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 TramComments@dncr.nh.gov through March 1st. If the project gets funded, construction could start in 2023 or 2024.

14 thoughts on “Cannon Mountain Guns for a New Tram

  1. CharlesO February 18, 2022 / 10:57 pm

    Interesting that a gondola would actually cost more. Is that because they’d have to completely demolish and rebuild the terminal buildings?

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    • Donald Reif February 19, 2022 / 6:45 am

      Plus, they’d need to build more towers.

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  2. CharlesO February 18, 2022 / 10:58 pm

    Also, is a recording or presentation from the meeting available somewhere?

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  3. Beck February 19, 2022 / 5:02 am

    $995 million available and ski lifts qualify? How about a couple of new lifts at Sunapee? You know, the other state owned ski area whose profits contribute to Cannons bottom line each year and makes Cannon profitable. Let’s upgrade the snowmaking system while we are at it.

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    • Joe Blake February 19, 2022 / 6:28 am

      Isn’t Sunapee Vail-owned? Or does Vail just run it?

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  4. carletongebhardt February 19, 2022 / 7:22 am

    As a skier, I’m okay with another tram as long as they do upgrade the capacity to 100. However, the other key question is “will they run a new tram more often?” Currently, they run the tram seven days a week in the summer, and only weekends in the winter (we know where the priority lies). Pre-covid, they did run it four days a week in winter (Fri-Mon). I’d like to see them operate it closer to seven days a week in winter for us mid-week skiers.

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    • DBER February 22, 2022 / 9:36 am

      Agreed here – the operating schedule is my #1 complaint. Just run it midweek please! I would have preferred the gondola (as I’ve mentioned in LiftBlog comments before) and think a 3S has every amount of “cachet” a tram has, just with improved capacity & frequency. How many people in that room have seen one?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. skitheeast February 19, 2022 / 10:30 am

    I am assuming they are referring to a monocable gondola, so why not propose a 3S? It has a higher capacity than a normal tram, does not have wind issues any more than a tram, and should be able to reuse the existing towers similar to a tram.

    To a certain extent, I wish the state could run the tram and the rest of the mountain could be operated by a private company. It is so apparent where the state’s priorities are. Sunapee has greatly improved since it began private operations in ’98, and going between Cannon and its neighbors (Loon, Waterville Valley, and Bretton Woods) is like traveling through a time machine.

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    • Skier February 19, 2022 / 11:16 am

      Have you not seen the traffic back-ups at Sunapee this year? I used to ski there years ago and wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole now. The terrain used to be interesting. Now… meh.

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      • skitheeast February 19, 2022 / 1:47 pm

        The traffic backup just shows how much demand there is for Sunapee. Vail has not properly handled the demand, without a doubt, but there is no question that it exists. And it is not just due to their new pricing this year. Cannon has cheaper daily lift tickets and season passes than neighboring Loon, yet Loon is more crowded, so Sunapee’s crowds cannot also be simply attributed to cheaper season passes. The reality is that Sunapee has improved greatly between 1998 and now, much more so than Cannon.

        The terrain has not really changed. Vail, the Muellers, nor the state have really altered the topography or geography. What did change was the lifts, snowmaking, other infrastructure, and operations.

        Liked by 1 person

    • CharlesO February 22, 2022 / 11:17 am

      There’s not even close to a need for the capacity of a 3S for either summer or winter operations, plus it would be insanely expensive. I don’t think they’ll be able to reuse the towers even for a new tram, since it would presumably be heavier, and for a 3S it’s out of the question.

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    • carletongebhardt February 22, 2022 / 2:48 pm

      If they are saying a regular gondola would be more to install and operate, it would be even more for a 3S I would think. There isn’t that much terrain that terminates near the Tram station to warrant something that extensive – and it’s virtually all black diamond, except for the cutover trail to Banshee.

      The rest of the lift fleet is in reasonable shape, and they made a lot of improvements in high-efficiency snowmaking over the past 5-7 years.

      Like

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