Massachusetts Orders Blue Hills Ski Area Closed

Blue Hills Ski Area has been temporarily shuttered following two lift-related incidents. On Monday, a seven year old child fell out of a chair and was airlifted to a local hospital. Three days later, riders jumped from chairs during an extended breakdown of the lift. Other patrons were roped down by ski patrol and still more offloaded under the lift’s own power. The ski area said the first incident was not the result of a mechanical problem and the lift was fully operational at the time.

Ski Blue Hills Management, LLC operates the mountain through an agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation. The chairlift involved is a 1978 Hall double which has been operated by the current lessee since 2007. In a letter obtained by a local TV station, a DCR official wrote, “The Ski Area shall remain closed until such time that the Ski Blue Hills Management LLC can satisfactorily demonstrate that all issues affecting the safety and integrity of the tramway, including any necessary corrective actions, have been addressed by Ski Blue Hills Management LLC, documentation of such has been provided to the satisfaction of DCR, and DCR approves reopening the facility to the public.”

“Blue Hills Ski Area will remain closed today as we await the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to complete inspection of our double chair,” notes a statement posted on the resort’s website. “We have worked closely with the Commonwealth and provided everything they have requested. We are excited to reopen immediately upon completion of that inspection process.”

Update: A third party inspector and state inspector both completed safety inspections of the lift. The Massachusetts Recreational Tramway Board cleared Blue Hills to reopen on Sunday 1/31.

News Roundup: Reports

Tamarack Proposes Vast 3,300 Acre Expansion

Idaho’s Tamarack Resort today announced the submission of a special use permit application for thousands of acres of new ski terrain and six new lifts in the Boise National Forest. A flagship 10 passenger gondola would rise from Tamarack’s existing base village to Lone Tree Summit with a mid-mountain unloading station. Three new detachable quads and two triple chairlifts are also envisioned for the Overlook, South Bowl and Poison Creek areas. Another new lift would occupy private land at a new South Base Area and yet another on state land between the existing Tamarack Express and Wildwood Express lifts.

Tamarack Resort Holdings purchased a distressed Tamarack in November 2018 and immediately got to work restoring the Wildwood terrain pod and resuming construction of the Tamarack Village. Now the investor group is ready to look beyond the current ski terrain, which occupies state and private land rather than National Forest. “This application represents another step in the process of completing the grand vision of Tamarack Resort,” said Tamarack Resort President Scott Turlington. “We’ve all worked hard to get to this point, and we know a lot of work remains to be done. We look forward to continuing to work with the professionals at the U.S. Forest Service, and we are eager to begin engaging the public and other stakeholders in the public process that will soon follow the submission of this application.”

Wasatch Peaks Ranch to Debut with Two Bubble Chairlifts

Leitner-Poma of America has been selected to build the chairlifts at Wasatch Peaks Ranch, a private Utah ski community scheduled to open for the 2021-2022 season. The first two of nine planned lifts will service approximately 55 percent of the mountain’s 3,000-plus acres of terrain and are planned to feature both bubbles and heated seats. “We are honored to be working with the team at Wasatch Peaks Ranch to help make their vision come to life,” said Daren Cole, President of Leitner-Poma. “We developed a custom plan for the chairlifts to ensure the uphill amenities are in line with the elevated guest experience at this new community.”

Wasatch Peaks Ranch is located in Morgan County, 37 miles northeast of Salt Lake City on the backside of the Wasatch Range. The private mountain will offer one of the longest vertical drops in the west at 3,600 feet. Skiers and snowboarders will have access to pristine, groomed terrain along with natural, untracked peaks and chutes for an intermediate and advanced experience.

The initial two lifts Leitner-Poma is building in 2021 will provide access to 1,650 acres. The first lift is a high speed quad that will take skiers and snowboarders out of the base area and is more than 8,000 feet long, providing access to most of the ski mountain’s intermediate and advanced terrain. The second lift, also a high-speed quad, will provide access to expert open bowl terrain with ridge top views of the surrounding area.

“We selected LPOA to build our chairlifts not only because of their excellent track record and years of industry experience, but also because they were willing to work with us to design and customize a lift experience that mirrors the luxury guest experience that our members will have,” said Bob Wheaton, president and chief executive officer of Wasatch Peaks Ranch. “This included everything from technical specifications to thoughtful applications like selecting lifts to provide more space for our members as well as identifying comforts such as heated seats and bubbles.”

Approximately 80 percent of the components for the Wasatch Peaks Ranch lifts will be produced in the United States at LPOA’s Grand Junction, Colorado facility. Both phase one lifts are expected to be operational by December.

News Roundup: Four More Weeks

  • I managed to completely miss an installation from last year – a used Doppelmayr quad at a publicly-owned hill in Lévis, Quebec.
  • Bousquet acknowledges engineering issues with its chairlift project and offers passholders privileges at nearby ski areas until its new triple is complete.
  • Ontario extends the closure of ski resorts another 28 days, forcing business like Mt. St. Louis Moonstone to make more difficult decisions.
  • France’s 250+ ski resorts may not open at all this season.
  • Austrian resorts expect business to plunge 75 percent this year, calling operating “philanthropic” rather than profitable.
  • One of British Columbia’s largest resorts provides a sobering look at business: lodging occupancy down 87.5 percent, midweek skier visits down 84 percent and ski school down 96 percent.
  • Here’s another 1A update from Aspen.
  • As it negotiates with Vail Resorts, the Park City ski patrol union weighs attempting to unionize other work groups such as lift operators.
  • Skeetawk remains closed for a second week following a lift malfunction.
  • Kimberley reopens the Northstar Express after a successful multi-continent repair effort.
  • Utah’s new Governor expresses support for a gondola in Little Cottonwood.
  • A new lift garners rave reviews at Lake Louise.
  • There’s tons of cool lift history in this feature on the legendary Lone Peak Tram.

Could Another Maine Mountain Stage a Comeback?

The mostly defunct Big Squaw Mountain would transform into Moosehead Lake Resort under a new plan by a Maine developer and nonprofit partner. The $75 million project would include a new summit quad chairlift, snowmaking system, a day lodge, hotel and summer activities. “Moosehead Lake Ski Resort and the Greenville area represent one of the only true Four Season resort venues in all of New England,” notes Big Lake Development, LLC, which seeks to purchase the resort from current owner James Confalone. Confalone was ordered by a court judge to restore the mountain to operating condition last year. Maine developer Perry Williams is behind the rebirth plan along with Provident Resources Group of Louisiana. Provident specializes in “mission-based business activities” in the housing, education and health care sectors. “Combining a family friendly ski experience with a high quality, big lake experience will be a unique product in the New England resort industry,” notes the company.

Big Squaw Mountain first opened in 1963 and passed through numerous owners over the decades including the Scott Paper Company and State of Maine. In 2004, while under the ownership of Confalone, the mountain’s Stadeli double suffered an accident which injured four skiers. The lift never reopened, rendering the summit inaccessible. Currently a local nonprofit operates the mountain’s lower mountain triple on weekends when natural snow permits. With the rebuild, that lift would remain in addition to the new summit lift and a connector surface lift between the two base areas.

The vision in many ways mimics the story of Saddleback, which a Boston-based impact investing group began rebuilding last spring. At Moosehead, Big Lake Development would finance its project with bonds from the Finance Authority of Maine. If successful, the group could reopen skiing from the 3,196 foot summit of Big Moose Mountain in late 2022.

News Roundup: Settling Up