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.
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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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At Arapahoe Basin, The Beavers Get a Lift

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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.

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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.

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One of a Kind Chondola Coming to Grafton, Illinois

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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.

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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.

News Roundup: Working Together

  • It’s not looking good for Mt. Timothy, BC.
  • Two Aspen developers amend their plans to accommodate the new Lift 1 alignment.
  • Horseshoe Resort commits to replacing Chair 6 with a quad in 2019.
  • The Hermitage Club is still trying to ink a reopening deal with members and Oz Real Estate.
  • Powdr breaks ground on Woodward Park City, set to debut with a fixed-grip quad in November 2019.  No word yet on the manufacturer.
  • The Forest Service green lights Aspen Highlands’ Goldenhorn platter project.
  • Peak Resorts posts quarterly results: an $11.8 million net loss on $7 million in revenue as the company worked to build Hunter North and the Carinthia Lodge at Mt. Snow.  SKIS had $10.1 million in cash on hand as of July 31st with $180.6 million in debt.  CEO Tim Boyd says he’s still open to acquiring more mountains.
  • Disney will build and maintain a boat and dock specifically for Skyliner gondola evacuation purposes.
  • Hall double area Navarino Hills, Wisconsin closes for good.
  • With rumors swirling about its future, Black Mountain, NH clarifies it will open this winter.
  • Snow King’s gondola/expansion scoping is extended for the third time to October 4th.
  • A cabin is spotted in one of the Disney World gondola stations.
  • $51 million in new lifts are on track to spin for American Thanksgiving at Whistler Blackcomb.  Thanks Jordan N. for these photos.

Revelstoke Announces Third Chairlift for 2019

With a new President appointed, new RFID ticketing, new snow cats and new terrain this season, Revelstoke Mountain Resort is upping its game.  Canada’s newest mountain playground today revealed even more improvements coming for 2019-20, including new beginner chair and surface lift.  The high elevation beginner zone will sit between The Ripper and Revelation Gondola, its quad chair called Cupcake.  “This lift will provide an ideal training ground for beginner skiers and riders, and also provides direct access to the Ripper, alleviating some of the pressure on the Stoke Chair,” noted Vice President of Operations Peter Nielsen.  The lift will take just over three minutes to ride and move 1,800 skiers per hour.  Leitner-Poma Canada constructed all four of Revelstoke’s current lifts, though no manufacturer was specified for the new one.  The resort has also placed a third order for 22 gondola cabins, bringing the second stage of Revelation to its design capacity of 2,800 guests each hour in 2019.

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The new Cupcake lift may follow alignment 25 on the Revelstoke master plan, though things may have changed somewhat.  Orange lift 14 is The Ripper, built in 2008.

Located on the Trans-Canada “Powder” Highway between Kicking Horse and Sun Peaks, Revelstoke is one of three Ikon Pass destinations in British Columbia.  The new lift will be the first built since Revelstoke ran out of cash in late 2008, less than a year after opening.  By the time Leitner-Poma finished the company’s second batch of lifts, the global financial crisis doomed the Denver-based developer of Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which sold it to Northland Properties.  It took a decade, but many of BC’s interior resorts are back in the green and adding lifts again.  “We are well poised for a second lift and future on-mountain infrastructure development,” says Revelstoke.

The Gondola Era Arrives at Winter Park

Winter Park guests will soon enjoy direct gondola access to Sunspot in place of the Zephyr chairlift.

When holiday crowds catch a Cabriolet to The Village at Winter Park Resort this year, the second lift they’ll see is the resort’s first true gondola.  Capable of hauling 3,600 skiers per hour out of the base area, the new Zephyr lift replaces a 1990 high-speed quad that could do only 2,600 in a perfect hour.  Announced in March, the Leitner-Poma system will be similar to Vail’s Gondola One but with something totally new to the North American market: DirectDrive.

Sigma is fabricating 79 ten passenger Diamond cabins with the fresh Winter Park logo unveiled on Monday.  The $16 million gondola and new brand are just part of a $28.2 million capital drive this year in cooperation with Winter Park’s operator, Alterra Mountain Company.  Amazingly for a resort of WP’s size, this is the first new lift in ten years.  Snowmaking is also seeing mega upgrades and a new heated village plaza will lead seamlessly to the bottom gondola terminal.  The old Zephyr had 20 four passenger cabins used for restaurant access at night but the new version will be fully ADA accessible and operate day and night.

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