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.
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.”
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.”