Timberline Sold to Perfect North Slopes

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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.”

News Roundup: A Late Addition

  • Big Sky’s two new lodging access lifts are on the map, bringing The Biggest Skiing in America to 37 lifts.
  • Sasquatch Mountain Resort needs help naming its shiny new Leitner-Poma quad chair.
  • Mont St. Mathieu will expand with a 3,100 foot Doppelmayr surface lift set for commissioning in January 2020.
  • The Sea to Sky Gondola confirms 9 cabins were undamaged in the August incident and will be used to shuttle workers this winter.  With 30 new cabins on the way from Europe, the company will be able to easily take the lift to final capacity (40 cabins) in the future.
  • Crested Butte’s new trail map shows the adjusted Teocalli alignment.
  • In Bolivia, the largest gondola operation in the world reopens following a week of shutdowns due to civil unrest and the resignation of President Evo Morales.  The general manager of the gondola company also resigned.
  • Win Smith of Sugarbush chats with Vermont Public Radio about why now was the right time to sell.
  • Mt. Timothy, BC is officially back in business.
  • On December 9th, Vail Resorts will report fiscal first quarter earnings, traditionally accompanied by guidance on capital investment plans for the year.
  • Thanks to Collin Parsons for these awesome photos of the gondola construction at the Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.

 

Alterra to Acquire Sugarbush Resort

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Vermont’s Sugarbush will join the Alterra Mountain Company family of resorts, bringing the two year-old group to 15 mountains.  Sugarbush encompasses Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen, which are connected by a two mile long detachable quad called the Slide Brook Express.  The resort operates a combined fleet of 13 chairlifts from both Doppelmayr and Poma.  “Sugarbush Resort is a premier East Coast mountain destination and we are excited to expand the Alterra Mountain Company family in the Northeast, with Sugarbush joining Stratton in Vermont,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of Alterra. “Sugarbush has been a partner on the Ikon Pass since its inception and we look forward to the opportunities ahead.”

Win Smith, managing partner of the current ownership group, will stay on and become President and Chief Operating Officer of Sugarbush under Alterra.  “Having been a family-owned resort for nearly two decades, we were keen to find the right next owner of Sugarbush Resort,” said Smith.  “We are delighted that Sugarbush will join the Alterra Mountain Company family, knowing that Alterra Mountain Company will continue to maintain our culture, values and commitment to our community, while bringing additional capital and other resources to make Sugarbush even better in the years ahead.”  Since being acquired from American Skiing Company in 2001, Sugarbush has invested $74 million in mountain improvements including seven new lifts, significant upgrades to snowmaking, and the revitalization of the Lincoln Peak Base area.

Ikon Pass access to Sugarbush will remain limited to five or seven days for the 2019-20 season.  It is likely to become unlimited for 2020-21 like at most other Alterra-owned resorts.  Mountain Collective access will remain unchanged for this season.  The transaction is expected to close in the fist quarter of 2020.

News Roundup: Interviews

  • The 117 year old Poconos hotel which just announced plans to build a chairlift burned down last Friday.
  • Yellowstone Club adds Silver Tip, its 18th major lift, giving YC the 13th highest lift count in the nation!
  • More awesome podcasts: Jeremy Davis of the New England Lost Ski Areas Project, Rob Katz on snowmaking across Vail Resorts, Geoff Hathaway on rebuilding Magic Mountain and the staff of Eldora on what it takes to open weeks ahead of normal.
  • Two new quads and a lift shortening are all now reflected on the Stevens Pass trail map.
  • Vandals slash upholstered seats on an Austrian gondola, cause $28,000 in damage.
  • Okemo receives a 24 month extension to its permit for building a beginner fixed grip quad at Jackson Gore.
  • Loveland gains approval to replace Lift 6 with either a fixed grip triple or detachable quad in 2021.
  • New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu tours the gorgeous new summit lodge and gondola at Bretton Woods.
  • Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory joins Bloomberg TV and Yahoo Finance to chat about opportunities he sees in the ski business.
  • The head of MND Group says financial struggles are history as the company ramps up to deliver $200 million worth of orders for lifts, Gazex and snowmaking.
  • The Forest Service plans to approve two new fixed grip quad lifts at Lee Canyon.
  • Big Sky looks for 30 more chairs for Six Shooter.
  • A Wyoming ranch with snow cat skiing considers adding lift service.
  • Chris Diamond’s new book, Ski Inc. 2020, was released last week and is a must read for those who follow North American skiing.
  • Simon Fraser University includes a 3S gondola as a core component of its new campus master plan.

Arctaris Impact Fund Agrees to Buy Saddleback

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Four years after being shuttered by well-intentioned but frustrated owners, Maine’s Saddleback Mountain finally has new hope.  Boston-based Arctaris Impact Fund agreed this week to buy the mountain and begin preparations to reopen what was once the state’s third largest resort.  The 59 year-old mountain is one of New England’s best which has seen more than its fair share of setbacks having nothing to do with the quality of the skiing.  “This beautiful mountain has so much potential and it looks like the buyer has a strong plan moving forward,” said Dawn Klein, real estate broker for the Berry Family.  “We are excited for the acquisition to be complete for the Saddleback Resort community and the entire Rangeley area.”

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In 2008, Saddleback’s trail map showed six planned new lifts.

Bill and Irene Berry purchased Saddleback back in 2003 and spent some $40 million to build a new base lodge, South Branch lift, Kennebago quad and more.  By 2015, the family was unable to obtain financing for replacing the Rangeley double, without which the ski resort would go out of business.

The years since have been difficult for the Berrys, the Rangeley community and everyone who loves Saddleback.  In June 2017, an Australian investor named Sebastian Monsour revealed plans to purchase the mountain at a base lodge press conference.  His Majella Group intended to replace Rangeley with a fixed-grip quad and Cupsuptic with a T-Bar, both from Doppelmayr.  Majella and the Berrys never closed and no new lifts were installed.

Arctaris came on the scene after two more years of closure, signing a non-binding letter of intent to purchase the resort.  The fund specializes in providing capital to growth-oriented businesses in inner cities and under-served rural regions across the United States.  This September, both sides issued statements lamenting that negotiations had stalled.  So it’s fantastic news that the two sides have now reconciled and signed an agreement.

The calendar says November and significant work lies ahead, making a quick reopening unlikely.  While the highest and lowest elevation lifts are modern fixed-grip quads that saw some maintenance work during the closure, three lifts loading near the main base lodge average 56 years old and may need to be replaced.

Here’s to a speedy closing and lifts spinning some time in 2020.

Update 11/8: Andy Shepard, who will be the new general manager, said in an interview that two new lifts are planned to be built next summer: a high speed quad version of Rangeley and a T-Bar replacement for Cupsuptic.  Closing is scheduled for mid-December and reopening planned for between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2020.

Mountain Capital Partners to Add Brian Head Resort

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Mountain Capital Partners, the growing Durango-based resort group, will acquire Brian Head Resort in Southern Utah.  MCP already operates Nordic Valley in the northern part of the state along with ski and bike resorts in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.  “We’re proud to welcome Brian Head Resort and its employees to the MCP family,” said James Coleman, managing partner of the privately-held collective.  “Brian Head’s family friendly vibe and proximity to Southern Utah’s famous red cliffs and national parks greatly enhances our portfolio and supports our mission to make skiing and riding more accessible and affordable.”

Opened in 1964, Brian Head features four newer Doppelmayr lifts along with four classic Yan fixed grip chairlifts.  Just this fall, the mountain completed construction on its second detachable quad named the Navajo Express.  Brian Head’s current ownership, led by its president and majority owner John Grissinger, purchased the resort in 2012 and invested nearly $16.5 million in capital improvements.  “We’re incredibly grateful to John Grissinger and his entire team for their hard work, vision and dedication to the development and success of Brian Head Resort,” noted Coleman.

Power Pass holders will enjoy unlimited, unrestricted access at Brian Head beginning this season.

News Roundup: That Was Fast

  • After just three weeks being open, the Disney Skyliner flies its one millionth guest.
  • The new Park City trail map shows exactly where Over and Out goes.
  • Poma inaugurates a lift full of superlatives in South Korea: the longest span between towers (4,000 feet) and tallest concrete tower (492 feet) for a monocable gondola.
  • The Boston Seaport Gondola project is officially dead.
  • Timberline Four Seasons Resort is scheduled to be auctioned November 19th.
  • Aspen Skiing Company will try again for approval of the Ajax Pandora expansion.
  • With an expansion coming, a dispute arises between Idaho and Montana over how much of Lookout Pass Ski Area each can lay claim to.
  • The Forest Service approves Timberline Lodge’s request to replace Pucci with a high speed quad.
  • In what could be a preview of an eventual lift sale, Alterra, Vail Resorts and Seven Springs all bid to buy the Hermitage Club’s snowmaking guns (Vail won.)
  • The latest Pomalink newsletter previews Téléo, the first 3S urban gondola in France.
  • Tampa Bay will study gondola transportation.
  • Park City elected leaders discuss the same topic.
  • Grafton SkyTour is now open.
  • Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers visits Granite Peak to see how lifts are inspected and learn about a proposed expansion.
  • The Sea to Sky Gondola replacement haul rope is spliced.
  • A guy BASE jumps off a tram tower in Germany.
  • The urban gondola promoter in Edmonton unveils its first proposed station location.
  • The new Gould Academy T-Bar at Sunday River will be open to the public whenever four or more major chairlifts go on hold.
  • The name of Manning Park Resort’s new Doppelmayr quad is Bear.
  • Steamboat’s new gondola completes acceptance tests.
  • The Swiss gondola which lost a cabin on October 20th reopens.

News Roundup: Seven Meters

  • Val Saint-Côme, Quebec looks to build its first six place detachable lift.
  • The opening of the first lift at Skeetawk is pushed back to midwinter due to delays with SkyTrans’ other project in Illinois.
  • Maine’s Eaton Mountain will not operate this season.
  • Leitner and Kitzbühel partner to build Austria’s fastest monocable ropeway which will travel 7 m/s at a cost of $30 million.
  • Mt. St. Louis Moonstone’s new six pack will be named Josl Huter Express in memory of the mountain’s founder.
  • Aspen Highlands’ Goldenhorn surface lift is on track to be built next summer.
  • Just 75 days after the Sea to Sky Gondola haul rope was severed, a new one arrives in Squamish.
  • Another great podcast episode features the owners of Plattekill Mountain discussing competition from the State of New York, Vail’s purchase of a competitor and the decision not to join the Indy Pass.
  • The Forest Service says yes to Breckenridge’s Peak 7 Infill high speed quad project.

Mark Bee to Retire; Katharina Schmitz Will Lead Doppelmayr USA

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Mark Bee will cap a 30 year career in the lift business when he retires as president of Doppelmayr USA on March 31st.  Austrian-born Katharina Schmitz will be promoted to fill the role.  Bee will remain on the board of directors for the company’s North American entities.

Mark joined VonRoll Tramways in 1989, seven years before that firm was acquired by Doppelmayr.  He was instrumental in merging Doppelmayr USA with Garaventa CTEC in 2002 and oversaw more than 400 lift installations over his tenure.  “It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of the Doppelmayr organization, and to work in the ski industry,” said Bee.  “I could not have imagined a better career or a better company to work for,” he continued.

Katharina Schmitz joined Doppelmayr in 2018 as Vice President, Project Management.  She had moved to the United States back in 2005 and previously worked in the automotive and aerospace sectors.  Earlier this year, she was promoted to Vice President, Operations where she is responsible for production, logistics and construction.  “When we hired Katharina last year, I thought she might be overqualified for the position we were trying to fill, and as it turns out, she was,” said Bee.  “She immediately earned the respect of her co-workers with her team-oriented approach to problem solving, and her ability to quickly learn our business.”

“As a native Austrian and avid skier, I was well aware of the Doppelmayr name and I was ready for a career change,” Katharina said about joining the 126 year old ropeway company.  “When I was offered a position, I jumped. Since joining Doppelmayr I have been impressed with the dedication and talent of the employees, and the continuous focus on solving problems for our customers.  I will work very hard to continue to advance the capabilities of our team to make sure we are prepared to provide the best products and services to our many loyal customers who have placed a great deal of trust in our organization,” she continued.

Change at the top comes as Doppelmayr continues to serve the ski industry while also growing the tourism and urban transportation segments of the lift market.  Doppelmayr USA has increasingly become a maintenance and operations provider for installations such as the Portland Aerial Tram and Bay Area Rapid Transit Oakland Airport Connector.  The company also recently introduced new products such as D-Line detachable lifts, Alpen Star fixed grip terminals and Omega V gondola cabins.

It should be no secret Doppelmayr is a company I admire and I would like to wish Katharina success in her upcoming role as well as Mark a happy retirement.

News Roundup: Wish Lists