- Woods Valley takes delivery of a used CTEC quad, likely the former Kenny’s Parkway.
- West Mountain considers adding a lift as part of a real estate play.
- Big Snow is a bright spot at the otherwise struggling American Dream mall.
- The Ever Vail project and related gondola plans are dead.
- Mt. Spokane seeks state funding to replace Chair 1 and Chair 2, one of which could be done this summer.
- Mark Brownlie is named Chief Operating Officer of Alterra’s resort portfolio.
- MND wins a $21 million contract to build lifts at a new ski resort in Russia.
- Starting next year, most Big Sky Resort lift tickets, season passes, Ikon and Mountain Collective passes will no longer include access to the Lone Peak Tram.
- Cape Smokey provides an update on Canada’s only new gondola this year.
- Schweitzer introduces a new logo and brand identity.
- Despite losing a significant portion of the season, another Ontario ski area still plans to complete a new chairlift for next season.
- Doppelmayr France is selected to build and maintain a five station urban gondola in Paris.
- Doppelmayr also will build the first urban gondolas in Guatemala.
- Retired cabins from Killington’s K-1 Gondola fan out across the country as dining venues.
- Under new ownership, Sleeping Giant increases visits by 71 percent.
- Vermont skier visits decline 40 percent.
- New Mexico also reports a significant drop in visitation.
- A company called Trident tried to buy Brundage Mountain last year with the intention of creating a much larger resort.
- Here’s a preview of Snow King’s gondola cabins.
- Leitner-Poma seeks employees to help build the new high speed quad at Breckenridge.
- PyxisAI announces a successful beta test of technology designed to alert lift operators when slows or stops might be needed.
- Whitefish Mountain Resort smashes its previous visit record by more than 20 percent.
Anyone confused about Trident wanted to do with Brundage? That looks very ambitious and having 14,000 ft long lifts seems like too long for chairlifts unless you have a gondola.
Brundage was just one little piece of Trident’s huge goal of owning/developing most of that area. High Country News did a good piece on the overall plans, though it doesn’t touch much on Brundage in particular: https://www.hcn.org/issues/53.4/north-growth-sustainability-when-state-owned-land-is-publicly-accessible-but-not-public-idaho-land-swap.
Basically the plans laid out were to entice investors, and they were saying all along that they’d get future refinement and input from locals/stakeholders. But it looks like a bare-minimum sketch of how to connect Brundage with a few different tourist and real estate centers.
So I just purchased a Mountain Collective for next season and requested my additional 3rd day at Big Sky, not having any idea there were plans to restrict access to the Tram. Ugh.
This decision by Big Sky seems to be drawing a lot of negative feedback on social media. Was thinking of taking a family trip there in the next few years and while there is more then enough mountain to entertain us for the entire trip I have always enjoyed the option of being able to take the tram if the weather was agreeable. With the new policy its unlikely I would be willing to pay extra unless the fee was small and the weather ideal… Both scenarios unlikely…
Personally I believe a reservation system would have helped address the issue and would have been met with positive responses. I can think of a 1/2 dozen ways they could have structured this for positive results without having to charge extra for the tram. Maybe I am naive, but I am optimistic this is a temporary policy and things will change (for the better) in the future…
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I have an Ikon and am planning to take a trip out to Big Sky next year. I am definitely disappointed in the decision, as the tram is absolutely awesome, but I do understand why they are looking for new ways to decrease the tram lift line. When I was last out there, I only took the tram once because the line was just too long to justify me waiting again instead of skiing somewhere else. I usually take the side of “build-out to meet demand” rather than “raise prices to lower demand” and that sentiment definitely echos true here. Big Sky has a huge footprint, and there are plenty of infill lifts, such as a South Face/Liberty Bowl lift, that would help get people to the terrain they would like without using the tram. I really appreciate the upgrades to existing lifts, but my two cents is that upgrading Swifty or Ramcharger does less for the mountain than adding a new lift to make new terrain lappable with a single lift (Liberty Bowl, Moonlight West, etc.)
I will likely buy the add-on for one day, as it simply is a cannot miss lift, but that is price and weather-dependent. I am afraid that other people will think like me, causing everyone to buy the upgrade on a few concentrated days, allowing the tram line problem to continue.
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While I understand what Big Sky is trying to do by reducing people up on the peak, the plan could have been done much better. I am a season pass holder at Big. If I want to get the same pass next year that I got this year it will cost me $300 more dollars for less skiing since I lose tram access. I have the “single black” for reference. Big Sky is screwing the locals who just have a season pass at Big, not an Ikon or a Mountain Collective pass. The locals/strictly just Big Sky season pass holders should be rewarded for just having a pass at Big. We are getting screwed by paying more for less.
I know the problem would be solved by just adding another lift up the south face but then the peak becomes more crowded. It is already not a large area up there. A lift up the south face will put more people up on the peak who have business being up there. Since the tram has such a small capacity, I think it discourages some people who should be up on the peak from going up there. That, in itself, is more valuable than people think.
There is no perfect formula for pricing, and people will never be happy. Big Sky raises their prices and people complain, Vail lowers their prices and people complain. Personally, I am all for lower prices and sit in the Vail camp, but Big Sky is able to essentially charge as they please because they will always be lower than the local competition (Yellowstone Club). Plus, there are a decent number of Big Sky locals with deep pockets who will buy a season pass for themselves and their family regardless of the cost.
As for summit capacity: Yes, I do agree that there is a limit to how many people can be up there at a time, but I do believe that number is at least a little above the current 200 people per hour from the existing tram. Alternatively, a South Face lift could end a hundred feet or so below the summit to keep people on the South Face, where there should be enough space to absorb more skiers.
TLDR; it’s complicated.
I’ve had a few seasons with season passes at Big Sky, and a few using limited access type passes (Ikon, Sky Card, etc.). I just want to throw out a few things, because I don’t have a solution. Food for thought.
Something needs to be done. We can all agree that the tram line is excessive, particularly on good snow or high vis days (sightseers). They have futzed around with season pass options in the past, offering passes that did not include tram access, and while it helped, it more helped people who were willing to forgo the tram entirely.
Permanent solutions are permanent. They are trying a market based solution next year, but if it doesn’t work, they can try something else, or go back to square one, and nothing fundamental will have changed. The moment the current tram is upgraded, or a lift is put up the south side, there is no going back. Not only is it a much larger investment, but if it turns out to be causing issues with Liberty Bowl, Yeti Traverse, or in the rock maze, they have to work around the changed infrastructure to fix that issue. That’s setting aside any potential logistical issues with building the lift,such as wind holds or avalanche zones.
Looking at other ski areas for an answer, I’m trying to think about comparable lifts to the tram, and I’m not sure there is one in the US and Canada. Snowbasin’s tram is essentially just an add-on to John Paul, and doesn’t fundamentally change how the area skis. Jackson’s tram really only services Corbet’s and Rendezvous Bowl above the chairs, so you can still ski the bulk of the terrain without riding the tram. Schlasman’s, Crystal’s Chair 6, Gold Hill, Pali, Deep Temerity etc. all have much more available terrain, and sometimes a blue route down. Kachina at Taos is the closest equivalent I can come up with, and I’m aware there was controversy around that lift, although I have never skied Taos, so I don’t have much to say.
Big Sky operates in a very strange market position. There essentially isn’t any local competition, as both Yellowstone Club and Bridger Bowl have different target markets.Obviously there is some overlap, but the bulk of Bozeman skiers choose Bridger Bowl. The only real competition exists in the tourist market, where they compete with other mountains for experts (Jackson, Squaw, Snowbird) and other pricey mountains for intermediates (Vail, Breck, Park City). In the grand sceme of all the expenses to go on a ski trip, (spitballing this number because it has not been announced as of when I’m writing this) does adding a $50 fee to ski the tram change if someone is wanting to choose Big Sky over another mountain? That seems pretty drop in the bucket to me.
Lastly, just for context, locals here are currently jaded about the idea of reservations, which is another possible solution for the tram. Bridger Bowl required a reservation to ski this winter. It was effective at limiting capacity to what the mountain could accomodate with Covid protocals in place, and we only had a few days of parking disasters. However, there were weekend warriors who struggled to consistently get reservations, which let to a lot of negative feedback around reservations, and a lot of threatening to drive to Big Sky, Disco, and Showdown.
Interesting that they have 22 lifts on the mt (if I’m counting that right) and invest a lot in expensive updates (that ramcharger 8) but won’t put in a lift from the top of Shedhorn to where to Tram ends, which would solve this issue (or at least give folks an option to access that terrain without paying).
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There isn’t enough space to dump more capacity than the tram on the top of that peak
I haven’t been there – but – what about a high-speed detachable Pomalift on the south side? It would be intimidating and difficult enough to ride to keep intermediates off, and would just be a trickle of additional people at the summit. Is that terrain just too challenging to engineer a surface lift on? Hard to tell from Google Earth, the trail map and online photos.
Big If’s – There’s a fundamental tension as to how many people can ski from the peak each hour. Another lift could over crowd it. Making it a poma lift doesn’t change that – it just annoys the users who are uncomfortable for the 10 minute ride to the top. Too many intermediate skiers up there isn’t really the problem – other than scenic riders (who can go after ski hours).
And if you put in a chair lift inevitably people are going to ask “why not faster/more chairs”?
I don’t know what the right answer is in terms of “how many people an hour” – it’s probably greater than 200/hour. But probably a lot less than people would demand to go up there.
So the question is do you make it a worse experience for a larger number of people or a better experience for a smaller number?
What lift is the new quad replacing at Woods Valley?
Cool! I got a season pass for Mt. Spokane next season. I will be bummed though if Chair 1 gets replaced, that is the oldest chairlift I have ever ridden on (besides some of the towers on Upper Bowl at Ski Bowl, OR)! But if the lift is having reliability issues after 65 years of use, it makes sense.
What Mt. Spokane has going for them is the parks, other than that, I’d rather go to Schweitzer or 49N. In addition, 49N going to detachable to replace chair 1, will undoubtedly kick them up a notch, they’re addressing the most universally hated part of their mountain with that. If Mt. Spokane wants to stay competitive in the market they’re going to have to do something with those old Riblets, especially with two of them going down over the Christmas holiday period and cutting off summit access for those not already up there. If I had to pick on bang for the buck, 49N & their new lift is a clear winner, but if I had to pick based on variety of terrain & parks, Schweitzer all the way, tough choice between those two, but Mt. Spokane is really falling behind.
Yeah those are fair critiques. I ultimately decided on Mt. Spokane because they’re the only resort in the Spokane area that does frequent night skiing, their midweek pass is super cheap, they’re close by, and they have pass insurance.
I ALMOST got a season pass at 49N though! They’re not much farther, I really like their resort and the new high speed quad will be absolutely amazing, but ultimately what made me go with Mt. Spokane was the pass insurance, 49N had none. I needed pass insurance since I’m not entirely sure if work will move me or not!
I can’t wait to see what improvements come next for 49N, they have a lot of plans, and this massive, 6,000+ foot, brand new high speed quad is a massive investment on their behalf.
I will say, I was rather underwhelmed by Schweitzer. I totally acknowledge that for a resort of their caliber, their prices are pretty good and they have a lot of terrain, but their terrain personally didn’t really pique my interest. I also found their lift layout to be rather frustrating.
While a decent critique, I’d argue against Mt. Spokane “really falling behind.” Obviously Chair 1 & 2 need to be replaced asap, as the maintenance costs aren’t doing the mountain any favors. Once they do though, Mt. Spokane is going to be in a very good position. Replacing chair 1 alone opens up the possibility of a bike park, increased summer operations, and much higher capacity on the front side of the mountain. On top of that, the Chair 6 expansion in the 18/19 season, along with the learning area improvements for beginners, and I’d personally argue that Mt. Spo asserted themselves as having the premier terrain park in the INW this season. On top of that, the mountain still recorded over 100k visits this season, which is still near record territory for Mt. Spo. Anyways, I’m excited to see what the mountain looks like in 5, 10, even 15 years. Exciting things ahead for all the INW mountains.
EverVail was always going to be a fever dream. I think it’s more likely Vail builds a high speed quad to replace Cascade Village.
Vail submitted plans for Cascade Village to become a detachable quad in their latest master plan. As a side note, I believe it would make more sense to make it a gondola for easier downloading, ad no one really laps the lift. Regardless, Cascade Village can never really be what EverVail was supposed to be, as the area is already pretty densely developed around the base of the lift with the Grand Hyatt and other properties.
Vail absolutely needs another portal, but it would be wise to have it a little farther from Lionshead and Vail Village. Exit 176 just has too much traffic. I think the best idea is to turn West Vail into a proper portal. Run a gondola up from the two Marriotts to Eagle’s Nest and perhaps add a couple of trails down so downloading is not a necessity. There is not too much room at the bottom, but absolutely enough for another couple of buildings or garages. Plus, they could always turn one of the gas stations across I-70 into a parking garage and install a pedestrian bridge. Alternatively, Vail could expand further down Game Creek and into South Game Creek and use Minturn as a portal, although that would likely require a couple of lifts and be a much larger project. Regardless, with Vail’s new corporate strategy of getting as many people on the mountain as possible, they need to expand their infrastructure to accommodate everyone.
Vail could probably expand into south game creek as that is in their SUP boundary. There might be some angry environmentalists though.
I also believe Chair 20 (Cascade Village) would work better as a gondola, like an 8 passenger gondola with around 2,000 pph capacity. Line speed doesn’t have to be too high since the line is pretty short, maybe 800 fpm and use Doppelmayr’s shortest gondola terminals like Sweetwater or Beaver Creek #7. The tricky part about Chair 20 is that I think the Hotel Talisa will be at least partially responsible for the replacement financially. There is a significant price difference between a detachable quad and gondola that would be a pretty big ask. I don’t expect a Chair 20 replacement for a while.
Really interesting idea about the West Vail Gondola. Vail would have to expand the SUP boundary to make this happen, which could get tricky. As you mentioned, space is a concern and land is at a premium in the Vail Valley. The convenient aspect of EverVail was that Vail was already in possession of most of that land. As for Minturn, I heard that George Gillett (owner of Vail Associates in late 80’s) floated an idea for a lift from the area to the base of Chair 5 but locals weren’t interested. Lifts and terrain in the lower Game Creek drainage would be an absolutely massive project. A long term (like many decades) dream would be to use the Minturn/Meadow Mountain area as the midpoint of a Vail-Beaver Creek connection.
I would like to see some of undeveloped area that was to be EverVail be used for employee housing and parking garages. I think the best option lift-wise will be to replace Gondola #19 with a new flagship running up to Eagle’s Nest. That, along with the Chair 20 replacement, should increase uphill capacity sufficiently for the Lionshead area. The #19 replacement will be a huge capital expenditure, and I’m really looking to see what Vail comes up with for this lift down the road.
Wow. So the first thing you see on the page announcing Schweitzer’s new logo is an image with horrible anti-aliasing artifacts around the “S”. Not a great look.
How much skiing acreage is there at south creek game bowl?
It is understandable why Trident would want to expand Brundage to such a large size. 14,000 acres of backcountry is real tempting to develop. Hopefully, the new holders will confirm something soon. It’s a small mountain with lots of room to the north.