News Roundup: Moving Parts

News Roundup: Earth Week

Schweitzer Joins Ikon, Plans Lift Improvements

Idaho’s Schweitzer has signed on to become the 45th Ikon Pass mountain in North America. Ikon Pass holders will enjoy up to 7 days of access at Schweitzer and Ikon Base Pass holders will get 5 holiday-restricted days. Schweitzer’s top tier local passholders will receive an Ikon Base Pass valid at destinations worldwide. “This is a huge win for skiers and snowboarders and for our community,” the resort said in a statement. “We wanted to be able to offer our customers the benefit of a multi-resort pass and joining Ikon Pass allows us to do just that. The Ikon Pass includes premier mountains around the globe, and we are excited to be the newest Ikon Pass mountain destination.”

The partnership with Alterra replaces Schweitzer’s membership in the Powder Alliance reciprocal program, which brought the North Idaho mountain about 5,000 skiers per year over the last seven seasons. Schweitzer says it was the single most-redeemed destination in that alliance.

With Ikon and regional population trends, Schweitzer is planning for continued visitation growth of about 5 to 10 percent over the next couple of years and will make “continued investments to help the mountain to absorb that growth.” This summer, the resort will dedicate more than $250,000 to increase the capacity of the Stella Express by 15 percent (235 people per hour). This will be accomplished by adding 14 new six passenger chairs. The mountain will also debut a $500,000 RFID ticketing system in the fall, enabling direct-to-lift access. Following these projects and the debut of a new slopeside hotel, replacement of the Musical Chairs lift will become the mountain’s next major capital priority. The new high speed quad will span a creek near the current bottom terminal and connect to a parking lot for 1,500 cars.

The mountain’s master plan envisions at least four other new lifts in both Schweitzer and Outback bowls in the years to come.

Grand Targhee Selects Doppelmayr D-Line for Peaked Mountain

With skier visits up 17 percent this season from a previous record, Grand Targhee Resort will spend more than $20 million on improvements the next two years, including a new six place chairlift on Peaked Mountain.

The Peaked lift will become Targhee’s fifth chair and the seventh Doppelmayr D-Line system in the United States. Introduced in 2015, D-Line features more than 200 improvements to previous Doppelmayr detachable technology. The lift will transport 2,000 people per hour, gaining 1,815 vertical feet in just over five minutes. The Peaked area will offer unmatched views of the Tetons with access to over 600 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain. Heavier six passenger carriers will improve the lift’s ability to operate in windy conditions and full carrier parking will help speed storm recovery. Cat skiing will be offered on upper Peaked Mountain for one final season in 2021/22.

Tower/terminal foundations, communications trenching and the lift’s power supply will be completed this summer with steel installation to follow in 2022. New chairs will also be added to the nearby Sacajawea high speed quad during the summer of 2022 to bring its uphill capacity to 2,000 guests per hour. The resort will also construct new employee housing, increase parking and complete a new maintenance shop this summer. “Due to the efforts of many dedicated employees and the support of our guests and partners during challenging times, Grand Targhee is fortunate to be able to announce these projects,” the resort said in a statement.

MND Ropeways to Build First US Detachable at Waterville Valley

Waterville Valley Resort and MND Ropeways have inked a deal to bring a first-of-its-kind chairlift to New Hampshire. The six place bubble lift will replace the White Peaks Express, in operation since 1988. One hundred chairs designed by Porsche Design Studio will carry 3,000 skiers per hour along a 5,700 foot alignment.

Waterville Valley and MND previously collaborated to install three surface lifts and more than 400 snow guns. “We have been partners with Waterville Valley Resort since 2017 and are pleased to be continuing our collaboration,” noted Xavier Gallot-LavallΓ©e, Chairman and CEO of MND. “This project will expand our position in the U.S. market by building our first detachable ropeway transportation system in the United States.”

The $9 million, 845 horsepower machine will become one of the largest bubble lifts in the East. “Replacing our White Peaks lift is the most important project in our investment plan for the existing resort footprint, and we will continue our work to enhance the guest experience at Waterville Valley Resort,” said President and General Manager Tim Smith. “This lift represents the best technology in the market today and we are pleased to extend our partnership with MND.”

MND Ropeways has built lifts in more than 40 countries to date. German Peter Loipolder founded the company as LST (Loipolder Seilbahn Technik) in 1989. Following Mr. Loipolder’s 2011 death, the French conglomerate MND (which translates in English as Mountain and Snow Development) acquired LST, moving manufacturing to the French Alps. MND went public on the Euronext Growth exchange in 2013 and constructed its first detachable chairlift in 2016. By 2019, the firm pivoted to a partnership with Bartholet Maschinenbau Flums (BMF) of Switzerland, allowing MND to utilize Bartholet’s detachable technology. MND has been present in the United States for 10 years with a main office in Eagle, Colorado and a satellite location in Laconia, New Hampshire.

A third player entering the North American detachable lift business is a big deal. The last time three companies offered detachables here was pre-2002, when Doppelmayr merged with Garaventa. Competition is good for ski resorts and ultimately the skiing and snowboarding public.

White Peaks is a turnkey project with MND providing design, project management, equipment fabrication, construction, installation, start-up and operator training. Foundations for Waterville’s six pack will be poured this year with steel erection taking place next summer. Commissioning is slated for the fall of 2022.

BC Businessmen Introduce Cascade Skyline Gondola Project

Just days after a new ski resort was floated near Chilliwack, British Columbia, a nearby sightseeing gondola proposal has formally launched. Former Sea to Sky Gondola and Arc’teryx Equipment executive Jayson Faulkner and partner Pete Tatham would invest CA$70 million to build the project, which would be similar to other sightseeing gondolas in Canada. “The Cascade Skyline Gondola Project is an eco-cultural tourism amenity similar to the very successful Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish,” notes a statement from the Cheam First Nations, which would be an equity partner in the venture. “The gondola would be a celebration of nature and natural spaces with non-motorized activities for a range of abilities and interests.”

Developers say both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma have offered favorable terms for the estimated CA$28 million in gondola equipment and installation costs. The lift would rise nearly 4,000 vertical feet from the Bridal Falls Golf Course with a 15 minute ride time. Permitting is already well underway and if approved, the new experience could open in spring 2023.

News Roundup: Insights

Major Mountain Resort Proposed Near Chilliwack, BC

British Columbia’s number of planned ski resorts grew by one today with the unveiling of Bridal Veil Mountain Resort. Unlike the remote Valemount Glacier, Zincton, Saddle Mountain and Jumbo Glacier proposals, this four season resort would serve the fast-growing Fraser Valley and surrounding region. Located along the Trans-Canada Highway, the site sits just 1.5 hours outside Vancouver and 2.5 hours north of Seattle.

The vision includes two 3,300′ vertical gondolas providing access to alpine villages and numerous skiing pods. “Upon arriving at the resort, the preliminary concept for Bridal Veil Mountain Resort will see guests travelling by gondola from the floor of the Fraser Valley to a vehicle-free mountain recreation area, where they could ski or snowboard, backcountry tour, hike, sightsee, mountain bike, and participate in year-round ecological and Indigenous cultural programs,” notes the project website. “These activities will effectively be separated and hidden from the valley, offering guests a remote mountain recreation experience with unparalleled views of the Fraser Valley and Cascade Mountain Range.” Downhill skiing would take place from approximately 1,000 meters above sea level (3,280 feet) to as high as 1,729 meters (5,673 feet) atop Mt. Archibald.

The study area typically receives plentiful snowfall, sitting just 18 miles as the crow flies from world record snowfall holder Mt. Baker Ski Area. Through multiple phases of buildout, the project could eventually encompass 11,500 acres. A preliminary economic impact analysis suggests that, as currently envisioned, BVMR could create more than 1,800 full-time equivalent jobs and generate more than one million visits each year. Based on that visitation, Bridal Veil would generate approximately CA$252 million in regional visitor spending and CA$35 million in tax revenue each year.

The project is being spearheaded by BC residents Norm Gaukel and Robert Wilson with assistance from mountain planner Brent Harley and market research firm RRC Associates. The proponents recently filed an Expression of Interest with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development. If the EOI is approved, the next phase would be the submission of a more detailed proposal, followed by the submission of a comprehensive Resort Master Plan. Any development remains years away but the concept deserves attention, especially considering nearby population growth and the shortage of destination skiing in neighboring Washington State.