News Roundup: Public vs. Private

  • After a tower shifted downhill this spring, the City of Steamboat will again fix Howelsen Hill’s chairlift rather than replacing it.
  • In the Jay Peak fraud case, former resort owner Ariel Quiros and executive Bill Stenger settle with the State of Vermont for $2.1 million without admitting wrongdoing.
  • In a separate class action lawsuit, a group of Jay Peak investors allege more than 100 immigration lawyers received $5 million in kickbacks from the resort, creating undisclosed conflicts of interest.
  • The federal government orders an immediate shutdown of the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center, which allowed foreigners to invest in ski resorts such as Jay Peak and other businesses in exchange for green cards.
  • No big deal: a Chinese theme park might build three 3S gondolas.
  • A lawsuit by the State of Maine seeks to finally right the tragedy that followed the sale of a public ski resort to a private company which ran it into the ground.
  • Mt. Snow confirms its next logical lift upgrades will be in Sunbrook and Carinthia.
  • Hermitage Club members could lease Haystack Mountain to reopen next season but Berkshire Bank will not.  Homeowners may have a senior lien on the Barnstormer six-pack but would need to pay for $300,000 of lift maintenance to reopen.
  • Even though his purchase of Saddleback never closed, Australian businessman Sebastian Monsour did spend $400,000 on the closed Maine ski resort last year.  Hopefully some went to lift maintenance!
  • Peak Resorts reports record fourth quarter revenue, up 9.3 percent over last year to $56 million with EBITDA up 3.9 percent to $21.5 million.
  • Arizona Snowbowl reopens tomorrow after a month-and-a-half fire danger closure.
  • Parks Canada seeks public comments on possible Sunshine Village lift and terrain expansions into Goat’s Eye II, Lower Meadow Park and Hayes Hill. Another new lift could eventually parallel the gondola.
sunshineexpansion
Overview of proposed Sunshine Village expansion areas.  Other acreage would be removed from Sunshine’s area of occupation to compensate for environmental impacts of expansion.
Advertisements

Timberline Purchases Summit Ski Area

IMG_7230
The Homestead lift replaced a T-Bar at Summit in 1980 and will now be operated by nearby Timberline Lodge.

The Pacific Northwest’s oldest ski resort has a new owner from just up the road – Timberline Lodge.  With its purchase of Summit Ski Area, Timberline parent RLK and Company brings together two of the five ski resorts that surround Oregon’s Mt. Hood.  Family-owned Mt. Hood Meadows bought Cooper Spur Mountain Resort back in 2001 and Mt. Hood Ski Bowl is operated by a third local entity.  Situated in Government Camp directly below Timberline’s Jeff Flood Express, Summit operates a 1980 Riblet double chair and sells lift tickets for just $35.  “We are very pleased with the acquisition and plan to operate Summit Ski Area as a family oriented, affordable, friendly mountain resort,” noted Jeff Kohnstamm, President of Timberline in an afternoon press release.

The long term possibilities of two ski resorts in such close proximity are intriguing.  From bullwheel to bullwheel is just under a mile and there is already an unofficial ski trail between the two areas.  Total vertical could theoretically reach 4,540 feet – far and away the longest in the Pacific Northwest.  But even if the ski resorts never link by ski runs, they could by gondola.  Timberline’s news release notes, “With Portland’s population growing rapidly and more people visiting Mt. Hood, Timberline also views Summit Ski Area as an opportunity to help address public transportation and parking needs while having a greater connectivity to Government Camp.”  A gondola from Government Camp to Timberline would make a lot of sense because of challenges maintaining a road and parking lots above treeline.  There was a gondola lift of sorts way back in the 1950s and RLK has in the past proposed a two stage version along a similar route.

“We look forward to an open-minded approach and discussing opportunities with the community,” says Kohnstamm.  “It will be exciting to see what the future holds for Summit, Timberline, Government Camp and all who visit.”

Instagram Tuesday: Canada

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

Happy Canada Day! 🇨🇦 #canadaday #rcmp #grousemountain

A post shared by Grouse Mountain (@grousemountain) on

News Roundup: Wyoming

  • The Province that owns Atlantic Canada’s largest ski resort grows tired of losing money and looks for a private operator for Marble Mountain.
  • Doppelmayr will build the largest vertical six-pack in the world this year at Ischgl, Austria with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain in a single section.
  • Boyne Resorts President and CEO Stephen Kircher says a recent bond sale and tax cuts should yield increased capital investment at his resorts over the next five years.  Boyne doesn’t plan to buy new mountains any time soon, however.
  • Fire update: Purgatory reopens summer operations, Arizona Snowbowl is still closed while Taos, Red River, Sipapu, Ski Santa Fe and Sandia Peak are under partial closures due to extreme fire danger.
  • Antelope Butte, Wyoming has raised the $360,000 it needs to complete lift work and reopen next winter.
  • Beartooth Basin ends its summer season early due to problems with the upper platter lift.
  • Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory says of committing $555 million to mountain improvements: “We went to each resort and said, ‘Tell us, as resort operators, what will make the biggest positive impact on the guest experience.’ They had long lists.”
  • Leitner is pulling ropes at 12,740′ for the highest-ever 3S gondola.
  • Big Sky posts sweet photos from the Austrian factory where America’s first eight passenger chairlift and D-Line stations are being prepared for shipment. Chairs will have some unique designs on the back too.
  • The Portland Aerial Tram returns to service 5:30 am Monday, three weeks early, thanks to crews slipping track ropes much faster than expected.

News Roundup: Fighting

  • The first of many Omega 10 passenger gondola cabins is spotted at Walt Disney World.
  • Saddleback Mountain Foundation plans to make a second offer for Maine’s third largest ski area, which has been closed for nearly three years.
  • Santiago, Chile awards the contract for an $80 million, four station urban gondola to Doppelmayr.
  • The first indoor ski area in the Western Hemisphere plans to open March 1, 2019 with a Doppelmayr CTEC quad chair and platter that were installed back in 2008.
  • A gondola is one option being considered to improve mobility in Little Cottonwood Canyon, home to Alta, Snowbird and lots of traffic.
  • A Basin’s Al Henceroth updates us on Norway’s removal and hints more lift changes may be in store for Lenawee Mountain.
  • Members of Congress from four states pen a letter to the Forest Service asking for Arizona Snowbowl to be reopened or further explanation given as to why its extended closure is necessary.
  • Doppelmayr scores another project in Canada – a $1.8 million fixed-grip quad with loading carpet at Sugarloaf, New Brunswick.
  • Rope evacuating 20-25 mountain bikers turns into a four hour affair at Marquette Mountain.
  • Ikon Pass destination number 27 is Thredbo, Australia.
  • Jumbo Glacier Resort is fighting to reinstate its construction permit.
  • A spokesman for the new owners of Maple Valley, Vermont says reopening for skiing is a long term goal that could take many years to accomplish.
  • Loveland seeks a good name for the new Lift 1.
  • Loon Mountain is buying brand new CWA Omega cabins for its gondola this fall.
  • Tremblant says goodbye to the Lowell Thomas triple, making way for a detachable quad.
  • The first Hermitage Club property auction yields a $1.2 million winning bid. “There will be more of these coming up,” says the Windham County Sheriff.
  • A breakdown at the Jasper SkyTram leads to an 18 hour helicopter evacuation of 160 guests.

News Roundup: States

  • Keep an eye out for a brand new urban gondola adjacent to the stadium during coverage of the final World Cup soccer match in Moscow.
  • The Jay Peak receiver goes after the owner of six Quebec ski resorts for allegedly aiding and abetting fraud that followed the sale of its Vermont ski resort to a Florida businessman.
  • Boston will spend $400,000 to study a gondola and other possible transportation options for the city’s Seaport district.
  • Utah skier visits fell 9.6 percent compared with last year but were even with the state’s ten year average.
  • Vermont visits rose 1.2 percent year over year to 3.97 million.
  • New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald says the state will have the final say in Vail Resorts’ announced takeover of Mt. Sunapee’s lease from Triple Peaks.
  • The Oakland Zoo will more than double in size on July 12th thanks to an innovative gondola.
  • SilverStar’s new gondola, recently dubbed the Schumann Summit Express, launches July 14th.
  • The White River National Forest approves Vail’s Game Creek six place project. I’m still waiting to hear back from Vail Resorts about a construction timeline and manufacturer.
  • A Branson, MO company is still talking about building a $260 million gondola system there.
  • The second Doppelmayr Wir magazine of 2018 highlights the company’s quickest ever gondola construction project in the United States, Big Sky’s upcoming D-Line eight seater and a 2,800 pph gondola that requires no operators at all.
  • Purgatory furloughs employees, reduces hours and eliminates some positions entirely as it remains closed due to the 416 Fire.
  • Sebastian Monsour, the Australian developer who flew to Maine to announce his purchase of Saddleback, is arrested in Brisbane, accused of misusing $3.4 million in investor funds.
  • Parts are everywhere at Wolf Creek for the upcoming Meadow detachable quad.

Alterra to Acquire Solitude

xlarge

Make it a dozen!  Alterra Mountain Co., the 11 month-old company formed by KSL Capital Partners, Aspen Skiing Company’s owner and others, is buying Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah.  The Big Cottonwood Canyon destination will become the company’s second Utah property after Deer Valley, which Alterra acquired from the same ownership group last fall.  “With its close relationship with Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort is a natural fit for Alterra Mountain Company, and a tremendous addition to our family of destinations,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of Alterra Mountain Company in a press release.  “We are especially excited to expand our reach within Utah and offer another ski and snowboard experience in a state known for its exceptional snow and mountain culture.”

IMG_7654
The Summit Express is the newest lift at Solitude, Utah, which is set to become Alterra’s newest resort later this year.

Brighton owner Boyne Resorts attempted to buy Solitude back in 2014 but it was sold to Deer Valley months later.  Prior to that, the DeSeelhorst family had operated the resort for more than three decades.  Today, Solitude operates a fleet of eight Doppelmayr and CTEC lifts including four detachable quads.  Just yesterday, the resort confirmed to me its intention to replace the Sunrise lift with another high-speed quad next summer.

“Joining the impressive group of Alterra Mountain Company destinations Solitude Mountain Resort places in a strong position to grow and enhance Solitude,” said Kim Mayhew, the mountain’s General Manager in a statement. “We are excited about the opportunities for our guests, our staff, and for our community in Big Cottonwood Canyon.”  The transaction is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.  Terms of the agreement and Ikon Pass access details were not disclosed.  Assuming Solitude gets added to Alterra’s 2018-19 season passes upon closing, Ikon passes would include access to 408 lifts at 33 US and Canadian mountains.  With Vail’s recent acquisitions and partnerships, the competing 2018-19 Epic Pass is up to 309 lifts at 24 mountains in North America.

News Roundup: Flames

  • Purgatory Resort closes indefinitely and is under a mandatory evacuation order due to the nearby 416 Fire.
  • Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz tells analysts in a conference call there are still select acquisition opportunities in North America (with more elsewhere) and that there are no specific plans yet for the $35 million in capital earmarked for Okemo, Mt. Sunapee, Crested Butte and Stevens Pass.
  • Swiss manufacturer BMF and French competitor LST team up to sell urban ropeways in France.
  • The Forest Service tentatively approves Steamboat’s Pioneer Ridge expansion, Bashor Gondola and other new lifts.
  • A plan for the complete rebuild and reopening of Denton Hill, Pennsylvania is now online.
  • Less than a month after opening its first two urban gondolas, the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo unveils plans for a massive 6.8 mile, six station 3S gondola line.
  • Politicians block Gunstock from borrowing $600,000 for lift maintenance and other offseason projects as some call for a private takeover of the county-owned ski resort.
  • French lift website remontees-mecaniques.net interviews Sigma CEO Yannick Morand about premium Evo & Symphony gondola cabins, air conditioning and why ten passengers are the new eight.
  • Non-Vail Colorado resorts tallied 7.1 million skier visits last season, only 2 percent below 2016-17.
  • The Balsams developers request that the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority delay consideration of its $28 million state-backed loan application.

News Roundup: Possible

  • Vail Resorts net income rises 41.5% over last year’s third quarter with Epic season pass sales up 12 percent in units and 19 percent in dollars through May 29th.
  • The new Lift One will likely be put to Aspen voters in a winter 2019 special election rather than the November general election.
  • The Western Idaho State Fair plans to debut a chairlift for the first time in August – apparently a used Riblet of unknown origin.
  • An urban gondola proposal in Ogden, Utah is back.
  • A great writeup about Heron’s early days answers why Aspen Skiing Company switched from Colorado’s homegrown lift company to Riblet.
  • Now’s your chance to enter to win one of Arapahoe Basin’s retired Norway chairs.
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and the Sierra Club sign an agreement for the resort to abandon California Express Alternative 2 in exchange for the group withholding legal action against alternatives 3 and 4.
  • The Seattle suburb of Kirkland looks to a possible aerial lift to connect its city center with an upcoming bus rapid transit station.
  • Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and Whistler Blackcomb COO Pete Sonntag do a wide ranging interview with the local newspaper after a challenging year and a half.
  • Tower 6 of Howelsen Hill’s chairlift  is on the move for at least the third time as city leaders grapple with whether to fix it.
  • Beartooth Basin, the only summer ski resort in the United States, opens for the season as everyone else closes.  An experiment is also underway to run the lifts with biodiesel.
  • The Olympic Regional Development Authority proposes a new chairlift for its Lake Placid ski jumping venue.
  • Another Borvig surface lift bites the dust in favor of carpets.
  • Berkshire Bank says the Hermitage Club no longer has the right to restructure and argues receivership should proceed.  One Hermitage property is scheduled to be auctioned on June 25th.
  • A decision not to create an opportunity zone in Rangeley, Maine becomes yet another reason Saddleback is going nowhere fast.
  • The man accused of lying about spending a night on a Gore Mountain chairlift says he is innocent and may sue the State of New York.

Coast to Coast! Vail Resorts Buys Okemo, Crested Butte, Mt. Sunapee & Stevens Pass

IMG_2201
Crested Butte Mountain Resort operates a dozen lifts in central Colorado, mostly built by Poma.

The largest publicly-traded ski resort company in the world today simultaneously unveiled two major transactions to buy ski resorts in four different states for more than $300 million.  Vail Resorts will acquire Triple Peaks, LLC for $82 million and Stevens Pass, Washington for $67 million, subject to regulatory approval.  The former, founded and owned by Tim and Dianne Mueller, operates Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado and Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire, hence the name Triple Peaks.  Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail will buy out the three resorts’ long term leases from Oz Real Estate upon closing for an additional $155 million.  Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and Crested Butte signed onto the industry-pioneering Epic Pass back in March and will now offer unlimited, unrestricted access for Epic passholders.

Another Oz-owned resort, Stevens Pass, will be sold to Vail for $67 million in a separate deal subject to regulatory approval.  Stevens Pass is currently operated by Karl Kapuscinski along with Mountain High, California.  The SoCal resort is not included in Vail’s purchase.  Stevens Pass will join the Epic Pass for the first time, making it an even more compelling product for Pacific Northwest skiers who frequent Whistler Blackcomb.  Stevens will also be included in the Edge Card, a product that predated Vail and is offered exclusively to residents of British Columbia and Washington.  Notably, Stevens Pass has major lift expansions on both flanks of the current trail system in its approved master plan.

Okemo is a nearly 100 percent Poma mountain in southern Vermont that competes with the powerhouses of Stratton, Mt. Snow and Killington.

With today’s news and other deals including the sale of six resorts to Boyne Resorts, the Oz Real Estate Ski Resort Holdings portfolio now includes just Jiminy Peak and Sierra at Tahoe, down from 15 resorts at its peak under CNL Lifestyle Properties.  Northstar California, Mountain High and Bretton Woods were also sold off over the last few years.

Continue reading