Agreement Paves the Way for Squaw-Alpine Gondola Construction

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows today announced a comprehensive agreement with the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League regarding the proposed California Express gondola.  The environmental advocacy group will drop its lawsuit contesting approval of the project in exchange for new conservation efforts by the ski resort.  The Forest Service issued its Final Record of Decision approving the gondola on January 31st.  With these developments, all major hurdles have been overcome.

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“We are very happy to have worked collaboratively with the League to address their concerns so that resources could be directed to environmentally beneficial purposes, rather than funding an extended lawsuit,” said Ron Cohen, president and chief operating officer of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.  “We are eager to get going on this game-changing transportation project.  We thank the League for its productive approach to resolving the dispute.”

The current Squaw-Alpine connection is a long and tedious shuttle ride. The bus stops are nice though!

Squaw Alpine will set aside approximately 27 acres of private property for conservation.  These lands, which include pristine wetlands and natural ponds, have the potential to serve as habitat for the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog.  Additionally, the resort agreed to provide funding to study recovery of this endangered species.  Squaw will also grant money for the Truckee Donner Land Trust to acquire parcels elsewhere in the vicinity of the Granite Chief Wilderness.

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Instagram Tuesday: Midwinter

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Tram laps.

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West Virginia’s Timberline to Relaunch as Timberline Mountain

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When the State of West Virginia regains a fifth ski area next season, a lot will be new.  The folks behind Perfect North Slopes in Indiana acquired the resort formerly known as Timberline Four Seasons in November and are already busy preparing for a 2020-21 rebirth under the name Timberline Mountain.  Being closed this season has a silver lining: there’s been little natural snow to speak of in the mid-Atlantic, allowing work to begin.  This week, a crew started removing the Thunderstruck triple, one of two Borvig lifts on the mountain.  The retirement is significant as this key lift suffered a major structural failure near the end of the prior owners’ run.

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A new logo, new signage and new website all debuted recently.  The resort announced a partnership with Doppelmayr to bring a brand new, top-to-bottom lift to Timberline Mountain this summer.  The lift will traverse more than 4,000 feet with a thousand foot vertical rise. “Details of the size and scope of the new lift are still developing,” a posting reads.  “We will be excited to share updates on this new addition to the West Virginia ski and snowboarding community as they become available!”

Thunderstruck’s 165-plus Leitner triple chairs will be sold to the public at the price of $250 (or $200 apiece for multiple) in the coming weeks.  The mountain’s two other chairlifts will remain in place for now.

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Stevens Pass Evacuates Seventh Heaven Following Tower Incident

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A malfunction occurred on the Seventh Heaven double this morning at Stevens Pass, necessitating a rope evacuation.  Photos appear to show sheaves missing from the light side of tower 1 and the rope caught by the bottom terminal.

“At approximately 9:45 a.m. this morning, Seventh Heaven chairlift stopped operating,” read a statement from the mountain, which is operated by Vail Resorts.  “Ski patrol evacuated 26 guests, with no reported injuries.  The evacuation was safely completed at approximately 12:15 p.m.,” the statement continued.  “Stevens Pass extends its apologies to the guests who were inconvenienced by this event.  The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority.”

Seventh Heaven is one of three remaining Riblet chairlifts at Stevens.  It first opened in 1960 but many components including the bottom terminal and tower 1 are newer than that.  The lift services expert terrain on Cowboy Mountain and reaches an elevation of 5,640 feet.  There was no immediate word on when the summit would reopen.

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Tower 1 is heavily loaded with 12 sheaves on each side.

News Roundup: Bidding War

Instagram Tuesday: Alternating

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💙❄️ #mykitzsteinhorn

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News Roundup: Across Canada

Sleeping Giant to End Skiing Operations

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The closest ski area to Yellowstone National Park will shut down after this season.  Ten years after reviving Sleeping Giant and building a new chairlift, the mountain’s nonprofit operator is throwing in the towel.  “It is with tremendous sadness and sorrow that the board of directors for Yellowstone Recreations Foundation announces the suspension of winter operations beginning in 2020-2021,” reads a statement.  Lifts will spin through the end of the season.

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Sleeping Giant operates under a special use permit from the Shoshone National Forest.  It first opened in 1937, serving the community of Cody, Wyoming and nearby towns with a 2,100 foot T-Bar.  A used Heron-Poma double was added in 1993 to service more terrain.  The area closed in 2004 and was revived in 2009 with the T-Bar being replaced by a Yan triple chair from Mammoth.

“The decision is agonizing but necessary,” noted YRF, citing losses of more than $200,000 each winter.  Profitable summer zip line operations will continue with the Bighorn double accessing five different spans.  The longer Sheepeater lift only runs in winter and will no longer be needed.

“Words cannot express our gratitude to the community,” the foundation’s statement continued.  “The board of directors would like to especially thank the staff over the past 10 years who have dedicated themselves to making Sleeping Giant the finest and most friendly ski hill in the country.”

Instagram Tuesday: Mountain Operations

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Great start to the day. #liftmaintenance

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Announcing Kancamagus 8, the East’s First Eight Pack

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Boyne Resorts will invest millions to build its third D-Line chairlift, an eight place at Loon Mountain set to open for the 2020-21 season.  The first such lift in the Eastern United States will replace the Kancamagus Express, a 1995 detachable quad servicing the lower mountain.  Like Boyne’s two Doppelmayr D-Line systems at Big Sky, the Kanc will feature tinted bubbles, heated seats, locking safety bars, a loading conveyor and direct drive.  “The Kancamagus 8 chairlift will be a leap into the future of skiing for our guests,” said Jay Scambio, president and general manager of Loon Mountain Resort.  “We are committed to bringing the latest advancements to our guests—this lift is the next example of that, following our first-in-the-world dual-frequency RFID installation.”

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Boyne will operate the only two eight place chairlifts in the Americas.

Loon Mountain currently operates an all-Doppelmayr fleet of ten lifts.  “We have a deep, long-standing relationship with both Loon and Boyne Resorts,” noted Mark Bee, President of Doppelmayr USA.  “We are proud to be a part of a major step forward in the eastern ski scene that puts Loon on a path towards achieving its goal of having one of the most advanced lift systems in the world.”  The east’s most technologically advanced lift will spin at 1,100 feet per minute, making it even faster than Ramcharger.  A ride on one of 62 ultra-wide chairs will take just 4.5 minutes.  Capacity out of the Governor Adams base area will increase 25 percent to 3,500 guests per hour.

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The Kancamagus quad is 24 years old and in need of a capacity upgrade.

No other American or Canadian ski operator has purchased eight place or D-Line lifts to date.  I asked Stephen Kircher, Boyne’s chief executive, what it feels like to be the American early adopter for such technology and this was his response:

It is humbling to be able to continue our company and family’s legacy of over 70 years bringing skiers the next generation of chairlift technology.  Now doing it beyond the midwest, with Doppelmayr’s new D-Line technology and doing it with the first two 8 place chairs is even more gratifying.  Ironically it took the rest of North America time to adopt triple, quad and six place chairlifts after those were introduced at Boyne in the 60’s through early 90’s, it seems eerily similar for 8 place chairlifts and the new D-Line.  Boyne Resorts is proud to be showcasing the future of uphill transportation in the rockies and the east.  We believe this will become the new standard of quality and efficiency in the decades ahead. This is likely only the beginning of many more of these types of lifts across North America.  Ultimately, enhancing the experience and attracting many more people to the mountains.”

– Stephen Kircher, CEO/President, Boyne Resorts

Kanc 8 will be the first major investment of Flight Path: 2030, a ten year infrastructure push at Loon also announced today.  Future projects will seek to elevate the ski experience, grow the business responsibly in every season and connect with the local community.  Lift upgrades over the next ten years may include Seven Brothers, Lincoln Express, North Peak Express and the gondola .  “Loon’s 10-year plan will have a positive impact on development throughout the Lincoln and Woodstock communities—as we travel together on our path to be New England’s premier mountain destination,” said Scambio.

The Forest Service has already approved the Kanc 8 project and construction will commence in early spring.