SilverStar Christens New Gondola with a Party

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Crystal Mountain, Washington.  Lutsen Mountains, Minnesota.  Belleayre, New York and Ski Apache, New Mexico.  Mountains from north to south, east to west and now in Canada are proving there’s no need to be a mega resort to build a great gondola.  SilverStar Mountain Resort joined the club today with the Schumann Summit Express, manufactured by Doppelmayr Canada, which carried its first riders just after 11:00.

The new flagship lift is named after the late Desmond Schumann, an Australian visionary who came to grow both Big White and SilverStar into two of British Columbia’s top ski resorts.  Daughter Jane Cann now presides over SilverStar and rode in the very first cabin, one painted silver in honor of the resort’s 60th anniversary (Jane’s brother, Peter Schumann, heads up nearby Big White, which is also building a new lift this summer).  Doppelmayr’s Jim Anderson presented the customary Austrian-forged bell and spoke along with other dignitaries.  They noted how far SilverStar has come from a local ski hill with one Poma lift and two rope tows into a significant regional and destination resort.

A few missing puzzle pieces.

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Cabins in a rainbow of six different colors lift riders from SilverStar’s mid-mountain village to the summit in just 4.4 minutes.  A restaurant will eventually rise where the gondola and two other lifts converge.  The 961′ vertical Summit Express replaces the last of SilverStar’s Mueller lifts, the Summit Double, which faithfully carried riders along a similar route from 1970 until this spring.  The new gondola completes SilverStar’s impressive lift transformation undertaken entirely since Mr. Schumann’s 2001 arrival, when the last of three Lift Engineering quad chairs was replaced.  It is a tale of “build it and they will come.”

Announced 13 months ago, the gondola was uniquely built over two construction seasons.  Concrete foundations and the top drive terminal were installed last fall with construction pausing in November for what turned out to be a very deep winter.  Doppelmayr was back at it as soon as the ski season ended with a tight timeline toward a July 1 opening.  Very late season snow pushed that back a few weeks but no one seemed to care on this perfect July Saturday.  In addition to free gondola rides for the thousands gathered, there was a free community barbecue, dunk tank, bungee trampoline and even a $1,000 cash giveaway.  The celebration proved gondolas are for everybody – from young kids to people with disabilities, the elderly and even pets – to enjoy together.

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More Skyliner Steel Rises Across Walt Disney World

June is an important time for the Disney Skyliner gondola project as we’re a year from when the system would need to open to transport guests during the park’s busiest months of 2019.  A late spring opening seems like an attainable timeline as construction of many of the system’s towers is complete with terminal steel now spotted at four of eight station locations.

The Epcot park entrance known as International Gateway was one of the last stations to break ground but concrete is now in place for the four masts that will support the terminal.

Most of the approximately seven towers between International Gateway and the first angle station are now standing near Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and its various parking lots.

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Double Turnarounds! Disney Skyliner Advances

Three of the highest capacity lifts America has ever seen continue to take shape this spring at Walt Disney World in preparation for a 2019 opening.  With steel coming together for the first two megastations announced almost a year ago, the Hollywood Studios gondola seems on track to be completed first.

To keep things consistent, I’ll start this month’s update at Epcot, where the longest of three Disney World lifts will terminate.  This zigzagging line will feature two intermediate stations between Epcot’s International Gateway and the south end of the Caribbean Beach Resort.  Foundation work is in progress at all four stations and the second to last tower (number 25 I think) was recently set near the park entrance.  You can see in the bottom left of the above photo that it might be finished in a green shade to blend into its surroundings.

More towers are either standing or soon will be between Epcot and the first turn station near the parking lot for Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.  This section appears to have around seven towers total.  The ride will be very cool with one water crossing, a forest section and Eiffel Tower views.

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Disney Skyliner Work Accelerates

Those interested in reading only about ski lifts can skip this post.  For everyone else, the Disney Skyliner is poised to become among the world’s highest profile ropeways a bit over a year from now and one worth following.  I plan on scrambling to Walt Disney World as soon as the three Skyliner gondolas open, but for now, we can rely on Twitter user bioreconstruct, a relentless documentarian of everything Disney.

The Skyliner will bring Epcot within just a few minutes’ reach for guests staying at four Disney World Resort hotels.  At the storied park’s International Gateway, what will likely be the second busiest gondola station is in the early phases of construction near the current boat dock.  This one will be mostly open air with a few unique Disney touches on an otherwise dark gray Doppelmayr terminal.

A few tower foundations are going in for the stage from Epcot to the BoardWalk Inn parking lot, where an angle station is also beginning to form.  Cabins will turn sharply here but doors will stay closed in both directions.

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Disney Skyliner Reaches Skyward

Walt Disney World is currently building America’s inaugural Doppelmayr D-Line gondola, actually three gondolas.  Although Orlando is a long way from the mountains of Wyoming, the world’s most visited resort is also one of Earth’s most photographed places.  So, through the magic of the internet, I am able to give a construction tour of the Disney Skyliner from afar.

Let’s start at Epcot.  Foundations for this key station are taking shape but the bulk of work still lies ahead.  Though they look like lift terminals, the dark green roofs are actually related to ferry boats the Skyliner will partially replace.

Next up is an angle station that Disney says will showcase the inner workings of the Skyliner as riders pass.  No loading or unloading will take place here but the line will deflect around 110 degrees (double grooved bullwheel, maybe?)  This one is also just beginning to be formed in what used to be a pond.

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Construction of Disney’s Skyliner is Well Underway

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A new rendering of the new Pop Century/Art of Animation gondola station, part of the Skyliner gondola system opening in 2019.

We’re somewhere around a year-and-a-half away from the grand opening of Walt Disney World Resort’s innovative Skyliner gondola network and it’s becoming clear this will be North America’s most expensive lift project ever.  Yes, much more costly than the $52 million Peak 2 Peak Gondola, way beyond the $57 million Portland Aerial Tram and many times more than the eight-figure Blackcomb Gondola, also set for construction this year.

I have never been to Florida but luckily there are die-hard Disney fans who charter helicopters on a weekly basis to photograph the goings-on at the world’s most-visited resort.  This week, they are beginning to spot tower foundations for the first of five gondola segments.

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Belleayre Gets Its Gondola

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The first gondola in the Catskill Mountains stands nearly complete at Belleayre Mountain, owned and operated by New York State.
Governor Andrew Cuomo surprised many back in February when he committed $8 million in public money to erect a gondola and make other improvements at Belleayre, the smallest of New York’s three state-owned ski resorts.  Reaction was swift with a vocal group of critics questioning the use of funds at a mountain with a modest 135,000 annual skier visits.  “Gondola to nowhere,” one user wrote on the NY Ski Blog.  “The stupidest lift ever built in the world,” said another passionate New Yorker.  Yet another, simply “a waste.”  Then came an anti-gondola petition.

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The Olympic Regional Development Authority stuck to its guns and Doppelmayr USA won the contract, beginning work on June 21st.  Just four and a half months later, a grand new machine stands with 13,615 feet of haul rope, 60 cabins and 16 towers coming together.  The new lift rises 1,350 feet from Discovery Lodge to the summit with super views along the way.

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Mt. Baker Swaps a Riblet for a Skytrac

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Mt. Baker Ski Area’s new Chair 7 is the first on the mountain with an electric prime mover.

Replacing a fixed-grip quad with another fixed-grip quad might not seem like much of a change, but Mt. Baker took a significant step forward this summer building an all-new Chair 7 with loads of upgrades.  The only lift out of the White Salmon base area is now a Skytrac, the first for this Pacific Northwest favorite with seven fixed-grip quads.

The Riblet Chair 7 opened in 1990 to serve an eastward expansion along with Chair 8 in 1992.  The last of Baker’s seven Riblets went in for the 2001-02, the second to last Riblet lift built anywhere in the world.  Beginning the following year, a series of four Doppelmayr CTEC quad chairs replaced lifts 1, 3, 5 and 6.  All of these lifts were powered directly with diesel engines.

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Buttercup Update from Mt. Hood Meadows

Many resorts are adding bigger chairlifts this season but Mt. Hood Meadows’ new beginner lift is notable for a couple reasons.  The quad follows an all-new route from the double it replaces, opening up more teaching terrain in the base area.  Second, it appears to feature Skytrac’s first height-adjustable terminal at its return station.  The drive and tensioning systems will now be located at the top.  The new Buttecup is 30 percent longer than the Yan version and will move 70 percent more people.  It will also spin 30 percent faster thanks to a loading carpet, which is also height adjustable.

When I stopped by Meadows this weekend, Mt. Hood had received nearly six inches of rain on top of early snow in classic Pacific Northwest fashion.  Timberline is already open for the season while lift construction continues next door.  Concrete work for the new lift is almost finished and the weather looks much better this week as Meadows prepares for its 50th season.

 

Excitement Builds as Bear Valley Adds Second Detachable

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A foundation awaits steel at the top of Bear Valley, where a new six-person chairlift will open this season.
A big new six-pack is coming together on the front face of Bear Valley, site of the only new lift in Northern California for 2017-18.  What’s code-named the Love Six replaces a 1967 Riblet double chair named Bear, which ran alongside a Lift Engineering triple.  Kuma will stay for now but is unlikely to see much action as a shiny six-pack steals the show next door.  As of this weekend, Leitner-Poma is almost finished with concrete foundations and in the process of assembling 11 new towers (the old lift had 18!)  Terminal sections are being delivered nameless as Bear Valley weighs a more creative title than Bear Express.

Bear Valley’s first detachable was an LPOA Omega-model built in 2006 on the back side of the mountain.  Owner Skyline Development partnered last year with Leitner-Poma to build a similar six-pack at the company’s Horseshoe Resort.  This year’s project is one of seven new six-packs that will debut across the U.S. this winter, tied with 2000-01 for the most ever.  The new lift slashes the time to ride time up the heart of the mountain in half to just over three minutes and looks to feature 90-degree loading.  “This lift investment is a game changer for Bear Valley that will greatly enhance our guests’ experience,” said Andrea Young, general manager at Bear Valley when the new lift was announced in April. “It is a continuation of the many improvements that Skyline Investments is making at Bear Valley on the heels of two strong winters which will elevate the guest experience and further establish the area as a year-round Sierra family destination.”

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