Alterra Announces $344 Million Capital Plan for 2022

Alterra Mountain Company today affirmed plans to open big new lifts in 2022 and more next year as it increases investment across its 14 resorts. This year’s $344 million plan includes $93 million in increased capacity and terrain expansion, $91 million for skier services upgrades, and $16 million in guest experience technology with a focus on Palisades Tahoe, Steamboat, Crystal Mountain, Mammoth Mountain and Deer Valley.

At Palisades Tahoe, the $65 million Base-to-Base Gondola will be completed this summer after two seasons of construction. The Leitner-Poma gondola will connect the two mountains of the resort for the first time, giving skiers and riders access to a combined 6,000 acres of terrain and making Palisades the third largest resort in North America. The 16 minute gondola ride will take skiers and riders between The Village at Palisades Tahoe and Alpine Lodge, reducing road congestion in the region and making it easier to enjoy both mountains in a single day. It is the first gondola of its kind in North America, with four terminals connecting two base areas via a climb of nearly 2,000 vertical feet.

Winter 2022-23 will also see phase two of Steamboat’s Full Steam Ahead redevelopment completed with $90 million of investment to include the relocation of the lower terminal of the Christie Peak Express and the first leg of the Wild Blue Gondola, which will take guests to the new Greenhorn Ranch learning center at mid-mountain.

Wild Blue will become the longest gondola in North America and the fastest 10-person gondola in the country. With the lower leg opening in 2022-23, and the upper leg opening in 2023-24, the state-of-the-art Doppelmayr D-Line gondola will feed skiers/riders through a newly created mid-station adjacent to Bashor Bowl with the final destination of Sunshine Peak. It will feature the first Omega V cabins in the United States. At a total length of 3.16 miles, the new gondola will increase the out of base capacity from 6,000 people per hour to 10,000 people per hour, getting skiers from bottom to top in 13 minutes. The recently re-graded Rough Rider/Bashor Basin area will be home to Greenhorn Ranch, an area dedicated to beginner skiers and riders. It will feature progressive terrain-based learning and a dedicated chairlift.

For winter 2023-24, 650 acres of advanced terrain will open on Pioneer Ridge, making Steamboat the second largest ski resort in Colorado. This expert, gladed terrain will be serviced by a new detachable chairlift.

At Washington’s Crystal Mountain, $100 million will be spent over the next five years. The largest investment ever made at Crystal will focus on greater access, more space and significantly enhanced skier services. Work will begin this spring with $25 million for additional parking and a new 25,000 square foot skier services facility called Mountain Commons. No lift projects were announced but Crystal Mountain President Frank DeBerry has made no secret his wish list includes a replacement for the Rainier Express, a new gondola to the summit and relocation of the current Mt. Rainier Gondola to Campbell Basin.

At Mammoth Mountain, summer 2022 will see ground and infrastructure work to facilitate the replacement of the Canyon Express at Canyon Lodge and Broadway Express at Main Lodge. Doppelmayr initially planned to build these lifts in 2020 before the Coronavirus pandemic postponed the project. The new high-speed six packs are planned to finally debut in winter 2023-24.

New for winter 2022-23 at Deer Valley, the Burns Express chairlift will debut at the Wide West learning area. This high speed chairlift will connect the Snow Park base area to Little Baldy Mountain, offering ski school access to more beginner teaching terrain and providing an additional option for skiers to navigate out of the main arrival area. The $6 million investment to improve the learning area on Wide West will also include enhancements to the existing Snowflake chairlift, installing and reconfiguring surface lifts and grading beginner terrain.

“This historic investment is clear evidence of our commitment to deliver a premier guest experience at our North American destinations and our engagement towards the long-term future of our mountains,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra Mountain Company. “More than ever, we continue to infuse meaningful capital into projects that will transform our base areas while significantly improving our physical and digital on-mountain offerings to ensure that our guests experience the best of the mountains.”

Some previously-approved projects were absent from Alterra’s latest announcement, namely the Red Dog replacement at Palisades, Timber expansion at Tremblant and Pioneer Express upgrade at Winter Park.

News Roundup: First Chair

Cabin Falls From Sunday River’s Chondola

A 17 year old guest sustained minor injuries in a lift incident at Sunday River last night. “At 5:37PM, a gondola cabin detached from the haul rope of the Chondola lift as a result of a high gust of wind causing the cabin to misfeed into the top terminal of the lift,” Sunday River said in a statement. “The cabin fell approximately 10 feet and was occupied by one guest who sustained minor injuries and was transported to the base of the mountain by ski patrol and released.”

The Chondola is a hybrid lift with both chairs and gondola cabins built in 2008. It features Doppelmayr UNI-G stations and Agamatic grips. “Due to increasing winds, the lift was being unloaded and running at half speed under high wind protocol at the time of the incident,” the resort said. “All guests remaining on the lift were safely unloaded and night skiing operations were suspended.”

Eaglecrest Details Gondola Proposal

Alaska’s Eaglecrest Ski Area would bring a first-of-its-kind gondola to North America under a plan spearheaded by General Manager Dave Scanlan. The pulse gondola, currently in service in Austria, features a dozen 15 passenger cabins built by Austrian manufacturer SSG in 1990. At Eaglecrest, the gondola would span approximately 6,600 feet with a 1,700 foot vertical rise. An intermediate station would allow for loading and unloading as pulses of cabins slow down for stations. When not in stations, gondolas would accelerate to a brisk 7 meters per second. “Pulse gondolas are mechanically simple, durable, and easier to maintain than traditional detachable gondolas,” Eaglecrest notes. The main downside of pulse lifts is their relatively low capacity.

The idea is not only year round ridge access for locals but also an attraction appealing to the million-plus cruise passengers who visit Southeast Alaska each summer. The Goldbelt Tramway in nearby Juneau pioneered ropeway sightseeing in the region and two new Doppelmayr gondolas are set to debut on Chichagof Island this summer. Both existing attractions are owned and operated by Alaska Native tribes, the latter one in partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line.

Eaglecrest operates as a non-tribal local government facility with a lean budget. Longtime blog readers may recall the ski area proposed building a Doppelmayr or Leitner-Poma gondola in 2019. A lot has changed since then and Scanlan says the new gondola would now cost $22 million, taking upwards of five years to complete. The used gondola would cost taxpayers around $7.5 million and could generate revenue needed to replace Eaglecrest’s main chairlift in five to eight years.

Eaglecrest Ski Area is working with SE Group on the gondola project and plans to host a public information session this Wednesday night at 6:00 pm Alaska time.

Lawsuit Filed Following Camelback Chair Incident

The family injured when a chair fell from Camelback’s Resort’s Sullivan Express last March has filed a lawsuit alleging employees knew about problems yet continued to load skiers. New Jersey resident Yelisey Rabaev and two of his children were in chair 62 when it detached from the haul rope and all three suffered major injuries. Yelisey’s wife Goldie, who was with the couple’s two other children, watched the incident happen from another chair and is also a party in the suit.

Various LLCs that make up Camelback Resort are listed as defendants along with parent companies KSL Resorts of California and EPR Properties of Missouri. Doppelmayr USA, manufacturer of the 1995 model year lift, is not named in the lawsuit.

“Prior to Plaintiffs’ arrival at Camelback Mountain Ski Resort on March 21, 2021, patrons riding the Sullivan Express experienced violent shaking and swinging of the chairs on the Sullivan Express that was abnormal,” lawyers for the plaintiffs allege. “The violent shaking and swinging would occur when the Sullivan Express would start moving again after being stopped. The most violent shaking and swinging of chairs would occur near the top of the Sullivan Express within the view of the lift operator and/or attendant.”

“Despite having reports that the chairs on the Sullivan Express were violently shaking and swinging, and despite the lift operator/attendant having witnessed this shaking and swinging the Camelback Defendants outrageously, wantonly, willfully, and recklessly disregarded the safety of their patrons and failed to shut down, disable, and/or prevent riders from riding Sullivan Express and, instead, continued to permit and encourage patrons to utilize the Sullivan Express,” lawyers wrote.

The father and two children fell more than 20 feet and were taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Yelisey was most seriously injured and spent nearly three weeks in three different hospitals before being transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation center. Descriptions of his injuries take up nearly an entire page of court documents and he remains disabled. The minors suffered broken bones and one a collapsed lung.

The Sullivan Express remained closed for the rest of of last season but is now back open to skiers. “While we cannot comment on ongoing litigation, we remain deeply saddened for the family involved in the March 2021 Sullivan lift incident,” Camelback Resort said in a statement. “Our number one priority is always the safety and security of our guests and employees, and we have taken and continue to take extensive measures to ensure that we are providing a safe environment.” The family is being represented by Philadelphia law firm Cohen, Placitella & Roth, which has requested a jury trial.

Quebec’s Belle Neige to Build Second Quad Chair

Doppelmayr will build a fixed grip quad at Belle Neige, Quebec this summer, replacing one of Canada’s few remaining Hall chairlifts. The approximately CA$4 million addition will be named La Fenster in honor of two brothers who founded the resort. “Henry and Saul Fenster were both pioneers in the alpine ski industry,” said Nicolas Vallières , general manager of Belle Neige resort. “On February 5, Saul, survivor of the two brothers, sadly left us at the age of 94. In order to perpetuate their memories in the mountains, this new ski lift will be named in their honor.” La Fenster will debut for the resort’s 60th ski season.

This is the fifth new lift project announced in Canada for 2022 and first for Quebec. The Alpenstar quad chair will feature a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour and be able to accommodate a loading carpet in the future.

Cannon Mountain Guns for a New Tram

New Hampshire State Parks leaders gathered interested public tonight to present alternatives for future lift service on Cannon Mountain’s east side. At issue is the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram, which turns 43 this year. Cannon General Manager John DeVivo and Parks Director Phil Bryce said the state is at a crossroads because multiple systems are in need of overhaul and parts are becoming more difficult to source.

Franconia Notch State Park, which includes Cannon Mountain and the Tram, generates almost half the annual revenue for the entire state park system with the tram alone generating $1.5 million in ticket sales. The tram’s iconic ketchup and mustard colored cabins are particularly popular in the summer as an accessible way for visitors to enjoy the White Mountains.

Three options are to overhaul the current 70 passenger tram, build a new tram or switch to a gondola. It became clear very quickly at the meeting that everyone wants a new tram, which would cost upwards of $25 million. A detachable gondola was presented as costing more to build, 25 to 30 percent more to maintain while increasing capacity two to five times on the summit. The wind issue was also widely pointed to, particularly acute on a day which saw almost every New England ski area blow down. At one point, a state senator in attendance asked the public to raise hands for a tram or gondola and every single person wanted the tram. “How much cachet does a gondola have?” said one attendee. “Nobody cares about a gondola,” said another.

The questions then turned to what kind of tram and when. Cannon officials presented 80 and 100 person cabins as options with the existing tram buildings likely to be reused. Construction would take two summers and a winter, during which time other lifts could service the summit. As for manufacturer, DeVivo made clear his preference for Doppelmayr-Garaventa, citing a longstanding relationship involving most of Cannon’s lifts. A Doppelmayr sales rep and engineer are visiting Cannon on Monday to move ideas forward. It’s important to note while Doppelmayr has built the majority of North American aerial tramways, Leitner-Poma has examples as well, namely the Roosevelt Island Tram in New York City and the Goldbelt Tram in Alaska. Ultimately the decision whether to go with a sole source contract or a competitive bid process is up to the Governor and his Executive Council. The current Governor is Chris Sununu, a Republican up for reelection who also happens to have intimate knowledge of the lift manufacturer landscape as past CEO of Waterville Valley.

Why now? The current tram is estimated to have 3-5 years of life left before a major overhaul is needed. Also New Hampshire is set to receive $995 million in American Rescue Plan funds which must be used for pandemic related purposes before 2027. Apparently outdoor recreation capital expenses qualify under the program and that is why State Parks officials want to act now. Ultimately the New Hampshire House and Senate will decide how to allocate the ARPA funds. If you have thoughts on the new tram proposal, you can send them to through March 1st. If the project gets funded, construction could start in 2023 or 2024.

News Roundup: Quad For Sale

  • In an op-ed, Vail Mountain Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Beth Howard says the company is evaluating wages for next season.
  • Mike Goar pens a similar letter to the Park City community.
  • New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu says his office is working to address complaints about Vail Resorts operations at state-owned Mt. Sunapee.
  • Indy Pass adds Sunlight, Colorado.
  • A 7 year old is expected to be okay after falling 35 feet from a chairlift at the Florida State Fair.
  • New York State issues an RFP for the North Creek Ski Bowl detachable quad project at Gore Mountain.
  • Here’s a preview of the Lookout Pass Eagle Peak expansion, set for a CTEC quad this summer: