At this time last year, 2020 was destined to be busy in North America with more than 30 ropeways already scheduled for construction. As the 2019/20 winter went on, more announcements came seemingly each week. Vail Resorts, Alterra and Boyne all unveiled ambitious plans including multi-lift projects at Beaver Creek, Mammoth and Okemo. Yet in the background, the Coronavirus was advancing around the world. The situation came to a head the weekend of March 14th, when hundreds of North American resorts closed in order to protect public health. Facing uncertainty about summer and beyond, many businesses decided to postpone expansion capital entirely.
Despite immense challenges, US and Canadian resorts did add a total of 28 new lifts in 2020. Most companies which went ahead were small- to medium-sized, ones often forgotten in this era of consolidation. In Maine and West Virginia, mountains which had sat idle for years revved back to life with brand new lifts to welcome back guests.
Almost all this year’s lifts directly replaced older machines. The average age of a lift retired in 2020 was 40 years as resorts said goodbye to Halls, Riblets, Borvigs and more. Some replacement projects simply couldn’t wait for the pandemic to be over.
Expansion lifts make up about 40 percent of the total most years but in 2020 they were just 20 percent. Sun Valley forged ahead with Sunrise, a 380 acre addition near Seattle Ridge. After skiing the new terrain, guests will enjoy a high speed ride back to the Roundhouse on a new Doppelmayr quad. Other expansions include Lake Louise’s West Bowl project and Nordic Valley’s yet-to-be-named southward expansion.
Arapahoe Basin replaced not one but two Yan fixed grips with modern Alpha models, including the legendary Pallavicini double with a new double. Aspen Skiing Company purchased its first direct drive lift from Leitner-Poma, a replacement for Big Burn at Snowmass. The State of New York committed millions to upgrade three fixed grip chairlifts at two mountains.