News Roundup: Reimagine Crystal

Loon Mountain to Build New Lift at South Peak

Loon Mountain Resort today unveiled plans for its tenth chairlift, a quad servicing 30 acres of new terrain on South Peak. The expansion will feature a Doppelmayr Alpenstar fixed grip lift with loading conveyor, a guest service facility and fully automated snowmaking. This will increase Loon’s beginner terrain by over 50 percent and bring the resort above 400 acres total. Initial work is already underway and the long-awaited expansion will open for the 2023-24 ski season.

The yet-to-be-named quad chair will load at the bottom of the existing Escape Route trail and service 500 vertical feet of beginner and low intermediate terrain. For guests looking for more advanced skiing, the new lift will also serve as a connection from parking lots in the town of Lincoln to the Lincoln Express and the rest of Loon Mountain. “Providing lift access and more skiing and riding closer to downtown Lincoln is exciting—and unique—particularly in the East,” said Brian Norton, Loon’s president and general manager. “Adding lift service just a mile and a half from Interstate 93, in the center of Lincoln, improves the guest experience immensely and is something we’ve been focused on for many years,” Norton added.

The South Peak expansion comes hot on the heels of two major lift upgrades, both part of the Flight Path: 2030 capital improvement roadmap. Kancamagus 8 opened in 2021 and a new Seven Brothers Express quad will debut this season, making the South Peak lift will Loon’s third new lift in three years. “The South Peak expansion has been a key part of Loon’s master plan for decades and we are thrilled to be moving towards the next major milestone of Flight Path: 2030,” noted Jay Scambio, COO of Boyne Resorts. Future phases of the plan include a replacement of the gondola and upgrades to the North Peak and Lincoln Express lifts.

With Loon’s announcement of South Peak expansion, Boyne Resorts is on track to build at least five new lifts across its network in 2023. Other projects include the new Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky, Camelot 6 at The Highlands, the West Mountain expansion at Sugarloaf and a Barker Mountain Express replacement at Sunday River.

News Roundup: Allegations

  • With energy at a premium in Europe, Leitner showcases technology which regulates the speed of a ropeway based on rider demand.
  • The nonprofit which has been running Big Squaw says the sale to Big Moose Development still hasn’t been completed and this season will continue as normal.
  • Sugarbush confirms a Heaven’s Gate replacement is in the works but it won’t happen in 2023 as lift prices surge and lead times increase.
  • Ropeway pioneer Willy Garaventa dies at the age of 88.
  • Los Angeles releases the Environmental Impact Statement for the Dodger Stadium gondola project.
  • Names for the five new Skytracs at Jack Frost Big Boulder are: Blue Heron, Harmony, Paradise, Pocono and Tobyhanna.
  • Groupe Le Massif remains interested in acquiring Mont-Sainte-Anne from Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and would also be open to acquiring Stoneham as part of a deal.
  • After multiple years of construction, Ontario’s Mt. Baldy finally has a new chairlift.
  • Mount Snow will sell more double, triple and quad chairs for charity.
  • New York’s Attorney General sues the owners of Labrador Mountain and Song Mountain, alleging their purchase and closure of nearby Toggenburg was anti-competitive. Former Toggenburg/current Greek Peak owner John Meier agreed to pay the State $195,000 and will cooperate in the case against Labrador and Song’s parent company.
  • The Governor of Utah throws his support behind the Little Cottonwood gondola project.
  • A new document shows where Mammoth’s relocated Panorama Gondola and new Big Bend chairlift would run as part of the Evolving Main project.
  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania again seeks an operator to revive the Denton Hill Ski Area.

Snowriver to Build Six Pack at Jackson Creek Summit

The rumors were true – the first detachable chairlift in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will debut for the 2023-24 season at Snowriver Mountain Resort. The Doppelmayr six place will replace Chippewa, Leelinaw and Voyagers at Jackson Creek Summit, formerly Indianhead. The existing double, triple and quad have a combined design capacity of 5,250 passengers per hour, though that capacity has not been realized for years. The replacement lift will include 53 chairs yielding a capacity of 2,800 skiers per hour with the opportunity to go to 3,200 per hour if needed. It will take the name Voyageur Express and run from the bottom of Leelinaw to the top of Chippewa. With a line speed of 1,000 per minute, ride time will decrease from eight-plus minutes to just 3.5 minutes. “The new lift will greatly enhance our guest experience at Jackson Creek Summit,” said newly-hired General Manager Benjamin Bartz. “Because the new lift will be much easier for guests to load and unload, we anticipate smoother operations, meaning guests will spend more time skiing and less time sitting on a lift.”

The project is the second announced for next year by Midwest Family Ski Resorts, which already operates five detachable lifts across its resorts. The company previously announced plans to build another six pack at Lutsen Mountains next summer. “High speed lifts are a perfect fit for our Midwest ski areas,” explained Charles Skinner, President and owner of Snowriver, Granite Peak and Lutsen Mountains. “Most skiers need to stop and rest every 500-700 vertical feet, about two-thirds of a mile, which happens to be the length of our runs. So, rather than stopping to rest on the side of the trail as is the case for most skiers on a longer Western slope, skiers at our resorts simply rest on the three minute ride back up the mountain. High speed lifts transform the ski experience at our resorts from spending most of the ski day riding the chairlift or waiting in line to enjoying most of the day skiing down the hill,” Skinner continued.

The Voyageur Express line has already been cleared and the lift will be completed for the 2023-24 winter season.

News Roundup: Game Creek

Base Camp at Schweitzer to Debut with New High Speed Quad

The most significant infrastructure project in the history of Schweitzer Mountain Resort is underway and will see its first new chairlift next summer. Dubbed Base Camp, the all-new day skier portal will eventually feature a 1,400 parking spaces, a day lodge, access road, three new lifts and trail connections to Schweitzer’s existing terrain. As Idaho’s largest ski area, Schweitzer already offers nearly 3,000 acres of skiing. However, the Inland Northwest region is growing rapidly and guests today funnel through one base area. “To keep up with demand and continue providing an exceptional guest arrival experience, we prioritized looking for solutions that directly affected parking and mountain access,” explained Mountain Operations Director Rob Batchelder. “I’m very excited about this third phase of Master Plan development and believe Base Camp is a unique solution intended to get people on the mountain efficiently,” he continued.

Schweitzer placed a deposit with Leitner-Poma in the spring for a new detachable quad to replace the Musical Chairs double in 2023. The high speed lift will service beginner terrain and provide egress from the future base area to the current village. A skier bridge across Schweitzer Creek will be built simultaneously with the new, longer lift. “The installation of a high-speed detachable quad will be a major enhancement for all of our guests,” said Batchelder. “Not only will it be easier for beginner skiers and riders to load and unload, the new lift will increase capacity to 2,400 guests per hour, allowing guests to upload and download safer and more efficiently. It will also provide the opportunity to transport foot passengers without skis or snowboards to and from the village, even in summer,” he continued. While the new parking lot and lodge may not be ready for the 2023-24 season, the new lift and first new run will be.

Schweitzer’s 2018 Master Plan, which differs slightly from the latest Base Camp plan.

Down the road, a second new detachable will connect Base Camp to the Stella saddle, separating beginner and village-bound guests from other skiers. This nearly 7,000 foot long lift will also allow day skiers to access the backside of the mountain without the need to ride the popular Great Escape Quad. Plans call for additional snowmaking and lifts as buildout continues. “The vision for Base Camp is to become a dedicated area for our day-guests, perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers and riders, with ample parking and additional rental and SnowSports school facilities,” says Schweitzer’s master plan website. “Across the country, ski resorts have continuously faced challenges associated with growth and increased demand. The new Base Camp project is not only a big deal for our growing community, it’s a big deal for the industry, and as of the last independently owned resorts, Schweitzer’s future is very bright.”

Park City Lift Mechanics and Electricians File Union Petition

The lift maintenance department at Vail Resorts-owned Park City Mountain could be the first in the United States to unionize under a plan announced today. A group of mechanics and electricians filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to form the Park City Lift Maintenance Professional Union, which would be would be part of the Communications Workers of America 7781 – the United Professional Ski Patrols of America. A press release states the petition was submitted with 80 percent support.

In March, Vail Resorts raised its minimum wage for US maintenance technicians to $21 per hour however the union says there are issues beyond just compensation. “The members of the mechanics team face dangerous work conditions, chronic understaffing, and low pay that is not commensurate with the precarity of their work or cost of living,” said the CWA. “These issues contribute to constant employee turnover, which makes it impossible to cultivate a crew of experienced mechanics, and their work often goes unappreciated despite being essential to the resort’s functioning. The workers have decided that self-advocacy as a unionized crew will combat these issues, and create a safe and equitable working environment for all.”

CWA 7781 currently represents some 650 ski patrollers in the Mountain West and Pacific Northwest, most recently adding Purgatory Resort bike patrollers to its ranks. The CWA also represents patrol staff at Vail Resorts properties including Breckenridge, Crested Butte and Stevens Pass.

“The prosperity, happiness, and safety of the mechanics and electricians in Lift Maintenance has been a discussion for years,” said Liesl Jenkins, a lift mechanic at Park City Mountain Resort. “Having a voice and the opportunity to negotiate with our employer is paramount to the retention of mechanics and electricians, as well as experience, in our department.”

The petition starts multi-step process between the National Labor Relations Board, the union and employer before a possible formal union vote.

Update: Park City Mountain Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Deirdra Walsh provided the following statement regarding the unionization effort:

“We’re committed to constant improvement of our employee experience, which includes our significant investment in employee wages and affordable housing for this season, among other steps. We’re proud of our efforts so far but know this work is ongoing. I’ve always believed in an open-door policy and encourage employees to communicate directly with me and our leadership team. My number one priority is working together with employees to hear and address their concerns. We believe a direct relationship with our team works best rather than through a third party, but we respect the decision of our teammates to choose.”

Park City Mountain Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Deirdra Walsh