new lifts in the past eleven years and three of the most recent were of the six variety from both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma.  Vail has made no formal announcement but the Forest Service expects to conduct public scoping in May followed by a decision in June.

Bromont Announces Construction of Canada’s Second Chondola

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Dignitaries celebrate the surprise announcement of a chondola and more in Bromont, Quebec April 20, 2018.  Photo credit: Bromont, montagne d’expériences.

The Government of Quebec and Bromont, montagne d’expériences are partnering to the tune of $19.6 million, the two confirmed yesterday.  More than half that money will go to build a base-to-summit combination lift in place of a 1985 Poma detachable.  The new $10.1 million machine with six place chairs and eight passenger cabins will be the second such combo lift in Quebec and one of two built this year in North America.  Doppelmayr will install the lift and capacity will increase 20-25 percent on the front side.  Competitor Tremblant is also building a Doppelmayr detachable this year.

Bromont is less than an hour from the Vermont border and has grown to become one of Eastern Canada’s largest resorts with eight major lifts.  The new chondola and a new lodge make up the first phase of Project Altitude, which will see approximately $80 million invested through public-private partnerships over the next few years.

News Roundup: Timelines

  • The Staten Island Economic Development Corporation secures $212,000 to study the feasibility of a gondola connection to Bayonne, New Jersey.
  • The Forest Service green lights Alta’s big plans for a new Baldy tram, Flora lift, Wildcat detachable and replacement for Sunnyside.
  • The Colony’s master plan now includes two new lifts along Pinecone Ridge at the center of Park City Mountain.
  • Copper is selling parts from the Flyer and the Eagle detachables.  Must act fast!
  • Crested Butte says the three lift Teo 2 expansion, if approved, would likely be built over approximately five years.
  • Snow King’s gondola and terrain expansion public process moves along at a glacial pace.
  • Mountain Capital Partners, the company behind Arizona Snowbowl, Hesperus Pajarito, Purgatory and Sipapu, will operate Nordic Valley and add it to the Power Pass.
  • Doppelmayr breaks ground for its eleventh cable-propelled automated people mover, set to open in 2021.
  • Spokane’s paper traces the history of three lifts that have graced Riverfront Park, including a new gondola.
  • The Forest Service seeks feedback on Arizona Snowbowl’s chondola proposal.
  • An ice storm apparently causes a track rope to jump out of a saddle at Jay Peak, closing the tram and nearby lifts indefinitely.
  • As legal wrangling continues, nothing seems out of the ordinary this week at the Hermitage Club except for notices on the clubhouse doors.

Instagram Tuesday: The End

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

Deer Valley Plans 13th High-Speed Quad to Replace Homestake

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Deer Valley’s Homestake lift is less than twenty years old and eyed for replacement with a detachable version.

When Alterra revealed its hefty roster of 2018 upgrades on a Monday in March, Deer Valley Resort was noticeably absent.  The Utah flagship has averaged nearly one new lift every year since its 1981 inception but is coming off of a five year drought since the Mountaineer Express was added.  Now, as the Vail-owned owned neighbor builds a detachable beginner lift above Canyons Village, the Park Record reports Deer Valley is finalizing plans to replace the Homestake quad with a detachable of its own this offseason.dvhomestakemap

Garaventa CTEC installed the current Homestake lift, which runs roughly parallel to the downhill section of the Silver Lake Express, in 1999.  It is only 1,720 feet long but serves as a key link between Bald Mountain and Bald Eagle Mountain.  The new machine would be the sixth shortest detachable in the U.S. and might re-use some components like towers.  It is almost certain to be built by Doppelmayr USA, which is based just down I-80 in Salt Lake.  The resort says it is still finalizing plans and lining up permits but it’s looking like there will be only a handful of fixed-grip chairlifts remaining next season at Deer Valley.  With this likely addition, 2018 is now pacing nearly 30 percent above last year for announced new lift construction with a very busy summer ahead across North America.

Doppelmayr Releases 2018 Worldbook

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The cover for the 2018 Doppelmayr annual brochure features a tram with a 10,541′ unsupported span, the longest in the world.

Each spring, the Doppelmayr Garaventa Group compiles its accomplishments from the prior year to create a brochure like no other with stellar photography and statistics called Worldwide.  The 2018 book, which went live for download yesterday, features 104 installations in 21 countries including an impressive seven aerial tramways and 33 gondolas.  Standouts among the 2017 class include:

  • The Stoosbahn in Switzerland, the steepest ever funicular ever built with round passenger pods that self-level.
  • A 120 passenger tramway on the Zugspitze in Germany with the world’s tallest lattice tower and a stunning vertical ascent of 6,381 feet.
  • The comprehensive overhaul of the Jay Peak Tram with new tower saddles, carriages, controls and more.
  • Tricable gondolas in Vietnam and China, the former of which is the longest lift on the planet.
  • From CWA, the first cabin with air conditioning, a refrigerator, entertainment displays, LED lighting and USB charging.
  • The 9th and 10th gondola sections in La Paz, Bolivia’s urban cable car network, Mi Teleférico.
  • An innovative gondola with carriers for both miners and copper ore in Turkey.
  • A dozen cutting edge D-Line installations including the first outside of Europe.
Multiple pages are devoted to the Yellowstone Club’s ambitious expansion onto Eglise Mountain.

I often focus on North American lifts but always enjoy reading what’s new and noteworthy elsewhere.  You can check out all 162 pages of Doppelmayr Worldwide 2018 here.