Aspen/KSL Venture Buys Deer Valley

The new ski empire backed by the owner of Aspen Skiing Company along with KSL Capital Partners has reached a deal to purchase Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.  The news follows the group’s combination of Intrawest, Mammoth Resorts and Squaw Valley, and brings together 13 mountains rivaling the scope of Vail Resorts.  Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed and it does not include Solitude, which the Deer Valley partners bought in 2015.  A new name and brand for the combined Aspen/KSL venture, currently known as Hawk Holding Company, will launch sometime this fall with a unified pass product expected to follow next spring. “Deer Valley Resort is one of the pre-eminent mountain resorts in the world and is a tremendous addition to our existing portfolio,” said David Perry, president and chief operating officer of the new ski conglomerate in a press statement. “Prior to this acquisition, we were able to offer our guests exceptional experiences throughout most of North America’s major ski regions, but we did not have a resort in Utah, a state that is renowned for great skiing and mountain town life.”

Bob Wheaton, Deer Valley’s president and general manager, noted “joining this portfolio of resorts will enable Deer Valley to build upon its outstanding traditions and further enhance our ability to provide our guests with a world class skiing experience. I look forward to working with them as we develop our vision for the future of the resort and the new company.”  The still all-but-legally nameless company’s coast to coast portfolio now includes:

  • Alpine Meadows, California
  • Bear Mountain, California
  • Blue Mountain, Ontario
  • Deer Valley, Utah
  • June Mountain, California
  • Mammoth Mountain, California
  • Snow Summit, California
  • Snowshoe, West Virginia
  • Squaw Valley, California
  • Steamboat, Colorado
  • Stratton, Vermont
  • Tremblant, Quebec
  • Winter Park, Colorado

A new 2018-19 season pass product could also include the four Aspen mountains, which are separately owned by the Crown Family.  With Ajax, Buttermilk, Highlands and Snowmass included, the pass would get you on 229 lifts in North America, exactly the same number as next year’s Epic Pass.  The acquisition of Deer Valley is expected to close by the end of the year.

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News Roundup: Oops

  • Belleayre’s new gondola may not have much vertical but will be more than 6,700 feet long.
  • New photo tours of the upcoming Orange and White lines in La Paz show how gondolas can be adapted to the urban landscape with innovative station designs.
  • Urban gondolas were profiled prominently in Sunday’s New York Times.
  • Skytrac will finish the Stagecoach lift at Big Sky this fall, a project which Moonlight Basin began in 2008.  In addition, Challenger and the Tram are getting new haul ropes and Powder Seeker a chair storage facility.  Thanks William Bryan for the photos.
  • At Spanish Peaks, the Flatiron lift will be next to go in.
  • BMF drops one of the Brest Cable Car’s cabins from a crane while performing annual maintenance.  One-cabin operation will continue while Gangloff builds a new one over the next six to nine months.
  • Taos releases renderings of its re-imagined learning center featuring new Leitner-Poma and Skytrac lifts.
  • Thank you Michael Weise for these sweet photos of Eldora’s six-pack progress:

News Roundup: Base-to-Base

  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows CEO Andy Wirth and landowner Troy Caldwell held a Base-to-Base Gondola open house and Q&A last week presenting lots of new details. The Red Dog replacement project won’t happen until the gondola alignment is finalized.
  • The Balsams files site plans for construction of a gondola and more beginning as soon as this fall.
  • Subaru Skyride debuts at the Indiana State Fair.  Can anyone identify the manufacturer?
  • Owners of Lutsen say $40 million expansion will compel more skiers to stay in the Midwest instead of trekking to Colorado.
  • Still no sign of lift construction at Saddleback.
  • Two people apparently were injured riding a lift at Montage Mountain last weekend.
  • Following the successful launch of a Poma gondola to the Kuelap fortress, Peru’s government to study building a cable car to Machu Picchu.
  • Snowbasin is adding a tower to the currently towerless Allen Peak Tram to increase clearance and reduce closures during storm cycles.
  • Keystone drops Making Montezuma episode 2.
  • Disney Skyliner gondola construction prep continues.
  • Sunshine Village reopens its gondola tomorrow after an 11-day fire closure.
  • First pictures emerge of Steamboat’s gondola rebuild.  Notice downloading capacity is now only six per cabin.
  • The City of Elko will take over Elko Snobowl.
  • Steamboat City Council reviews vision for Howelsen Hill which includes $1.54 million for a new, realigned Barrows chairlift.
  • An Eldo Express update from Eldora.
  • Ditto from Stoneham.

News Roundup: Gravity

  • Pebble Creek joins the growing list of ski areas spinning extra lifts for the Great American Eclipse but there’s one problem: lifts weren’t designed for downloading so guests must walk down!
  • The Weather Channel and the BBC will broadcast live from the top of the Jackson Hole Tram on eclipse day.
  • Disney and Doppelmayr are building a gondola station in the middle of a lake.
  • Mayor of Rossford, Ohio wants to build a gondola across the Maumee River to Toledo.
  • Albany gondola idea moves along.
  • Metal fatigue eyed in horrific ride incident at the Ohio State Fair (additional photos of the break are here.) The Fair’s SkyGlider chairlift was not involved but temporarily shut down as a precaution.
  • Leitner-Poma will build two new lifts at Arapahoe Basin over the next two years.  A 400′ Telecorde surface lift called Lazy J Tow will go in this summer to access Montezuma Bowl while the Beavers fixed-grip quad will follow next year.
  • Sunshine Village closes again as fire rebounds.
  • Intrawest, Mammoth Resorts and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows are now one company owned by KSL, the Crown Family of Aspen Skiing Co. and Rusty Gregory. Currently known as Hawk Holding Company, LLC, a new name and brand will be introduced this fall.
  • Rescuers in boats and ladder trucks assist with dramatic evacuation of a bi-cable gondola over the The Rhine in Cologne, Germany.
  • Bill Brett, retired GM of Timberline writes about rime and how Palmer almost became Riblet’s first detachable.
  • Snowbasin gets an A+ for its latest lift construction update.
  • Arizona Snowbowl begins work on its third new lift in three years.
  • Gravity is a crazy way to remove an old haul rope.
  • Skytrac takes the Instagram plunge.
  • Pair of investors nears deal to reopen Cockaigne, NY in 2018-19, a mountain with four Hall lifts that closed in 2011.
  • Leitner Ropeways to build a unique two-section gondola in Austria with a single direct drive powering two separately-tensioned haul rope loops.
  • Grand Canyon Escalade bill to finally go before the Navajo Nation Council this fall.
  • Gulmarg Gondola reopens 39 days after fatal tree accident.
  • Doppelmayr inaugurates the first 3S gondola in China with another on the way.

News Roundup: Recycling

  • The Wallowa Lake Tramway makes the New York Times Daily 360 Postcard.
  • Doppelmayr’s new headquarters building is super cool.
  • You can follow along as Garaventa enters the home stretch building the record-breaking Eibsee Cable Car 2.0 in Germany.
  • There’s also a construction blog for Leitner’s 3S project in Zermatt.
  • Steamboat finally opened its gondola Monday, lamenting “we made a mistake by trying to set an opening date” and thanking guests for weeks of patience.
  • Sunshine Village reopened the same day following fire scare.
  • Bidding opens for construction of a four-stage, 10-passenger urban gondola in Santiago, Chile – a contract estimated to be worth $78 million.  When complete, Latin America will sport urban gondolas in Mexico City, Mexico (Leitner); Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Poma); Medellín, Colombia (Poma); Caracas, Venezuela (Doppelmayr); Lima, Peru (Poma); Quito, Ecuador (Poma); La Paz, Bolivia (Doppelmayr); Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Doppelmayr and Poma) and Santiago, Chile (TBD.) Impressive.
  • The Roosevelt Island Tramway is going to one-car service for an extended platform replacement project.
  • This week’s Disney Skyliner construction update comes from the Kingdom Insider.
  • Beaver Creek recycles Drink of Water, reuses from Montezuma.
  • The Leitner-Poma Group’s striking new Symphony 10 gondola cabin has been spotted in the wild.  More photos are here (sign up required.)
  • A-Basin posts cool photos from a bullwheel bearing replacement project.
  • Troy Caldwell still wants to build a private ski area between Squaw and Alpine but as of this spring, he has a long way to go.

News Roundup: T-Bar Rebirth

  • Gould Academy is fundraising to put a T-Bar up Monday Mourning at Sunday River but hasn’t signed a contract yet, I’m told.  The race training lift could become New England’s sixth new T-Bar in three years.
  • Grouse Mountain sells to Chinese and Canadian investors, Blue Knob goes to a group of Pittsburgh skiers.
  • Waterville Valley’s new High Country T-Bar would follow an all-new alignment starting lower and ending higher than the current double.
  • LiftDigital safety bar displays to debut at Wachusett and on the Super Gauge Express at Winter Park.
  • Homeowners and insurers may sue the Christchurch Adventure Park in New Zealand over its decision to keep a brand new Doppelmayr high-speed quad running during a wildfire in an effort to save the haul rope.  A video allegedly shows burning chairs starting new fires along the 5,790-foot lift line. The haul rope was written off and the park remains closed five months later.
  • LST’s first detachable finally opens to the public in France.
  • Val Neigette, Quebec is closing and selling off equipment, including a 1990 Doppelmayr quad chair.
  • Developer floats building a gondola across Interstate 25 in Loveland, Colorado.
  • Aspen Snowmass COO David Perry leaves Skico to help launch new, still nameless company which will include Intrawest, KSL and Mammoth resorts.
  • Sunshine Village and Parks Canada fight hard to prevent a wildfire from crossing into the ski area.
  • Disney Skyliner’s first lift line is already cut.
  • Steamboat gondola reopening delayed a third time for more testing with the CPTSB.

News Roundup: Playing Field

  • 14-cabin 3S proposed to cross Lake Zurich in Switzerland.
  • The second tallest building west of the Mississippi will include an aerial tram-like system built by Leitner-Poma.
  • BMF will build its first gondola in France and seventh gondola overall this summer near Alp d’Huez.
  • Mi Teleférico breaks ground today for its 13th and 14th gondolas. The four station, 159 cabin Sky Blue line will join the Red, Yellow, Green and Blue lines already operating and the Orange, White and Purple lines under construction.
  • North Korea is building a second ski resort.
  • Liberty Mountain delays J-Bar replacement project, saying in a statement, “We had hoped to put the triple chair in this summer but unfortunately it will not be happening…We are still planning on making this change in the future.” Liberty acquired one of Ascutney’s CTEC triples in 2013.
  • Aspen Mountain turns back toward a longer and lower 1A detachable.
  • As state-owned Belleayre becomes the smallest North American ski resort ever to build a gondola, New York Ski Blog calls for low-interest infrastructure financing for 45 privately-owned mountains in the Empire State.
  • The Jay Peak Tram is back with many upgraded components after a spring full of hard work.  Interestingly, new controls are from Doppelmayr rather than Frey.
  • Black Hawk flies old Montezuma towers off Dercum Mountain at Keystone.
  • Marshall Mountain, MT can be yours for $2.95 million, including a 1972 Thiokol triple and an uninstalled 1969 Hall double from Grand Targhee.
  • Snow King gondola plan advances.
  • No visible work at Saddleback yet.
  • Nonprofit contracts SE Group to study the feasibility of reopening an alpine ski area on the site of the former Colby College ski area in Maine.  Here’s how it looked in 2012:

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News Roundup: Removed

  • Reopening of Steamboat’s refurbished gondola has been delayed one more week to July 21st.
  • Pats Peak starts work on the new Peak chair, a CTEC from Ascutney, VT with Skytrac upgrades and a loading carpet.
  • Alta updates skiers on the new Supreme.
  • The Snowdon triple at Killington is getting new SkyTrans crossarms this summer.
  • Didn’t make it to Interalpin?  You can see the Leitner-Poma Group’s booth through an interactive panorama.
  • This week’s Disney gondola update comes from EPCOT.
  • Waterville Valley proposes replacing unreliable High Country double with a T-Bar.
  • More details surface in fatal Gulmarg Gondola tree incident.
  • Six Flags sky ride reopens with new between-leg restraints following rider fall.
  • The Community Ski Areas at Risk Symposium, sponsored by Skytrac, is a worthy watch.
  • I stopped by Hogadon this weekend and confirmed the Red chair has been removed.  Pictures of all 33 of Wyoming’s lifts are now in the database and Montana will be completed next.
  • An Eldo Express update.
  • Doppelmayr opens an impressive over-water gondola in South Korea’s second largest city.
  • Medellín’s four gondola lines will be joined by a fifth.
  • The Lake Compounce Skyride, a 1997 CTEC Sprint with 14 towers closes for good.
  • Leitner’s new urban gondola in Berlin sees a million riders in its first three months.
  • Insolvent Ski Blandford may be sold to Ski Butternut.

News Roundup: Skyride

  • MND Group secures $6.7 million private investment to support future growth.
  • Whitewater’s new Leitner-Poma quad chair project update.
  • Sunday River blasts some rock to make way for Spruce Peak 2.0.
  • Timberline Helicopters, the company that flies the majority of lift towers in the West, plans to build a new $3 million home on 93 acres in Northern Idaho.
  • SeaWorld San Diego commemorates 50 years of operation of its VonRoll Skyride, one of only 11 remaining in the U.S.
  • Tragedy in Gulmarg, India as seven die following tree strike on the world’s second highest gondola.  The accident was blamed on an ‘act of god’ and the gondola deemed mechanically fine.  More trees will be cut before reopening.
  • Human error caused 14-year old girl’s fall from a chairlift at Six Flags Great Escape.  After video gets millions of views, editorial in the local paper calls for locking restraint bars.
  • Colorado tram board votes against disciplinary action in Granby Ranch case.
  • A Walt Disney World gondola update.
  • Much-maligned New York State Fair gondola project is dead.
  • Anakeesta load tests new Chondola.
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Wood-paneled terminal sections arrive at Breckenridge from Leitner-Poma for the new Falcon SuperChair. Photo credit: Benjamin Bartz

Saddleback is Back and Getting Two New Lifts

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The 4,550′ Rangeley double serves most of Saddleback’s terrain and will be replaced with a new Doppelmayr quad chair following the sale of the mountain to an Australian businessman.

The Majella Group of Australia has agreed to purchase Maine’s Saddleback, among the largest American resorts ever to go dark, and plans to build two new lifts as soon as possible.  Doppelmayr will install the lifts – a 1,500 pph Tristar fixed-grip quad to replace Rangeley, and a 1,200 pph T-Bar in place of Cupsuptic – a 1960 Hall. “The Rangeley Lift and T-Bar replacements have been carefully selected after a thorough analysis of the mountain operations,” Majella said in a press release. “We understand the importance of maintaining the serene trail experience and supreme trail conditions for which Saddleback is well known.”  Both lifts are being designed to be as wind-resistant as possible.

It’s been two years since the Berry family announced the possible closure of Saddleback if they could not secure financing for a new Rangeley lift.  The family spent some $40 million to upgrade the Kennebago and South Branch lifts to quad chairs and build a new base lodge between 2004 and 2008, but the business kept losing money with 80,000-100,000 annual skier visits.  By 2012, the Berrys put the mountain up for sale, asking $12 million.  With no takers, a Kennebago loan fell through in 2015 and the Berrys decided not to open again without a new lift serving the heart of the mountain.

Since 2015, sale rumors abounded and the nonprofit Saddleback Mountain Foundation attempted a crowdfunding campaign to buy the operation.  The group raised less than half of the $9 million needed for the mountain and a fixed-grip quad and confirmed last night they were not the buyer.  In the end, a more traditional investor emerged with plans restore Saddleback to its place as Maine’s third largest mountain with the goal of creating a premier four-season resort.  “We believe Saddleback requires a plan to create more lodging, more restaurants, and additional on-mountain opportunities,” Majella CEO Sebastian Monsour said today at the mountain’s base lodge, surrounded by locals and dignitaries from across Maine.

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