Doppelmayr’s next-generation detachable lift technology appears headed for North America. Walt Disney World Resort released new details about the upcoming Disney Skyliner gondola system this morning and renderings appear to show D-Line Station-D enclosures. Each of the six gondola stations will be themed differently, reflecting unique character of the destinations they serve.
D-Line is Doppelmayr’s latest detachable product that debuted two years ago in Hochgurgl, Austria. Numerous D-Line lifts have since opened in the Alps but no American resort operator has opted to pay extra for one so far, opting instead for the proven UNI-G terminals and standard line equipment. The Walt Disney Company isn’t your standard lift customer, however. D-Line sports hundreds of innovations including rope speeds up to 7 m/s or 1,378 feet per minute and wider line gauge for wider carriers. CWA has developed D-Line-specific Omega gondola cabins with 11 percent greater seating area than non-D 10-passenger versions. At Disney World, cabins will sport custom wraps with the Disney characters guests know and love.
Sun Peaks considers four possible lift projects for summer 2018, most likely being a CAD$8 million replacement of Crystal with an extended detachable. The world’s longest fixed-grip chairlift, Burfield, could be shortened with a corresponding capacity increase or new lifts added to Orient Ridge or West Morrisey.
Ski Magazine updates us on Big Sky 2025 and plans for a new tram or south side lift on Lone Peak.
Enjoy these sneak peak photos of two new quad chairs at Giants Ridge courtesy of Benjamin B.
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It’s 4:45 am in Jackson Hole and I’m awake because today is the biggest day of the year for the North American lift business. Moments ago, Vail Resorts released its first quarter 2018 financial results which include guidance on next year’s capital improvements to the tune of $150 million. As I speculated it might, Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail is going all in on new lifts next year, with $52 million (CAD$66 million) going to Whistler Blackcomb alone.
On Blackcomb, the company will add a signature 10-passenger gondola with mid-station replacing Wizard and Solar Coaster, two 1987 bubble quad chairs with very high hours. The new 4,000 skier-per-hour machine will be W-B’s sixth gondola and the second-highest capacity lift in North America after Squaw Valley’s Gold Coast Funitel. The mid-station will likely be located downhill of the current Wizard/Solar Coaster transition where more space can be created for a large terminal and cabin parking. The two stages will be able to be run independently with two haul ropes and separate drive systems. Together with the Peak 2 Peak and WhistlerVillage gondolas, the new gondola will create the world’s only three-gondola connection and an impressive 8.4 mile-long continuous sightseeing trip. The nearby Excalibur Gondola, amazingly Blackcomb’s last all-new lift, debuted in 1994.
The 1997 Doppelmayr-built Emerald Express on Whistler Mountain will move to Blackcomb, replacing the Catskinner triple likely in a modified alignment. An all-new Emerald six-place lift will also welcome skiers on Whistler Mountain for 2018-19. “Our integration efforts at Whistler Blackcomb are largely complete,” commented Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz. “We believe this plan will dramatically improve the on-mountain experience for our guests with enhanced lift capacity, improved circulation and a significantly elevated experience for skiers, riders and sightseeing guests.” The three new lifts represent a combined 43 percent improvement in capacity over the lifts they replace and are part of the largest-ever capital improvement season at Whistler Blackcomb, topping even the 2008 construction of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. “We believe these transformational, mountain-focused investments are the most significant improvements we can undertake to support Whistler Blackcomb’s long-term growth and our commitment to pursue the most impactful projects to enhance the guest experience,” Vail noted.
At Park City, the rumored Sunrise replacement will wait for another year but the High Meadow lift will be swapped for a high-speed quad chair, reducing ride time by 70 percent and anchoring a new family fun zone. On the shores of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly will finally replace Galaxy, which has fallen into disuse. A new fixed-grip triple chair will serve 400 acres of terrain that was inaccessible the past two seasons. Vail Resorts will also replace a T-Bar with a fixed-grip quad at Perisher in Australia. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts, creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests and generating strong returns for our shareholders,” Katz concluded.
America’s third largest ski resort remaining without a detachable lift will take the plunge next year. The Clear Creek Courantreports Loveland will remove and replace Lift 1 with a detachable quad chair in 2018. An eight minute ride on the current 1981 Yan will drop to just three minutes, Chief Operating Officer Rob Goodell told the Clear Creek County Commission on November 14th. “One of the driving forces was the next generation of the Loveland family, the kids and the grand kids,” he said. “We’re very much looking toward the future because this lift is going to be there for 40 years.” No word yet on a manufacturer but Leitner-Poma has built every new lift at Loveland since 1996.
A group planning to open a rare new American ski area just got a big boost, securing $500,000 towards building chairlift number one yesterday. Despite encompassing 425 million acres and with more residents than Vermont and Wyoming, the great state of Alaska includes just five lift-served public ski mountains, three of which are in close proximity to Anchorage. The proposed Hatcher Alpine Xperience sits in the Mat-Su Valley, well north of the Alyeska, Hilltop and Arctic Valley ski areas, where locals have been dreaming of their own mountain for decades.
Not satisfied with dreaming, citizens formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2015 and got to work. Already, they’ve completed a federal environmental impact statement, forged an agreement to operate within the Government Peak Recreation Area, cleared trails and built a maintenance facility. An access road, parking lot and utilities are also in place. This winter, trails will be groomed but without lift service. Hatcher Pass tentatively plans to acquire a used triple chair from SkyTrans next spring and install for a 2018-19 opening. Just today I learned Vail Resorts removed Chair 8 from Afton Alps, Minnesota over the summer – a 1969 Heron which was 1,280′ x 190′ – and might be the lift in question. It’s just a theory, but no other recently-removed triple chair matches the stats.