- Indy Pass signs its largest partner yet by skier visits: Mt. Hood Meadows.
- Former Indy Pass resort Marmot Basin joins the Mountain Collective.
- Some 300 people show up to what was intended to be an executive session of the Gunstock Area Commission to discuss legal, financial and employment matters. Two commissioners end up walking out. Another meeting is scheduled for today.
- Resigned Gunstock Area Commissioner and former Stowe CEO Gary Kiedaisch attempts to un-resign.
- A New Hampshire State Representative alleges former Gunstock General Manager Tom Day improperly donated $500 in public money to Governor Sununu’s 2020 re-election campaign.
- Organizers of a music festival set to take place at Gunstock next weekend threaten legal action if the Panorama high speed quad doesn’t run as contracted.
- Deer Valley and Mayflower work toward an operating agreement.
- Eaglecrest General Manager Dave Scanlan goes on the radio to talk about the gondola project.
- Skytrac is still hiring folks to build ski lifts, particularly at Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania.
- Smugglers’ Notch gives a rundown of all the work that goes into servicing a bullwheel.
- Sierra at Tahoe completes haul rope replacements on two more lifts.
- A bolt tightening contractor is hit by a tram carriage and seriously injured at Jackson Hole.
- Skytrac begins building on Eagle Peak at Lookout Pass.
- Greek Peak starts construction of a new Chair 3.
- Utah Olympic Park’s big expansion won’t be open to public skiing with limited exceptions.
- The first D-Line in California is approved, will feature unique angle stations.
- Closed Connecticut ski area Woodbury goes back up for sale.
- The company seeking to build a gondola in Edmonton, Alberta would pay $1.1 million a year to lease city right of way.
- A woman found dead under Anakeesta’s chondola last night is believed to have fallen from the lift, which remains closed today.
- Two men are killed while working to build a Doppelmayr gondola in France.
- Below is the July 8th Notice of Noncompliance the Forest Service sent Keystone regarding unauthorized road construction in Bergman Bowl. Since the letter is three weeks old, Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams sent an update on where things stand.
Month: July 2022
Park City Mountain Appeals Lift Approval Revocation
Park City Mountain on Wednesday appealed the Park City Planning Commission’s decision to revoke approval of the permit to upgrade the Silverlode and Eagle chairlifts, which were scheduled to be built this summer. “The City Planning Director made the right decision to issue this permit, supported by her extensive, four-month-long analysis and the advice of three outside experts,” said Sara Huey, Vail Resorts Senior Manager of Communications in a statement. “There is no evidence that she made a mistake, and we believe her decision will be upheld in this next step in the process.” Silverlode was scheduled to become Vail Resorts’ first eight passenger and first D-Line chairlift in North America and Eagle was to be a detachable six with a mid unloading station. The appeal was filed in District Court.
Four citizens appealed the initial approval, arguing the project should not have been approved by administratively by city staff. They also questioned the degree to which the new lifts would increase traffic and said the mountain’s parking mitigation plan was insufficient. The residents’ appeal was granted by a vote of 3 to 1 at a June Planning Commission meeting. “While we disagreed with the outcome, we respect the right of four residents to appeal the Planning Director’s decision and likewise we have the right to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision,” continued Vail’s statement today. “In parallel with this appeal, we, of course, remain committed to working with the City to explore options to ensure that the resort moves forward with these important replacements of equipment that was installed many decades ago.”
While the process plays out, Doppelmayr and Park City are placing lift equipment which has already been delivered into storage. When I stopped by last week, parts were being sorted and loaded onto trailers.
Error Pauses Bergman Bowl Construction at Keystone
Keystone Resort has apologized and halted some work on the Bergman Bowl expansion due to a mistake made by the construction team. “An area that was supposed to have a minimal construction route was instead approached as a temporary construction route. This was due to a misunderstanding by our construction team, for which we take full responsibility,” read a statement from Keystone Vice President and General Manager Chris Sorensen released this afternoon. “Keystone Resort has a long history of successful partnership with the U.S. Forest Service on projects that provide guests the opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreation within our National Forest. We take this mistake seriously, and at their direction have paused some work at the site while the USFS conducts an assessment to determine next steps,” he continued.
The expansion encompasses 555 acres with 16 new trails and is one of the largest capital projects in the United States ski industry this season. Leitner-Poma was in the process of building the six passenger Bergman Express, set to top out at 12,282 feet in elevation. Keystone’s statement did not specify whether it was resort employees or a contractor that made the mistake. “We deeply regret the impact this unauthorized construction activity has had on the environment that our team works carefully to protect every day. At this time, we do not yet know if this will impact the opening of lift-served terrain at Bergman Bowl this season,” said Sorensen, who promised to keep the public informed.
The Bergman project is part of the Epic Lift Upgrade, a push to build or replace 21 lifts across 14 Vail resorts in 2022. Two large lift projects at Park City were already dropped from this year’s program due to a successful appeal by local residents.
Instagram Tuesday: Dark Sky
Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
Brundage Announces Centennial Express Project
New owners of Idaho’s Brundage Mountain Resort will complete their first major capital project next year, installation of a detachable quad replacing the Centennial triple. The soon-to-be-retired CTEC was built in 1990 and takes 14 minutes to ride. The new lift, which will be called the Centennial Express, will cut ride time to six minutes and increase uphill capacity from 1,300 people per hour to 1,800 people per hour. All of Brundage’s lifts are Doppelmayr and the new lift will be as well.
“Having two high-speed quads in the base area gives us more flexibility and redundancy for moving people up the mountain, which is especially important on busy days and holidays and during challenging weather conditions,” said Brundage General Manager Ken Rider. “The loading experience will be so much smoother – especially for families – which will make some of our best terrain infinitely more accessible,” he continued. The lift will service 1,616 vertical feet of intermediate and advanced terrain.
Brundage was acquired by a small group of Idaho-based investors two years ago and the Centennial Express is their first lift upgrade. “When the new ownership group formed in November 2020, we took a long, hard look at the immediate and future needs of our beloved Brundage Mountain,” said mountain President Bob Looper. “Our priority is to maintain the low-key character of Brundage, while building toward a sustainable future. Keeping lift lines to a minimum and keeping slopes uncrowded is a top priority, and upgrading the Centennial lift is a key first step in improving and expanding our lift infrastructure.”
The ownership group plans to invest between $25 and $30 million dollars over the next 2-3 years with more projects to be announced in the coming months. Centennial Express is scheduled to debut for the 2023-24 winter season.
Wild Mountain to Add First New Chairlift in 40 Years
Skytrac will construct a fixed grip quad at Wild Mountain, Minnesota next summer replacing a nearly 50 year old lift. The new quad will run parallel with the current Chair 2 and replace Chair 3, a Borvig center pole quad dating back to 1972-73. “The new chairlift will become the primary chairlift used for access from the base lodge, but Chair 2 will remain in use for summer operations and high visitation days during the winter,” said Wild Mountain.
Tree clearing has already begun and the lift will be manufactured over the winter. The new Chair 3 is expected to be complete by the start of the 2023-24 ski season. Once the Skytrac is installed, Wild Mountain will remove Chair 3, freeing the South Wild trail from from tower obstructions. Chairs from the old lift will be sold to the public next summer.
Wild Mountain’s announcement follows the recent trend of lifts being ordered well in advance of installation. High demand for new equipment and supply chain delays are driving longer manufacturer lead times. North American resorts have already announced an impressive 42 new installations for next year.
News Roundup: Contract Awards
- Indy Pass adds Meadowlark, Wyoming and Black Mountain of Maine, teases a big West Coast addition coming next week.
- The Boston Globe visits Gunstock, finds employees refusing to work without managers, a locksmith changing locks and politicians advocating for the resort to be leased to a private operator.
- New England Ski Journal gets former Gunstock GM Tom Day’s side of the story.
- A local architecture firm wins the contract to design and engineer the Eaglecrest Gondola relocation.
- The Maine Land Use Planning Commission wants more information before voting on the Moosehead Lake ski area rebuild.
- Dozens of ski areas reach out to help Plattekill Mountain following last week’s fire with Snowbasin offering a used drive system.
- One lift becomes fully operational at long-closed Cuchara.
- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay delays reopening its VonRoll gondola, citing the scope of work and delays in supplies.
- ORDA seeks public comment on a proposed Lift 7 replacement and gondola maintenance facility at Belleayre.
- ORDA also awards an $11.2 million contract to Doppelmayr for the Bear Den detachable quad at Whiteface.
- Pennsylvania’s first D-Line goes above ground at Camelback. Thanks to Ben Ta for the photos.
Gunstock Shuts Down Following Management Resignations
New Hampshire ski area Gunstock ceased most operations today following a contentious public meeting last night. The county-owned resort’s management resigned en masse, citing treatment by a group of citizens appointed to oversee the ski area. Tom Day, Gunstock’s President and General Manager, tendered his resignation along with other managers including the Chief Financial Officer, Director of Human Resources, Director of Marketing, Director of Resort Services, Director of Snow Sports and Director of Facilities. One of five Gunstock Area Commissioners also resigned. The Laconia Daily Sun reported employees’ exits from the property were overseen by the Belknap County Sheriff’s Department this morning.
The five Gunstock Area Commissioners are appointed by Belknap County’s State Representatives. The Commission has become increasingly involved in day-to-day operations of the ski area in recent years. “Obviously there’s been a lot of change and a lot of you think you can do the job to be able to run the resort,” said Day at the beginning of the meeting. “I know there’s been some discussion about what my role is as far as who runs the ski area and who doesn’t. I feel that my role here is diminished and you probably don’t need me,” he said, offering to stay for two weeks to facilitate a transition.
The ski area, which features five chairlifts and a 1,600 foot vertical drop, has not required taxpayer funds for operations the last 12 years and remits 1.75 percent of its revenue to the county. Just last year Gunstock reported record revenue and season pass sales and announced a major expansion project including new terrain and lifts.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, himself a former ski resort general manager, criticized the commission and offered support to employees. “Gunstock is truly one of the jewels of the lakes region, but what has been happening over the last year surrounding the Gunstock Area Commission’s inability and unwillingness to work collaboratively with the management team at Gunstock is deeply concerning,” the Governor wrote. He went on to offer employees jobs at state-owned Cannon Mountain or the Parks Department should a resolution not be reached at Gunstock.
The mountain’s summer activities, which include lift rides on the Panorama Express, a mountain coaster and zip line, are closed until further notice. “We truly apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our guests,” said a notice posted on Gunstock’s social channels and signed by Gunstock Mountain Resort Employees.
Update: Thursday afternoon the Gunstock Area Commission issued a statement condemning staff members for resigning and pledging to reopen as soon as possible. “At the Gunstock Area Commission’s monthly meeting last night, the GAC planned discussions with management about ongoing expansion plans. Instead of discussing those plans, the GAC was met with an unsolicited and spontaneous resignation by senior managers and a commissioner,” the statement read. “In light of last night’s unprecedented actions, the GAC is developing plans to ensure Gunstock’s continued operations as seamlessly as possible. Gunstock has an important legacy in the ski industry’s history and the GAC intends to maintain that legacy,” the Commission wrote.
Instagram Tuesday: First Towers
Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
News Roundup: Moving Steel
- Eaglecrest packs its new gondola up in Austria; the lift may not open in Alaska until 2024.
- Snowbird now owns the land at the base of the proposed Little Cottonwood gondola.
- The Snowbird tram reopens tomorrow with one cabin operation.
- An Oklahoma county is criticized for seeking $300,000 in pandemic recovery funds to remove the Tulsa Skyride.
- Powder Ridge, Minnesota places retired chairs up for auction.
- A small wildfire on Aspen Mountain was likely started by a cigarette thrown from the Silver Queen Gondola.
- The Salt Lake Tribune talks with the Park City appellants and consultants about Comfortable Carrying Capacity.
- Parts continue to arrive in Park City’s parking lot despite construction being on hold.
- Suicide Six is now Saskadena Six.
- Kimberley and Leitner-Poma progress with repairs to the fire-damaged Northstar Express.
- Doppelmayr offers $29 million in financing for the Cascade Skyline Gondola.
- Lost Trail signs on to the Powder Alliance.
- A public comment period opens regarding one of Mayflower’s 15 proposed lifts which would cross federal land.
- A Thunder progress report from Jackson Hole: