News Roundup: Stellar

 

 

Indoor Skiing Comes to America with Big Snow

BS_OpeningDay2019_0022
Olympians catch the first chair at Big Snow American Dream in New Jersey.

This was the first and hopefully last opening day ever for Big Snow American Dream, the only year-round, real snow ski area in the Americas.  New Jersey is now one of the most accessible places to learn ski and snowboard, with two thirds of guests expected to be beginners.  About a dozen similar snow parks operate in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

map_park2

The mountain made of steel is one of what will be hundreds of tenants at American Dream, a $5 billion shopping and entertainment destination just five miles from midtown Manhattan.  With Big Snow plus a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, Legoland Discovery Center and DreamWorks waterpark, American Dream hopes to buck the trend of malls in decline by focusing outside of retail.

IMG_8054
The BIG Express Quad, built in 2008, opened to the public today for the first time.

Canadian developer Triple Five Group managed to finish a job which first broke ground in 2004.  What was then known as Meadowlands Xanadu had its lifts installed in 2008, only to see zero snow and not a skier for 11 years.  I’m told the big lift had only about 50 hours on it until a few weeks ago.  After taking over the troubled project, Triple Five principal Don Ghermezian partnered with Snow Operating to bring the ski experience to life.  Snow is the ski industry disruptor behind Mountain Creek Resort and the Terrain Based Learning program in use across the country.  Before today’s first chair, Snow Operating President and CEO Joe Hession presented the Ghermezian family an Austrian bell like those seen at many Doppelmayr lift openings.

Continue reading

Steamboat Gondola to Reopen Tomorrow

The Steamboat Gondola will once again carry guests Thursday morning, ten days after a gearbox issue halted operation of the brand new lift.  Through a holiday week and major snowstorms, teams worked diligently to make repairs including new parts shipped from Europe.  During the downtime, the Christie Peak and Thunderhead Express lifts provided access to terrain normally serviced by the gondola.

Doppelmayr would like to apologize to the Steamboat community for the interruption in service on the gondola, which was caused by a failure of the main gearbox after only two days of public operation. The backup systems functioned properly and the Steamboat team reacted quickly and appropriately after the gearbox failure. Our technicians and engineers worked around the clock with Steamboat personnel and technical experts from Germany, Austria and Canada, to replace the failed gearbox and associated components. We also took additional steps to improve the overall design and brought in a technical expert to eliminate vibration that contributed to the original failure. We have conducted numerous tests and are happy to report that the gondola will return to service on Thursday. We offer a sincere thanks to Rob Perlman, Dave Hunter and Kurt Castor, and to the Steamboat community for their patience and support. We are confident and proud of the Steamboat gondola and look forward to years of use for skiers and snowboarders.

– Mark Bee, President, Doppelmayr USA

The new Steamboat Gondola is the product of a two part, $15+ million replacement project.  This past summer, upgrades included new level walk-in cabins, grips, hangers, controls, tensioning systems, drive equipment, towers, line gear and parking.  With the number of cabins increased to 137 and line speed pushed to six meters a second, travel time to Thunderhead Lodge is now under ten minutes.  Capacity has increased by 38 percent versus the previous Silver Bullet Gondola.

Sometimes setbacks happen, especially with large scale projects such as this one.  As the video above demonstrates, lifts are built by teams of dedicated people.  I look forward to being one of the thousands to enjoy the new gondola in the coming weeks thanks to their hard work.

Instagram Tuesday: Frosty

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

Powdr Buys SilverStar, BC

IMG_8701

Powdr has purchased SilverStar Mountain Resort from owner Jane Cann, marking the Park City-based firm’s first foray into Canada.  Located in British Columbia’s Okanagan region, SilverStar operates seven modern lifts including a brand new gondola on 3,282 acres.  “SilverStar is a world-class destination that fits well with who Powdr is, what our properties are community favorites—and our commitment to protecting and enhancing the authentic year-round adventure experience for generations to come,” said Justin Sibley, Powdr co-president.  “The resort team is impressive and they have an incredibly strong relationship with the community, which we hope to build upon.”

xlargesilverstar

“I am thrilled to pass the torch to such a competent and qualified operator as Powdr, who shares the same mission and beliefs for the SilverStar resort community and is committed to delivering memorable experiences and enhancing people’s lives,” said Jane Cann, whose father developed both SilverStar and nearby Big White into leading destination resorts.  “Powdr is an enduring company focused on patiently making each of its destinations the best version of itself locally.  I am confident that their scale and expertise will be beneficial in working toward the realization of SilverStar’s newly approved Master Plan.”  Current season pass partnerships will remain in place for the 2019-20 season.

Powdr has been investing heavily in its properties of late and now operates eleven resorts in six US states plus one Canadian province.  Alterra Mountain Company, Boyne Resorts and Vail Resorts all also compete in the British Columbia market.

News Roundup: SkyDream

Instagram Tuesday: Mixing Things Up

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

Wasatch Peaks Ranch Targets 2021-22 Opening

wprsimulation

A group of investors plan to begin construction soon on a new 3,000 acre, 3,000′ vertical ski resort just 30 minutes from Salt Lake City.  Unlike at Utah’s 15 existing resorts, skiing at Wasatch Peaks Ranch will be reserved exclusively for investors and homeowners.  The site lies 10 miles south of Snowbasin Resort near the community of Peterson.  Wasatch Peaks recently tapped Bob Wheaton, former head of Deer Valley Resort to be President and CEO of the new venture.  Past Deer Valley owner Lessing Stern is one of 10 investors with more being sought.  Their plan includes building seven lifts, up to 750 housing units and two golf courses.

WPR_conceptual land use plan.jpg

Private mountain resorts have a checkered history in the United States.  The Yellowstone Club in Montana has grown to include 20 ski lifts and sold more than $1 billion worth of real estate.  But others in the east such as the Hermitage Club, Plymouth Notch and Otsego Club are now either shut down or open as public areas.

Utah is unique in the West with large swaths of the Wasatch Mountains privately owned.  Even public ski resorts like Deer Valley, Park City and Powder Mountain are located on private land, giving them more freedom to add lifts quickly and develop slopeside real estate.  Wasatch Peaks plans to build in phases based on market demand and fundraising.  Infrastructure construction is planned to begin next summer with the first phase of lifts following in 2021.

News Roundup: Glass Floors

Timberline Sold to Perfect North Slopes

timberline-four-seasonsjpg

The largest closed ski area in the Mid-Atlantic will reopen for the 2020-21 ski season pending the successful closing of a deal announced today.  Chip Perfect, President and CEO of Indiana’s Perfect North Slopes, was the second highest bidder for West Virginia’s Timberline Four Seasons Resort with a bid of $2.12 million.  The top bidder at the bankruptcy auction, First Asset Holding, accepted a $30,000 payment to transfer the winning bid to the Indiana ski area.  Mr. Perfect was elected to the Indiana Senate in 2014 and once served as President of the Midwest Ski Areas Association.  Like Timberline, Perfect North Slopes opened in the 1980s and relies on snowmaking to deliver a quality skiing experience.  The Indiana mountain is highly respected with a 40 year history of sustained capital investment.

Timberline Four Seasons closed in the middle of last season and filed for bankruptcy protection on April 30th, listing $2.8 million in liabilities.  The thousand foot tall mountain’s three Borvig and Heron-Poma fixed-grip lifts are in varying states of repair.  A 2016 tower failure which injured nine people was blamed on Timberline’s failure to address a known issue identified by Borvig shortly after construction.

A fresh start will be welcome in Davis, West Virginia, which is also home to state-owned Canaan Valley Resort.  “We are excited to bring our extensive ski area operation experience to the Timberline property,” said Chip Perfect, speaking for his new management group.  “The property has great potential, a stunning West Virginia setting and some fabulous terrain and ski runs.”  West Virginia is currently down to four operating ski areas and the planned return of a fifth is fantastic news.  “Having Perfect North Slopes operating Timberline is great news for skiers and snowboarders and great news for West Virginia’s ski industry,” said Joe Stevens, director of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association. “It’s a top-notch, reputable organization that’s done an outstanding job at developing its ski area in southeastern Indiana, and I look forward to working with them to grow their West Virginia ski operation.”