Big Sky and Loon Mountain Postpone Lift Projects to 2021

Boyne Resorts and Doppelmayr have reached an agreement to delay construction of two major lifts due to the Coronavirus emergency.  Both Swift Current 6 at Big Sky Resort and Kancamagus 8 at Loon Mountain will now be constructed in 2021.  “Proceeding with a complex and deadline sensitive construction project during the COVID-19 emergency would not be a prudent decision,” stated Troy Nedved, General Manager at Big Sky Resort.  “Concerns about construction worker health and the unknowns related to the construction supply chain make the project too risky to undertake in 2020,” he continued.

Site preparation and limited construction may proceed this summer if public health conditions permit.  Manufacturing of Swift Current’s components is nearly complete and the lift will be stored either in Wolfurt, Salt Lake or the Bozeman-Big Sky area until next year.  When completed in 2021, Swifty will become the fastest six place chairlift in North America.

At Loon Mountain, skiers and riders will have to wait another year to ride the east’s first eight passenger chairlift, Kancamagus 8.  “Although significant investment has already been made, we cannot proceed with a project of this scale knowing the COVID-19 situation could further complicate its installation – potentially cutting off the Governor Adams Lodge and base area from the rest of the resort next winter,” said Loon General Manager Jay Scambio in a letter to season passholders.  “This postponement allows us to better support our team, our guests, and the greater Loon community at a time when it is needed most.”  Permitting and planning will continue in preparation for 2021 installation.

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I spoke with Boyne Resorts President Stephen Kircher this morning about the decision and his outlook during this challenging time.  The company will closely monitor impacts on summer business as well as season pass sales and proceed accordingly.  “We are going to be assessing our capital projects each week,” said Kircher.  “We’ve got milestones on every single project and last possible start dates to meet deadlines for next winter.  We’re optimistic we are going to be executing a number of projects but we need to see clarity.”

As long duration, all-or-nothing projects, the two D-Line lifts had to wait.  Boyne knew it needed to be underway this week at Loon and within two weeks at Big Sky in order to meet aggressive construction schedules.  Bubble lifts by definition include carrier storage buildings that are as complex to build as the lifts themselves.  “What happens if work stoppages occur again in the middle of summer or the fall?” lamented Kircher.  “Once we tear the existing lifts down, we’re at risk.  We would be dead in the water [without Swift Current or Kancamagus.]  The second worst thing other than this shutdown would be not having a key lift coming out of the base next winter.”

Preliminary work on the Swift Current chair parking facility may occur this summer.

Boyne’s decision is the second such deferral among North American multi-resort operators this week.  On Wednesday, Vail Resorts delayed seven different lift projects with two different manufacturers in order to cut costs.  Kircher acknowledged his decision was difficult for both customer and supplier but in some ways proved clear.  “We are working with a great partner in Doppelmayr.  Obviously they are dealing with a lot of difficult conversations across the planet,” he said.  “We talked through what the best scenario was for both companies.  They don’t want to be in a situation where they can’t finish a lift either.  I want to install a lift that we own and is sitting in warehouses more than anybody but it’s just not prudent.”

26 thoughts on “Big Sky and Loon Mountain Postpone Lift Projects to 2021

  1. Kyle W. April 3, 2020 / 2:03 pm

    I think this was expected, good that’s it is a postponement and not a full-on cancellation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lily April 3, 2020 / 2:40 pm

    2021 is going to be a busy lift construction season.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alex April 3, 2020 / 2:59 pm

    I am sympathetic to the argument that these are such important lifts that the risk of non-completion is not tolerable. While not likely or ideal if Big Burn was not completed in full for next season for some reason Snowmass does have Sheer Bliss as a backup.

    Like

    • Peter Landsman April 3, 2020 / 3:40 pm

      We could go down the remaining list:

      Leitner-Poma-
      Arapahoe Basin: two important lifts but neither is essential for the opening day.
      Arizona Snowbowl: Important but the current lift was down for months this winter.
      Aspen Highlands: non-critical race lift
      Snowmass: Sheer Bliss provides a great alternative.
      Sugarbush: non-critical race lift

      Doppelmayr-
      Icy Strait Point: Already in progress but no cruises are coming any time soon.
      Mammoth: Both lifts are critical for opening day.
      Saddleback: Nothing to lose, old lift was condemned.
      Sun Peaks: Burfield provides a decent alternative.
      Sun Valley: Very important lift for egress from Seattle Ridge.
      Timberline Lodge: Non-critical lift.
      Timberline Mountain: Nothing to lose, old lifts were condemned.
      Yellowstone Club: Non-critical expansion lift.

      Like

      • jaytrem April 3, 2020 / 4:03 pm

        Could Sun Valley build the newvand keep the old? Or are the top terminals in the same place?

        Like

        • Thomas Jett April 3, 2020 / 5:26 pm

          Could they potentially build the detachable, but leave the old standing until the last minute in case the new doesn’t get finished? If only the bottom terminal needs to be removed, they could probably manage to clear the chairs, cable, and bottom terminal while leaving the towers and upper terminal standing over the winter, right?

          Like

      • Collin Parsons April 3, 2020 / 4:48 pm

        I think the projects that keep going will be ones that replace non-critical lifts, or where there’s nothing to lose because the existing lift has serious issues. The projects that replace a critical lift with no alternative, when the existing lift is in good working order are more likely to be postponed. Early ordered projects are also more likely to continue or be delayed rather than cancelled outright since equipment has already been manufactured.

        Like

      • Machski April 3, 2020 / 5:36 pm

        I don’t fully agree with Mammoth. While not having Broadway would not be ideal, I believe the Gondola to the midstation and Unbound could be acceptable alternatives at Main Base. Canyon is the bigger headache, as not having that leaves them with School Yard to Roller Coaster HSQ’s and Chair 8. Not optimal at all out of Canyon.

        Like

      • AJ April 3, 2020 / 7:12 pm

        While it would be far from ideal, Mammoth could certainly function without Broadway or Canyon as there are enough secondary routes around the mountain. From Main Lodge, the gondola and Unbound provide access to the rest of the mountain, and Stump Alley will get you straight to the top of Broadway if needed. Over at Canyon Lodge, Schoolyard to Roller Coaster gets to the top of Canyon, though if you’re just trying to get onto the mountain taking 8 to Cloud 9, 22, or 25 works as well. Yes, it does take extra time, but it’s not like Swift Current where it becomes impossible to access portions of the mountain if the lift isn’t running.

        Now, realistically, I would be a little surprised if both still happen this year. I’m thinking it’s more likely one gets replaced this summer, with the other happening in 2021 or 2022. However, if the projects were started and a delay happened, it would be an inconvenience but not devastating to the resort.

        Like

    • Alex April 5, 2020 / 7:27 am

      Does anyone have confirmation if the Big Burn six pack is going to get bubbles or not?

      Total speculation but I wonder if Snowmass will decide to design and build Big Burn (motor, chair design, towers, haul drop, etc) to enable bubbles, but wait until the following summer to actually install the bubbles, build the barn, etc. That would be a way to hedge on construction length while still installing it.

      Like

      • pbropetech April 5, 2020 / 8:53 pm

        I gave the Snowmass guys a tour of our bubble lift a bit ago, and it sounds like they’re doing it exactly like you describe.

        Like

  4. Max Hart April 3, 2020 / 4:38 pm

    I think this was definitely the right decision given the circumstances. It’s certainly better to have two functioning detachable quads than two critical incomplete lifts. Big Sky would be crippled without Swfity, as would Loon without Kanc. I’m not horribly concerned about those lifts; they both run well for now and their replacements will be ready for 2021.

    The lifts I’m more concerned about are those that don’t run well (due to chronic mechanical issues and/or poor performance depending on weather conditions) and were scheduled to be replaced in the next few years.

    Like

    • Collin Parsons April 3, 2020 / 4:49 pm

      That sounds like Barker. If that were being done this year, it might’ve landed in the nothing to lose category because the existing lift already has chronic problems.

      Like

    • Carleton April 6, 2020 / 3:49 pm

      I wonder in Boyne will carry on with RFID implementations (Sunday River & Sugarloaf), as those obviously don’t have a long installation process. They were also previously talking about adding a loading carpet to Whitecap at Sunday River – so I wonder if similar smaller lift improvements planned at ski resorts might still continue….

      Like

  5. Snow Boys April 3, 2020 / 6:46 pm

    Did Alterra postpone anything yet?

    Like

    • skitheeast April 3, 2020 / 6:59 pm

      Not yet, although I imagine an announcement soon. They are most likely negotiating a contract with Doppelmayer at the moment to potentially allow for as much to be potentially done this summer as possible, similarly to Boyne.

      Like

      • Snow Boys April 3, 2020 / 7:05 pm

        I’m guessing the mammoth lifts will go through and the expansion at steamboat. The other stuff probably not.

        Like

        • Snow Boys April 3, 2020 / 7:06 pm

          Timber at Tremblant will probably also be pushed a year back.

          Like

        • skitheeast April 4, 2020 / 10:50 am

          I do not think Timber will be pushed back a year. There has been no indication that every project will be pushed back a year, rather more than likely that only the two Mammoth lifts may be delayed a year. Additionally, there is also a real estate development occurring at the Soleil base and there is likely some sort of deal in place tying the lift to the project.

          Like

  6. Peter April 3, 2020 / 7:03 pm

    Does this make It much less likely that Barker and Jordan Bowl at Sunday River and the west mountains lift at sugarloaf will be built next summer?

    Like

  7. Somebody April 4, 2020 / 2:53 am

    “When completed in 2021, Swifty will become the fastest six place chairlift in North America.”

    “At Loon Mountain, skiers and riders will have to wait another year to ride the east’s first eight passenger chairlift, Kancamagus 8.”

    Let’s hope these are still true in a year and a half. For all we know, somebody could swoop in and beat both of these. Boyne marketing wouldn’t be pleased.

    Like

    • ah April 4, 2020 / 9:46 am

      Seems pretty unlikely that they’ll lose those claims before 2021. Sure, some other resort *could* announce in Spring 2021 a slightly faster lift to be installed, or a new 8 on the east coast. But BS and Loon can keep promoting at least until then, and even past then.

      Like

  8. SK April 5, 2020 / 8:24 pm

    Kircher should be worried about season pass sales. I know people will be forgetting about Big Sky and skiing Bridger. Big Sky season pass options suck this year. If you don’t believe me go look at Big Sky Resorts Facebook page and look at all the locals trashing Big Sky Resort. It’s sad to see Kircher shit on the Big Sky and Bozeman community.

    Like

    • vons3 April 5, 2020 / 10:54 pm

      The pass options do suck, what also sucked was having to put the money down a week after they closed or els having pay even more.

      Like

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