News Roundup: Down to the Wire

  • Beaver Creek renames the Buckaroo Express gondola Haymeadow Express, the name of the double chair which ran in the same alignment from 1980 to 2007.
  • Whether the Hermitage Club closes a $30 million loan to catch up on lift maintenance and operate this winter is still an open question.
  • Arapahoe Basin and Leitner-Poma fly steel for the Beavers project.
  • As of yesterday, Vail Resorts officially operates Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and Crested Butte.
  • Vail reports fiscal 2018 resort EBITDA was $616.6 million, an increase of 3.9 percent over the prior year.  2018-19 season pass sales are up 25 percent in units and 15 percent in dollars as of Sunday.
  • West Mountain adds a million dollar chairlift and looks to build another.
  • A New York-based developer receives one of many approvals for Mayflower Village at Deer Valley, which could eventually mean a slate of new lifts.

MAYFLOWER-visual

  • Doppelmayr is named in connection with an urban gondola eyed for Long Beach, California.
  • Watch a remarkable 3S gondola launch live from Zermatt at 9:15 Eastern tomorrow morning, 6:15 Pacific.
  • The CFO and COO of Peak Resorts open up about their decision to buy Snow Time and note the three new mountains don’t immediately need much capital investment.
  • The longtime owners of Great Divide, Montana plan to sell to another couple next year.
  • Legendary ski resort builder Les Otten remains committed to The Balsams but laments, “time is killing this project.”
  • Mountain Capital Partners releases more details on the Spider Mountain Bike Park project.
  • The damaged Zugspitze cabin is successfully lowered to the valley for disassembly.  The cable car’s operator says damage exceeds $1.2 million and the lift could reopen by year end.
  • Boreal names its new quad California Cruiser.
  • The latest Leitner-Poma six-pack at Hunter Mountain, seen below, will be called Northern Express.
Advertisements

Instagram Tuesday: Celestial

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

Peak Resorts to Buy Three Pennsylvania Mountains

Liberty Mountain, Roundtop Mountain and Whitetail Resort will join Peak Resorts before the end of the year, the companies announced this morning.  Privately-held Snow Time Inc. operates the three southern Pennsylvania properties, which generated approximately $11 million in EBITDA last year with more than 600,000 skier visits.  Peak Resorts (SKIS) is traded on the Nasdaq and currently runs 14 mountain resorts in Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont.  The $76 million cash and stock deal represents a multiple of approximately 6.8 times earnings and is expected to close prior to the beginning of the 2018-19 ski season.  Liberty, Roundtop and Whitetail operate a combined 18 lifts, almost all of them built by Doppelmayr and CTEC.

“The transformative acquisition of Snow Time offers a rare opportunity for Peak Resorts to dramatically grow our company by expanding the number of destinations for our Peak Pass holders in the Northeast while growing our presence in the very attractive and densely populated markets of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.,” said Timothy Boyd, President and Chief Executive Officer of Peak Resorts. “Over the course of more than 50 years, Irvin Naylor and his team have established three exceptionally well cared for mountain resorts across the southern tier of Pennsylvania and we are delighted to welcome these wonderful facilities and the Snow Time team to the Peak Resorts family. Furthermore, we expect the addition of these turn-key resorts to our portfolio ahead of the 2018/2019 ski season will result in immediate financial benefits for Peak Resorts.”  The new, larger Peak will total 17 mountains with 109 aerial lifts upon closing.

News Roundup: Not Cheap

  • Above: lots more Ramcharger 8 parts arrive in Big Sky.
  • Schweitzer weighs alignment options and manufacturers for two new backside lifts scheduled for construction in 2019.
  • The only aerial tramway in Texas closes after nearly six decades.  “Replacement of the Wyler Aerial Tramway is estimated to cost millions of dollars.  Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does not have the financial resources to execute a capital construction project of this size at this time.”
  • Disney gives an Orlando TV station a rare official peak into Skyliner construction.
  • Following last week’s mishap, the operator of the Zugspitze Cable Car orders a new 120 passenger cabin, hanger and carriage.
  • Beaver Creek’s big McCoy Park expansion should be official in November and is planned to open in late 2020.
  • The Lewis & Clark bubble high-speed quad at Big Sky will finally see some action in 2021 when a $400 million Montage hotel opens at its base.
  • Ascutney Outdoors is on track to install a T-Bar this fall, anchoring a scaled down version of what was once a five chairlift area.
  • LST builds a T-Bar atop a waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen for residents to ski on year round.
  • Vail looks to Asia for growth.
  • Michael Doppelmayr is profiled for his 60th birthday.  Some interesting facts: his company’s gross margin was 12.1 percent last year and his father Artur vehemently opposed Doppelmayr’s merger with Garaventa.
  • New York’s high court clears the way for Belleayre to expand into the former Highmount Ski Center.
  • Bretton Woods and Doppelmayr make great progress on New Hampshire’s first 8 passenger gondola.
  • The leaders of North and South Korea ride a pulse gondola during their three day summit.
  • The State of New Hampshire will hold a public meeting about transferring the Mt. Sunapee lease to Vail Resorts on September 26th.
  • As it tries to secure a $30 million loan to open this winter, the Hermitage Club lawsuits keep coming.
  • Two major lifts are getting closer to reality at Copper Mountain.

Lift-Served Bike Park to Open Near Austin

The retired Al’s Run quad from Taos is headed to Texas to anchor the state’s first lift-assisted bike park, Spider Mountain.  Mountain Capital Partners is behind project and will host a preview mountain bike race on September 29th.  Skytrac is installing the lift, which will open sometime next year.  “There is a much larger plan for the property and bikes are just a part of it,” says a poster on Bike Mojo involved in trail building.  Spider Mountain sits just outside Burnet, Texas and has a 350 foot vertical rise with views of Buchanan Lake.

MCP Managing Partner and CEO James Coleman is a University of Texas at Austin alum and Spider Mountain is about an hour away from the fast-growing city.  His company currently operates ski resorts in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.  This project brings the number of new chairlifts and gondolas outside of ski country to eight this year.  From bike parks to theme parks, fairs and urban transport applications, ropeways are proving their usefulness around the country.

Instagram Tuesday: The Pinnacle

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

Loveland Takes the Detach Plunge with Chet’s Dream

IMG_6006

Two of the five biggest American ski areas without detachable lifts will leave the club this year.  They are Loveland and Taos, both coincidentally adding bright blue Leitner-Poma high speed quads to serve as out-of-base workhorses.  Along the Continental Divide at Loveland, the newly-named Chet’s Dream is the third chairlift to follow the Lift 1 line, carrying on the legacy of a Heron double and later a Lift Engineering triple.  Family-owned Loveland ordered this lift early as 1 is usually among the first in the country to open for skiing in October.  “It’s a big deal for both us and our guests,” Marketing & Communications Director John Sellers told me when I visited last week.  “This lift will be in operation for the next few decades and we are excited to offer the increased speed and reliability to our customers for years to come.”  With towers all flown  and the rope going up shortly, the project is right on schedule.

Chester “Chet” Upham, Jr. joined Loveland in the 1950s and was instrumental in building the original Lift One, the third chairlift in Colorado.  He bought out his partners in 1972 and the Upham family continues to own Loveland today.  Chet’s Dream is the work of former Loveland ski patroller Terry Henningson, who submitted the name as part of a contest this spring that received nearly 3,000 entries.  “Chet’s Dream stood out immediately as a way for us to honor a ski industry pioneer and the patriarch of Loveland Ski Area,” said John.  I’m told the most popular entry was Lift 1 followed closely by Lifty McLiftface.

Ride time will fall from eight minutes to three and the number of towers is down by four.  49 quad chairs will circulate on the bottom drive lift.  “Lift 1 was our workhorse and it had served us well for over 30 years. It was time for an upgrade and it was exciting to learn that our owners were considering a high-speed lift for its replacement,”  John told me.  Will it be the only high speed ride at Loveland?  “Lift 6 will be our next upgrade and that will remain a fixed grip.  As for future upgrades and any new potential lifts, we will have to wait and see what happens.”

Say Hello to Wolf Creek’s Charity Lift

IMG_1372

A third detachable quad is poised to please beginners and experts alike this season at Wolf Creek Ski Area.  The Forest Service approved the Meadow lift as part of a 55 acre project in late 2017 and construction commenced in June.  This learning playground will feature almost a dozen new trails through low angle forests near Alberta Lake.  But the lift will also appeal to expert skiers coming from the Knife Ridge Chutes, Horsehoe Bowl and Spooner Hill areas, who won’t need to hike after their powder lines anymore.

meadowlift

The 2,100′ Doppelmayr has eight towers and will deposit riders near tower nine of the much longer Alberta fixed-grip quad.  (that’s right, Wolf Creek’s longest chairlift is still fixed-grip but its second shortest will be high speed.)  There are now three lifts in the Alberta zone, which could be a ski area all itself at 900 acres.

The new 30 chair quad will be named Charity after late Wolf Creek owner Charity Jane Pitcher.  This growing ski area, which sees the most natural snow in Colorado, is up to seven chairlifts and ten lifts overall.  The mountain’s total lift-served vertical will increase slightly with the addition of Charity.

Continue reading

At Arapahoe Basin, The Beavers Get a Lift

IMG_1235
Tower 12 of A Basin’s new Beavers lift will soon be flown to this foundation with a view.

Steep chutes, natural glades, a couple cruiser trails and wide open faces.  When Arapahoe Basin drops the ropes on The Beavers this year, there will be something for everyone.  Just under 350 new acres make it the largest lift-served terrain expansion on the continent for 2018-19, ahead of Mt. Spokane’s backside development and Hunter North.  The Beavers debuted for an earn-your-turns preview last season along with the Steep Gullies, totaling 468 acres of new terrain.  Installation of a Leitner-Poma fixed-grip quad chair, the Basin’s sixth chairlift, was in high gear when I stopped by yesterday.

A-Basin_1819_frontside

Topping out at 12,475′, The Beavers drainage is beyond beautiful and A Basin is taking great care to implement the project with as little disturbance as possible.  The quad drive terminal is the closest you can get by road and dozens of workers are readying the expansion by foot, helicopter and spider excavator.  Arapahoe Basin opted to do the development carefully over two years rather than rushing it in one, and it shows.  The two blue trails were traditionally cut while the rest of the new stuff is either above tree line or was thinned by hand.

Continue reading

One of a Kind Chondola Coming to Grafton, Illinois

graftonskytour
Coming soon: a gondola along the Mississippi River.

Two days before Halloween, Colorado’s Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will close for the longest stretch in years so its pulse gondola can be replaced with a detachable one.  The Iron Mountain Tramway is a 2002 Poma model and I’m happy to report it will find a new home 1,000 miles down I-70.  SkyTrans Manufacturing has purchased most of the machine and will will turn it into a fixed-grip chondola at Aerie’s Resort in Grafton, Illinois.  This town of 675 sees more than 1.5 million cars pass through each year and Aerie’s already operates a winery and zip line on the site.  The lift, to be known as the Grafton Sky Tour, is a joint venture of the resort, SkyTrans, and ride operator SkyFair.  “The goal is to build something that is not only a unique year-round attraction, but also a substantial revenue generator for the city and a boon to the entire Riverbend tourism experience,” the companies said in a press release.  The Sky Tour will be the only combination lift in the Midwest and only the second fixed-grip chondola in North America.

IMG_1032
The Iron Mountain Tramway has just over a month left in its current location.

The gondola will undergo a bunch of changes for its new mission.  Because Leitner-Poma is reusing the 18 towers in Glenwood, SkyTrans will fabricate new ones for Grafton.  The company will also swap the 400 HP DC drive and system with a 100 HP AC one (vertical matters!)  There are 18 CWA Omega cabins currently on the Iron Mountain lift, 12 of which will make it on the chondola in groups of three.  15 triple chairs will fill in between gondola pods for a total of 72 carriers.  A similar Leitner-Poma lift at Anakeesta, Tennessee has a 26 chair-2 cabin cadence and operates at only 200 feet per minute.  A one way Sky Tour will last just over 13 minutes.

Aerie’s owner Jeff Lorton and late SkyTrans leader Jerry Pendleton dreamed up the idea for a lift in Grafton five years ago and it was presented to town leadership last spring.  The $2 million project is anticipated to open around Memorial Day.