Timberline Advances Gondola Plan

Timberline Lodge and Summit Ski Area are officially one, encompassing 4,500 vertical feet of skiing on Mt. Hood. For now, skiers can enjoy the biggest vertical drop of any ski area in the United States only one way as there is no lift connection between the upper and lower mountains. That could soon change, however, as the Forest Service recently accepted Timberline’s new master plan. The cornerstone is a two stage gondola between Government Camp and Timberline Lodge, which would eliminate the need for hundreds of cars to drive to mid mountain each day and provide an enhanced guest experience year round.

The proposed 10 passenger gondola would link three stations 2.5 miles apart with an hourly capacity of 1,800 guests in each direction. “It would serve as an introductory experience to variety of guests to Timberline and the Mt. Hood National Forest, including beginner skiers, more advanced skiers traveling to Timberline, tourists exploring the area, people sledding or tubing, and more,” notes the plan, which was prepared by SE Group. The gondola would ascend 1,958 vertical feet in just 12 minutes, though a journey to the top of Timberline would still require two additional lift rides.

A new Summit Pass base lodge would anchor a new entry point for the larger Timberline area. The 20,000 square foot building would include space for dining, ticketing, ski school, retail, restrooms, and more. A new conveyor lift would serve beginner skiers and snowboarders away from the busy Timberline terrain. The master plan also includes replacement of Summit’s Riblet double with a 2,200 foot fixed grip quad and expansive new snowmaking.

At the gondola’s mid-station, another guest service building, learn to ski area, tubing park, summer camp sites and/or overnight yurts would be built. The intermediate station would also house a storage and maintenance building for the gondola’s approximately 65 cabins. Skiers and mountain bikers coming down the mountain could board the gondola here and return to Timberline without the need to descend all the way to Government Camp.

The top station would sit near the Jeff Flood Express, close to Timberline Lodge itself with easy access to other chairlifts. This would also be the home of the gondola’s drive system.

Forest Service acceptance is the first step in a multi-part approval process. Timberline’s owners estimate the gondola, if approved, could be operational within about five years.

Red Lodge Mountain to Install Detachable Beginner Lift

The only detachable triple CTEC ever built has found a new home in Montana. The one-of-a-kind installation will be removed from Alta Ski Area this spring and go on to replace Red Lodge Mountain’s Miami Beach double in 2023. The $2.25 million project will reimagine the learn to ski experience with a new conveyor lift and yurt in addition to the high speed chairlift.

The Miami Beach detachable will follow a modified alignment to better serve the mountain’s beginner terrain and provide access the the Palisades. “This is an exciting and significant investment into the ski experience here at Red Lodge,” said General Manager Jeff Schmidt. “Upgrading to this high-speed triple chair will be a transformation of the beginner experience. The Sunnyside Lift has the perfect horsepower and capacity for the Miami terrain.” The Red Lodge team will assist with removal operations at Alta this spring and the lift will be stored in preparation for installation next summer.

News Roundup: Final Rides

“The 2021 construction season was particularly challenging due to a number of unusual circumstances. The pandemic resulted in labor shortages for not only the lift construction crews and building teams, but also with the supply chain companies delivering key materials. Helicopter usage was a key component for construction, as they were required for activities including tree removal, setting of lift towers and pouring the foundations at the KT mid-station. Helicopter availability was greatly affected by one of the worst wildfire seasons in California history, and once helicopters were available, their operations were shut down as they could not safely fly in the smoky conditions. The fires also resulted in periods when the crews had to be sent home due to unhealthy air quality. For these reasons, construction could not be completed within the six-to-eight-month time frame anticipated in the EIS.”

New Quad to Debut at Cypress Mountain

All of Cypress Mountain’s terrain will become accessible by quad chair next season following replacement of the summit lift. Dubbed SkyQuad, the new Doppelmayr fixed grip quad on Mt. Strachan will feature a loading conveyor and move up to 1,800 guests per hour. The lift replaces a 1968 Mueller double relocated from Apex Mountain Resort to Cypress in the late 1980s.

This is the fifth new lift project announced by Boyne Resorts for 2022-23 as part of a major infrastructure push. “With the huge new heated outdoor dining plaza beside the Cypress Creek Lodge, more upgrades to the snowmaking system and now the new loading conveyor equipped SkyQuad chairlift, Cypress Mountain is making great strides in transforming the resort facilities to better accommodate our valued season passholders and four season guests,” said Russell Chamberlain, President of Cypress Mountain Resort. Construction on the new lift will begin in April and be complete before the start of next winter.

Mt. Bachelor to Replace Idled Skyliner Express

The second six place chairlift in Oregon will debut for the 2023-24 ski season, Mt. Bachelor and parent company Powdr announced today. The larger detachable will increase capacity by 50 percent from the current Skyliner Express, which debuted in 1989 and has remained out of service this season due to technical issues. Mt. Bachelor and Doppelmayr will repair the aging high speed quad for the coming 2022-23 season before replacement begins a year from now.

“Since Skyliner went out of service the team and I, together with Powdr have been working parallel paths, first to try to get the lift repaired for the current season and second to either replace or repair the Skyliner lift in time for next winter,” noted President and General Manager John McCleod in a blog post. “As it turns out, we are going to do both,” he continued. “If there had been any way that we could have replaced Skyliner with a six-pack over the coming summer we would have done it, however by the time we began talking to lift manufacturers in January their production and installation schedules were fully committed for 2022.” The Lift Blog 2022 project count stands at 56 with 35 of those being new detachable lifts across North America.

Exact specifications for the new Skyliner are yet to be determined but it will become the largest lift investment in Mt. Bachelor’s history. A manufacturer was not publicly announced and Mt. Bachelor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that.

Jackson Hole’s Thunder Quad to Go High Speed

A detachable chairlift is coming to the upper mountain at Jackson Hole for the first time. The Leitner-Poma high speed quad will replace the Thunder fixed grip quad, a favorite with Teton Village skiers since 1994. Thunder 3.0 will feature 90 degree loading to the north and 90 degree unloading to the south for improved skier circulation.

Ride time on the 1,454 vertical foot lift will be reduced from seven minutes to three and a half with a line speed of 1,000 feet per minute. “The Thunder lift has been the most popular lift on the upper mountain, and it delivers access to some of the legendary terrain JHMR is known for,” said Jackson Hole Mountain Resort President Mary Kate Buckley in an announcement. “The new Thunder lift will dramatically cut down on skiers’ and snowboarders’ time spent waiting in line and on the lift.”

Fans of the current Thunder will be happy to learn it will spin on at a resort in California. Construction on the Thunder detachable will begin in May with completion scheduled for October.

Beech Mountain Announces New Chairlift

The third new Doppelmayr quad in four years is coming to North Carolina’s Beech Mountain. The fixed grip quad with loading conveyor will replace the mountain’s oldest chairlift, Lift 1. The beginner-focused double chair was constructed in 1968 and upgraded over the years but has reached the end of its useful life. Upon completion of the project, Beech Mountain will feature six modern Doppelmayr lifts.

Other projects announced for this summer include a new conveyor lift and enhanced snowmaking.

Photo Tour: Palisades Tahoe Base to Base Gondola

More than just a new name and logo dot the landscape at Palisades Tahoe this season. Whether starting a ski day in Olympic Valley or at Alpine Meadows, it’s impossible to miss dozens of newly-standing towers for the upcoming Base to Base Gondola. Leitner-Poma accomplished an incredible amount of work last offseason, completing four sets of terminal foundations and 33 towers for the $65 million project. Two haul rope spools sit 2.2 miles apart ready for construction to resume this spring.

Alterra and Palisades have been amazingly restrained marketing what will be a truly iconic lift. As of yesterday, no signs indicate what’s going on and there’s nothing on the trail map to indicate Palisades will be a unified 6,000-acre behemoth in a matter of months. For now, a zig-zag line of tower tubes gives a pretty good indication of greatness on the horizon.

The traffic-busting gondola will begin in the Village where the current Red Dog triple has loaded for the past 32 seasons. That lift is set to be removed this summer and swapped for a six passenger detachable in a new alignment. The gondola will ascend KT-22, crossing over Exhibition and the high speed quad affectionately known as The Mothership. The second of four B2B stations sits near the top of KT, where the shorter of two haul ropes will turn back around while cabins continue on. When conditions permit, skiers will be permitted to unload here, creating a whole new way to access much of KT-22’s storied terrain. Riders destined for Alpine Meadows will turn and descend into the middle section of the lift on a second, longer haul rope. The gondola roughly parallels another line of lift towers for a never-completed chairlift on land owned by Troy Caldwell. It seems to me Mr. Caldwell could win some hearts and minds by removing these obsolete eyesores now that a state-of-the-art gondola will traverse nearly the same alignment. But it’s his land and the fate of the private ski area dream remains to be seen.

A third station with a slight angle change will also sit on the White Wolf property. The public won’t be able to get out here but there’s a possibility Caldwell and future nearby homeowners might. For the rest of us, cabins will simply decelerate, turn and take off again for the final jaunt over the Alpine Meadows parking lots to the base of Leitner-Poma sister machine Treeline Cirque. All told, the 16 minute ride from base to base will include a 1,700 vertical foot rise and then thousand foot descent. With views of the Granite Chief Wilderness and Lake Tahoe, this gondola will be as much about the journey as the destination.

Skiing down the lift line it becomes clear this gondola will also be a fair weather activity. You can bet as storms roll across the Sierra the lift’s more than 100 cabins will be tucked safely inside a parking structure at Alpine Meadows. There’s just no way the Base to Base will spin in high winds. But when mother nature cooperates, Palisades Tahoe will ski seamlessly as the third largest resort in North America.

While much work remains, Alterra says the gondola will be ready to go in November for the start of the 2022-23 season.