Loon Mountain & Waterville Valley Look to Build Big New Lifts

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The current Loon Mountain trail map shows two lifts on the lower mountain which are now slated to be replaced.

The Interstate 93 corridor in New Hampshire could soon be a hotbed of lift construction.  Four exciting projects appeared on the White Mountain National Forest proposed actions page this week.  In what would be a major move, Loon Mountain is seeking to replace the Kancamagus detachable quad with an eight seater chairlift.  Next, the Seven Brothers triple would be replaced with a detachable quad, presumably utilizing equipment removed from the Kanc.  This project would be similar to one Loon’s owner Boyne Resorts completed last year at Big Sky.  There, the Ramcharger detachable quad was replaced by North America’s first eight passenger chairlift and the old machine moved to replace a Heron-Poma double.

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The Kancamagus quad at Loon is 24 years old and in need of more capacity at peak times.

Just to the south at Waterville Valley, the White Peaks Express is proposed to be replaced by a six passenger detachable lift.  The current machine was built in 1988 and shortened to its current length in 1996.  In a second project, the Sunnyside triple would be swapped for a fixed-grip quad and the Northside double removed.  Both of these lifts were built decades ago by Stadeli.  Waterville Valley has been independently owned and operated by a local group of investors since 2010.  They recently replaced another aging Stadeli lift with an LST T-Bar.

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The White Peaks Express is one of just three lifts in North America utilizing a unique 1988 design from Poma.  The others are at Crystal Mountain, Washington and Sunshine Village, Alberta.

It is unknown whether any of these new lifts will feature bubbles and/or heated seats, which have become popular across New England.  The Forest Service expects to make decisions on whether to approve the projects in December.

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With new White Peaks and Sunnyside lifts, Waterville’s seldom-operated Northside double would no longer be needed.

34 thoughts on “Loon Mountain & Waterville Valley Look to Build Big New Lifts

  1. Gavin October 4, 2019 / 12:18 pm

    Completely unexpected lifts. It is good some eastern investment. But some questions:
    1. Does the kancamangus require an 8 pack or would a 6 be enough?
    2. What about the gondola replacement?
    3.Why not replace Sunnyside with the old detachable?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Collin Parsons October 4, 2019 / 12:34 pm

      The capacity of Ramcharger 8 is 3200 p/h upgradeable to 3600. I would expect Kancamagus to have similar capacity. Currently the quad is 2800, but doesn’t run at full speed so it is lower.

      I think they decided on this because West Basin has extra trail capacity to spare while the summit does not. North Peak and East Basin also have 4000 p/h capacity, in addition to the gondola. Relocating Kancamagus to replace 7 Brothers will also shorten the gondola line a lot.

      Sunnyside isn’t even 3000 feet long, so a fixed grip is fine there. I also think the plan is to scrap the White Peaks Express, not relocate it. If they were going to move it, then I think it should have gone to Green Peak.

      Like

      • Max Hart October 4, 2019 / 12:46 pm

        Perhaps a relocated White Peaks would be the second green peak lift on the alignment that the gondola would have run on.

        Like

    • Suf October 4, 2019 / 5:49 pm

      The Gondola was replaced with all new (like) gondolas as the old ones were 30 yrs old.

      Smarter move would be South up to North peak along the ridge line.

      Mid-station would be nice.

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    • Thomas Jett October 4, 2019 / 6:49 pm

      This may be a hot take, but a good rule of thumb is that an 8 pack is never required. There just isn’t a way to form groups of 8 fast enough to beat a 6 pack with a shorter loading interval. you have no grouper, then you’ll never get full capacity, and if you do have one, you probably can’t send a chair faster than once every 8 seconds, which comes out to the 3,600pp/h that you’d get on 6s intervals with a 6 pack. I rode Snowdon Six at Killington on its opening weekend, and they had trouble filling chair on 7.2s dispatch intervals with two groupers. 8 seats would be far more difficult than 6. 8 packs are really just a marketing thing, and they’ll never catch on outside of areas looking to make a name for themselves.

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      • Collin Parsons October 4, 2019 / 7:08 pm

        Big Sky got an 8 pack at Ramcharger because they wanted 3600 capacity and heard that Vail Resorts was having trouble loading the 3600/hr 6 packs they built in Colorado. This is also why some resorts built 6 packs with 2400/hr capacity because they felt it was easier to load 6 every 9 seconds than 4 every 6. Same thing could be true with an 8 pack. 8 every 8 seconds at 3600/hr is easier than 6 every 6 at the same capacity. Or a 7.2 second interval could bring capacity all the way up to 4000. I don’t think that’s necessary for Loon at all, but some European lifts have it.

        Currently, Kancamagus uses a managed front row queue. The grouper calls everyone out and makes 4’s. Everyone has to make a 90 degree turn twice because the queue entrance faces downhill and the lift has a straight load. I think the 8 pack will have clockwise rotation and a 90 degree load to make this easier. There would simply be half the number of lanes in the queue as there are for the quad. I think smaller groups would move up and create their own larger groups, so the grouper would just need to call out single riders to fill in the extra seats.

        I think Killington had trouble that first day because it was well the first day, and their first 6 pack. Of course it would take some getting used to when employees had never formed groups of 6 before. At Okemo, they are very good at making sure every chair has 6 on Sunburst.

        Liked by 1 person

        • gottagetuptogetdown October 5, 2019 / 12:03 pm

          @Collin – You’ve nailed the logic on why an 8-seater is more than marketing. In the future, Vail Resorts will only target 6-packs at 3200 p/h – they can’t realize an actual capacity of 3600 p/h with such a short interval.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thomas Jett October 5, 2019 / 1:49 pm

          Look at it this way. Say that 20% of parties are singles. Then let’s say that 10% have two members, 25% three, 35% four, and 10% five or more. On a six pack, you’ll take a certain amount of time to find a set of one or two parties that can be filled to six members with one or two singles. On an 8 pack, though, you have a pretty good chance that you’ll need to juggle three parties *and* one or two singles in order to fill eight. That’s a significantly more complex process than anything you’d encounter in the case of a six-pack.

          Empirically, let’s look at page V – 18 of Whistler’s 2013 Master Plan:
          https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/natural-resource-use/all-seasons-resorts/whistler/whistler_mountain_master_plan_update_2013-final.pdf

          The load efficiency of their typical quad is 95%. Harmony is an intermediate to advanced D6C, and its efficiency drops to 90%. Emerald, which serves beginner and intermediate terrain, was predicted to have an even lower efficiency of 85%. This is to say that Emerald is 11% less efficient that a lift like Garbanzo, despite having an extra 1.6s in between chairs. A D8C at 8s intervals (3,600pp/h) would only have 1.25s more than Emerald, despite having a far more complex loading process. I’d imagine that the drop in efficiency would be even more pronounced than the drop from Garbanzo to Emerald as a result, and essentially wipe out any capacity gains of the additional two riders per seat.

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        • Collin Parsons October 5, 2019 / 2:10 pm

          That comparison is apples to oranges. You’re comparing a 3200/hr 6 pack to a 3600 8 pack. If you compare to a 3600 6 pack, the loading interval with the 8 is two seconds shorter. It’s the same reason almost all lifts over 2400 are now 6 packs. It is easier to have the two extra seats than to have the loading interval be 2-3 seconds shorter. And there are many 8 passenger gondolas out there, so making groups of 8 shouldn’t be that hard on a chair. Since people would move up and form their own larger groups, it would not result in the grouper having to put three parties together.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thomas Jett October 5, 2019 / 2:21 pm

          I used a 3,200pp/h 6 pack because a comparable 3,600pp/h 6 pack would be even less efficient. You bring up 8 person gondolas, but those gondolas typically have capacities of 2,400 to 2,800, which comes out to 10-12s intervals. Gondolas can also typically load multiple cabins at once, meaning that skiers will have even more time to get themselves in order and onboard after being grouped.

          Like

      • Erik Blazing October 5, 2019 / 11:40 am

        I’ve ridden 8-person chairlifts in Austria that form lines on both sides of the lift, create groups of 4 on each side, then merge 2 groups of 4 together to form 8. Combined with a loading carpet it certainly felt like they were getting a lot of capacity out of the 8.

        That sort of setup might not work everywhere, but it’s an option for lifts that can form queues on both sides (Jersey Cream & Big Red at Whistler come to mind).

        Liked by 1 person

      • hotcakes October 5, 2019 / 12:35 pm

        I think this more of a hot take. As you mention, 8-person chairs are certainly not required and are not suited to every location, but they are way more than just marketing. Forming groups should take place far away from the load board. Plus, as you stated, Killington struggled to load their 6 with such a tight interval. That would contradict your first point about a 6-pack with a shorter loading interval beating out an 8 and make the case for lengthening interval – no matter the chair type. If both a 6 and an 8 person chair are loaded at 80% of their max capacity, an 8 still moves more people up the hill.

        8-person chairs have definitely caught on, just not in North America. European operators utilize 8’s all over. They just don’t do silly things like expect 4000 p/h. The Alps are littered with 8-person chairs with <2800 pph. That is how to better utilize a theoretical capacity.

        If you fix capacity and compare a 6 vs an 8 person chair, an 8 has fewer carriers for maintenance, has heavier carriers for better performance in high winds, and requires a smaller footprint for parking. There are lots of other areas that are cons for 8, (they are huge! and $$) I just don't think capacity and loading is one of them. If applied correctly, they can be the right lift and provide value.

        You make a great point about the challenge of short intervals. I think that when operators target such a short intervals, it is truly just marketing. When a resort says their new lift has increased capacity by XX%, have they really? There is undoubtedly a learning curve, but I imagine when applied correctly people can figure it out.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Kyle W. October 4, 2019 / 12:33 pm

    While an 8 person lift is really exciting, I think Loon can better utilize that money to replace their gondola.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. reaperskier October 4, 2019 / 2:37 pm

    Also, could the 7 brothers triple be possibly reused for the south peak beginners pod?

    Like

  4. Carleton October 4, 2019 / 3:46 pm

    Loon replaced all the cabins on their gondola last year with similar 4 person cabins – which still baffles me. I can understand not wanting to put too many people on the summit at once, but they would have been better off putting in a four passenger bubble chair. I know a gondola is a ‘signature’ lift for a resort, but the one they have is so inefficient. They could also do an eight passenger gondola, but put on a reduced number of cabins (but still more capacity than the current one).

    As for Waterville, the upgrade is welcome, and I’m sure there would be concerns with moving the detachable to a new location due to it’s age. Sunnyside is short enough that I think a fixed grip is okay, and in WV’s windy location, it gives them an option to keep the upper mountain open when the White Peaks is down due to wind. Green Peak is very exposed to winds and I think they should have kept more trees (and the trails narrower). The lift is slow, but given they just put it in a few years ago, I don’t see them replacing it too soon. I think the original plan was for a detachable…

    Like

    • Collin Parsons October 4, 2019 / 5:44 pm

      Though it is old, outdated, and inefficient by current standards, the Loon gondola is very popular with visitors in both winter and summer, so I think they will always want to have a gondola. After all, they’ve had one since they first opened in 1966. It may end up like at Jackson Hole where the flagship lift handles only a very small fraction of the total traffic. Already, North Peak and East Basin provide a combined 4000/hr capacity to the upper mountain which is 4x what the gondola does.

      Like

  5. Jared October 4, 2019 / 7:59 pm

    I bet a Blue Bubble? 8 at Loon is just the beginning there and at other Boyne properties.

    Like

    • Peter Landsman October 4, 2019 / 8:06 pm

      I have a feeling Doppelmayr could make an exception and do red bubbles for Sunday River.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Max Hart October 5, 2019 / 7:55 am

        I’m not sure how I feel about red bubbles. Blue works well because most goggles are tinted slightly orange, however blue does not fit Sunday River’s current color scheme at all. Should a any of SR’s lifts be replaced with a bubble of any capacity (we all know which lift will be the first to go), they should probably just stick with grey. Blue would be perfect up at the Loaf.

        Loon actually has a bit or orange in their color scheme (not on their lifts, but on all of their logo gear, stickers, signage, etc), so orange could work well there.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Collin Parsons October 5, 2019 / 9:10 am

          I’d love to see a Sunday River themed D-Line. It would be like the exact opposite of Big Sky. What I really like about the D-Line product is it allows for the resort to really customize and theme the lift to perfectly fit their brand and identity. Clearly Boyne pulled out all the stops with this for Ramcharger 8. You can get a really nice lift with UNI-G or LPA equipment, but there are just not many options for the resort to really make it their own. Compare Mount Snow’s Bluebird Express to Killington’s Snowdon 6 Express. They look pretty much exactly the same.

          Like

      • jared October 5, 2019 / 8:29 pm

        Boyne Blue.

        Like

  6. SnowNGR October 5, 2019 / 4:28 am

    Very odd choice for Loon. They need more out of base capacity, and not there. Everybody wants to park on the Ocatagon side, and they still will if West Basin gets a heated, bubbled 8pack. All the trails are parallel with thin rows of trees between them, you can’t get to South Peak from it, and connections to East Basin and North Peak are all along one overcrowded trail: Grand Junction. A gondola replacement surely would have been a better plan.

    Waterville’s planning continues to baffle me. Green Peak needed to be a detachable. World Cup could have been a revived Valley Run Triple. Instead of removing aerial access to the summit, a chair from the bottom of Northside to the top of what is now the T-Bar would have been ideal. Sure, White Peaks needs replacing, and sure, Sunnyside becoming a fixed quad makes sense, but I just don’t see their vision.

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  7. Max Hart October 5, 2019 / 8:06 am

    The gondola is not the workhorse at Loon. Loon’s real workhorse is Kancamagus. Most of the parking is at West Basin, the better of the two lodges is at West Basin, and the best terrain on the lower mountain is in the West Basin. I think the Kanc upgrade makes a ton of sense, as does reusing the current Uni-S/M machine to replace Seven Brothers. That leaves a CTEC tripe in storage, which could be used as part of the Beginner area at South Peak. I’m glad that Boyne is addressing the current capacity issues before trying to expand.

    As for Waterville, White Peaks is old, but most of the lift is still in good shape, so I think that it is possible for L-P to extensively refurbish the WPX (think of Powderhorn’s Flat Top Flyer) and reuse if for the next phase of the Green Peak Expansion.


    The right side of Green Peak shown here has already been developed, but the yet-to-be-started left side would be a prefect home for a detachable quad.

    WV also doesn’t have the capacity issues that Loon has, but upgrading White Peaks is a long, cold, and very exposed lift for its entire length. Bubbles would certainly be an upgrade in terms of comfort. The terrain off of White Peaks can handle the capacity of a 6-pack should Northside also be removed. A new Sunnyside Quad would also provide a better alternate route to the bottom of the High Country via tandem quad chairlifts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • New England Chairlifts & Skiing October 5, 2019 / 3:12 pm

      That would leave a weird triple tho that you would have to ride to get to it from the main mountain. The triple IMO was not that great a move there, especially if they want to expand it more. That would’ve been a nice chance to replace one of the older detachables (probably white peaks) and move it to green peak.

      Like

      • OhRatFarts October 7, 2019 / 4:38 am

        No, not at all. Valley Quad is all that’s needed to access base of Green Peak Ph. 2. If this is completed, the triple becomes a secondary lift.

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        • Max Hart November 30, 2019 / 2:08 pm

          My thoughts exactly. There are a few lower mountain lifts depicted on the Ph. 2 Green Peak plan, but I think they should just axe those as WV already has a decent amount of beginner terrain near their base area.

          Like

  8. xlr8r October 5, 2019 / 11:32 am

    Loon-
    I really do not understand Boyne’s long term planning. Loon currently has 2 10+ year old temporay tents being used as (1) a base lodge at South Peak, and (2) extra seating at the Govenors base because that lodge is too small. Surely these need to be replaced with permanent structures soon. Also Loon lacks parking and learning terrain which the South Peak expansion would address. The South Peak expansion has been approved for awhile now but nothing has happened.

    7 Brothers has been needed to be upgraded to a HSQ for awhile now so that is a good move. But upgrading Kanc to an 8 pack is overkill IMO. I have been to Loon a lot in recent years and Kanc’s line is usually short. Just upgrading 7 Brothers will make the line even shorter. I do not like it when mountains make large investments purely for marketing reasons which this Kanc upgrade seems to be. Boyne did the same at Sunday River with the Chondola. The Chondola was a pricey lift that serves terrain that was already served by detachable lifts on South Ridge and North Peak. Even the first few years after installing the Chondola, Boyne barely ever ran North Peak. The money spent on the Chondola should have been spent on upgrading other lifts at Sunday River, it was built primarily for marketing.

    The gondola needs to be addressed long term as the majority of the lift is now 30 years old, and the towers are over 50. But as discussed previously Loons terrain really cannot handle any more capacity.

    Waterville-
    Both of these lift upgrades actually make sense. What doesn’t is where this money is coming from as only a couple years ago they built Green Peak with a used triple that should have been a HSQ. I thought the Sununu’s were a bit short on cash and were looking to sell WV.

    Like

    • Collin Parsons October 5, 2019 / 11:58 am

      The SR Chondola was not built primarily for marketing. It was a very logical investment to better connect the mountain and provide better access to the low intermediate terrain off North Peak leading down to South Ridge. With a one seat ride to North Peak, one can access Aurora/Jordan much quicker. They also replaced two old Borvig lifts in the process.

      Based on current information, I think the plan is to phase the Loon Gondola replacement. They already replaced the cabins. The towers and terminal equipment could be replaced all at once or in two phases. Replacing the towers would be good for skier flow because those tripod towers take up a lot of space on the trails.

      The reason Kanc will be getting an upgrade is because as Max Hart stated, it is the workhorse lift. More capacity and a nicer lift will bring more people over there, and replacing 7 Brothers with the quad will reduce gondola lines even more. Is there a marketing benefit with the 8 pack? Yes, but there’s also a practical one.

      Like

  9. Ryan Murphy October 5, 2019 / 4:21 pm

    These all sound like really logical upgrades to me, and I’m glad to see more resorts talking about 8s.

    Also lets just keep in mind that 6 packs debuted worldwide in Canada in 91, and the US in 92. It took until 95 for Vermont to get one, 96 for California and Utah, 98 for Colorado, and 2002 for BC. They’re coming, if slowly.

    Like

  10. Kate October 5, 2019 / 8:35 pm

    One reason Loon is moving on replacing Kancamagus and Seven Brothers before the Gondola is they will be used to service the mountain bike park just opened last month. Only Seven Brothers is being used now but in two years enough trails will be built to make Kanc the primary lift. If Loon waits to replace Kanc, they’ll have to revert to using Seven Brothers and lose access to some trails.

    Like

    • Collin Parsons October 5, 2019 / 8:46 pm

      That leads me to believe that they will do this sooner rather than later. Since both lifts are being replaced, it will impact the bike park which is still very new. Once it is bigger and more established, it could be a bigger problem to impact it. It might be possible to use shuttle buses for the bike park as there is a service road that goes near the top of both lifts. That way it wouldn’t cause it to be closed the entire summer.

      Like

      • Kate October 6, 2019 / 7:15 am

        Seven Brothers won’t be replaced the same year as the Kanc so the mountain bike park will stay open all summer with lift service.

        Like

  11. Owen October 6, 2019 / 7:43 am

    I ski at loon every weekend and my first runs are always at the kanc. Sure, it’s quite in the morning but during the peak of the season and on holidays, that line is packed. I’ve seen the line stretch up the trail on many occasions. So, this is not a bad option for loon. I’m not saying a 8 pack is necessary but a lift that does have an increase in capacity does. A 6 pack would work just as well but the 8 pack would be a good marketing move. I know some people who went to killington this previous season just to check out the bubble chair so an 8 pack would have the same or more affect on people. Seven brothers is the same deal. On busy weekends that line fills up. It’s basically a runoff lift for people who don’t want to wait in the wildly long gondola line. Putting a HSQ is definitely the move also leaving a well working ctec triple I’m storage that can be used if they ever construct the learning area over by the new hotel. I think these are good improvements that will benefit the mountain overall. Replacing the gondola right now is not priority concerning it’s only used by beginners and people who want to ride the park. Plus, increasing capacity is not an option because there’s no where to go once you get up there. Bear claw, the main trail from the top of the gondola is already littered with people, mostly beginners who ski recklessly, so adding more people is not smart. I think replacing the kanc and seven brothers is a good start to future investments Boyne hopefully will add on the east coast.

    Like

  12. Matt October 7, 2019 / 8:31 am

    Loon’s Kanc replacement with the 8 is due to the bike park. Boyne just like Ramcharger and the size of the bike carriers they ordered with it. I imagine Loon will do the same. I agree the Quad won’t go up on Seven Bros. The same summer as the triple currently has carriers designed to haul up bikes too now. I remember the original plan when Seven Bros was suppose to upgrade to a HSQ was to take the triple and replace East Basin. That wasn’t in the Forrest service proposal but I wonder if that is still in consideration.

    As for Waterville, I like the plans there. My guess is the current White Peaks Quad is scrapped as it is one of only three Poma HSQ’s in existence. Not sure it would be worth refurbing it with the potential for so much difference in gear from most other Pomas out there. Loosing Northside chair could be bad in a poor weather year as the Northside tends to hold snow better, could limit Waterville’s product. In the past they have used White Peaks to access the summit and Northside in warm, early years and download when finished skiing. With Northside removed and unreplaced, that option disappears.

    Like

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