News Roundup: $4.6 Billion

Instagram Tuesday: Stars

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

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Taos to Build New Beginner Lift, Pulse Gondola & First Detachable

Birds-eye view! Amazing shot by @shotsfromabove #skitaos #wheretherockiesbegin #birdseyeview

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In 2008, a 53-year old Taos Ski Valley welcomed snowboarders for the first time in a move that once seemed unthinkable.  Then a game-changing new lift up 12,481’ Kachina Peak debuted in 2015, serving terrain accessible only by hiking for six prior decades.  This season, the renaissance continued with the opening of the slopeside Blake Hotel and announcement that Taos would be the first ski resort in the world to become a B Corporation, joining the likes of Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s.  Now we learn Taos will launch a re-imagined beginner facility with two new lifts next season and will finally join 167 of its North American counterparts with the opening of its first detachable quad in 2018.  Talk about a transformation.

Three new lifts will rise out of the resort center over the next two years, benefiting every Taos guest.

This off-season will see complete renewal of the beginner complex with the removal of two lifts and the addition of two new ones.  Stadeli doubles Rueggli (1991, the old lift 2) and Strawberry Hill (1970) will be retired and the area around them re-contoured.  A new Skytrac fixed-grip triple will better serve beginners and a six-passenger pulse gondola will link a remodeled children’s ski school to the Resort Center.  “This gondola is going to be a huge improvement, connecting our newly designed Children’s Center with our new hotel and plaza base area,” Director of Operations John Kelly told me.  “The terrain associated with these new lifts will be getting a full redesign and regrade to widen and enhance our beginner terrain.”  The new lifts are in addition to the Pioneer lift, a triple chair that arrived from Deer Valley in 2012.

Rising to mid-mountain, a Leitner-Poma high-speed quad will replace lifts 1 and 5 in 2018.  The 2010 Taos Master Plan envisioned a 7000′ detachable rising all the way to the summit and replacing Lift 6 as well, but that plan appears to have been modified.  The long-awaited foray into detachable lifts follows construction of five new Poma and Skytrac fixed-grips at Taos since 1989.  What may be called Al’s Express will most likely reach the summit of the existing lift 5, a 1973 Stadeli double chair that only operates on peak mornings.  The new lift will also replace Lift 1, a 1989 Poma Alpha quad that ends 400 feet lower than 5 and serves as today’s primary out-of-base lift. After 2018, the remaining largest ski resorts in North America without a detachable lift will be Red Mountain, 49 Degrees North, Loveland and Bridger Bowl.

It's snowing!! Get up here and make some turns! #skitaos #snowing #freshies #purenm #nmtrue

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This will be the first joint project since Skytrac joined the Leitner-Poma Group last spring and plays to both companies’ strengths.  Skytrac will supply the fixed-grip chair while Leitner-Poma will bring its expertise to build the gondola and detachable.

Even after these changes, Taos will retain three classic Stadeli lifts on the upper mountain.  Lift 6 dates back to 1976 and 7A was installed in 1990 with used parts from 1 and 2.  Maxi’s (lift 7) is a 1984 Stadeli triple.  Both lifts 4 and 7 are identified for eventual replacement in the 2010 Taos Master Plan along with a second lift to the ridge.  I think Taos skiers (and snowboarders) will find the new lifts a welcome change with friendlier beginner options and a 4.5 minute ride to the heart of the mountain. Welcome to the 21st century, Taos!

Snowbasin Announces Wildcat Six-Pack

The Wildcat triple at Snowbasin will be retired this spring and replaced with the resort’s fifth detachable.
New lift week continues!  Snowbasin’s oldest lift, Wildcat, will be replaced with a Doppelmayr six-place chairlift for next season.  The resort’s first six-pack will rise 1,290 feet in just five minutes in place of the 1973 Thiokol and its ten minute ride.  The new lift will have 17 towers and a capacity of 2,400 passengers per hour.  9-second chair spacing will make the lift more beginner-friendly than a high-speed quad.

“Snowbasin Resort is very excited to announce several improvements to the Wildcat area of the mountain that should greatly enhance the guest’s experience,” said John Loomis, General Manager at Snowbasin. “With the addition of a new Doppelmayr 6 passenger high speed chair lift, we will be able to better utilize this area of the Resort that was the original heart of the ski area. The new lift will service beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain and include new snowmaking on Wildcat Bowl, Blue Grouse, Herberts, Eas-A-Long, Wildcat Traverse and Stein’s. These improvements will improve access to this wonderful terrain with earlier access and better conditions when Mother Nature is not as cooperative as we would like.”

Snowbasin, owned by Sinclair Oil Corporation along with Sun Valley, will have just three fixed-grip chairlifts remaining next season.  The Forest Service also recently approved a high-speed-quad for Strawberry Bowl that will be able to run in higher winds than the Strawberry Express Gondola.  Snowbasin will hold a Wildcat last chair party and final ride at 4:00pm April 15th.

News Roundup: Colorado

Likely new lifts for 2017 are pacing 39 percent ahead of last year, when 28 new lifts had been announced on this date.  I’ve identified 39 lift projects for 2017 and if last year’s pattern holds, lift manufacturers will build approximately 57 new ropeways in N. America in 2017, the most since 2004.  We’ll know by about July 1.

Instagram Tuesday: Sea of Dreams

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

Walking on a dream 👌 @resortalyeska

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Sugarbush to Swap Sunshine & Village Doubles for New Quad Chairs

A new quad chair will replace the Village double at Sugarbush for 2017-18.

Last week we learned Sugarbush Resort will join the Mountain Collective in 2017/18 and today Vermont’s second largest resort committed to upgrading two 50+ year-old chairlifts to modern fixed-grip quads.  Sunshine, also known as Sunny D, is a 1963 Stadeli at the base of Mt. Ellen that will be removed and replaced in the same alignment.  Village serves beginners on Lincoln Peak and was built by Carlevaro-Savio in 1964.  The new version of that lift will start higher and greatly improve the beginner experience at Sugarbush.

A second new chairlift will replace the Sunshine double on Mt. Ellen.

The nostalgic out there may miss these pieces of ancient history come spring but the Sugarbush lift maintenance team likely won’t.  “Our Director of Lift Maintenance, Jasen Bellomy, felt very strongly that we replace both lifts this year rather than over the next two years,” wrote Sugarbush President Win Smith. ” We took his advice, and fate proved him correct a few days later as the top sheave assembly on the Village Double failed. We would have had to ship the part out for repair which would have taken no less than two weeks, so we have officially retired what was once known as Lift 6.”  These aren’t big new lifts (both are around 2,000′ long with under 500′ of vertical) but it’s great to see another mountain investing in its aging infrastructure. Carlevaro-Savio and Stadeli are both long gone and Village/Sunshine are 53 and 54 years old, respectively.

This summer, Sugarbush will also replace the electric motor on North Ridge, a 1990 Poma. I have an email out about the manufacturer of the new lifts; Doppelmayr built the new Valley House here in 2015.  It may be a few days before Sugarbush replies, however with 18-24″ expected to bury the Green Mountains over the next 48 hours.

News Roundup: Inaugural

Eldora to Debut Doppelmayr Six-Pack Next Season

Eldora Mountain Resort will launch its first detachable lift next ski season, a six-pack replacing two decades-old fixed-grips at Powdr Co.’s newest resort near Denver. Doppelmayr USA and Highlander Ski Lift Services & Construction will partner to manufacture and install the six-pack this summer and fall, reuniting the team that collaborated to launch the new Cloudchaser lift at sister resort Mt. Bachelor in 2016. Highlander also installed Solitude’s Summit Express in 2015.

The new detachable labelled here as Challenge is one of four approved for Eldora in 2015 as part of the resort’s 2011 Master Plan.

“This new high speed lift is another significant improvement that will greatly enhance the Eldora experience for our snowsports community,” said Brent Tregaskis, general manager at Eldora in a press release. “The goal of Eldora and Powdr Adventure Lifestyle Co. is to service our guests and community as best we can.”  Powdr bought Eldora last June and promised to make major upgrades.

Out with the old, in with the new.  Both Challenge and Cannonball will be removed this spring to make way for a new six-pack in a modified alignment.

The new six-place detachable will replace both Cannonball, a 1973 Heron-Poma double, and Challenge, a 1971 Hall triple relocated to Eldora from Sun Valley in 1992.  The yet-to-be-named new lift will load between the Indian Peaks and Timbers lodges and rise 1,000 vertical feet in just 4.5 minutes. Capacity will reach an impressive 3,600 skiers per hour with 17 towers and a slope length of 3,829′.  Eldora released renderings of the new lift showing sleek dark red and black Uni-G terminals.

The old lifts will be recycled and chairs sold to the public with a contest to be held soon to name the big new lift.  Four other detachable chairlifts have been announced by Colorado resorts for next ski season: a Doppelmayr high-speed quad at Beaver Creek and Leitner-Poma six-packs at Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail.

Instagram Tuesday: Earth

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

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