Celebrating a Year of Resilience

Atlantic Canada’s first gondola debuted in the Fall to rave reviews.

As clocks roll over to 2022, 42 new lifts stand tall across North America. Lift manufacturer and resort employees accomplished a lot – operating through the pandemic and adding 13 more lifts than the year before despite supply chain bottlenecks and record low unemployment. Nearly all pandemic-postponed projects from 2020 were completed thanks to skiers, mountain bikers and sightseers flocking outside this year.

Holiday Valley debuted its fourth detachable quad this season.

The 2021 lift class ranges from used T-Bars to the East’s first eight place chairlift and three new gondolas. Vail Resorts purchased the most new lifts of any single customer with seven projects across five mountains. Okemo moved a bubble detachable quad from Jackson Gore to the summit and added a six pack in its place. At Beaver Creek, a high alpine expansion will soon debut with two new quad chairs. Just as Vail’s construction projects entered the home stretch in September, the company shocked the industry and announced 19 new lifts would be built across its network in 2022. That number grew even further this month with the addition of two more projects in Pennsylvania as part of the Epic Lift Upgrade.

Okemo’s new Quantum Six, a partnership between Leitner-Poma and Vail Resorts.

Boyne Resorts moved forward with two signature Doppelmayr D-Line lifts at Loon Mountain and Big Sky Resort. Boyne also worked to open a new peak at Sunday River dubbed Merrill Hill, serviced by a Sunday River Red triple chair. Seeing how smoothly its pandemic-postponed projects went, Boyne went ahead and announced three 2022 lifts early for Boyne Mountain, Loon Mountain and Sunday River.

Merrill Hill at Sunday River awaits its inaugural season.

No new lifts debuted at Alterra mountains this year but the growing company’s pause won’t last long. Leitner-Poma completed the towers and terminal foundations for the Base-to-Base Gondola, which will be one of the most unique lifts in America when complete next year at Palisades Tahoe. The project includes four stations, three haul ropes, more than 30 towers and a cabin storage facility. Alterra also has grand plans for new lifts at Steamboat including North America’s longest gondola.

The existing Steamboat Gondola received a new bottom terminal in 2021 to make room for a second, longer gondola to be built nearby in 2022.

This year’s projects were dispersed all across the US and Canada with particular strength in the traditional Rocky Mountain and Northeast markets.

While large ski areas went big on lifts, small ski areas invested too. This new Skytrac belongs to the Steamboat town hill.

2021 saw a roughly even split between fixed and detachable lifts with both increasing from last year. Gondolas took a slight pandemic pause again but will be back in a big way next year with Palisades Tahoe, Steamboat, Whistler all planning large installations. No resorts built aerial tramways in 2021 but two new surface lifts debuted.

Loon Mountain’s new flagship eight place bubble, dubbed Kancamagus 8.

Fifteen years ago, around half of new lifts were for expansions while the other half replaced older ropeways. The share of replacement equipment has only grown, making up nearly three quarters of all projects this year. We said goodbye to many lifts from defunct manufacturers in 2021 with 12 Halls, 6 Borvigs and 3 Heron-Pomas being retired this year.

The detachable business split right down the middle with Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr each completing eight lifts. Things will get interesting next year when MND Ropeways completes its first US detachable at Waterville Valley in partnership with Swiss manufacturer Bartholet. The last time three firms competed in the detachable space Amazon only sold books.

The fixed grip side of the business also split roughly evenly with Skytrac edging out Doppelmayr. Skytrac fabricated eight complete lifts plus two retrofit Monarch drive terminals, the most projects ever in one year for the company. Doppelmayr’s Alpenstar model continued to be popular with seven installations.

Snow King Mountain transformed this summer with a new gondola, backside expansion and summit learning center.

We saw the ski industry recover faster from the pandemic than other segments of the travel and tourism world. Only two installations were at places other than ski areas in 2020 and 2021, both gondolas at the Icy Strait Pont cruise port in Southeast Alaska.

The percentage of lifts installed used remained low this year with just seven reinstallations. Most customers opted for brand new machines from four different manufacturers.

Doppelmayr won the total project count with 18 installations while the Leitner-Poma/Skytrac duo installed 16. Partek completed a new quad chair at Trollhaugen, Wisconsin after a on-off year with no projects in 2020.

The new Cannon Valley Quad at Minnesota’s Welch Village.

Projects in 2021 were incredibly diverse, from the tiniest platter at a new Club Med in Quebec to Big Sky’s Swift Current 6, the longest D-Line chairlift in the world. The below chart shows Leitner-Poma and Skytrac roughly split their business of large lifts and small lifts while Doppelmayr covered the entire gamut of Vertical Transport Feet per Hour under one roof.

The lift companies enjoyed a great year and so did Lift Blog. A record 617,000 people visited this website in 2021 and viewed 3.6 million pages. Next year I should finally finish visiting every US ski area, a milestone I’ve been chasing since I was four years old. There’s so much to look forward to in the lift world in 2022 and I hope you follow along as I do my best to cover it all. Happy New Year!

18 thoughts on “Celebrating a Year of Resilience

  1. axewolfe17 December 31, 2021 / 9:36 pm

    2021 has been a crazy year that’ for sure! So many advances in ropeway technology! Now Artificial Intelligence is helping control lifts!? Thanks for documenting all these new lifts built this year, Peter!

    Like

    • Vail :( December 31, 2021 / 9:55 pm

      Maybe Vail should invest in AI, it could really help solve their staffing shortages, especially with lift operations…

      Like

  2. Rob Withey December 31, 2021 / 9:48 pm

    Thanks for the great coverage Peter. One stop shopping for all your lift info needs.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Mario December 31, 2021 / 9:52 pm

    Do you mean Bug Sky’s Swift Current 6? Ramcharger 8 was not installed in 2021.

    Like

  4. Enzo Ferrari December 31, 2021 / 10:20 pm

    So has LPA ceased installing leitner or Poma legacy fixed grip lifts in North America since they acquired Skytrac? Or has their Skytrac subsidiary taken over installing LPA technology in addition to their legacy lift designs?

    Also, what will be the last ski area to be visited? That place in Alabama?

    Like

    • atc1701 December 31, 2021 / 11:27 pm

      The Alpha terminal is an active LPA design, not legacy. It’s just been the only terminal design to have withstood the test of time without major cosmetic upgrades. Leitner terminals have been phased out since the merger in 2000 and will conceivably not return to North America.

      In terms of fixed/detach, my guess is that Skytrac provides more affordable fixed-grip lifts than LPA (they are distinct companies). LPA might build a few Alpha fixed-grips next year but in the foreseeable future that market will be contested by Skytrac and Doppelmayr.

      Like

      • ne_skier January 1, 2022 / 12:11 pm

        And don’t forget Partek’s one annual lift…lol

        Like

  5. Michael January 1, 2022 / 7:30 am

    Excellent review of the lift industry for 2021, Peter! Keep up the great work and best of luck in achieving you goal in 2022.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. carletongebhardt January 1, 2022 / 8:18 am

    Great work! I’m not in the lift business, but I take a keen interest in everything about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Patrick Nolan January 1, 2022 / 12:52 pm

    Between you and “the Storm” every week has a little jot of news or insight that excites me.

    All the ski resorts in the USA.. hope Bohemia or Vegas Skil Hill is the celebratory last one! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Phoenix January 1, 2022 / 2:07 pm

    Thanks for all your work Peter! Reading the weekly news roundups is a high point in my week.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Butterside January 1, 2022 / 3:27 pm

    Peter, can you post the pace graphs for 2021 and 2022?

    Like

  10. The Skiing Stig January 1, 2022 / 3:46 pm

    Thank you Peter for all the info and pictures, it’s always nice to see some places I’ve been but most I haven’t….Keep up the great work on this blog and good luck achieving your goal..happy new year

    Like

  11. Steven Roebke January 2, 2022 / 9:14 am

    Thank you for all your effort!

    Like

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