The Highlands to Build First Six Place Bubble Lift in the Midwest

The fifth Boyne Resorts property to launch a D-Line detachable will be The Highlands, Michigan come 2023. Camelot 6 will include the first modern bubble chairs in the Midwest and the first fully automated safety bar system in the United States. Ergonomically designed D-Line seats will also feature heating and individual footrests. The lift will be the fastest in the Midwest with a line speed of six meters per second and ride time of just three minutes.

The flagship chairlift will replace three Riblet triples – Camelot, MacGully and Valley – all of which date back to the 1960s and the earliest days of triple chairs. Unlike the current Camelot, the new Doppelmayr will extend to the top of the Upper Camelot slope on the southern end of the mountain.

The Camelot zone features some of The Highlands’ most popular beginner and intermediate terrain adjacent to the Day Lodge. Appropriately, Camelot 6 will feature the first fully automated closing, locking and opening bar mechanisms in the US in addition to a height-adjustable loading conveyor. “We’re coming full circle in lift innovation from the world’s first bubble chairlift in 1963, to the Midwest’s first modern bubble lift with unrivaled guest comfort, speed, energy efficiency, and safety in 2023,” said Mike Chumbler, President and General Manager of The Highlands. “This will be the most kid-friendly and safest lift ever built. The addition of Camelot 6 will transform the guest experience on the southern end of our slopes for all levels of skiers and riders,” he added.

Camelot will become the fifth Boyne destination to debut Doppelmayr D-Line technology. Big Sky Resort, Boyne Mountain, Loon Mountain and Sunday River all feature six and eight passenger D-Line detachables, many with bubbles and heated seats. While Alterra, Vail Resorts and other operators have also purchased D-Line lifts, Boyne’s level of commitment to the technology remains unrivaled in North America.

Camelot 6 is the first significant on mountain investment as part of The Highlands’ Transformational Journey, a vision guiding resort growth with an array of new offerings and enhancements through the year 2030. More lift upgrades are expected to follow in the coming years.

Camelot 6 will debut for the 2023-24 ski season. Once complete, it will serve both day and evening skiers as well as becoming the primary access lift for summer sightseeing and mountain biking.

12 thoughts on “The Highlands to Build First Six Place Bubble Lift in the Midwest

  1. Larry Wollum September 20, 2022 / 9:29 am

    “… the first fully automated safety bar system in the United States. .”

    Actually, the first such system was installed on the fixed grip Triple Chairlift at Disney’s Blizzard Beach in Florida in 1995.

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  2. MI_skier September 20, 2022 / 10:05 am

    I’m excited for this, never thought a bubble D-line would even be considered for the Midwest, but I see a lot of issues with the plan.

    for one, I’m not seeing any indication of a mid unload for the Camelot beginners area, and going from the carpets all the way to the summit is a pretty big step. I think replacing the Camelot chair with a Doppelmayr triple or quad and making this “Valley 6” or “Macgully 6” would have been a better plan.

    Second issue is even if they push it to the theoretical max of 3,600 skiers/hour, it’s still a 33% decrease in capacity from three triples, and the loss of Macgully will make Heather even more of a nightmare than it is now on peak days. also unsure of how it’ll work with the base area, since all three lifts start in different spots and it would likely require some regrading to funnel everyone into this without too much flat ground/uphill skating.

    It’s tough to say what the effect on Heather Express will be, if the cut capacity will make it worse or having a second detach will make it better. personally I think it will be the former. the two high speed chairs will have long waits while Challenger, Amy’s, and North Face are empty

    either way, Highlands has a ton of work to do still and will need replacements of every old lift soon. a Heather 6 or 8 (D-line), Interconnect HSQ, fixed quads on Challenger and Amy’s, and a fixed or detach quad on North Face.

    but still, a bubble 6 in MI is awesome. it will be great for laps on cold days and nights, and improve Highlands’ night skiing experience a lot, maybe even bringing the possibility of night ops extending over to the Valley runs. great to see some real upgrades coming to hills that look like they’re still in the 1970’s.

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    • Todd September 20, 2022 / 11:05 am

      Great decision by Boyne to finally replace valley as that terrain is great and very under utilized but I agree with MI_SKIER about the lack of capacity now. Highlands can get extremely busy on the weekends and with the boarder now roughly back to normal expect even more skiers with the Canadians able to come back.

      Surprised that heather wasn’t given the nod first though.

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  3. Matthew September 20, 2022 / 11:04 am

    I’m not surprised that Boyne is first to the automatic bar circus in North America. What I am surprised (or will be) is if Vail decided to do a D-Line with an Automatic bar for a lift they want to replace next year at their resort

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  4. Carson September 20, 2022 / 5:41 pm

    Rip to some awesome triple chairs

    Liked by 1 person

  5. afski722 September 20, 2022 / 8:55 pm

    Interesting as this was first leaked out a year ago and quickly retracted. The leaked / posted master plan last year indicated this would be an HS8 like the one they are currently installing at Boyne Mountain on Disciples Ridge.
    Looks like they changed the original concept and are going with a HS6 instead.

    There have been “plans / rumors” for a HS6 to replace the MacGully lift in front of the day lodge for going back since the late 90s. They have always needed a good access lift from in front of the day lodge where the majority of day skiers start their day.

    I don’t think its a good idea to replace the existing Camelot 3 without a true beginners lift. Its going to be a big step up from the carpet to riding a 6 pack to the top of the mountain. Lower Camelot was one of the better true beginner areas in the state, but its a big step up to a longer run down “Kath Run” from the top. On the flip side, the argument can be made that a 6 pack is easier to load and to combine kids/students with ski school instructors on the same chair than a triple.

    Valley has always been a slow lift, and an underutilized part of the mountain. Once North Peak opened in the mid-90s, this area became a lot less utilized.
    In the past several years, they rarely run Valley lift midweek.

    MacGully usually doesn’t run mid-week but I always thought it was a cool lift how it went up the steep pitch and then through the ravine in the upper mountain. The removal of this lift will actually really open up the skiability of the MacGully trail which current has lift towers in the middle of the run.

    I will be a bit nostalgic about this lift replacement as I spend many good ski days in my youth learning to ski at Boyne Highland and a lot of time riding these lifts. I have always been a big fan of Riblet lifts. Its what we all grew up riding in the Midwest.

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  6. MI_skier September 21, 2022 / 5:35 am

    I think an 8 is still a reasonable possibility for heather, which is why this ended up being a 6. Heather gets very busy even though it’s capacity is up near 3,000, and not having Macgully will make that worse, so a 3,600pph+ lift could totally be realistic (plus, 22/23 will be it’s 33rd season, pretty old for a HSQ).

    It wasn’t mentioned in the intro video or any of the articles put out, but I’m curious if Camelot will get a midstation for beginners terrain. I noticed that both the top and bottom were shown in relative detail but they never showed the lift line as a whole. I also think the loss of a good beginners chair was not a good idea for highlands.

    I wonder if any of the triples could go to Mt. Holiday or if they’re too old to get reused. Holiday’s lifts make these things look new, so I think it could be possible.

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    • Jack Lake December 15, 2022 / 6:03 pm

      Mt Holiday doesn’t compete with Boyne in any substantial capacity. I’d like to see Boyne offer to donate some Riblets to them.

      After seeing the new Boyneland and Superbowl lift announcements at the Mountain and the details about where the new loading terminals will be for both lifts, I think we need to revisit the Highlands. I expect the new Camelot-6 to be quickly followed by a solution to the aging Heather Express. If Camelot-6 will terminate where MacGully does now, maybe the Heather won’t be an 8-pack. However, if what I think will happen – Camelot-6 loads between where Camelot and MacGully load today and it will terminate near where Leprechaun ended – then Heather is probably going to be an 8-person lift.

      I think both the issue of lift and labor (lift operator) costs are a serious issue that explains why there isn’t currently scheduled to be a lift that simply runs up to the top of Lower Camelot. It IS confirmed that the current Camelot triple is heading out of service and will not be retained, correct?

      I think the idea that Interconnect goes high-speed and some kind of Doppy fixed triple or quad replaces the North Face lift is not what we will see, unless Boyne is finally going to expand North Peak with more trails. I don’t know anyone who laps Interconnect, and one of these modern Doppy fixed grips w/ loading carpet will make the obligatory one-ride-per-day much faster than the current Riblet. North Face is a lift I lap at least a few times, and I would lap it more in January or February ski conditions if it was more comfortable to ride. I think it’s long enough to go high-speed.

      I don’t know what will or should happen with the Challenger and Amy’s lifts. The Amy’s lift replaced a long surface lift and I’d like it more if it went high-speed, even if it serves only Amy’s, Little John, and Stephen’s Pass. If Heather goes 8-pack, we’re not going to see a lift go back in the North Triple/Little John chair line, even if that’s a better way to ski South Challenger. We will probably see Challenger either go away entirely or have a replacement extended down the hill a bit. I guess I don’t know what Boyne is thinking and how important the Challenger runs are to others.

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      • SpartySki December 16, 2022 / 8:19 am

        My understanding is that the Camelot 6 chair will be starting from between Valley and Camelot. My guess is that it will be directly in front of the pool at the Bartley House.. The existing grading in that area makes that the most logical location. I expect they will dig the area out to make the lift easier to get to from the Valley area and the day lodge area. The Beginner portion of Camelot will flow better down the lower portion of the hill and make more room for the beginner conveyor area. The top of the lift I understand to be where the Leprechaun lift used to unload. I was at The Highlands this summer, prior to the announcement of this lift, and the area where the old Leprechaun unload used to be was all staked out and trees were marked. Had the announcement already been made I would have looked around at the bottom. There were probably markings there too.

        I think the Heather lift line could be altered in a couple ways but my guess is that they will just put another 6 or maybe an 8 there in the same lift line. There is a possibility of starting this lift closer to where the MacGully lift starts. The grading does work if the tennis courts are removed and the area is dug out some. That change would make the lift easier to access from both the day lodge and the hotel. No more uphill hike to the bottom of the current Heather lift from the hotel. Lift placement has evolved over the years at the base areas to try and entice people inside to buy food and drinks. Moving the Heather lift to that location does make the process of going indoors to buy something a little more convenient.

        A challenger replacement has a lot of possibilities associated with it. Could be another HS lift extending all the way to the top of the hill or a fixed grip running just to the top of Challenger. I personally like the idea of reusing the old North Triple/Little John lift path as it starts lower and is easier to ski into from the North Peak/Amy’s area and could also pick up skiers from heather. The lift ending in a built up area on top and between the 2 Challenger runs would be a major improvement over the current alignment. However, this area could be set up several ways. I think the announcement of the Superbowl Triple means more likely Challenger and Amy’s will be fixed grip lifts. This lift is also critical for skiers moving southward across the hill back to the lodge areas. A ride up this lift and a trip down Heather is required. The only way to avoid a trip down Heather is a lift that runs up the hill higher and allows you to access other runs in the middle south of Heather. Not sure if that is something that the Highlands is mindful of or not. There are also some runs up near the top of the old triple chair that are not easily accesses without a lift that runs up there.

        I agree that Interconnect doesn’t need a high speed lift but I think reusing the Heather lift here, only because you already own it, does make sense. It is not a lappers area for sure but spreading skiers out to the North Peak where expansion is possible is needed. The main area is packed full of skiers at times while the North Peak is empty and a part of the reason is the awful ride on Interconnect. My guess is another fixed Triple for this location.

        A meadows style quad makes sense on the North Peak however, again a soon to be removed Mountain Express would work here. Length and vertical is almost the exact same. Like Heather this lift is old with a ton of hours but at these locations the lifts would run half as much or less.

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        • Jack Lake December 16, 2022 / 9:38 am

          We are in agreement about potential regradings as well as what Superbowl might be telling us about the Challenger and Amy’s lift replacements. Challenger and Amy’s themselves are excellent slopes and I’d like high-speed access to them, but it might not happen.

          The Interconnect lift, as long as it keeps moving, lets me enjoy a few daydreams, arguments with myself, or analysis of the bark on the trees as I typically ski North Peak alone. However, even with nobody on it midweek in January or February, the dang thing always manages to stop and I’m cold when arriving at the top. That means I usually take maybe one run down the north face (Floradora) and then head back up the North Face lift and warm up at the top. I don’t think it is what Boyne wanted when they opened it in the mid-1990s, but that was all they could do with the cash on hand then was the relocation of the Riblets.

          I don’t know what Boyne is thinking now, but SpartySki and I (Go Blue!) are not the only ones who dislike the slow access to North Peak and then the schlep back to the base area via multiple old lifts and trails clearly not designed for the task. I’m sure they’re very aware of it. When my parents were skiing, they got upset because they were caught by the lifts closing early and having to basically hike back to Heather. I myself prefer heading over to North Peak as early in the day as possible and then finishing things up on the south end of the hill if Valley is open and then racking up runs off the Heather Express. I think this would look much different if there were better lifts to the north and south of Heather!

          Given that the high-speed lift at the day lodge has been an idea Boyne has had since the early 1990s, and all they had to open the Valley runs past tournaments was a relocated 1960s Riblet, I shouldn’t be too sentimental but the Valley lift ride is relaxing for the mind (if not the freezing of the body) … when it is operating. Anyway, the alignment mentioned makes sense and would really improve skiing everything south of Olympic.

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