News Roundup: Vail Numbers

  • Vail Resorts has sold 850,000 season passes as of September 18th, an 18 percent increase compared to last year at this time.
  • CEO Rob Katz assures skiers reservations should be widely available for most resorts on most days.
  • Vail lost $153.6 million in the quarter ended July 31st compared with an $89.5 million loss in the same period last year.
  • For the full fiscal year 2020, Vail reported a net income of $98.8 million, a decrease of 67.2 percent.
  • The company also recently cut 410 jobs.
  • Regarding capital projects and the seven lift projects Vail postponed this year, Katz said on the conference call:

“We are of course going to be monitoring the season closely before we come out with any plan for calendar year 2021. We’ll make sure we’re incorporating what happened this year. We will likely still be in a conservative approach though hopefully not as conservative as last year because the environment around Covid and travel has all improved. We will definitely be prioritizing projects that we think will have a significant impact on the guest experience and certainly some of the projects that we deferred from last year will be top of the list.”

Instagram Tuesday: Coming Along

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

Yosemite’s Badger Pass Will Not Open This Season

The multinational hospitality company which operates Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park has announced the ski area will not operate for winter 2020-21. Badger Pass is one of only three US ski areas located in a National Park and features four fixed grip chairlifts and 90 acres of terrain.

Chairlifts at Badger Pass will sit idle this winter.

“Due to ongoing concerns related to COVID-19, Badger Pass Ski Area will not open for the 2020-21 season. This includes both Nordic and downhill operations,” read a statement from Aramark Corporation, which operates Badger under a long term agreement with the National Park Service. “We are in the process of contacting season pass holders with the option of a season pass rollover or refund. Thank you for your continued interest in California’s original ski area, and we hope to see you next season,” the statement continued. Publicly-traded Aramark reported a $328 million operating loss in the most recent quarter with revenue down 46 percent due to the pandemic.

News Roundup: California Dreaming

  • The Town of Jackson, Wyoming inches closer to approving the Snow King Gondola five years after it was first proposed.
  • Aspen Skiing Company eliminates nearly 50 positions citing the “ever shifting Covid landscape.”
  • The Miami Dolphins won’t operate their SkyView stadium gondola this NFL season.
  • In New Zealand, ski resorts say they are not the mask police.
  • Alps resorts prepare to reopen this month.
  • The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board grants a variance for a new Telemix on Aspen Mountain.
  • Ikon Pass holders will need a reservation to visit certain resorts this season while other mountains will not require reservations and more are still deciding.
  • Big Sky’s Lone Peak Tram will be open this winter but guests may be allowed to boot pack to the summit as an alternative.
  • A second indoor ski resort for the United States moves ahead near DC.
  • Aspen Snowmass and other creditors will appeal a judge’s decision to keep Liftopia out of bankruptcy.
  • Some Canadians aren’t happy with Vail’s pandemic-era customer service.
  • Magic Mountain, Idaho is threatened by a wildfire.
  • A study finds the proposed Oakland Athletics gondola would carry a million riders a year and generate $685 million in economic activity.
  • This summer’s construction projects are just the beginning for the new Saddleback Mountain.
  • A planned urban gondola in Los Angeles get a fresh name and website as it prepares for environmental review.
  • Leitner Ropeways will build New Zealand’s first eight passenger chairlift.
  • The Utah Department of Transportation continues to refine alternatives for Little Cottonwood Canyon and will release a report this fall.
  • Great Bear solicits bids for a new chairlift.

Instagram Tuesday: Going Up

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

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Torque her down bud @leitner.poma

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💘 @saddlebackmaine

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Sea to Sky Gondola Deliberately Severed Again

The Sea to Sky Gondola‘s haul rope was cut again this morning in an intentional act of destruction. The horrible news comes just 13 months after the first such crime occurred the morning of August 10th, 2019. “At 04:00 hours the Squamish RCMP was contacted by the security team at the Sea to Sky Gondola stating that the line to the gondola had been cut and had crashed into the mountain,” read an early morning statement from police. “Squamish RCMP members attended immediately and began to assess information and contain the area.” The lift was not operating at that hour and there are no known injuries.

The criminal(s) responsible for the original downing were never apprehended and the gondola reopened six months later with enhanced security including 24 hour remote monitoring. Squamish RCMP is working alongside partner agencies including the West Vancouver Police Department and more will be arriving as the day goes on.  There is an extensive amount of resources in the area and law enforcement is asking the public to stay out of the vicinity.

“We are in shock,” General Manager Kirby Brown told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “This is a repeat incident of what happened last year.” He said the attraction plans to rebuild again, just as it did last fall. That included millions of dollars of work including new cabins from CWA, a replacement 55 millimeter haul rope from Fatzer and new security infrastructure.

The Sea to Sky Gondola employs 120 people and hosted 400,000 visitors per year before the recent setbacks. Anyone with information on either crime is asked to contact the Squamish Royal Canadian Mounted Police at 604-892-6100 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Update: According to Brown, the cable was cut in a similar manner to last time with a skilled individual quickly climbing a tower and cutting the rope. The person was captured on surveillance footage which shows clearly what happened. There were 39 cabins on the gondola this time, six of which were in stations and undamaged. A rope specialist is en route to determine whether a new haul rope section can be spliced in or if an entirely new rope is needed. The gondola was insured and the company is already in the process of ordering what is needed to rebuild again.

News Roundup: Name Change

Wildfires Impact Ski Areas Across the West

As snow falls across the Rockies, resorts closer to the Pacific continue to deal with drought conditions and wildland fires. Most immediately threatened is California’s China Peak from the 153,000 acre Creek Fire. “We are aware that the fire has reached our mountain and a strike team is working hard to manage the flames and protect structures on the base area,” said a statement from the resort last night. “Employee housing has been damaged, but we have no other information at this time.” China Peak operates a total of six fixed grip chairlifts.

Eight different National Forests in California shut down to the public effective 5:00 pm on Labor Day due to extreme fire danger. Mammoth Mountain and Snow Summit are among those temporarily suspending mountain operations in partnership with the Forest Service.

In Oregon, a fire ignited within the Mt. Hood Meadows boundary on Monday. Meadows fired up the Stadium Express for firefighters, who were able to contain the blaze to a few acres without damage to lifts or facilities.

The Mt. Hood National Forest is now closed to the public. Timberline Lodge has suspended outdoor operations until further notice (skiing on Palmer Glacier ended August 30th this year.)

In Washington, Crystal Mountain remains largely inaccessible due to fire-related road closures.

On the good news front, the Medio Fire near New Mexico’s Ski Santa Fe is 90 percent contained and the Bridger Foothills Fire threatening Montana’s Bridger Bowl has been slowed by wet weather.

Please keep firefighters and resort employees working to protect ski areas in your thoughts during this challenging time.

Instagram Tuesday: Spotted

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

News Roundup: Perfect