The closest ski area to Yellowstone National Park will shut down after this season. Ten years after reviving Sleeping Giant and building a new chairlift, the mountain’s nonprofit operator is throwing in the towel. “It is with tremendous sadness and sorrow that the board of directors for Yellowstone Recreations Foundation announces the suspension of winter operations beginning in 2020-2021,” reads a statement. Lifts will spin through the end of the season.
Sleeping Giant operates under a special use permit from the Shoshone National Forest. It first opened in 1937, serving the community of Cody, Wyoming and nearby towns with a 2,100 foot T-Bar. A used Heron-Poma double was added in 1993 to service more terrain. The area closed in 2004 and was revived in 2009 with the T-Bar being replaced by a Yan triple chair from Mammoth.
“The decision is agonizing but necessary,” noted YRF, citing losses of more than $200,000 each winter. Profitable summer zip line operations will continue with the Bighorn double accessing five different spans. The longer Sheepeater lift only runs in winter and will no longer be needed.
“Words cannot express our gratitude to the community,” the foundation’s statement continued. “The board of directors would like to especially thank the staff over the past 10 years who have dedicated themselves to making Sleeping Giant the finest and most friendly ski hill in the country.”
Boyne Resorts will invest millions to build its third D-Line chairlift, an eight place at Loon Mountain set to open for the 2020-21 season. The first such lift in the Eastern United States will replace the Kancamagus Express, a 1995 detachable quad servicing the lower mountain. Like Boyne’s two Doppelmayr D-Line systems at Big Sky, the Kanc will feature tinted bubbles, heated seats, locking safety bars, a loading conveyor and direct drive. “The Kancamagus 8 chairlift will be a leap into the future of skiing for our guests,” said Jay Scambio, president and general manager of Loon Mountain Resort. “We are committed to bringing the latest advancements to our guests—this lift is the next example of that, following our first-in-the-world dual-frequency RFID installation.”
Loon Mountain currently operates an all-Doppelmayr fleet of ten lifts. “We have a deep, long-standing relationship with both Loon and Boyne Resorts,” noted Mark Bee, President of Doppelmayr USA. “We are proud to be a part of a major step forward in the eastern ski scene that puts Loon on a path towards achieving its goal of having one of the most advanced lift systems in the world.” The east’s most technologically advanced lift will spin at 1,100 feet per minute, making it even faster than Ramcharger. A ride on one of 62 ultra-wide chairs will take just 4.5 minutes. Capacity out of the Governor Adams base area will increase 25 percent to 3,500 guests per hour.
No other American or Canadian ski operator has purchased eight place or D-Line lifts to date. I asked Stephen Kircher, Boyne’s chief executive, what it feels like to be the American early adopter for such technology and this was his response:
It is humbling to be able to continue our company and family’s legacy of over 70 years bringing skiers the next generation of chairlift technology. Now doing it beyond the midwest, with Doppelmayr’s new D-Line technology and doing it with the first two 8 place chairs is even more gratifying. Ironically it took the rest of North America time to adopt triple, quad and six place chairlifts after those were introduced at Boyne in the 60’s through early 90’s, it seems eerily similar for 8 place chairlifts and the new D-Line. Boyne Resorts is proud to be showcasing the future of uphill transportation in the rockies and the east. We believe this will become the new standard of quality and efficiency in the decades ahead. This is likely only the beginning of many more of these types of lifts across North America. Ultimately, enhancing the experience and attracting many more people to the mountains.”
– Stephen Kircher, CEO/President, Boyne Resorts
Kanc 8 will be the first major investment of Flight Path: 2030, a ten year infrastructure push at Loon also announced today. Future projects will seek to elevate the ski experience, grow the business responsibly in every season and connect with the local community. Lift upgrades over the next ten years may include Seven Brothers, Lincoln Express, North Peak Express and the gondola . “Loon’s 10-year plan will have a positive impact on development throughout the Lincoln and Woodstock communities—as we travel together on our path to be New England’s premier mountain destination,” said Scambio.
The Forest Service has already approved the Kanc 8 project and construction will commence in early spring.
To address crowding concerns, Crystal Mountain eliminates walk up lift ticket sales on weekends and holidays, effective immediately. The resort will also no longer offer group discounts, gift card ticket redemptions or rental/ticket packages on weekends and holidays.
New York State opens its newest gondola in Lake Placid, called the SkyRide.
Geyser Holdings offers $4 million for the Hermitage Club and Boyne Resorts separately bids $3.6 million for the Barnstormer lift. An auction could be held next month.
188 days after someone brazenly cut its haul rope in the middle of the night, the Sea to Sky Gondola will again lift sightseers above Howe Sound on Valentine’s Day. The weekend will be a celebration of hard work by many people to get the nearly six year-old gondola back in action. Fatzer and CWA fast-tracked a new rope and cabins from Switzerland while the Sea to Sky team and partners worked to remove damaged components by helicopter. The new haul rope arrived October 24th and was pulled and spliced in just a few days. By December, thirty new cabins had reached Squamish. Final certification by the BC Safety Authority is scheduled for the first week of February. In a silver lining, nine of the original undamaged cabins will be saved to bring the gondola to final capacity some time in the future.
“We are opening earlier than anticipated and the task has been huge,” said Kirby Brown, Sea to Sky Gondola General Manager. “Our industry partners were there every step of the way, from assisting in the clean-up and assessing needs to delivering major components with absolutely no notice. Our amazing team rose to the challenge and have done everything required to get us back up and running as quickly as possible,” he continued. “Our community stood by the gondola and showed us overwhelming support, confidence, and love through the last six months, and for that, we are so grateful.”
The culprit(s) have not been publicly identified or apprehended but security has been increased. “The fact that the main haul cable was completely severed was, and still is, shocking, and the investigation with the RCMP is ongoing,” said Brown. “However, we want our guests to know they can travel to the summit on the Sea to Sky Gondola with complete confidence. Our protocols would never allow the line to run if there was any damage to the cable and the security measures installed since the incident will ensure the gondola is secure and protected from any other criminal activity.”
To celebrate its reopening, the gondola will offer 50 percent off tickets all Valentine’s weekend.
Grouse Mountain Resort will once again be Canadian owned by the end of the month. Shanghai-based China Minsheng Investment Group has agreed to sell the resort to Northland Properties, a conglomerate which owns Revelstoke Mountain Resort along with numerous hotels and an NHL franchise. “With our strong family and company roots in Vancouver BC, we are excited with the opportunity to make this acquisition,” said Tom Gaglardi, President and CEO of Northland Properties Corporation. “We look forward to working closely with the existing team and leadership group, as well the community to ensure we maintain and evolve the iconic Grouse Mountain experience for all of our visitors.”
Grouse Mountain operates four Leitner-Poma quad lifts and is accessed exclusively by aerial tramways as there are no public roads to the area. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports replacing the Blue Skyride is a top priority for the new owner. The aerial tramway was built in 1965 and carries only 44 passengers per car when open. Even with the 1976 Red Skyride next door, the tramways often prove inadequate for moving large numbers of people, especially during stormy weather.
It's another popular day at the Mountain so please expect significant wait times both uploading and downloading on the Skyride https://t.co/QY2Wh2S7H9
“We welcome the opportunity to join Canada’s fastest growing hospitality group,” said Michael Cameron, President of Grouse Mountain Resort. “As a leader in the hotel and restaurant industry, Northland Properties has shown tremendous growth and innovation across their diversified group of companies. We look forward to working together, recognizing the accomplishments that the Grouse Mountain Resort and its team have achieved over the years and continuing to build on that success.”