Instagram Tuesday: October

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

Arapahoe Basin to Build First Six Pack

Arapahoe Basin has reached a deal with its longtime lift supplier Leitner-Poma to replace the Lenawee Mountain triple next year. The mountain’s first six place chairlift will increase throughput from 1,800 skiers per hour to 2,400. “In addition to 6-packs being more stable in high winds, we felt this lift would do the best job of increasing capacity,” wrote Chief Operating Officer Al Henceroth on his always informative blog. “Through our planning we felt the need to upgrade the capacity of Lenawee from 1,800 people per hour (pph) to 2,400 pph. While this could technically be achieved with a quad chair, we felt that in actual use, the 6-pack would be far more effective achieving that goal of 2400 pph,” he continued.

Other new lifts planned for Colorado next year include the first section of Steamboat’s new Wild Blue Gondola, a Rip’s Ride replacement at Breckenridge, Bergman Bowl Express at Keystone and two new detachables at Vail. Copper Mountain, Loveland and Winter Park all have Forest Service approval to build lifts as well, though timelines have not been announced for those projects.

Major Lift Realignment Underway at Michigan’s Bittersweet

Bittersweet in Michigan is making way for a second detachable chairlift in 2022. The mountain’s current high speed quad, the Sweet Express, will move northwest to replace the Poison Ivy triple this season. That late model Hall has been moved the other direction to replace the Chickory double. Along the way, Chickory will be upgraded with a brand new Skytrac drive terminal.

The lift shuffle come as Bittersweet owner Wisconsin Resorts expands to include six mountains in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario. Throughout its history, the company has invested heavily in both lift and snowmaking infrastructure.

The new Sweet Express is the third lift announced for the state of Michigan in 2022. On Wednesday, Boyne Mountain unveiled plans for the region’s first eight passenger chairlift. Caberfae Peaks also plans to add a new lift next year.

News Roundup: Planning Ahead

No Injuries Reported in Courchevel Tram Crash

Both cabins on a 120 passenger aerial tramway collided into stations earlier today in Courchevel, France. The Saulire Cable Car was undergoing tests at the time and no one was injured. “During an annual regulatory check carried out at the technical limits of the device, an incident severely damaged the two cabins,” read a statement from the Société des 3 Vallées, operator of the tramway. “An expert report will determine the causes of the incident and the S3V will do everything in its power to restore the ropeway in complete safety.”

The Saulire tramway was the world’s largest when built by Poma in 1984. At that time its cars carried up to 160 passengers each. Both cabins were renovated in 2013 at a cost of €300,000.

Courchevel makes up one part of Les 3 Vallées, the largest ski complex in the world with 183 lifts.

Boyne Mountain to Launch Midwest’s First Eight Seat Chairlift

Boyne Resorts’ commitment to modernizing lift infrastructure across its properties will continue in 2022. The company today announced construction of Disciples 8, an eight place chairlift replacing Disciples Ridge and Disciples II at Boyne Mountain. The Doppelmayr D-Line system will feature a direct drive, auto locking safety bars and a loading conveyor, though no bubbles due to its 3.2 minute ride time. D8 will be Boyne Resorts’ third eight passenger chairlift following installations at Big Sky Resort in 2018 and Loon Mountain this year.

Boyne Mountain has been a center of lift innovation ever since it opened with the Midwest’s first chairlift in 1948.  From there, Boyne introduced the world’s first quad in 1964 and installed America’s first high-speed six person chairlift in 1992. “Boyne Mountain started our company’s 75 year journey in the ski and resort business, and we are excited to again build on its incredible foundation of innovative industry firsts with the next generation of attractions and our heritage of elevating the Midwest resort experience,” said Stephen Kircher, CEO and president of Boyne Resorts. More information on other improvements announced today can be found here.

Future lift upgrades are planned for Meadows, Super Bowl, Victor, Boyneland and the Mountain Express, which will create the Midwest’s most advanced lift system.

Storm Damages Gallix Chairlift in Quebec

Heavy rains caused the drive terminal of a Northern Quebec ski resort’s only chairlift to collapse Sunday night. Photos from the scene show all four terminal legs and the operator house out of position with the motor room hanging precariously. The lift involved is a 1998 Doppelmayr fixed grip quad with a slope length of 2,660 feet.

“The Gallix station team is working hard to secure the perimeter of the lift pending the arrival of the supplier inspectors,” the mountain said in a statement. “During this time, we ask the public not to visit the scene because of the extreme danger of soil stability and chairlift structure. It’s still too early to conclude anything about the 2021-22 season. Thank you for your words of encouragement and understanding,” the mountain added.

The chairlift cost CA$1.5 million when it was installed. A meeting is scheduled for Wednesday between the ski area and its insurance company.

Doppelmayr Posts Pandemic Sales Decline

We now know how much the first 12 months of the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the tourism-reliant Doppelmayr Garaventa Group. Revenue declined 12.5 percent to €763 million ($891 million) for the 2020/21 fiscal year, which began concurrently with pandemic lockdowns and ran through March of this year. “Tourism in particular took a major global hit,” said Thomas Pichler, managing director of Doppelmayr Holding SE in the company’s annual report. “The uncertainties our customers were confronted with led to a slump in contracts and the postponement of calls to tender and orders throughout the ropeway industry. The repercussions will continue to make themselves felt in the next few years.”

Doppelmayr Garaventa downsized its global workforce by about 200 employees during the fiscal year. “In spite of all our efforts to absorb the financial fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to adjust personnel levels in line with the changed circumstances last fall,” said Pichler. “That was a painful but unfortunately necessary step. We are well equipped for the next few years with a committed team who stand by our customers with a solution-focused mindset.”

Even though sales reached the lowest level in nine years, the firm celebrated some major successes. For the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, its teams built nine installations in the new ski resort of Yanqing. A gondola in Zermatt became the first autonomous ropeway in Switzerland and the trailblazing Eiger Express 3S opened last December. A large urban D-Line system was also completed in Mexico City.

In United States and Canada, Doppelmayr completed 10 ropeways in calendar year 2020, down from 25 the year before. The two countries accounted for 13 percent of global revenue, a decrease from 17 percent in 2019/20. As readers of this blog know, the three largest North American resort operators postponed all their lift projects while many independent operators continued forward with theirs. This year most of Alterra, Vail and Boyne’s postponed projects are being completed and Doppelmayr’s US/Canada project count will reach at least 17 for 2021.

Despite setbacks, Doppelmayr sees reason for optimism with particular strength emerging in two markets. “Our customers in Asia and North America are investing and setting course for a successful future with cutting-edge ropeway infrastructure from Doppelmayr,” notes the report. “We are therefore looking to the future with confidence and continuing to pursue our goal of working with our customers to build the best ropeways in the world. Global tourism will recover and people will once again experience unforgettable moments in the mountains and other special places.”

Fire Shutters Big Snow

North America’s only indoor ski area will be closed for at least a week following an overnight fire. The three alarm blaze broke out around 4:15 am when the facility was empty and no one was injured. “Unfortunately, we will be closed at least through October 2nd as we assess the total damage and repairs needed to re-open,” the mountain posted in a statement. “We are tremendously thankful for the quick response and efforts of the local fire departments in working to contain this fire.” The fire was reported to have started in the roof, which supports snowmaking, lighting and lift systems. Firefighters do not consider the blaze to be suspicious.

The 180,000 square foot space includes a quad chair, platter lift and conveyor servicing three slopes. The snow dome contains 5,500 tons of snow which requires constant radiant cooling.

Big Snow is no stranger to setbacks. The original developer of the attraction went bankrupt and the lifts sat idle for 11 years. A new developer, Triple Five Group, partnered with Mountain Creek owner SNOW Operating to finally open the facility in December 2019. Then came Covid, which shut the operation down after only three months of operation. Big Snow kept its snow cold the entire lockdown and reopened in September of 2020. Now facing a fire cleanup, the mountain promises to be back and better than ever as soon as repairs are complete.