Steamboat to Build New, Faster Gondola

At a champagne toast tonight in Gondola Square, Steamboat President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Perlman announced the world’s first 8 passenger monocable gondola will be upgraded in time for the 2019/20 season.  The news comes as a bit of a surprise given last month’s approvals of other lift projects including a second gondola to Bashor Bowl and the Pioneer Ridge Expansion.  The current gondola received major upgrades just last year and phase two will include new cabins, towers, drives, top bullwheel and brakes.  “Everyone knows the gondola is the main lift out of the base area, and having a new, high speed, state of the art transportation system will be a noticeable improvement not only in the winter on Champagne Powder snow mornings, but also during the summer with our popular sunset happy hours,” said Perlman.

IMG_0770
The Silver Bullet opened in 1986 and was upgraded with new terminal equipment, grips and hangers in 2017 after more than 80,000 hours of operation.

The Doppelmayr machine will transport 38 percent more guests per hour with a ride time under 10 minutes.  Capacity will surge from 2,600 per hour to 3,600 with 137 cabins moving at six meters per second, up from five.  “From day one, Alterra Mountain Company has emphasized our commitment to enhancing the guest experience across our family of 14 North American destinations,” noted David Perry, CEO at Alterra.  “We are focused on improving every aspect of a guest’s visit, while preserving each destination’s unique character and traditions.  Steamboat’s new gondola fits seamlessly within our plans. We are excited to invest in infrastructure, and proud of the positive impact it will make on the community, our guests, and the future of Steamboat.”  Construction on the $15 million project is set to begin April 15th.  Alterra has pledged to spend more than $550 million at its resorts over five years and hopefully Steamboat’s gondola is the first of many new lifts for the company in 2019.

Advertisements

News Roundup: Heavy Snow

Instagram Tuesday: Cruising

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

View this post on Instagram

Высшая точка в Мерибель, одной из трех долин les trois vallée. Широчайшие склоны, огромные просторы и возможности, безумный километраж трасс- лучший из лучших регионов катания. За неделю все никак не успеть… Жить лучше в Менюире. Недорого и свой регион катания очень неплох. В Куршевель обязательно заехать, посмотреть на гнутую коротенькую взлетно-посадочную полосу аэпопортика, подъёмник, заезжающий прямо в отель, необычные кафешки и шале олигархов. Кофе лучше пить не здесь. Красиво, но дорого:) . #горы #туризм #troisvallees #meribel #тридолины #snow #alps #alpine #mountains #mountain #mountainlovers #tourism #nature #landscape #beautiful #travel #range #cablecar #naturelovers #scenic #sky #clouds #ski#france #top #skilift #снег #travelblogger

A post shared by Юлия Кузнецова (@anry_74) on

News Roundup: Friday Night

  • Disney unveils a Skyliner cabin and confirms there will be no air conditioning.
  • Could Vail Resorts or Alterra buy Jay Peak?
  • Friday, December 7th is the big day Vail announces first quarter earnings and capital expenditure plans for next year.
  • The Hermitage Club might be loaned $25 to $30 million next week.
  • Doppelmayr/Garaventa worldwide revenues grow 5.7 percent to $965 million for the 2017/18 fiscal year.
  • American Eagle at Copper is beginning to look like a Telemix.
  • My brother Ben Landsman and Tiffany Wilson are Lift Blog Southeast Asian correspondents this week.  Check out their adventure on the world’s longest and fastest gondola earlier today.

New Owner Set to Resume Building Tamarack, Idaho

Winter_Trail_Map-1100x0-c-default

When a group of homeowners banded together to spin lifts at a bankrupt Tamarack Resort in 2010, it was a temporarily measure.  Eight years later, a consortium of investors has finally agreed to take over operations of the 2,100 acre resort and resume development that abruptly ceased in March 2009.  The group, made up of Imperium Companies, MMG Equity Partners and Blue River Family Office Partners, is the same one behind much of the commercial real estate at Blue Mountain, Copper, Mammoth, Snowshoe and Stratton.  It expects to close on the mountain November 30th.

IMG_2507
Only foundations and operator houses remain on the Wildwood site at the north end of Tamarack.

Current Tamarack staff including General Manager Brad Larsen will remain with the resort upon closing.  Industry veteran Jon Reveal will come on board as President of Tamarack Resort Holdings.  “We have been evaluating and working on this agreement for nearly two years to truly understand the history and complexities of the resort,” Reveal said in a news release.  “The partnership strongly believes Tamarack has a tremendous opportunity to thrive as a four-season destination of choice for Idahoans and visitors from across North America.  Our team looks forward to proving our commitment to Tamarack, Valley County residents, Idahoans and all our guests through investment, completion of unfinished projects and improved resort amenities and offerings.”

Jean-Pierre Boespflug led the investment group that opened Tamarack in 2003, building six lifts over two years along with significant real estate offerings.  Mr. Boespflug’s timing was unfortunate and the resort fell behind on payments for a $250 million loan by early 2008.  The lifts closed on March 4th, 2009 and Tamarack did not open again for a year and a half.  The Tamarack Municipal Association reached an agreement to operate four of six lifts in 2010 and bought assets from lenders for pennies on the dollar in 2016.  Amid the mess, Bank of America repossessed the Wildwood Express lift, which ended up at Brian Head, Utah.  Homeowners were able to purchase and retain the Buttercup lift, which was also underwater but of significantly less value than Wildwood.  At one point four other lifts came close to being sold in a sheriff sale.

IMG_2631
Tamarack has two Leitner-Poma high speed quads, two Doppelmayr CTEC fixed grip quads and a Poma platter surface lift today.

Under a lease agreement reached today with the State of Idaho, the new owners commit to either rebuilding or removing the remaining foundations from Wildwood by December 31, 2024 (The Idaho Department of Lands is the landlord in this case rather than the United States Forest Service.)   Imperium Co-Founder Kyle Mowitz says the focus this time will be on the mountain rather than real estate a new Wildwood could come as soon as summer 2019.  Work should also resume next spring on the incomplete Village Plaza and mid-mountain restaurant.  The Osprey Meadows golf course, which was abandoned in 2016 and is partially owned by another party, will take longer to reclaim.

I followed Tamarack’s grand opening with excitement and then watched its downfall with disappointment.  What happened was never about the mountain, which is perfect for a ski resort.  There’s gorgeous Lake Cascade at the base and boundless recreational opportunities in every season.  As a decade went by, I remained hopeful a second chance would come for this remarkable place.  Congratulations to Tamarack employees and homeowners for staying the course through some dark times to get to this new day.

Instagram Tuesday: Welcome to Winter

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

News Roundup: Adding More

Disney Skyliner to Open in Fall 2019

The most expensive gondola system ever built in the United States will debut sometime between September and December next year.  Bob Chapek, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products made the announcement this morning in a keynote address at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo, which Doppelmayr and CWA are attending.  Competitor Leitner-Poma is also there.  “Next fall, Disney Skyliner will not only efficiently move you to your location, it’ll also offer a whole new way to experience Walt Disney World with amazing views only available from the sky,” the resort said in a blog post.  Construction began on the three gondola lines in July of 2017.

Crews are working across the resort to complete the network, which will link two of the most visited theme parks in the world with four major hotels and replace a significant number of Disney Transport bus routes.  A mural was recently added to the gateway station at Epcot and the second angle station now has its Doppelmayr D-Line enclosure.

A second angle station will service the sprawling Riviera Resort, seen below.  Can you spot the lift?  Guests will find themselves just a few minutes from both Hollywood Studios and Epcot by gondola.

In the below photo, you can see the last of more than 50 towers being completed.  Parking rails for hundreds of cabins are also being pieced together at the massive Caribbean Beach hub.

Continue reading

Instagram Tuesday: Filling In

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

How Many Lifts Might Alterra Buy in 2019?

At just 15 months old, Alterra Mountain Company finds itself with over 200 chairlifts, gondolas and tramways in two countries.  The 13 Alterra mountains mirror the broader ski industry with places like Deer Valley and Crystal Mountain sporting many newer lifts while the average chairlift at June Mountain is 45 years old.

On a Monday last March, the fledgling company based in Denver simultaneously unveiled its very first lift investments at Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park along with other improvements like snowmaking at Snowshoe and a new restaurant at the base of Steamboat.  Importantly, Alterra committed to spending $555 million in total capital over five years.  That was before it bought Solitude and Crystal Mountain, which could mean even more money flowing over the next few construction seasons.  While last year’s budget only included three new lifts, could we see more in 2019?

Colorado

With the September approval of major projects by the Forest Service, Steamboat is poised for a comprehensive on-mountain transformation.  Although the timing is fluid, a new Rough Rider learning center at mid-mountain will eventually be serviced by a new gondola from the village.  Here, skiers and snowboarders will be able to choose from three new carpet lifts, a new and improved Bashor lift and a second fixed-grip chair replacing the Rough Rider surface tow.

steamboatroughriderpioneerridge

A second initiative Steamboat could undertake in 2019 is the Pioneer Ridge expansion, which includes a 7,000 foot detachable quad and a dozen new trails.  Other possible upgrades include adding chairs to Pony Express (currently at only 1,200 skiers per hour but designed for 2,400)  or new cabins for the Silver Bullet.  Wouldn’t it be cool for the new gondola and original one to have similar cabins?

The average lift at Alterra-operated Winter Park Resort is 27 years old.  Six are early model detachable quads coming up for replacement.  In the case of 32 year old Pioneer Express, an upgrade is overdue and I expect coming in 2019.  A new version could add a snowboarder friendly mid loading station above the last section of Big Valley.

img_5482
Pioneer is one of only four remaining Poma detachables in North America with separate Alpha drive units.

A second project I hope to see is a second stage of the new gondola from Sunspot to Lunch Rock, truly uniting Winter Park and Mary Jane.  Sunnyside should be a high speed quad or six pack.  A high speed replacement of Challenger would be a nice upgrade at Mary Jane.  Looking Glass is tied for the oldest operating chairlift in Colorado.  After Pioneer, High Lonesome is the next Poma detachable up for replacement if we go solely by age.

The above Intrawest era master plan earmarked Gemini Express to be converted into an eight passenger gondola with a new learning center surrounding its top station.  Endeavor could go detachable as part of this project and/or Discovery made into a fixed grip quad.  Finally, a lift is envisioned to expand Vasquez Ridge Territory with four new intermediate trails. With all of these ideas on the table, I expect Winter Park to get at least one lift in 2019 and hopefully two.

Continue reading