Alterra to Build New High Speed Lifts at Alpine Meadows & Winter Park

Alterra Mountain Company will spend $181 million on capital improvements at its network of resorts this offseason, $32.3 million of which will go towards new lifts.  The announcement comes on the heels of competitor Vail Resorts’ proclamation that it will devote $139 to 143 million to capital projects in 2019, including new lifts for Crested Butte and Stevens Pass.

At Colorado’s Winter Park Resort, a new Leitner-Poma six-pack will replace the Sunnyside triple, increasing uphill capacity by 800 people per hour and reducing ride time from eight minutes to 3.8.  Sunnyside is a 1989 CTEC that provides egress from Parsenn Bowl and often experiences significant wait times.

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The Sunnyside triple is being retired but will likely find a new home due to its age.

In California, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will debut the first Leitner-Poma of America LPA detachable to feature an intermediate station.  The approximately 5,000 foot quad lift will follow the current Hot Wheels alignment with an offloading opportunity at the current top terminal site.  Chairs will continue one minute further to Sherwood Ridge for direct access to the backside of Alpine.  The first Leitner-Poma lift at Alpine Meadows will move a total of 2,400 skiers per hour between the three stations and cost approximately $10 million.  “The new lift will benefit the Alpine Meadows experience on many levels,” said Ron Cohen, president and chief operating officer at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “Terrain currently served by Hot Wheels is frequently used by learners and ski and ride school as the next progression after the beginner terrain in the base area. A detachable lift will make loading and unloading much easier for these groups, and the ride time will be more than cut in half. Alpine Meadows is a fantastic place to learn how to ski, and I am proud that we are continuing to foster that quality.”  Squaw is also adding new rope tow and carpet lifts in the High Camp area to further improve beginner options and skier circulation.

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This photo, taken from near the new Hot Wheels top terminal location, shows what will become the first stage of a two stage high speed quad.

As announced at the beginning of the winter, Doppelmayr will complete the Steamboat gondola rebuild this summer, adding new towers, all new cabins and more.  With a speed increase, this key out-of-base lift will feature an increased capacity of 3,600 skiers per hour.

Another significant lift-related investment is RFID access gates and ticketing infrastructure at Deer Valley Resort.  Other Alterra properties are getting snow cats, expanded snowmaking capabilities, restaurant remodels and new bike trails.  “Alterra Mountain Company’s unique year-round mountain destinations offer skiers, riders and summer visitors of all ages from all over the world special, memorable experiences, and each aspect of our business plays a part in bringing the guest back year after year and inspiring a lifelong love of the mountains,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of Alterra in a company-wide press release.  “We are committed to investing in everything from lifts to snowmaking to creative dining experiences, and technology that weaves it all together for a seamless visit.”  The privately-held firm has budgeted more than half a billion dollars for capital improvements through the 2022/2023 ski season.  All 13 Alterra destinations participate in the Ikon Pass, which starts at $649 and goes on sale tomorrow morning.

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50 thoughts on “Alterra to Build New High Speed Lifts at Alpine Meadows & Winter Park

  1. Paul Manafort March 4, 2019 / 1:03 pm

    When will they announce new infrastructure at Crystal Mountain?

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    • John March 6, 2019 / 9:57 am

      Such as? Aside from Kelly’s Gap and re-servicing the old chair 7 pod, there isn’t much to do there. Kelly’s Gap is a wish-lift item, as far as I’ve heard- it’s not needed for capacity and there won’t be much in the way of actual skiing there. I have heard the sewer plant is getting an upgrade, for what that’s worth.

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      • Joe Blake March 6, 2019 / 10:51 pm

        Another? They just redid it a few years ago.

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  2. skitheeast March 4, 2019 / 1:40 pm

    Disappointed with the relatively few lift announcements, although I do understand their logic and timeline. Squaw’s next projects are currently lined up to be Red Dog/Gondola Connect, but they are still finalizing the lift alignments and permitting. Red Dog will probably not happen until the gondola is finalized and has a green light. Deer Valley’s were supposed to be the Mayflower expansion and the town gondola. However, the Mayflower project is on hold as it is basically a real estate project and Alterra has stated they are not interested in real estate. They also haven’t finalized the town gondola exact location and Silver Lake Express will most likely end up being replaced by a gondola at the same time. Winter Park will probably continue to see at least one new lift per year because they are trying to be competitive with Epic out of Denver and are hoping for Winter Park/Copper to combine to have a ton of capacity and handle a lot of skiers. Stratton’s next lined up projects are an expanded mid-mountain lodge, a new summit lodge, and eventually a new Tamarack detachable. Everything was pushed back when Snowbowl took longer than expected, moving mountain biking from end of last year to this year, moving the one of the lodges to next year. I am surprised Mammoth won’t have a new lift, but possibly it could be attributed to their season this year looking like it will extend into August and them not having a large enough construction window. Similarly surprised with Solitude not getting a new chair. Crystal I didn’t think would get much as they took it over more recently and are still working out what they want to do. I am not sure which direction they are going at Tremblant because the plan they inherited called for more housing/condos/etc. along with new lifts and, again, they aren’t interested in residence buildings or village development.

    I could see them announcing possibly one more project in a month or so (presumably at a mountain they did not mention such as Solitude or Crystal), as they could just be working out the final details.

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    • Tijsen March 6, 2019 / 9:02 am

      Stratton also plans to have a gondola from a new hotel that will replace lifeline lodge and have it go to the base area, or have an angle station that connects the lower terminal of the new tamarack lift to the new hotel.

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      • Collin Parsons March 6, 2019 / 10:04 am

        No way that happens. Angle stations are ridiculously expensive. They will more likely do a Cabriolet for parking lot/hotel access that leads you to a detachable Tamarack lift.

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      • skitheeast March 6, 2019 / 12:12 pm

        I do not know where you have gotten that information, but I was told the current plan is to:
        1) Find a major hotel chain willing to operate and help with the new lifeline hotel (which they have declined until summer business increases) and then begin construction
        2) Replace Tamarack with a new detachable quad from the hotel, across the street, past the current Tamarack base, and up to the Mid Mountain lodge where South American currently ends. The endpoint of the lift is not yet set, but they are hoping for South American’s terminus because it allows better flow to the restaurant (which they are planning to expand) and to URSA. No angle stations would be needed, only a skier bridge across the road. I have never heard any mentions of a gondola.

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        • Tijsen March 6, 2019 / 12:51 pm

          I Ski at Stratton and went to a board meeting discussing future projects and have some connections with VP of mountain ops. The gondola/ lower section of tamarack will also be used for lot one. Skier bridge will not work because it would have to go over some condos, and then be extremely steep, because the lower terminus of tamarack is much higher than the lodge across the access road. With the new mountain bike trails, will increase summer business, so then the lodge could be built. The gondola set up (if built) will be similar to the Stowe one that goes to the Stowe mountain lodge.

          Like

        • skitheeast March 6, 2019 / 1:36 pm

          I similarly ski Stratton and have friends who work for the resort in various departments. Given that this project is a few years away, I am sure they have not finalized a design and are working on multiple alternative. We have probably just each heard different alternatives.

          I’m going to further explain the proposal I heard to address some of your points. The lift would end where South American currently, travel down essentially Duck Soup, cross Tamarack Heights where the Lower Tamarack ski bridge is to avoid those homes, continue down towards the current lift base, pass in between the Village Watch and Obertal condo developments, cross the road, and end in what is currently Lot 1. Initially, I had similarly expressed doubts regarding spacing and the lift having to avoid condos. But, my friend pulled out an overhead photo and was able to draw a straight line the entire length without hitting anything. I did not realize the gap between Obertal and Village Watch is about 100-125 feet, which is about the same as the upper half of Lower Tamarack. The base of where Tamarack currently sits is indeed about 40 feet above the road and 50 feet above Lot 1, but that is actually good because the trail will be extended about 450-500 feet and they would be able to maintain a green level grade if the land is regraded. The lift base would be slightly east of where the current parking lot entrance is, but the hotel will have a different (and larger) footprint compared to the existing lodge so it will continue to next to the lift and the parking lot entrance would be moved. As Lot 1 would be smaller, Lot 2/Sun Bowl Lot would be expanded, especially the Sun Bowl lot as they are planning on having more summer activities out of that side of the mountain and eventually expanding/renovating that lodge to be larger and able to accommodate summer activities.

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        • Somebody March 6, 2019 / 4:24 pm

          It’s pretty hard to speculate either way from this far out. Either way looks possible from a lift standpoint, just the question is whether the skier bridge is realistic or not.

          On a somewhat unrelated note, I think they should focus on introducing more intermediate/expert terrain after seeing the increased skier visits with the ikon pass. A kidderbrook pod with more trails on the south side of the ridge is an interesting thought. As somebody who skis 40+ days a season at Stratton, the Kidderbrook area is extremely underutilized. 2 of the best 5 tree runs on the mountain require an annoying runout and 2 lift rides. On busy Saturdays, the pod could be serviced well by a 1800 p/h HSQ.

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        • Tijsen March 7, 2019 / 7:48 am

          I was thinking the EXACT same thing for that land. I typically don’t ski over there because I ski on franks but on powder days I stay over there most of the time, and its annoying to go all the way yo the bottom on lower kidderbrook. The lift could start where old lower terminal of kidderbrook was and end near the fire tower on the peak near by, or follow the same lift line as the old quad.

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  3. Collin Parsons March 4, 2019 / 3:56 pm

    The Hot Wheels replacement at Alpine Meadows essentially replicates the Weasel Pass Double that was removed in 1998. I’m not sure why they didn’t just go detachable back then as the shorter triple cut off direct access to Sherwood.

    The Sunnyside upgrade is spot-on. I’ve never even been to Winter Park and have seen so many complaints about that lift. Having a detachable there will shorten wait times greatly and take some load off Super Gauge and the Panoramic Express.

    Like

  4. mzg March 4, 2019 / 5:47 pm

    Really disappointed to not see any improvements listed for Snowshoe. A little bit of investment could truly make the place one of the greats on the east coast.

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    • Todd Arnold March 4, 2019 / 8:33 pm

      Snowshoe has some serious untapped potential. I hope alterra goes about it in the correct way.

      Like

    • Henry March 5, 2019 / 6:11 pm

      Snowshoe’s not getting any new lifts, but I did find this: “Alterra Mountain Company is increasing its investment in mountain biking, constructing new bike trails and features at Snowshoe, which is consistently ranked among the top mountain biking destinations in the region. Snowshoe will play host to the final round of the 2019 Mountain Bike World Cup in September 2019.”

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      • mzg March 7, 2019 / 7:47 am

        I saw that too. Hard to count adding a mountain bike trail or two as an improvement/investment. I will give credit where it is due however, the investment in the new Fan Guns they made this past year has been worthwhile and a solid first investment.

        Like

  5. atc1701 March 4, 2019 / 6:23 pm

    I’m disappointed that Alterra chose not to pursue more lift improvements at Tremblant. As much as the improvements in guest services, snowmaking, and equipment are welcome, our aging lift infrastructure is one of the main problems we face.

    The only lift-targeted investment is ‘maintenance’ of the Telecabine express. It seems like it’ll be nothing more than replacement of old / worn parts and perhaps a rejuventation of the terminal skins, certainly nothing like the overhaul at Steamboat.

    With each passing week, it becomes more evident that Le Soleil and Duncan Express need to be replaced, the former for age and the latter for capacity. I’m hoping we’ll see more investment next year.

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    • Collin Parsons March 4, 2019 / 6:38 pm

      Winter Park needs investment badly, so that’s why they are getting 2 lifts 2 years in a row. Otherwise, the other 3 areas that got lifts last year are not this year. I’m sure Mammoth customers are disappointed too since they are getting nothing in both 2018 and 2019.

      What “maintenance” is planned on the Telecabine Express? Whatever it is will hopefully allow it to run 6 m/s again to improve capacity.

      I think the snowmaking upgrades for the Soleil side are an important set-up to replacing the lift.

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      • Donald M. Reif March 6, 2019 / 10:12 am

        I think they should overhaul the high speed quads in the Winter Park section to allow them to run at higher speeds. And maybe create a fixed grip lift of some sort that would allow access into Vasquez Ridge besides the catwalk from the bottom of the Olympia Express.

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    • skitheeast March 4, 2019 / 8:36 pm

      “A $4 million snowmaking upgrade and expansion will contribute significantly to greater consistency of early-season openings with high-quality conditions, building upon Tremblant’s reputation as the premier ski destination in the region and preparing the destination for future planned expansions…”

      If there actually is a large future expansion in the works, I am sure Tremblant will see some love in the upcoming years.

      Like

    • atc1701 March 4, 2019 / 9:58 pm

      The old Intrawest master plan was very, very ambitious. If completed, Tremblant would’ve surpassed Killington in terms of size. I doubt Alterra is following it, but I’m curious to see how things will unravel over the next few years. Tremblant definitely needs lift replacements first before expansions.

      The Telecabine can still go at 6 m/s; it’s sometimes run at that speed during the early morning. It usually won’t run over 5.5 m/s during opening hours, though. We haven’t yet been informed of the specific maintenance planned on the Telecabine, but I do anticipate that the terminal equipment, particularly that exposed at the bottom terminal, will be revamped and touched up. The coverture at the top also needs some work.

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      • Collin Parsons March 4, 2019 / 10:20 pm

        I found the Intrawest master plan. https://skimap.org/data/101/162/1269085096.jpg The only parts of it that have been completed are portions of Edge and Soleil. They also went cheap with Edge and reused the old Summit Quad from the south side instead of the planned new detachable. Oddly enough, it doesn’t show upgrading Lowell Thomas which Alterra has done.

        Assuming the Telecabine has a full line of cabins, it has a capacity of 2640/hr at 5.5 m/s and 2400 at 5 m/s. Not acceptable for the primary lift out of the main base, as seen by the lines it gets on weekends. Does 6 m/s make the terminal speed too fast?

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        • atc1701 March 4, 2019 / 10:32 pm

          I wouldn’t say so. When there’s a massive crowd on weekends, though, it gets very hectic at the bottom terminal. A nightmare to work there. Although 6 m/s doesn’t get to be too fast in terminal, it can cause chaos among both the skiers/boarders desperately trying to get into a cabin, and us trying to fit them in 8-at-a-time. For that reason, the lift may run at 5 m/s even on incredibly busy days.

          Modern gondola systems (see W-B, Winter Park) have the cabins moving much slower in dedicated loading areas; 6 (or even 7) m/s is much more feasible in that case. Our gondola doesn’t have that, unfortunately. Here’s hoping for a D-Line 10 person gondola!

          Like

        • Collin Parsons March 4, 2019 / 10:46 pm

          I think a common problem with UNI-Spacejet lifts is they made the terminals too short, either resulting in excessive tire and grip wear when carriers speed up and slow down, or there not being enough time for loading. Older lifts like the Skyeship Gondola at Killington have very long terminals and thus have more space for loading. The acceleration is more gradual, resulting in less wear on the tires and grips. On newer lifts like The Gondola at Winter Park or One at Vail, manufacturers realized that making the terminals shorter was not necessarily a good thing, and those lifts are able to run their design speeds and be loaded to capacity. Note that I used gondolas as examples, but it carries over to chairs too. The UNI-G and Omega/LPA terminals are longer than the UNI-Spacejet and Challenger terminals they replaced.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Larry March 5, 2019 / 4:26 am

          Vail One gondola is not a good example of terminal length and a favorable decel rate. That thing slows down in a hurry! For such a high claim in capacity, I’m surprised that terminal isn’t longer. I haven’t seen W-P gondola yet, maybe LP learned on that installation.

          Like

        • Collin Parsons March 5, 2019 / 6:28 am

          One has the longest LPA terminal length along with The Gondola at Winter Park and American Eagle at Copper. I think it’s of similar length to the Challenger gondola terminals found on Skyeship and Bridger, but offers more space for loading while accelerating in less space. The longest LPA terminals and the UNI-G terminals at WB are much longer than the UNI-Spacejet terminals found at Tremblant and Whiteface, even though both designs technically allow the same top speed of 1200 feet per minute.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Donald M. Reif March 5, 2019 / 12:40 pm

          With American Eagle, there’s not as long of a loading/unloading area at top or bottom for gondola cabins, given that the cabin load/unload areas have to be on the downhill side of the terminals by design while the chair load/unload areas are on the uphill side.

          Like

        • skitheeast March 5, 2019 / 1:22 pm

          While that is indeed one of the old Intrawest master plans, I think Alterra may follow something closer to the likes of this one from 2012. It includes the Lowell Thomas upgrade, although it has it as a fixed grip quad, and it has a TGV upgrade as well. It also includes an expansion south of Soleil called Timber with a detachable. It does not have the Soleil, Edge, or Telecabine upgrades that have been rumored, but it could be more of a guideline and not a set plan as demonstrated by Lowell Thomas being detachable.

          Like

    • Lucas DR March 5, 2019 / 7:31 am

      I was at Tremblant last weekend, and one of the biggest problems they have is the crowds at the summit. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next expansion they have in the works involves a lift that doesn’t end at the summit in order to ease some of the congestion. After that, they can tackled the Duncan and gondola capacity upgrades.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Peter Landsman March 5, 2019 / 10:03 am

        It’s up to 12,680 people per hour being dumped at the top of Tremblant. Keystone does 15,800 at the top. 211 vs. 263 people per minute!

        Like

        • atc1701 March 6, 2019 / 5:50 pm

          The summit areas are comparable in size, but I can’t help but think that Keystone’s seems less packed than Tremblant’s. Everything is in such close proximity at Tremblant, especially with the summit lodge (Keystone’s, in contrast, is more detached from the lifts). More importantly, beginners and intermediates are almost exclusively forced onto a single corridor from the summit, creating hectic and almost hazardous crowds on the busiest days.

          As much as Tremblant desperately needs a capacity upgrade, more skiable terrain needs to be cleared out near the summit for that upgrade to not exacerbate the already-evident crowding at the summit area. Perhaps that’s why Alterra is reluctant to upgrade.

          Like

        • Michael March 7, 2019 / 10:19 am

          I haven’t been to the top of Tremblant, but I think the theoretical numbers for Keystone are correct but the actual numbers should be decreased by about 2000pph for the Outpost Gondola (Its never full coming back), Ruby by about 1800pph (I’ve never seen it more than half full, and if it is- at the end of the day- there’s no one coming up the Gondola), and Ranger by about 900pph (because it never runs full speed and most of the people are in Ski School and stay in that pod). So really like 11,100 at the top of Keystone, which is why it doesn’t seem as crowded… My $0.02

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Peter Landsman March 4, 2019 / 6:28 pm

    If California Express comes next year, Squaw could have all of the first three LPA angle stations!

    Like

  7. zjroeber March 4, 2019 / 10:15 pm

    I am disappointed that Mammoth is not on the list for new lifts this year. They are due for new lifts at a number of locations, and haven’t received anything in eight years. It may have something to do with the fact that their season is going to run through July and possibly into August this year, making the window for construction very small. According to those in lift maintenance at Mammoth, their high priority was to replace Canyon Express #16 with a 6-CLD. They are also prioritizing extending the Village Gondola from Canyon Lodge to the top of Eagle Express #15. We’ll have to see, but these projects seem to be being pushed back until 2020.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thomas Jett March 4, 2019 / 11:55 pm

      I wouldn’t say that the season extension is the cause of this. Canyon always closes in April, because the crowds aren’t big enough to sustain it.

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      • nick12 March 6, 2019 / 3:50 pm

        Has the Forrest service approved the Chair 16 replacement?

        Like

  8. Ryan March 4, 2019 / 11:04 pm

    Glad that Looking Glass at WP lives for another year!!

    Like

    • ON April 2, 2019 / 7:47 pm

      I can’t imagine that it’s very high on priorities. Pioneer express is a first gen Poma detach quad that could use replacement, and something like Olympia or High Lonsome is a much more used lift. Eskimo could use a capacity upgrade to a detach 6, then you get to looking glass as it’s not a particularly high demand alignment.

      Like

      • Donald M. Reif April 2, 2019 / 9:30 pm

        At most, Looking Glass will probably be upgraded to a triple chairlift a few years down the road from now.

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  9. Thomas Jett March 5, 2019 / 12:05 am

    One thing that surprises me is how much Doppelmayr’s output has contracted this year. They’re currently only scheduled for four new winter-use detachable lifts (Brooks at Steven’s Pass, Wildwood at Tamarack, Eglise II at Yellowstone, and Atomic at Saint-Sauveur), compared to thirteen last year. I wonder if this will have any effect on their rumored plans to phase out the UNI-G within the next season or two.

    Like

    • Collin Parsons March 5, 2019 / 6:31 am

      There’s pretty much no way this year is going to be as big as last year without Disney and WB getting 3 detachables each. We however have not yet heard from Boyne or Peak Resorts for lift announcements even though the latter is more likely to go with Leitner-Poma.

      Like

  10. Somebody March 5, 2019 / 10:30 am

    No RFID for Stratton? Seems like it would be a good place to have them, considering they have an issue with people hiking to mid mountain to ski without a ticket (probably will get even worse with the new snowbowl, which is 1,000 feet from a road), but they don’t want to employ ticket scanners up there.

    Like

    • Tijsen March 5, 2019 / 10:36 am

      they have scanners up there now. They randomly check passes before they get on the lifts

      Like

  11. Ryan Murphy March 5, 2019 / 4:06 pm

    Winter Park commented on their Facebook that they plan on reusing the chairs, in response to someone asking to buy them. Obviously they could go to an existing lift, but in my eyes, the obvious is the existing lift is going somewhere, as it has plenty of life left in it.

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    • Donald M. Reif March 6, 2019 / 10:13 am

      I think Sunnyside would make a suitable replacement for Looking Glass.

      Like

      • Ramcharger_8 March 7, 2019 / 7:09 am

        no. looking glass will still be operating once people find out hot to teleport up to sunspot. In my eyes they should do the Vasquez ridge expansion and put the 3 pack over there or put the 3 pack in Vasquez ridge at the big valley traverse

        Like

  12. Gav March 5, 2019 / 6:30 pm

    Snowshoe could really use a detach in Silver Creek replacing mountaineer and cascade
    Peter please get snowshoe!

    Liked by 1 person

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