Disney Skyliner Build Marches Toward Fall

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Eight is the magic number of gondola terminals now vertical in Florida.  Three haul ropes will soon connect these stations at two iconic theme parks and four distinct resorts to create the Disney Skyliner network.  With innovative loading capabilities and huge capacity, the Skyliner is poised to become a world showcase of gondola technology in 2019.

The gateway of Walt Disney World’s gondola system is being assembled this month at Epcot.  Like most of the Skyliner stations, cabins will likely transit two separate loading zones to accommodate throngs of passengers of all ages.  Each Skyliner building features a different theme and the outside of this one is going to be dark gray.

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News Roundup: Nine Figures

  • wild wind video from South America makes the internet rounds.  Anyone know why are there double and quad chairs on the same lift?
  • A founding partner of the hugely successful Sea to Sky Gondola looks at building a similar lift along the Trans-Canada Highway near Chilliwack, BC.
  • 9News checks in on Winter Park’s major gondola upgrade.
  • Mexicable’s second gondola line could be a $105 million monster: 5.2 miles long with six stations carrying an estimated 35,000 riders each day.
  • I usually write about lifts and not myself but Skytrac recently interviewed me.
  • A BC court will hear the case of a skier injured when a Mueller lift de-roped four years ago. Crystal Mountain never reopened following the incident, which was blamed on multiple factors.
  • A local photographer is posting weekly pictures of Killington’s three simultaneous lift installations.
  • Fatzer releases more details on the US debut of Compacta at Big Sky.
  • The Balsams withdraws its application for a $28 million state loan guarantee, effectively shelving redevelopment for now.
  • LST’s American lift number two looks sharp at Waterville Valley.
  • Another Blackcomb Gondola update courtesy of Rob at WB shows how giant UNI-G XXLs are.

Instagram Tuesday: Going Higher

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

Updated: Ikon Pass Adds Brighton, Solitude, Taos & More

Alterra Mountain Company added both Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts to its flagship season pass today, giving buyers access to five resorts encompassing almost 10,000 acres of the Wasatch.  Brighton is the fifth Boyne Resorts-owned mountain to sign on to Ikon and will give passholders seven unrestricted days.  Ikon Base passholders will get five with blackout dates.  Alterra agreed to acquire Solitude in June and, as expected, access there will be unlimited and unrestricted with full pass.  “The Ikon Pass is expanding, and with the addition of Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Resort, we are excited to offer unparalleled access to Utah, a state known around the world for its snow quality, variety of terrain, and accessibility,” noted Erik Forsell, Alterra’s Chief Marketing Officer in a media release. “We are nearly 70 days away from opening day in North America and are thrilled to jump start the ski and snowboard season by adding more premier Ikon Pass destinations for winter 2018/2019.”

This could be a huge week for what is already the most expansive season pass on the market with varying degrees of access to 413 lifts at 34 mountains and currently priced at $999.  The direct competitor is the Epic Pass by Vail Resorts, which includes skiing at 24 North American destinations with 309 lifts for $899 (the Vail Resorts owned mountains are unlimited and unrestricted while partners Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and Telluride offer seven days each.)  The Mountain Collective Pass ($449 right now) includes two days at many of the same mountains as Ikon and offers access to 194 North American lifts.  Ikon, Epic and MCP all offer additional days in the Alps, Japan, Australia and/or New Zealand.  Another offering is the Powder Alliance, a free benefit for 18 participating resorts’ season passholders to ride a combined 132 lifts across the western US and Canada.

The above Instagram post implies that six more resorts will be added to the Ikon Pass by the end of the week – one tomorrow, four on Wednesday and one more on Thursday.  Obvious candidates are Mountain Collective resorts not yet included on Ikon – Snowbasin, Sun Valley and Taos – and remaining ex-MAX Pass resorts:

  • Alyeska, AK
  • Belleayre, NY
  • Boreal, CA
  • Boyne Mountain, MI
  • Boyne Highlands, MI
  • Buck Hill, MN
  • Crystal Mountain, WA
  • Cypress Mountain, BC
  • Granite Peak, WI
  • Gore Mountain, NY
  • Lee Canyon, NV
  • Lutsen Mountains, MN
  • Mountain Creek, NJ
  • The Summit at Snoqualmie, WA
  • Wachusett, MA
  • Windham Mountain, NY
  • Whiteface, NY

Of those, groupings that could be Wednesday’s announcement are the four outstanding Boyne Resorts or the four New York resorts.  The Pacific Northwest is another emerging battleground in the season pass war with Vail Resorts’ recent purchase of Stevens Pass.  Alterra has so far invited larger destination resorts onto Ikon and the biggest outstanding mountains in order of vertical are Panorama, Whiteface, Sun Valley, Mt. Bachelor, Taos, Crystal Mountain, Red Mountain, Sun Peaks, Mt. Hood Meadows, Smuggler’s Notch, Le Massif, Alyeska and Whitefish.  Stay tuned all week for updates!

Update 8/28: Ikon announced Taos, New Mexico this morning, bringing the pass to 35 mountains with a combined 422 lifts.  Access will be 7 unrestricted days or 5 with blackouts for the Ikon Base pass.

Update 8/29: As expected, today is Boyne day with the addition of Boyne Highlands, Boyne Mountain, Cypress Mountain and The Summit at Snoqualmie.  39 mountains with a combined 466 lifts now participate in Ikon.  That’s approximately one in every five ski lifts in the US and Canada.  In addition, Boyne-owned Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Loon Mountain are now considered separate destinations.  Ikon passholders will get 7 days at each (5 with the Ikon Base pass.)

Update: 8/30: The final addition for the week is Niseko, Japan.  There may be more resorts coming up as the Ikon Facebook page says “Ikon Pass is known for news. Stay tuned.”

News Roundup: Bahn

  • Bretton Woods’ upcoming gondola gets a great name: Presidential Bahn.
  • Copper updates the public on its big new American Eagle and American Flyer lifts.
  • For the third time in six years, Soldier Mountain, Idaho hits the market.  “The current owners have experienced the typical start up challenges that come with operating a ski area that has been under capitalized, under managed and under marketed for many years,” writes Mike Krongel of Mirus Resort Advisors.
  • The BC Supreme Court orders the province to reconsider its 2015 decision to pull  Jumbo Glacier Resort’s construction permit over lack of progress.
  • Mont Cascades scores a $1.2 million grant from the Government of Quebec to help build the resort’s longest chairlift yet.
  • The criminal case of a former employee who may or may not have been stuck on a Gore Mountain chairlift overnight last winter heads to trial.
  • Snow King’s possible gondola gains two new alignment options.  GM Ryan Stanley tells the Jackson Hole community “After struggling for so many years to keep the lifts spinning, it is sad to see the negativity associated with proposed improvements to the mountain.”
  • The 380 acre Cold Springs Canyon expansion and detachable quad are officially a go for next summer at Sun Valley.
  • Doppelmayr nears commissioning of a very cool gondola with spherical cabins, loopy towers and whimsical stations in Moscow.
  • Stratton says goodbye to the SMS Poma, leaving just seven detachable surface lifts in the country by my count.
  • 36 days before opening, go inside the eye-catching Matterhorn 3S gondola by Leitner Ropeways.
  • Thanks to Everett and Will for these shots of Big Sky’s trailblazing Ramcharger 8 project.

 

Catamount to Build Fifth Chairlift

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The Schaefer family bought Catamount Ski Area just three months ago but already has grand plans for their second ski resort.  The co-owners hope to bring the same success to Catamount the group did to Berkshire East, now a year-round destination that saw two new lifts since 2007.  Catamount, which sits partly in Massachusetts and half way in New York, is eighty years old.  Previous owners Tom Gilbert and Rich Edwards became unable to make the capital investments they knew they needed to.  “To remain really competitive in the ski industry there’s many things that need to be done, and we’ve been trying over the years to raise some capital to do these projects,” Gilbert told the Berkshire Eagle in May following the sale announcement. “We realized we were not successful in raising capital and realized we needed to bring something in.”  Berkshire East paid $650,000 for the mountain and retired Catamount’s $1.6 million in outstanding debt.

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This Poma lift could find a third home on the Massachusetts-New York border.  Photo credit: chairlift.org

A new triple chair will soon improve the beginner experience on the Massachusetts side of the mountain.  The lift is likely to be a 1987 Poma Alpha model which began its life in Vermont as Magic Mountain’s Sun Corner lift.  Magic went dark only four years later and the triple flew south to Berkshire East, where it was the Summit lift.  Skytrac replaced it with a quad in 2014 and the Poma has sat awaiting a new home ever since.  Ironically, a used chairlift from Stratton will finally return lift service to Magic’s Sun Corner this fall after 27 years.

Catamount’s new 1,600′ lift will run up up the Esplanade trail.  I suspect this will be a 2019 project but there’s a chance it could happen sooner.  The triple will complement four existing lifts, which are two SLI doubles, a Thiokol triple from Solitude, Utah and a Garaventa CTEC quad relocated from Belleayre, New York.  Catamount also plans to add a brand new 7,600 square foot lodge.

Instagram Tuesday: Dreamy

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

Lee Canyon Inches Closer to New Lifts

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Well over two million people in the Las Vegas region have just one ski resort within day trip reach, a unique situation among western US metros.  The mountain is Lee Canyon, which operates three fixed-grip chairlifts on 785 acres flanking Charleston Peak.  On Wednesday, the Forest Service published a 219 page Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a major expansion and upgrade plan developed by longtime owner Powdr Co.  Two alternatives would each add a pair of fixed grip quads and two new carpets lifts while a no action option would see the resort remain within the operating footprint it has since 1967.

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The first alternative would see two new trail pods, expanded snowmaking and a few new buildings.

Goals of the expansion are to update and renovate ski area infrastructure, balance lift and trail capacity, meet growing demand from Las Vegas and the surrounding area and expand year-round recreational opportunities.  The proposed Chair 5 pod would become the next step up from the Rabbit Peak bunny hill, providing beginners and low intermediate skiers the opportunity to transition to a chairlift and ski a variety of longer green runs. Chair 5 would be an 1,800 person-per-hour fixed-grip quad chairlift with a loading conveyor. The lift would be 1,400 feet long, with a vertical rise of 310 feet. It would be a top drive lift with approximately 7 towers.  In order to access the Chair 5 bottom terminal, a new 500 foot conveyor, Lift 6, would be installed from near the bottom terminal of Chair 3 to near the bottom terminal of Chair 5.

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The second alternative would truncate Lift 8 and associated trails to avoid crossing the popular Bristlecone Trail.  Chair 5 would still be included but is not shown on this map as it would be the same as in alternative 1.

Similar to the existing Chair 2, Chair 8 would be a step up in difficulty from Chair 5, accessing mostly intermediate runs with some easier and some more difficult terrain within that category. It would be a fixed-grip quad chairlift with a capacity of 1,800 pph, 2,200 feet long, with a vertical rise of 650 feet. It would be a bottom drive lift with approximately 16 towers.  With alternative 2, the lift would be shortened to load higher up.  Other proposed improvements in both alternatives are new biking and hiking trails, a new skier services building, another parking lot, expanded snowmaking, a zip tour and mountain coaster.

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News Roundup: Color Choices

  • Some Alta land is withdrawn from a proposed land swap, maintaining the possibility of future expansion in Grizzly Gulch.
  • Killington goes blue with its bubbles.
  • Vail Resorts officially takes over Stevens Pass.
  • Massachusetts awards the current operators of Blue Hills a new three year contract.
  • Fatzer begins production of the first Compacta rope for the US lift market.  At 54 mm, any guesses where it’s headed?

Avalanche Damaged New Zealand Lift is Down for the Season

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In the end, the haul rope sealed the deal.  Turoa, one of the two ski resorts on Mt. Ruapehu, announced today that its summit lift will not reopen this season following damage from a large avalanche last week.  The top terminal of the High Noon Express is located inside a building and was spared, however snow caused the tube of tower 15 to give way.  Communication from the resort, particularly chief executive Ross Copland, has been stellar from beginning to end.  Here’s a recap.

Mr. Copland posted a Facebook update from the site within hours and an entertaining selfie video soon after.  “It’s a pretty sorry state as you can see behind me.  Tower 15 has taken the brunt of a massive snow loading.  The shape of the building for the return of the High Noon Express has actually protected it really nicely.  The snow has come down right over the roof and basically launched right into the top tower.”  He exclaimed at the end “It’s not the first time we’ve had to replace a tower on the High Noon Express!”

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