Gondola Riders Injured in Incident at Mont-Sainte-Anne

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Photo credit: CBC Radio Canada

Nearly two dozen passengers suffered injuries this morning when a gondola lift came to an abrupt stop at Mont-Sainte-Anne, a large resort near Quebec City.  The incident occurred just before 10:00 am and cabins stopped suddenly enough that skis and snowboards fell from exterior racks.  At least one cabin became lodged at an angle in a station with a broken window.  Other cabins reportedly contacted towers.  Out of the 21 people injured, 12 were transported to hospitals by ambulance.

By around 10:45, the gondola was restarted in reverse to unload riders.  The rescue operation was completed by noon and the lift is now closed.  A spokesperson for Mont-Sainte-Anne said there were 80 cabins on the line today and an investigation will be undertaken.  “Our main objective is to make sure that everyone is taken care of quickly, then, afterwards, we will have more details on the mechanical aspects,” said Simon Lefebvre with the ski resort.

The gondola, known as L’Étoile Filante, was constructed by Doppelmayr and opened in 1989.  It is the largest of seven lifts at Sainte-Anne, a mountain owned by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.  Calgary-based RCR operates a total of six ski resorts in Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec.

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News Roundup: Upper Peninsula

Sugarloaf Outlines West Mountain Expansion & Future Lift Upgrades

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Boyne Resorts will embark on a major investment campaign at Sugarloaf in the coming years called Sugarloaf 2030, similar to plans revealed recently for Big Sky, Loon Mountain and Sunday River.  The central Maine resort will begin work this summer on a 450 acre expansion of West Mountain with a variety of new trails.  The area will eventually feature a big new lift.  As part of the expansion, the current West Mountain double will be shortened to about half its current length.  The expansion includes a modest new base area with expanded parking, tubing and a small lodge.

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“This development will expand Sugarloaf’s beginner and intermediate terrain, and will greatly alleviate traffic congestion at the SuperQuad by shifting significant numbers of riders to this new area,” says the Sugarloaf 2030 website. “Several options are being considered for size and type of lift for this location, with lift construction expected to begin in the summer of 2021.”  The lift will be designed with foot passengers in mind as Bullwinkle’s will see expanded use for weddings and conferences.  West Mountain will also be home to a future lift-served mountain bike park.  “This will be the most significant project at Sugarloaf since the SuperQuad was built in the mid 1990s,” noted Sugarloaf General Manager Karl Strand. “We’re thankful for leadership of Boyne Resorts, which, over the past 13 years, has helped us get Sugarloaf to a position of growth that allows for development projects like this.”

Lifts across the mountain will be replaced over the next decade.  Timberline, a Borvig quad serving the summit will be replaced with another new lift supporting varied year round experiences.  A third near term priority is the Double Runner double-double, which is approaching 50 years of age.  A new quad would better serve ski school programs and increase out-of-base capacity.  Carrabassett Valley Academy also plans to partner with Sugarloaf on a new alpine training surface lift servicing race trails above Double Runner.

Further out, Boyne plans to replace two more aging quads.  A new King Pine would run in a modified alignment with better wind resistance and improved reliability.  A future SuperQuad replacement is more about increasing capacity with state-of-the-art equipment.

Between this new plan, Sunday River’s vision announced two weeks ago and the rebirth of Saddleback, the 2020s are already proving to be an exciting time in Maine.  The Pine Tree State is well positioned to be a great place to ski in a changing climate and companies are responding with big investment plans.

Instagram Tuesday: Rising Up

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

News Roundup: Millions

Nordic Valley Seeks to Add a Fourth Chairlift

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Mountain Capital Partners no longer plans to build nine new chairlifts and one of the world’s longest gondolas in Northern Utah but a scaled back expansion of Nordic Valley is moving forward.  The previous vision hinged on use of Forest Service lands and received chilly public reception.

The resort recently applied for a conditional use permit to add a new lift on 347 acres of entirely private land south of the current ski area.  The updated project includes 50 acres of new snowmaking coverage and an approximately 4,400 foot chairlift dubbed Lift 5.  Photos included with the application depict Skytrac lifts, indicating the new lift would be fixed-grip.

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Back in 2018, Mountain Capital Partners forged an agreement to operate Nordic Valley, becoming the firm’s first property in Utah.  MCP specializes in modernizing historically under-capitalized resorts across the Southwest.   “The proposed project will allow for an improved guest experience for the surrounding communities and will compliment and improve the existing ski operations at Nordic Valley,” said the Colorado-based company.  “With the addition of snowmaking, Nordic Valley will be able to minimize the impact of low natural snowfalls and offer a more consistent product to its customers.”

Instagram Tuesday: Ice Coast

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

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A massive shout-out to Lift Maintenance and our groomers! About 1/4 of an inch was coating our trails and lifts before the snow fell and they spent much of the evening chipping ice and tilling the mountain and continue this morning due to the high winds. Every tower has to be cleared which makes for tedious work especially after freezing rain. It's amazing how much can change within 24 hours. Five inches since yesterday on top of five inches before the rain a total of ten inches in the past three days! . . . . . . . #snow #snowfall #powpow #powder #ice #freezingrain #frozen #liftmaintainence #snowboarding #skiing #skitheeast #skivt #skivermont #vermont #snowstorm #icestorm #winterstormkade #winterstorm #shoutout

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As the saying goes, "it takes a village“ and we’re lucky enough to have a passionate, hardworking village so to speak. We’d like to recognize our lift maintenance crew who spent all day yesterday AND last night out on top of towers in challenging weather working to keep lifts running and prepare them for today. That initiative takes a lot of effort and fortitude, but that’s the kind of dedicated people we have at Killington and Pico. We also want to shine a light on the support of other departments that stepped up to assist lift maintenance while still fulfilling their own duties. The snowmaking and lift operations staff worked alongside lift maintenance for most of yesterday and into the night with groomers pitching in to provide light where they could. Everyone showed true teamwork yesterday! If you see one of our dedicated employees, we encourage you to express your appreciation. As for this morning, we're waking up to 4" that fell overnight. Adding to the 3" from yesterday, we're sitting at a storm total of 7". We'll take it! Stay tuned to the conditions report for updates. #beast365

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New York State Ski Areas Plan New Lifts for 2020-21

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As part of a proposed budget, three more lifts similar to Belleayre’s new Lightning quad would be built at ORDA ski resorts in 2020 and 2021.

New York’s state-owned Olympic Regional Development Authority plans to spend a whopping $147 million to upgrade its facilities during 2020 and 2021.  Those venues include Belleayre, Gore Mountain, the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex and Whiteface, which together saw three new lifts over the last three years.  On Friday, the agency issued a formal request for proposal for three more fixed-grip quad chairlifts to be built over two years.

This summer, both Gore and Whiteface would see new lifts replacing Riblet models.  Gore proposes replacing the Sunway double with a fixed quad capable of moving 2,400 guests per hour.  The previous lift dates back to 1986.  The new alignment would end slightly higher than the current lift, with a 566 foot vertical rise and 3,102 foot slope length.  This machine would be bottom drive, bottom tension with a loading carpet.

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Also in 2020, Whiteface plans to replace the Bunny Hutch triple with a quad.  The current lift opened in 1997 with used Riblet equipment.  The new lift would be about 450 feet longer with a vertical rise of 364 feet.  This quad would also be bottom drive/bottom tension and may include a loading conveyor.

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Following in 2021, Gore would see a replacement for the High Peaks double.  The existing lift is a quirky Riblet-CTEC hybrid that experiences long lines during peak times.  The new lift would be a bottom drive fixed-grip quad with a design capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.

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No new lifts are planned for Belleayre, understandable considering the Catskills mountain got two of the last three projects.  There’s no guarantee ORDA will follow through on these specific plans but the RFP gives us a pretty good idea of the authority’s wish list.  Potential suppliers have until March 5th to bid and, if funded and approved, construction would be complete by November 15th of 2020 and 2021.

News Roundup: Big Game

Waterville Valley Eyes Terrain Expansion and a Gondola

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A gondola may finally link the Town of Waterville Valley with its ski area in the coming years, just one of many exciting projects outlined in the new Waterville Valley Master Development Plan.  Recently accepted by the United States Forest Service, the MDP will guide upgrades at the mountain over the next decade.  It’s the first such comprehensive plan for Waterville since 1999, when Booth Creek owned the resort.

Waterville is seeking a 140 acre boundary expansion and 15 new trails on Green Peak, which saw its first lift installed in 2016.  The resort now features two summits accessed from one base area.  A proposed new portal would separate different user groups and improve the guest experience.  A two stage gondola or chondola is planned to link the Waterville Town Square to the new base area and on to Green Peak.  Two sections would be capable of operating independently with an angled mid-terminal.  The exact alignment of the first stage, which would be located on private land, has not yet been determined.

“The most remarkable element of the plan is that it includes the eventual installation of a gondola that will start in the Town of Waterville Valley near Town Square and transport guests to the summit of Green Peak,” said Waterville Valley CEO John Sununu.  “Connecting our pedestrian village to the ski resort will be incredibly exciting for our resort and community.”  The gondola would be a major undertaking, spanning some 9,000 linear feet with 1,400 feet of vertical and eight passenger cabins.  It would operate in both winter and summer.

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Green Peak would also see a second triple chair servicing 500 vertical feet of beginner and low intermediate terrain.  Two conveyor lifts in the existing base area would be relocated to a new ski school facility at the gondola mid-station.

Two lift upgrades are planned, which Waterville filed to construct back in October.  The White Peaks Express, nearing the end of its useful life, would become a six place detachable in the existing alignment.  Sunnyside is targeted to be replaced with a fixed grip quad.  Two other lift modifications are included: removal of Northside and lengthening of the World Cup T-Bar.  Outside of the scope of the new development plan but on the horizon is further expansion onto Green Peak’s South Ridge.

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“We’re thrilled to continue Waterville Valley’s development and look forward to fulfilling our team’s vision,” said President and General Manager Tim Smith in a statement announcing the Forest Service acceptance. “This is just the first step in a long process, but it marks an exciting milestone towards progressing Waterville Valley into the future.”