With four recent additions, Vail Resorts Inc. now operates just over 10 percent of American and Canadian lifts, more than any other company. Vail prides itself on investing heavily in its mountains and the average lift at an Epic resort is three years newer than the rest of the industry. The company’s lifts now number 305 in the United States, Canada and Australia with an average age of 24.6 years. If we assume the average lift lasts 35 years, Vail would now need to replace an average of about nine lifts per year just to turn over its fleet.
A little less than a year ago, a smaller VR unveiled plans for seven new lifts as part of a $150 million annual capital plan, the largest in the company’s history. Back in 2016, Vail committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (VR later added a fourth detachable to that year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.) In December 2015, the Broomfield-based company announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, it was $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six pack at Vail. Over the last five years, more resorts have consistently led to more revenue and more capital investments. The company said it will invest $35 million at the four new mountains in the next two years, making it possible this December’s announcement will be the most valuable ever.
Going resort by resort, the most obvious projects are ones already in the pipeline, namely the Game Creek Express #7 replacement and Golden Peak race lift at Vail. But VR could go bigger like it did this summer at Whistler Blackcomb, spending $52 million to package four lift replacements together. On Vail Mountain, additional aging lifts likely to be up-gauged to six-packs eventually are Orient Express #21, Born Free Express #8 and Wildwood Express #3. The mothership mountain has the third largest and third newest lift fleet in the company and I expect investment to continue at Vail following this year’s pause.
On average, the newest lifts within Vail Resorts are at Beaver Creek, which opened decades later than its peers. A major expansion was approved in September – McCoy Park – which may be implemented in 2020. In advance of those two new lifts, the Strawberry Park Express could be updated in 2019 to a higher capacity gondola. The oldest lift at Beaver Creek is the 1988 Arrow Bahn Express, which eventually will be replaced by a newer detachable. Probably not this year though.
Sticking in Colorado, Breckenridge is usually the first or second most visited resort in America and did not see a new lift in 2018. I say a Riblet gets replaced here in 2019 and my vote would be 6-Chair with a high speed quad. My second guess would be C-Chair followed by 5, A, E and Rip’s Ride. If Vail decides to continue replacing older high speed quads instead, Beaver Run SuperChair is the logical candidate.
Keystone has both expansion possibilities and lifts that could be upgraded. The project everyone’s been clamoring for is a detachable lift from The Outback to replace Wayback. Peru Express is the oldest high speed lift at Keystone and a core workhorse, making it likely to be replaced with a six pack soon. Outback Express is one year newer and in a similar situation. Another possible replacement is Argentine, a 1977 Lift Engineering double that the 2009 Keystone Master Development Plan proposed replacing with a two stage detachable. The new lift would load near Peru, have an angle station above Lower Schoolmarm and continue all the way to the ridge of Dercum Mountain. The Keystone MDP also outlines major expansions that I expect we will hear more about over the next decade. They include a Ski Tip gondola, Bergman Bowl lift, Independence Bowl lift, Windows lift and Outback surface lift. Whatever Vail chooses, I am hopeful for a new lift or two at Keystone in 2019.
Crested Butte is the new kid on the block and Vail may wait a year or more to do anything lift wise. The mountain’s Teocalli II expansion is still moving through the Forest Service NEPA process. The Mueller family invested heavily in the Triple Peaks resorts over the years and I don’t see a whole lot needed near-term at CBMR. Replacing original Teocalli with a high speed quad would be a nice way to burn some of the promised $35 million.
The second largest resort in the Vail portfolio now includes 37 lifts. Park City is likely to replace the Sunrise double in the next two years as hundreds of thousands of square feet of new development opens in Canyons Village. I reached out to the developer of the Lift Park City project this summer and was told, “unfortunately, since the chairlift is part of Vail and we are not in charge of the new chairlift, we don’t know what their timeline is. We hope that the chairlift will be done around the same time or shortly there after, but we have no guarantees as it is out of our control.” The development includes 61 $2-4 million residences directly adjacent to Sunrise. I expect a new Sunrise detachable to unload somewhere in the vicinity of Tombstone and create a third portal from Canyons Village.
Lots of Epic passholders would like to see Dreamcatcher go detachable due to its length and location near the popular Quicksilver Gondola. There is also some high elevation private land above Flat Iron which is earmarked for expansion. On the historic Park City side, Town and Pioneer are two more slow lifts which could go fast.
Kirkwood has seen zero new lift love from Vail Resorts but that could soon change. A testament to solid engineering, Yans are still the most common lifts at Kirkwood. The next lift here could be a Sunrise Express because of the current lift‘s popularity and 13 minute ride time. If Sunrise is replaced, the 1998 CTEC could be used to replace an older fixed grip elsewhere.
Northstar is perhaps least likely to see a new lift, having the youngest fleet aside from Beaver Creek. If Vail had to replace a lift here, my guess would be a six pack upgrade to the 1989 vintage Comstock Express.
Although it got one this year, Heavenly definitely could use another new lift or three. Boulder and North Bowl are old, slow and could be replaced with a single high speed quad. One problem is it might need an expensive mid-station. Higher on the Nevada side, Comet Express is one of the oldest detachable quads left at Vail Resorts and could use the capacity of a six place lift. In California, I would love to see a lift new added between Powderbowl and the top of the Gondola for when Sky Express goes down. At the California Lodge, it will be interesting to see if the company does anything with World Cup (a 1969 SLI) and the aging VonRoll aerial tram.
With CAD$66 million worth of shiny new lifts, some will argue Whistler Blackcomb won’t see any new machines next year. But Whistler Blackcomb is Whistler Blackcomb and in my mind has the most growth potential in all of Vail Resorts. On the replacement front, Blackcomb will continue to be a focus with the 7th Heaven, Glacier and Jersey Creme Express lifts all dating from 1987 to 1992. I think at least one of these will become a six pack next year. Vail seems to have abandoned the Magic chondola idea at the Blackcomb base but you never know.
Whistler Mountain is more complex with tons of choices for Pete Sonntag’s team to consider. With this year’s upgrade of the Emerald zone, the Big Red side seems like a logical next focus. Big Red Express could easily be made into a six pack like Emerald. I would rather see a second high speed quad replace Franz’s and the T-Bars to form a nice pod near the Peak Express. My second choice for a new lift on Whistler would be in Symphony Amphitheatre, where the pre-Vail master plan envisioned a total of four lifts. A myriad of possible moves on the western edge of Whistler Mountain include an Orange Gondola, Bagel Bowl high speed quad, Peak to Creek lift, Big Timber gondola and more.
With the Vail Resorts corporate website launching last month and EpicMix about to go live, Stowe is now fully integrated into its parent company. The previous owner, insurance giant AIG, bought a lot of lifts so there is not a whole lot that Vail needs to do right away. The exception is the Mansfield Lodge portal, where skiers sometimes must choose between waiting in a long line for FourRunner or riding Lookout, a 40 year old machine with a 12 minute ride. The newer Mountain triple is getting a new haul rope as we speak so I think it will stick around awhile. That leaves Vail with two options: replace a seven year old high speed quad with the six pack it should have been or simply add a second detachable to replace Lookout.
Okemo is among the recent Epic additions and is in awesome shape lift wise. Vail may do something about the dueling fixed-grip quads in the Clocktower base area. I don’t mind them and neither did the Muellers but Vail might prefer a detachable. The Black Ridge and Green Ridge triples will probably also be on Vail’s hit list eventually. The South Face Village at Okemo developer could add the proposed second quad chair near the Sunshine lift in 2019.
Vail acquired Mt. Sunapee’s lease in the middle of a three phase lift upgrade. Phase one was the replacement of the Sunbowl quad with a detachable one in 2014. Triple Peaks planned to use that lift to replace the North Peak triple, which was supposed to become a new lift out of Sunbowl. Whistler Blackcomb taught us Vail is not afraid to throw a plan out the window so we will have to wait and see what’s in store for Sunapee.
Vail Resorts operates 30 chairlifts at its three urban ski areas in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The High Meadow quad removed from Park City could find its way to one of them. Mt. Brighton and Wilmot Mountain saw major lift investments upon acquisition in 2013 and 2016, respectively. Wilmot still has four fixed grips that date back to the 1960s and 1970s. Mt. Brighton’s two oldest lifts are newer and probably won’t be replaced for awhile. The elephant in the Midwest room is Afton Alps, where the average lift is 45 years old. Like the Yans at Kirkwood, Afton’s 18 Hall chairlifts indicate solid 1960s and ’70s engineering that Vail so far has felt no need to retire. If the company does decide to build something new here, it has 18 chairlifts to choose from.
New addition Stevens Pass operates a bunch of outdated lifts. While Vail may wait to make upgrades, an easy investment would be to replace either Hogsback Express or Skyline Express with a much-needed six place lift. Stevens Pass has more Riblets than anything and Vail won’t like their lack of restraint bars. Brooks would be a good choice go detachable as an alternative to upgrading Skyline. Stevens also has proposed expanding east and west into the Grace Lake and Northern Exposure areas.
Perisher is replacing the Leichhardt T-Bar with a Doppelmayr quad chair as we speak. This sprawling resort in Australia’s Snowy Mountains has the most lifts in the company – 38 – and really could use a new machine just about every year. It also is home to Vail Resorts’ only eight passenger chairlift and I have to wonder how long that will stay true.
Where do all these possibilities leave us? With four new resorts, a solid economy and favorable tax changes domestically, I am hopeful Vail Resorts will announce even more lifts than last year come early December. The tax law alone is estimated to benefit Vail to the tune of $32 to 40 million in fiscal 2019. Seven to ten lifts seems likely but 11, 12 or even more is possible. Last year, contracts for all seven went to Doppelmayr but I don’t think that will happen again. Vail didn’t build any lifts on Leitner-Poma’s home turf of Colorado last year and the firm now owns more historically Poma mountains. As consolidation of the ski business continues, I think we’ll see Vail contract with both major lift makers most years. We’ll know a lot more about 2019 in a few short weeks.
Comment sent to me from Josh via email:
Stowe has infrastructure issues beyond liftlines. Access is on a dead end, and weekend traffic and parking is horrendous. As Vail aquired Stowe, many wondered if funds would go to the Toll House area to create additional parking and increase traffic on significantly underused terrain.
One option for Stowe would be to replace FourRunner with a bubble six (it gets windy at the top, and maybe Oakley could sponsor Prizm Rose bubble, kidding). Then move the newer quad to Toll House. It increases beginner and intermediate access and creates a better parking setup for day guest.
For Okemo A and B Quads seem fine I agree. But Okemo was expanding into loft served biking with those lifts. A HSQ would provide a splash for summer operations.
Black and Green is the area ripe for upgrade. Lapping Sunburst requires a long run out through the beginner areas of A and B Quad, which get chewed up even on midweeks. It could create a more balanced pod and traffic pattern between sunburst and Solitude.
Sunapee is where you seem to have left off the biggest item. Muellers planned a West Bowl expansion. Frontside Sunapee Express becomes a six pack, and the old quad gets refurbished and moved into a whole new zone of massive expansion.
I’ve often thought that Stowe’s Toll House could use a detachable, to make that terrain more useful, as currently it’s a horrendously slow, long, double chair. I remember seeing detachable double chair lifts in Europe (years ago), and that would probably do (from a skier volume perspective) – but I doubt that they would put in anything less than a quad. Conveyor loading fixed grip wouldn’t speed it up enough to be worth it.
I have mixed feelings about a six pack to the top of Sunapee – it could use it, no doubt, to shorten the line, but the initial ski options off the summit chair are limited, making the top of the mountain like bumper cars on a busy day as it is. The new Cataract chair may help a little bit, as you will no longer need to go back up to the summit to get to the base area from the Sunbowl. They really need the West Bowl expansion in order to spread the crowd out a bit more.
For Sunapee in my opinion I’m thinking in the immediate future they’ll probably go ahead with the North Peak switch over to the old Sun Bowl Quad. Though knowing that they don’t really like old lifts that could also be turned into something new. I think a detachable would be overkill for that spot as the trails are already pretty much at capacity on North Peak. A fixed grip would do much better to spread the crowds and the current 7 minute ride isn’t bad. Also with the advent of adding the Cataract Triple from the bottom of the Sun Bowl to the top of North Peak, you’re already adding more people to that terrain.
West Bowl will most likely happen, but it’s going to continue to be a long and drawn out process. It’s already taken a good 10 years to get where we are with the current round of approvals, but the state and the local community are very sensitive to how this development will end up playing out. Vail may have deep pockets, but patience is what’s going to make this expansion happen as the state is in no hurry to rush approvals for big projects in state parks. I hope I get proven wrong on this though!
As for some possible surprises….I’m wondering if the Spruce triple will get replaced. That thing is well over 30 years old and was a franken-lift to begin with. Also one thing to note, the Duckling Double is no longer on the map or snow report….
Yan and Solid Engineering in the same sentence? Peter…
The fixed grip lifts were well built for decades. That’s why 192 of them still operate.
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The Yan fixed-grips are solid workhorses. Well…except the bullwheel problem on the Teller triple at Keystone.
Excellent overview and descriptive stats on VR’s operational extent across two continents.
As long as Chair 6 at Breckinridge remains viable, I hope they don’t upgrade. The lift seems to repel long line formation and I’m fond of the terrain served by the old Riblet.
Regarding Vail: I’m actually surprised that Game Creek 7 hasn’t been replaced yet. Cheers for when it receives an upgrade.
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I fee like vail will invest in a least one 8 pack
I hope Vail does not delay in making improvements to Stevens Pass here in the PNW. Unfortunately, the real issue with Stevens is parking. On a pow day you need to be up there very early to get a spot. So their priority really needs to be the northern exposure expansion to the second parking lot area plus a parking structure or expanded parking. I live in Bellevue and started driving 30 minutes further to Crystal because I could leave later and be pretty much guaranteed to get parking. With Ikon now at Crystal this seems like it makes business sense for Vail too because they will lose season ticket purchases to their chief competitor. The other upgrades would be great but are just window dressing.
The real issue with the parking at Stevens is there isn’t a whole lot of room for them up there. That’s part of the issue with their capacity, they really don’t have much space to work with. I talked to one of the higher ups at Stevens at one point, and they said they were reluctant to replace many of their lifts, specifically Hogsback and Skyline because it fills up at the top really fast, particularly on Hogsback, the lift feeds skiers to the top faster than they get off, and with the limited space at the top, that’s a big issue. Stevens is in need of some capacity upgrades, but it’s debatable as to how possible that really is, given the size of their mountain.
They could really use something like a parking garage, and/or far, far, far better and more frequent shuttle services from Everett, Seattle, and Bellevue.
I think a good upgrade for Breckenridge would be to upgrade the T-Bar to a triple chair and a high speed quad on 6 chair. A lot of people hate the T-Bar at Breck so it may be a good upgrade.
Regarding the T-Bar, I have always thought it would be interesting to move the base of Rocky Mountain Express uphill to approximately where Duke’s and Northstar come together and then extending it to the top of the T-Bar. Alternative approach would be to leave the base where it is, add a mid-unload and current top and extend to T-Bar top.
Regarding the T-Bar removal and extending the Rocky Mountain Express- That is one of the best ideas I have ever heard. I think that would be great. I do think they would need to have large chair spacing so there is not too much capacity in the bowl(s). Also they could add some bubbles for some weight for wind resistance.
The Alternative Approach- The idea is great. The only problem is that the T-Bar would have to go up double black runs. Maybe a double chair?
No, I think he means remove the T-Bar, Extend Rocky Mountain to the top of T-bar, and Put a mid unload at the former top of Rocky Mountain.
Moving the base of the Rocky Mountain SuperChair uphill would be a horrible idea, because the lift was built as an access lift to service the North Peak 8 trails, as well as access Peaks 7 and 6 without needing to do the entirety of the Columbine catwalk.
I think that the main consideration for the T-Bar would probably be wind.
Having ridden that T-bar many a time, I can’t imagine a chair doing that line and not running into consistent wind holds. The reason imperial works out so well is because it has that protected right side and sits directly in the bowl. Also the T-Bar helps to serve as a natural ability test and those that shouldn’t be up there, usually aren’t.
At Stowe, I would upgrade FourRunner to a six, and move the current lift to where lookout double is. Reuse the tower tubes from current fourrunner, just put new crossarms. New lookout quad would get new towers and crossarms but reuse the terminals from fourrunner.
Pure speculation but my guess is that Game Creek at Vail, and 7th Heaven at Blackcomb are virtual locks for six pack upgrades.
I thought game creek was already confirmed to be a six pack.
The project was approved on June 4, 2018 and the timeline for implementation is up to Vail.
Maybe this is purely coincidental, but at my Whistler Trips 7th Heaven broke down and closed for wind a lot. I would imagine that such a high maintenance lift is most definitely on Vail’s radar, especially when you combine that with the lines the lift typically has.
Ideally, a Breckenridge Chair 6 replacement would extend further down the fall line to the bottom of the canyon (somewhere not too far from the E chair base) – the terrain both just above and below the current base of the chair is some of the most fun on the mountain and could be better utilized by a lift running the entire length of the fall line. This would have the additional benefit of allowing direct access to Chair 6 from Peak 9 without taking the Peak 8 SuperConnect.
On Peak 9, I consider the Beaver Run, Mercury, and C chairs to all be pretty redundant. Replacing Beaver Run with an 8-place chair like that going in at Big Sky could bring a lot of visibility to a huge new lift upgrade at a highly trafficked resort and could allow for removal of the other redundant chairs in the future.
I don’t think they’d take out Mercury as it allows people to stay higher on the mountain and avoid the base. Replacing Beaver Run with a 6 or 8 and removing Lift C could be an option. Since Lift C provides the easiest access to Peak 9 if coming from Peak 8, a solution to make up for the loss of it could be to replace Rip’s Ride with a high speed quad, have an angle mid station where it ends now and extend it to the top of where Lift C ends and call it the Peak 9 Superconnect. Totally agree that replacing Lift 6 with a high speed quad and extending it to the bottom of Lift E would be great. Combined with Imperial, that’s over 2000 vertical of straight fall line skiing. I don’t think replacing the T-bar with a fixed grip is a good idea as it would increase the ride time.
In fact, the Mercury SuperChair actually accesses some trails that the Beaver Run SuperChair doesn’t access, like Upper Lehman and Sizzler, and some of the Peak 9 chutes on the north face. In turn, the Beaver Run SuperChair does have some terrain that can’t be lapped from the Mercury SuperChair like the lower parts of Columbia, Sundown, and the Bonanza Terrain Park. And I don’t think Breck is desperate for additional uphill capacity on Peak 9, since the Mercury and Beaver Run SuperChairs combined carry about 5,600 pph, and Lifts C and E have about 1,200-1,800 pph each when they run .
As for Lift C, one of Breckenridge’s master plans called for that to be upgraded to a high speed quad. If that upgrade happened, then there’d be no need for a Beaver Run SuperChair upgrade. (I do wonder how the resort would handle the replacement’s crossing the Peak 8 SuperConnect, whether it would go under the SuperConnect, or we’d have a situation like Blackcomb’s handling of their new gondola, where they modified Excalibur to go under the Blackcomb Gondola where it used to cross over Wizard Express)
Lift 6 being upgraded to a high speed quad, I’d like that. If aligned to start at the Peak 8 SuperConnect’s midway load, I agree with the point that that could make for a route from Peak 9 to Peak 8 that bypasses the Vista Haus (starting it at the SuperConnect midway load makes more sense than bottom of Lift E, so that one doesn’t have to use the double black chutes to reach it).
replacing mercury, beaver run and c chair one lift would fix a capacity issue, but would also create a huge flow of skier traffic into the beaver run base because people would all be joining at the same place to ski peak 8. A replacement of beaver run should be a high speed six, and then mercury should be removed, and c chair should either be replaced with a new lift, or with the old mercury lift.
E chair is another lift which doesn’t see a ton of use, but a high speed or high capacity fixed grip upgrade would make getting to peak 9 way better. On busy days, the line on E chair can get long, and it is a huge pain to ski the sawmill catwalk all the way to the base of peak 9.
Something also needs to be done about the quicksilver lift. Even though the lift is relatively new, and a high speed six, the lift is run at a slower speed than designed, and the lift frequently stops. Not sure why it does, but because of the slow speed and stops, the lines can get really long in the morning, and peak 9 is a good place to start the day if you want to avoid lines on the gondola.
Another way breck could move more people on to the mountain is the snowflake base. The current double does a fine job at getting people up the hill, but a reconfigured snowflake base area with more room and a larger bus stop, as well as a new lift would be another way to keep lines at the gondola down. Breck would just have to advertise the new base area more, and of course there is the issue of the turn on the snowflake lift
Over on peak 8, rocky mountain could use a capacity upgrade, especially when its busy and the gondola dumps everyone onto the Colorado super chair. Another lift that could use a replacement is 5 chair. Although 5 chair doesn’t get super busy, the Colorado super chair does get busy and when you need to get back to peak 9 you either wait forever or take 5 chair. It work as a better way to get you to the catwalk which brings you to peak 9, and it would keep first timers off the Colorado super chair.
On peak 7/6, The independence chair line is always long. another chair out of the base would be
a lifesaver, but the alignment would start in the same area, but would end over in the middle/end of wanderlust. This would also make it easier to get to peak 6 without having to wait in the super long line on independence. It would also make the zendo chair, which is brecks biggest mistake, no longer needed. it could be moved to replace e chair or rips ride. Another option is remove the zendo chair, and replace it with a high speed lift that runs all the way to the base of peak 7, so the traffic for skiing peak 7 or going to peak 6 would separate.
One last thing on snowflake, I know this idea is super unrealistic, but replacing snowflake with a gondola and running it all the way down to the parking lot at the bottom of four o clock road would make it a second breck connect gondola, and could be a huge help to getting people on the mountain.
A lot of your ideas seem to basically cut out midmountain lifts in favor of funneling people into the base areas, which would just worsen congestion and make navigating the mountain more of a burden at peak times. I say that as someone who’s skied Breckenridge a lot.
“replacing mercury, beaver run and c chair one lift would fix a capacity issue, but would also create a huge flow of skier traffic into the beaver run base because people would all be joining at the same place to ski peak 8. A replacement of beaver run should be a high speed six, and then mercury should be removed, and c chair should either be replaced with a new lift, or with the old mercury lift.”
Combined, the Mercury SuperChair and Beaver Run SuperChair carry 5,600 pph. That’s when running at 1,000 fpm each. The Mercury SuperChair is not redundant. I use it to lap the upper Peak 9 trails without going down to the base area.
And as for Lift C, there was a master plan back before the Colorado SuperChair was upgraded that called for a high speed quad to replace Lift C. Lift C currently functions as a weekend and holiday backup for the Beaver Run SuperChair, and when it runs, it also makes it possible for intermediate and above skiers to skip the flat portion of the Sawmill Catwalk.
“E chair is another lift which doesn’t see a ton of use, but a high speed or high capacity fixed grip upgrade would make getting to peak 9 way better. On busy days, the line on E chair can get long, and it is a huge pain to ski the sawmill catwalk all the way to the base of peak 9.”
Lift E is only a five minute ride.
“Something also needs to be done about the quicksilver lift. Even though the lift is relatively new, and a high speed six, the lift is run at a slower speed than designed, and the lift frequently stops. Not sure why it does, but because of the slow speed and stops, the lines can get really long in the morning, and peak 9 is a good place to start the day if you want to avoid lines on the gondola.”
The problem is that Quicksilver Super6 is a beginner lift. Meaning, beginners who aren’t as experienced with loading/unloading chairlifts. That’s coupled with the complications of being a double-loading lift. I’m sure a lot of problems might be mitigated if they cut off the second loading area and then turn the first loading area into an inline loading area, like the other four high speed six packs. But as North America’s only double loading lift, I don’t Breck will want to do that any time soon.
“Another way breck could move more people on to the mountain is the snowflake base. The current double does a fine job at getting people up the hill, but a reconfigured snowflake base area with more room and a larger bus stop, as well as a new lift would be another way to keep lines at the gondola down. Breck would just have to advertise the new base area more, and of course there is the issue of the turn on the snowflake lift”
Snowflake was mostly built for real estate access (with the midway load functioning as an alternate way to Peak 8 if the Peak 8 SuperConnect breaks down).
“Over on peak 8, rocky mountain could use a capacity upgrade, especially when its busy and the gondola dumps everyone onto the Colorado super chair.”
The problem with upgrading the Rocky Mountain SuperChair is that its unload area doesn’t really make increased capacity worth it. When you get off the lift, you’re immediately faced with this kinda steep hill to get down to Columbine. This hill can easily turn into moguls/ice as the day progresses because of the snow being scraped off. That problem would be exacerbated if the Rocky Mountain SuperChair got more capacity.
And the Rocky Mountain SuperChair serves different terrain from the Colorado SuperChair. You only use the Rocky Mountain SuperChair if you’re lapping Duke’s Run, Northstar and Claimjumper, or are headed to the T-Bar, Peak 7 or Peak 6.
“Another lift that could use a replacement is 5 chair. Although 5 chair doesn’t get super busy, the Colorado super chair does get busy and when you need to get back to peak 9 you either wait forever or take 5 chair. It work as a better way to get you to the catwalk which brings you to peak 9, and it would keep first timers off the Colorado super chair.”
The only complication to upgrading Lift 5 is that it has a midline turn, and any replacement would still have to be able to access the Alpine Slide via a midstation.
“On peak 7/6, The independence chair line is always long. another chair out of the base would be
a lifesaver, but the alignment would start in the same area, but would end over in the middle/end of wanderlust. This would also make it easier to get to peak 6 without having to wait in the super long line on independence. It would also make the zendo chair, which is brecks biggest mistake, no longer needed.”
First off, the lifts are configured the way they are for Peak 6 because there’s a parcel of privately owned land in that area off Monte Cristo that the resort had to work around when they were mapping where they’d put the lifts. Even if your hypothetical replacement lift went in, Zendo would still be necessary, because combined with the Peak 6 Parkway trail, it was built so you can access it directly from the Rocky Mountain SuperChair without having to go through the Peak 7 base area.
In fact, that’s the big thing. Your idea would essentially funnel MORE traffic into Peak 7 base area and make it more crowded, by making it so traffic going to Peak 6 has to go through Peak 7 base area. Having Zendo start where it does ensures that the Peak 8 to Peak 6 traffic avoids Peak 7 base. On top of that, there’s no room to put in another lift at Peak 7 base. You have the Grand Lodge swimming pools on the north side of the Independence SuperChair, and Crystal Peak Lodge and the Gondola terminal on the south side. You’d have to realign the Independence SuperChair just to get enough room for another lift.
Having Zendo start where it is, and be the sole way onto Peak 6, regulates the flow of traffic onto Peak 6 as well, to cut down on crowding at the Kensho SuperChair. I mean, I only use Zendo whenever I’m going to the Kensho SuperChair for the record.
“One last thing on snowflake, I know this idea is super unrealistic, but replacing snowflake with a gondola and running it all the way down to the parking lot at the bottom of four o clock road would make it a second breck connect gondola, and could be a huge help to getting people on the mountain.”
Too much real estate in the way.
Does Alterra have an announcement date like Vail as to what lifts they will be upgrading?
It was March 12th last year. I will be sharing my 2019 Alterra thoughts in a future post.
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Real curious to see what they do with Crystal. I can’t think of a lot of lifts that are in need of replacement other than Rainier Express, which is getting pretty old, which leads me to believe that we might see some expansion soon.
If I were in vails position, I would do the following to their eastern resorts:
– 8 Passenger Chairlift or Tandem detachable quad lift to replace the A & B Quads
– Installing the second quad at sunshine village
– Black Ridge fixed grip quad
– Beginner triple at jackson gore (either a new LP or relocated black ridge triple)
– South Face Express Bubble upgrade
– North Peak Quad (using relocated sunbowl quad)
– Cataract Triple (using relocated north peak triple)
– Replace Sunapee Express with a 6 person gondola
– Clipper ship fixed grip 6 pack
– West Bowl Express Quad
– Spruce Quad
– Toll House detachable quad
– Toll House base area beginner double (named town house and would reuse the existing tollhouse double)
Would the new Clipper Ship be NA’s first fixed six?
There is only one – for good reason – at Snow Valley, Ontario.
By the way Peter, what is the “good reason” for there being only one fixed grip 6 pack in NA?
If I had to guess, the “good reason” these don’t exist is probably because loading is inefficient and these type of machines are very rare so replacement parts would be hard to come by. I didn’t even know they existed until earlier today
Fixed 6 packs, as Hans mentioned are pretty inefficient loading wise and because of this, they do have to go a lot slower, which is pretty impractical. I would imagine that with 6 people getting off a fixed 6 pack would be pretty terrifying too. If a fixed 6 is really necessary for capacity sake, you’re better off just getting a detach quad. Honestly, I don’t see why there’s a good reason for having a fixed 6 in the first place.
It’s a slow and unreliable lift. Snow Valley is generally small enough to not encounter capacity problems, so a 6-person fixed grip seems unnecessary. These types of lifts rarely work well; the boarding process is more prone to issues with more people boarding.
You should do an article on fixed grip 6 packs, Peter
The cons really do outweigh the pros. Honestly, I think the only reason they would ever make a fixed 6 was so they’d have a little bit higher capacity than a quad but keeping the fixed grip aspect, which even that is pretty stupid, because of the loading inefficiency you lose a lot of that.
An 8 Passenger lift at Okemo strikes me as unnecessary. Not only are 8 passenger lifts expensive, but for a mountain that is moderately large, it seems pretty unnecessary. Massive resorts like Whistler Blackcomb, Mammoth, Vail, etc, this kind of capacity is needed. The two quads currently can carry 4800 PPH at a speed of 500 FPM. An 8 Passenger is capable of 4000 tops at a speed of roughly 1200 FPM. You gain the advantage of speed at the loss of capacity. Additionally, detachable lifts are much more expensive to maintain, and with a decreased capacity of 800 FPM, it seems unnecessary. From a speed standpoint, that would be advantageous. The ride time for both of those lifts has an average of 5.7 minutes, going at a ~475 FPM. Doing the math, the top speed for an 8 pack at 1200 FPM is 2.5 times as fast as a detachable quad, and doing more math we can determine the ride time would be taken down to 2.3 minutes, which reduces the ride by 3.4 minutes. That might be nice, but given the decrease in capacity which would ultimately result in longer lines, so that amount of time waiting in line for the lift would cancel out the decrease in time due to speed. They’re probably best off with the quads. If you really want a speed upgrade, tandem detaches are the best way to go, giving them the same capacity at greater speeds.
I realize I made a mistake in my essay here, I meant to say the 8 pack is 2.5 times faster than a FIXED quad.
Perisher currently have no development applications in for new lifts so i don’t think anything will be announced this year. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mt Perisher double and triple replaced with a 6 pack soon though.
In regards to Park City; in a conversation with a marketing exec last year on a lift ride (can’t remember his name), he stated Pioneer and Dreamcatcher were priorities. As for timing, he stated they wanted to wait a few seasons to see how traffic patterns were settling in after the Quicksilver lift.
Indeed, traffic changed appreciably last season, as people started to figure out how to use the connection and get across the resort. The biggest bottleneck has become Dreamcatcher and Timberline.
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I don’t think that Vail is likely to upgrade any lift on Blackcomb this year. Vail seems to be following the Whistler Renaissance plan that was announced back in 2016. That Included the Blackcomb Gondola, which wasn’t on the 2013 master plan. Now, Emerald wasn’t on the Renaissance plan, but I think that its upgrade can be explained. Emerald was on the 2013 plan, whereas none of the lifts on Blackcomb were. Additionally, Emerald was newer than either the UNIs at Jersey Cream and Glacier, or the CLD-260 at 7th Heaven. Emerald got upgraded now because Vail wanted to use it to upgrade Catskinner this year. I don’t think that they’d want to use an older lift to upgrade Franz’s, or to install at Khyber or Olympic. I think that a new UNI-G at Franz’s and/or Orange is most likely.
Franzs chair being replaced with a HSQ fixes 6 problems at the same time. 1) the ability to operate at least some alpine terrain when wind put harmony/peak/symphony are all out of action instead of the near useless (but fun) Tbar –> green long laps. 2) allows early and then spring season skiing for low end skiers, especially as the run to red chair is much much harder to ski and to open in poor snow AND lets them start prop on the bike park and still keep whistler open in May 3) reducing stress on Peak Chair (and also Red chair) by spreading alpine skiing around by making Tbar / Glacier bowl a real option 4) providing a better guest access to harmony 5) making fitz-garbo-franz or creekside-garbo-franz an attractive open for staging and first 2 hours and finally and potentially most importantly 6), providing a sane way to get from the peak back to the roundhouse.
If they go with the Orange Gondola it will have to have Franz Installed to make sense. I feel if they put in the Orange gondola it means the Kyhbers / south base / bagel / big timber big terrain expansion is further away than I think it is. The tell of how much work is going into bike park expansion into creekside and into kyhbers to me means the Big Timber Gondola, and the potential to throw in the mid mtn to light alpine in wind protected areas is a no brainer. Its also marketing gold to “make the biggest and best” er… bigger and better. New terrain is also the ONLY way to get the province to gift over the building rights to do the property dev play. The current housing crunch in Whistler lets them squeeze that through if they build staff housing at the same time. Vail has a once in a business cycle / generation to basically get this done before the new OCP (official community plan) might get in the way.
The 2013 plan is broken up into three phases: phase 15, phase 16, and phase 17. Phase 15 is the smallest, with the Emerald upgrade, Yellow Express (a D4C that is parallel to Emerald), and the Olympic chondola. Phase 16 has Orange, Franz’s Bagel Bowl (which has been upgraded to a D6C form a D4C), and T (which serves the below-the-treeline section of Whistler Bowl). Maybe Vail is more likely to go for Olympic over Franz’s, but I suspect that Orange and Franz’s will be built at the same time. T will probably go in after Renaissance is finished, followed by phase 17, which is the rest of Whistler South (including Big Timber) and the Symphony lifts.
Next summer is likely to be another upgrade on Blackcomb. This spring they are closing Blackcomb and keeping Whistler open which makes me suspect that they will be replacing 7th or Glacier and maybe Jersey Cream.
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I don’t think they’ll do the Yellow Express if they’re upgrading Emerald this year. The initial intention was that this would be secondary to the quad, not sure that’s really necessary with the new six-pack. As much as the lines on that lift sucked, having a 6 pack and a detachable quad really isn’t necessary for that.
Blackcomb overall has older infrastructure than Whistler. The detachables on Whistler were installed in 1988 (both WVG stages, refurbished 2014), 1996 (Creekside), 1997 (Big Red), 1998 (Peak), 1999 (Fitzsimmon’s and Garbanzo), 2006 (Symphony), 2013 (Harmony), and 2018 (Emerald).
The Blackcomb detachables were installed in 1987 (7th Heaven), 1989 (Jersey Crème), 1992 (Glacier), 1994 (Both Excalibur stages, Excelerator, Crystal Ridge), 1997 (Catskinner), and 2018 (both Blackcomb Gondola stages). Note I used the original installation years for the two relocated detachables.
Whistler detachables have an average age of 18 years and Blackcomb’s detachables have an average of 20 years. Not much a difference but I also didn’t account for the rehab of the Whistler Village Gondola, so Whistler should really have a younger average age. More lifts on Blackcomb should be up for replacement than on Whistler.
I expect the two oldest detachables on Blackcomb to be replaced by 6 packs, with the old lifts most likely being scrapped.
The original intention for Yellow was actually that it would be the old Emerald. Maybe the fact that Vail’s moved it to Catskinner instead indicates that they’ve abandoned the idea.
Another approach for Big Red/Franz would be to replace both Creekside Gondola and Big Red with a new Gondola similar to the Blackcomb Gondola. I could see the 1st stage on current Creekside alignment with a second stage extending to the Roundhouse. They could then move the current Big Red lift and install it as the Franz Express.
Alex, Interesting idea. Ironically the Creekside gondola was built with the top as a “mid station”, as also was the 2 stage xcalibur gondola where the 3rd stage was to goto glacier creek. The Red chair is a much much longer lift than Franzs would be, such that its likely “overspecced”. The green chair they moved to become the catskinner chair would have actually been perfect as a franz t bar replacement. Same length almost to the metre, and only slightly less vertical. I see that as a new HSQ honesty as its in a perfect place to get skier traffic for the next 30 years
I wonder if they’ll keep focusing on upgrading core lifts to six packs, or if more peripheral lifts will get quads. Probably depends on the mountain, but at least at Park City, they could use a few more detachables in key places.
I agree closing Blackcomb earlier this spring could likely mean lift construction. I’d say Jersey and 7th being upgraded to 6’s is almost guaranteed. Both are busy (Jersey will likely get busier with Solar gone) and both have long seasons. 7th could also use an indoor parking facility like at Harmony. Whistler wise, a Big Red 6 seems pretty likely along with what was mentioned above.
I think that whistler should make a orange gondola and a franzs detachable. Because Blackcomb has gotten two new lifts and whistler has gotten one. I think that they’ll focus on whistler next.
The thing with the Whistler side is that many of their lifts are still fairly young by lift standards, their detaches are mostly from the 90s, (apart from Whistler Village Gondola, which has had so many components replaced that it’s practically a new system) and Blackcomb’s are mostly 80s. If you take out Peak 2 Peak, this year’s project will be the first time they’ve seen an entirely new lift since 1993. They’ve got a lot of old systems that need replacing, and Whistler doesn’t have that issue at the moment, other than from a capacity standpoint.
Symphony Express was in 2006.
Here’s an idea for Okemo. 2 stage gondola with the first stage running from Jackson Gore Base to the bottom of Green Ridge and the second stage replacing Green Ridge. The original Jackson Gore plan had a single stage gondola running directly to the top, but this would allow for a replacement of Green Ridge and easier access from Jackson Gore to the rest of the mountain. A cheaper alternative would be to replace Green Ridge and extend it slightly down to allow access from Mountain Road. Currently you have to go all the way to Sunburst to get to the summit from Jackson Gore, or take Solitude to get to Green Ridge.
If they do the gondola idea, i hope the cabins have orange tinted windows to match the bubble chairs.
The gondola is just my idea. I don’t know if it will actually be considered or not. It would several issues. One is access out of Jackson Gore Base. The Jackson Gore Expansion was built in two phases. The first phase opened in 2002 and was just the upper terrain served by a Poma high speed quad called Jackson Gore Express. In 2015, this lift was bubblized and is now called the Quantum Four. The massive base area complex was still under construction and that opened a year later in 2003. Access out of the base is provided by a Leitner-Poma high speed quad called Coleman Brook Express. This lift is the only out of base lift and has sufficient capacity. The issue is that the layout of the lifts requires that both Coleman Brook and Quantum are operational to be able to get anywhere else on the mountain. When either one of them are down for whatever reason, they have to shuttle bus everyone out. They have an agreement with the Winterplace Condos HOA to drop people off on their lodging road at the top of Base Quad A and B to speed the process up somewhat. A second out of base lift would greatly reduce the number of days the shuttle bus operation is needed as well as providing better access to the other side of the resort.
The other issue this would mitigate is congestion at the Sunburst 6 and several major choke points in the trail layout. The Green Ridge Triple is a long cold ride and is often bypassed by customers who lap back to Sunburst. The trails near Green Ridge all funnel down to a single runout on Lower Arrow and then they must go through the South Ridge terrain which is supposed to be a beginner area. With a high speed lift on Green Ridge, some people would just lap that and not all try to go to Sunburst. A capacity of 2000/hr on the gondola would be sufficient as Green Ridge rarely has a line and very few people come out of Jackson Gore Base except during the morning rush and right after lunch, so there would be plenty of empty seats for people to fill at mid. Other times the Coleman Brook Express sends up lots of empty chairs.
This would be quite an expensive option so I’m not sure the practicality of it, and crossing over the homes in Solitude Village might also be an issue. Either way, I’m sure Vail will carefully consider all their options for investing in Okemo and all their other resorts.
I talked to head of lifts at whistler Blackcomb today and he said that they probably won’t build in 2019. Because they just got three new lifts.
Yes another enormous luxury hotel coming to the base of Park City’s Sunrise lift in 2021. How much longer can the lowly double chair last?
I would be very surprised if the sunrise lift was replaced with a chondola.
Any thoughts on a creek side-big red gondola
I don’t see anything but a gondola for the lower mountain. Fitz as the last chair, and it’s a bubble.
It’s currently insanely heavy rain on the lower 1/3-1/2 of the creekside gondola right now, and snow above that.
Often in big storms all winter it’s heavy snow the bottom.
I see creekside gondola.running 15 more years.
Upgrading red i think will happen in the much shorter term.
Why would the orange gondola be needed? Shouldn’t they just upgrade Creekside or Franz’s
Pure speculation but for I have a hunch that in addition to a Game Creek Six Pack that Vail will replace Orient Express with an eight seater, and possibly a bubble eight seater.
I don’t hunk that big red could use a bubble and heated seats!
I know this is the 2018 post, but there is no 2019 post and Vail’s Q1 phone call is today where they typically announce new lifts for next year (although they will probably add 1-2 more in March/April), but here are my thoughts:
CO: Peak 7 infill at Breck and McCoy Park at Beaver Creek are already known. Game Creek 2.0 is heavily rumored at Vail. I doubt Keystone will get a new lift if those three projects are all going on, probably more snowmaking to increase the number of October trails. Crested Butte has some well-documented lift issues, particularly Paradise needs major maintenance (although probably not a replacement). Vail is also open to installing a lift in Teo 2 at some point (like the previous owners intended).
Park City: I think Vail will build one lift here. The Sunrise replacement lingers with the new village construction. A Dreamcatcher or Dreamscape detachable replacement is also a possibility with all the money that has been thrown at Cloud Dine. Thaynes is another candidate for replacement, probably with another fixed-grip, because it is really old, tends to open earlier in the season for higher usage, and fixed-grip lifts are cheaper to buy/install for the bottom line.
Tahoe: Vail has built one lift at Heavenly over the past twelve years, zero at Kirkwood during their ownership, and two over the past decade at Northstar, so my hopes are low here, maybe one lift total. A Comet six-pack replacement at Heavenly, the Castle Peak Gondola to reduce the parking madness at Northstar, and a detachable Snowkirk replacement at Kirkwood are the three most likely candidates in my opinion.
PNW: I doubt Stevens Pass gets anything after two this past year. Whistler will probably get one after seeing how the new traffic patterns sorted out after a busy 2018 building season. I think a Jersey Cream or 7th Heaven six-pack replacement is likely.
Northeast: Vail has been pretty quiet with Okemo, Sunapee, and Stowe, but now they also have Mount Snow, Hunter, Attitash, Wildcat, and Crotched. I think they will finally build 1-2 lifts here, with the most likely candidates (in my opinion) being an A/B Quad detachable replacement at Okemo (mostly to improve summertime bike operations), a Toll House detachable replacement at Stowe (to alleviate the parking problems), a Challenger/Outpost detachable replacement at Mount Snow (they have been having operations/maintenance issues recently), and Summit at Attitash (the maintenance was a temporary solution). As you can tell, I think Vail will mostly focus on replacing lifts to improve operations and summertime activities.
Doubt they build anything in the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic.
From what I’ve seen in reddit comments, people are really angry about the lift issues at Mt. Snow this season. The first time this happened people were more surprised than angry, but people aren’t cutting Vail slack anymore.
11/16, challenger rope evac- https://www.reddit.com/r/icecoast/comments/dxaqs1/challenger_lift_18_evacuation_opening_weekend_at/
11/30, nitro and heavy metal broke down- https://www.reddit.com/r/icecoast/comments/e3x7j6/933_am_rough_morning_at_carinthia_nitro_broke/
12/08, Challenger broke down again- https://www.reddit.com/r/icecoast/comments/e7wgg3/beware_north_face_mt_snow_fucked_stay_away_lift/
There also seems to be a confusion about why challenger is running instead of outpost, but no answers from vail.