Instagram Tuesday: Alluring

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

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News Roundup: More Cabins

  • A live streaming webcam shows New Hampshire’s largest and fastest gondola going in at Bretton Woods.  Some tidbits on the lift from the New Hampshire Tramway Board: line speed will be 6 m/s with 36 cabins and a design capacity of 2,600 using 62 cabins.  SkyTrans is taking the retired B double and the gondola’s load test is slated for December 20th.
  • Sunrise Park Resort abruptly ends all summer operations.
  • In Europe, some pulse gondolas are on the way out.
  • As it works to finalize its lease of Mt. Sunapee, Vail Resorts assures New Hampshire residents the company is in for the long haul and doesn’t plan any real estate development at the state-owned mountain.
  • A stack up of at least nine cabins on the White urban gondola line in La Paz last Monday is deemed the result of human error.  No passengers were on the lift at the time.
Photo credit: Página Siete

A Deal to Save The Hermitage?

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Five chairlifts currently sit idle at the Hermitage Club, the subject of foreclosure action in southern Vermont.

Restructuring could resolve what is currently the nation’s largest ski resort foreclosure case, according to a report from the Brattleboro Reformer.  Jim Barnes, founder of the financially-troubled Hermitage Club, sent an email last night informing members of two important developments.  First, the Club has secured a bridge loan to maintain key staff working toward a restructuring with Berkshire Bank and other creditors.  Secondly, a nonbinding term sheet has been signed with Oz Real Estate to provide new capital to the ski and golf resort.  “The potential transaction with Oz Real Estate contemplates the club’s debt with Berkshire Bank to be restructured or bought out,” Barnes wrote.  The bank is owed more than $17 million while a foodservice distributor is out more than $1.5 million and a hotelier $1.2 million along with others owed smaller amounts.

Oz is the parent company of Ski Resort Holdings LLC, which bought 14 major ski resorts from CNL Lifestyle Properties in 2017.  Most of them were sold to Boyne Resorts, Vail Resorts and other operators over the past year.  “Oz Real Estate invests in both opportunistic real estate private equity and real estate credit in the U.S. and Europe,” the firm says on its website.  “Founded in 2003, Oz Real Estate has raised approximately $3.8 billion of dedicated real estate capital and completed more than 107 transactions across 19 diverse real estate asset classes.”  Mr. Barnes also named a new Club President, Harper Sibley.

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The Hermitage is currently closed under a court-ordered receivership with FTI Consulting on site maintaining assets.  “The primary goal of the Hermitage Club is to close this restructuring and prepare for a successful 2018/2019 fall and winter season,” Barnes stated in his email.  “The proceeds from the restructuring will provide the means to settle claims and disputes that have arisen due to the lack of cash flow from closed club operations.”  Nonbinding is a key word and the Club made a similar announcement about $26 million in possible funding from an unidentified financial company on April 30th.  It’s unclear whether that deal was to be with Oz or a different outfit altogether.  Berkshire Bank assistant vice president and marketing officer Heidi Higgins told the Reformer the lender is “not in a position to talk about this specific instance due to privacy and legal concerns.”  Nonetheless, the news is a sign Mr. Barnes and his staff continue to work hard toward a resolution four months from ski season.

Weighing the Next 42 Years at Sunshine Village

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This high-speed quad is the only lift on Goat’s Eye Mountain at Sunshine Village, a peak which could eventually be home to four lifts.

I wrote briefly a few weeks ago about Parks Canada’s proposed site guidelines for Sunshine Village, the second largest ski resort in Banff National Park.  Banff Sunshine operates a unique gondola and nine quad chairlifts within a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by spectacular scenery – the only resort to span two Canadian provinces.  This document will govern the public-private partnership between Sunshine Village Corporation and Banff National Park through 2060.  Currently, Sunshine’s capacity is capped at 6,000 skiers, though Sunshine says it only has enough parking for 4,500.  The future could allow for more visitors – but exactly how is up for debate.

Site guidelines Parks Canada proposed last month set a new skiers at one time figure of 8,500 at build-out compared with the 11,500 settled upon at Lake Louise and 3,800 at nearby Mt. Norquay.  Sunshine says it “reluctantly” agreed to the 8,500 number a few years ago even though the resort could theoretically reach 12,900 persons at one time (PAOT).  The new Parks Canada plan includes a gondola reliever lift as well as three new lifts in Lower Meadow Park, Hayes Hill and Goat’s Eye II, areas which currently sit within the Sunshine lease area.

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A gondola or tramway could reach the top of Goat’s Eye Mountain with just one tower.  But Banff National Park does not currently support this idea.

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Instagram Tuesday: Primetime

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

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Look what got delivered! #lovelandskiarea #colorado

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At Walt Disney World, Skyliner Assembly Continues

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Three new lift terminals set to form a gondola hub near Walt Disney World’s Caribbean Beach Resort seen earlier this month.

The big Disney Skyliner story last month came from a Twitter user stuck in traffic within Walt Disney World.  He or she (the account belongs to a golden retriever) happened to get behind a gondola cabin on a trailer which looks to be a CWA Omega IV 10 passenger D-Line model with extra ventilation and reflective windows.  It’s our first real glimpse of what the hundreds of cabins for the Disney Skyliner system might look like.

Before I get into a construction rundown, the video below shows a new Doppelmayr gondola in Turkey that appears to allow carriers to come to complete stops for loading and unloading while the haul rope keeps moving.  In this installation, many of the carriers are buckets carrying ore that must be stopped to fill and dump while others carry workers and go through a standard turnaround.  With double turnarounds at both ends, the setup appears to be similar to the six double loading stations going up at Walt Disney World.

The Epcot International Gateway Skyliner station is progressing with the concrete masts in place and steel beginning to go on top.  The first tower next to the station isn’t up yet but the next one is painted green to blend into its surroundings.

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News Roundup: Gondolas on Gondolas

“Ever since the company went public in 2014 it has taken advantage of its improved access to capital to finance large infrastructure projects that may have led to growth in visitation and revenues, but haven’t resulted in better earnings or cash flows.”

Instagram Tuesday: Scenic World

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

All Systems Go for Mt. Spokane’s Backside Expansion

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Mt. Spokane will debut 279 acres of new terrain and a new lift next winter.  The top bullwheel will spin above this spot in a few short months.

Four American ski resorts will launch major terrain expansions next winter and I got to check out one of them this weekend in Washington State.  New west facing trails at Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park will be serviced by a new Skytrac triple chair topping out at 5,850′.  The nonprofit that runs the resort initially planned to use Bridger Bowl’s retired Alpine lift but wisely axed that plan last winter and solicited bids for a brand new machine.  At this area once owned by Riblet Tramway Company itself, the last new lift was a double chair that opened back in 1977.  Mt. Spokane’s Chair 1 dates even further to 1956, making it the oldest operating chairlift in the country.  With five Riblet doubles still spinning, a modern galvanized triple is sure to stand out along with the new runs.

A growing demand for skiing has led to many new lifts at competing resorts in the Selkirk Mountains during the 14 years it took for Mt. Spokane’s expansion to be approved.  In the nearby Idaho panhandle, Schweitzer Mountain Resort plans to build two new lifts on its backside next summer, Lookout Pass is eyeing another two and so is 49 Degrees North in northeast Washington.  Just across the Canadian border, Spokane favorite Red Mountain hopes to complete the Topping Creek T-Bar this fall.

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SilverStar Christens New Gondola with a Party

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Crystal Mountain, Washington.  Lutsen Mountains, Minnesota.  Belleayre, New York and Ski Apache, New Mexico.  Mountains from north to south, east to west and now in Canada are proving there’s no need to be a mega resort to build a great gondola.  SilverStar Mountain Resort joined the club today with the Schumann Summit Express, manufactured by Doppelmayr Canada, which carried its first riders just after 11:00.

The new flagship lift is named after the late Desmond Schumann, an Australian visionary who came to grow both Big White and SilverStar into two of British Columbia’s top ski resorts.  Daughter Jane Cann now presides over SilverStar and rode in the very first cabin, one painted silver in honor of the resort’s 60th anniversary (Jane’s brother, Peter Schumann, heads up nearby Big White, which is also building a new lift this summer).  Doppelmayr’s Jim Anderson presented the customary Austrian-forged bell and spoke along with other dignitaries.  They noted how far SilverStar has come from a local ski hill with one Poma lift and two rope tows into a significant regional and destination resort.

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A few missing puzzle pieces.

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Cabins in a rainbow of six different colors lift riders from SilverStar’s mid-mountain village to the summit in just 4.4 minutes.  A restaurant will eventually rise where the gondola and two other lifts converge.  The 961′ vertical Summit Express replaces the last of SilverStar’s Mueller lifts, the Summit Double, which faithfully carried riders along a similar route from 1970 until this spring.  The new gondola completes SilverStar’s impressive lift transformation undertaken entirely since Mr. Schumann’s 2001 arrival, when the last of three Lift Engineering quad chairs was replaced.  It is a tale of “build it and they will come.”

Announced 13 months ago, the gondola was uniquely built over two construction seasons.  Concrete foundations and the top drive terminal were installed last fall with construction pausing in November for what turned out to be a very deep winter.  Doppelmayr was back at it as soon as the ski season ended with a tight timeline toward a July 1 opening.  Very late season snow pushed that back a few weeks but no one seemed to care on this perfect July Saturday.  In addition to free gondola rides for the thousands gathered, there was a free community barbecue, dunk tank, bungee trampoline and even a $1,000 cash giveaway.  The celebration proved gondolas are for everybody – from young kids to people with disabilities, the elderly and even pets – to enjoy together.

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