News Roundup: Interalpin

  • Revelstoke homeowners aren’t happy lift development has stalled for almost ten years now.  The resort’s response identifies master plan lifts 1 and 11 as the highest priorities but notes construction of them is subject to market demand.
  • In an interview, new Crystal Mountain owner John Kircher says he wants to build a second gondola to Campbell Basin.
  • NY State Fair gondola continues to be targeted as an example of government waste.
  • Whaleback’s T-Bar project is a go.  The lift came from Plattekill, NY and will be installed by SkyTrans.
  • New Gatlinburg Sky Lift looks to be almost finished.
  • Poma reaches agreement to build new gondolas in Vietnam with the first next-generation Sigma Diamond EVO cabins introduced yesterday at Interalpin.  The new cabins offer more natural light and feature doors that slide rather than opening out.
  • Move over D-Line: the new Leitner Station is here.
  • LST gets another detachable contract.
  • Leitner launches urban gondola in Berlin.
  • Skier visits at Vail Resorts were down 2.8 percent this season but lift ticket revenue increased 7.4 percent.
  • Mi Teleférico opens $1.5 million Operations Control Center with 22 people monitoring 1,300 surveillance cameras on 66 screens and lightning detection system for four gondola lines.
  • Purgatory will add a mid-station to its Needles triple this summer.

News Roundup: Confirmed

  • $150 million Raymond James settlement includes $762,503 for Burke Mountain’s new Leitner-Poma T-Bar.
  • Power outage leads to rope evacuation of Loveland’s newest lift.
  • Steamboat gondola refurbishing begins  (I got to tour Northstar’s gondola this week which received a similar upgrade in 2015.)
  • Orlando Sentinel confirms Walt Disney World is building three Doppelmayr 10-passenger gondolas with six stations.
  • Crystal Mountain breaks away from Boyne Resorts, orders five additional gondola cabins and plans to build new Discovery and Gold Hills lifts in 2018.
  • Eldora is selling Hall and Heron chairs as six-pack construction begins.
  • Preview Oakland’s new $13 million restaurant accessible only by gondola.
  • Sunday River’s new owner commits to replacing Spruce Peak.
  • This week’s cities floating gondolas include Edmonton and Burlington, Vermont.
  • Fatzer delivers four 153-ton track ropes to Germany’s Zugspitze using two trucks linked together for the entire journey.

News Roundup: Investments

  • MND Group’s LST Ropeways subsidiary invested $4.3 million and hired 25 people to develop detachable product that is now available worldwide.
  • Cleveland Planning Commission considers nine-station gondola network.
  • Arizona Republic takes a deep dive into Grand Canyon Escalade cultural and natural resource issues.
  • Big investments are likely coming to Steamboat, Winter Park and the rest of the resorts KSL and Aspen acquired this week.
  • Leitner has a new iPhone-like control system called LeitControl.
  • Are there too many urban gondola ideas?
  • Revelstoke will add 24 cabins to the Revelation Gondola this summer along with 21 chairs to The Stoke to address sometimes epic lift lines.
  • Mechanics in New Zealand work to repair the fire-damaged lift at Christchurch Adventure Park.
  • New York State Fair Gondola funding slammed by politicians and citizens alike.
  • Vail Mountain proposes 1,870 foot fixed-grip lift above the Riva Bahn mid-station on Golden Peak.vailgoldenpeakexpansion

Round Two: Aspen-KSL Partnership Buys Mammoth Resorts

Mammoth Resorts and its namesake mountain will be acquired by Aspen Skiing Company and KSL in their second big deal of the week. Mammoth Mountain is the third largest mountain by lift capacity in North America behind Vail-owned Whistler Blackcomb and Park City.

In the span of just three days, Vail Resorts has gained a challenger that spans North America.  Today the new team of Aspen Skiing Company and KSL Capital Partners announced an agreement to acquire Mammoth Resorts from an ownership group led by Starwood Capital.  Mammoth Mountain, Bear Mountain, June Mountain and Snow Summit will join the Intrawest resorts and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows brought under one roof on Monday.  “This new platform, built around a collective passion for the mountains and our commitment to the people who visit, work and live there, is exactly what the ski resort business needs,” said Rusty Gregory, the longtime manager and chief executive of Mammoth Resorts.  He called the move “the next logical chapter in the story of Mammoth.”

The new yet-to-be-named entity will operate:

  • Alpine Meadows, CA
  • Bear Mountain, CA
  • Blue Mountain, ON
  • June Mountain, CA
  • Mammoth Mountain, CA
  • Snowshoe, WV
  • Snow Summit, CA
  • Steamboat, CO
  • Squaw Valley, CA
  • Stratton, VT
  • Tremblant, QC
  • Winter Park, CO

Aspen Skiing Company will continue to independently own Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass but it will likely cozy up to its partner resorts. With Aspen included, the new company will operate 207 lifts at 16 mountains compared with Vail Resorts’ 261 lifts at 14 mountains.  Like Monday’s deal, the Mammoth acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter.  What a week, and it’s only Wednesday.

Aspen Skiing Co. & KSL Capital Partners Buy Intrawest for $1.5 Billion

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Intrawest Resorts Holdings has entered into an agreement to sell to Aspen Skiing Company and KSL Capital Partners, the owners of Aspen Snowmass and Squaw Valley, respectively.  A new company owned by both partners will pay $23.75 in cash for each share of Intrawest, representing a total value of approximately $1.5 billion.  Intrawest shares had risen 49 percent since January on acquisition rumors and the deal includes Intrawest’s debt.  “This transaction creates significant opportunity for Intrawest and delivers tremendous value to our current shareholders,” said Thomas Marano, Intrawest’s chief executive officer.  “We are excited to work with Aspen and KSL. Our new partners bring additional financial resources and a shared passion for the mountains and our mountain communities. Both Aspen and KSL are committed to helping Intrawest accelerate our plans to bring more value to our guests, more opportunities for our employees and more investment into our local communities.”

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of this year and will likely affect pass options for the 2018-19 season.  Intrawest’s Blue Mountain, Snowshoe, Steamboat, Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park resorts were founding members of the MAX Pass while Aspen’s four mountains and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows are both destinations on the Liftopia-backed Mountain Collective.  On the lift front, Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL/Squaw Valley are mostly Leitner-Poma customers while Intrawest mountains buy from both manufacturers (Tremblant/Snowshoe are all Doppelmayr, Winter Park/Blue Mountain are all L-P, Stratton and Steamboat have a mix.)

Update: Aspen Snowmass has posted a Better Together page and FAQ on its website. “Aspen Skiing Company will continue to be operated separately from Intrawest and Squaw, but we plan to work together in areas that make sense,” it notes.

News Roundup: A Million

  • Foundation work is starting for Disney gondolas.
  • Partek will build a fixed-grip quad at Mt. Peter, NY this summer.
  • East River Skyway proposal expanded to five phases with more possible stations.
  • Belleayre bid documents suggest December 2017 completion and a name for gondola: Catskill Thunder.  Funding was approved Monday though I’m told a manufacturer has not yet been awarded the contract.
  • NY State Fair gondola is also funded, separate from a chairlift to be built there by SkyTrans Manufacturing this summer.
  • Lee Canyon seeks approval to build two new quad chairs in new places.
  • Work to resume on Poma gondola in Zacatecas, Mexico with commissioning scheduled for September.
  • Gould Academy may build a T-Bar up Monday Mourning at Sunday River.
  • Intrawest stock hits record high amid acquisition rumblings.
  • A Yan detachable still operates with original grips in Spain.
  • Quebec announces $70 million in subsidies to support infrastructure investments at ski resorts in the province, including lift upgrades.
  • SEC filing shows exactly how much CNL Lifestyle Properties paid for each of the 16 ski resorts it owns.  The most valuable was Northstar at $80.1 million with Loon Mountain selling for just $15.5 million. The Gatlinburg Sky Lift operation went for a whopping $19.9 million!
  • Bridger Bowl to sell chairs from Virginia City if buyer falls through.
  • Interalpin, the every-other-year mountain technology nerd fest is April 26-28.
  • If rent payments to the federal government are any indication, Colorado is booming.
  • Flying demo tent gets hung up on Stowe gondola.
  • Staff at Barcelona’s urban gondola will strike.
  • In addition to completing the Green Lift, Magic Mountain will install a new motor and drive for the Black Lift and return capacity to three per chair.
  • Lift Blog reaches 1,000 Instagram followers, 700 Facebook fans and 1,000,000 page views.  Thank you to everyone who has supported me with this project over the last two years.

Leitner-Poma to Build New Supreme Lift at Alta in Return to Utah

Sixty-seven, five, zero.  Those are the numbers of lifts built in the state of Utah by Doppelmayr, Skytrac and Leitner-Poma since 1998, respectively.  Nevertheless, a Leitner-Poma high-speed quad will replace both the Cecret and Supreme chairlifts at Alta this summer, further modernizing the famed Wasatch ski area’s lift fleet.

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The Supreme alignment was modified from the initial proposal (in yellow) to avoid wetlands while still utilizing 3,250′ of the existing lift line.

Like the Collins lift, the new Supreme will feature an angle change and rise from Alf’s Restaurant to near 10,600-foot Point Supreme.  “Detachable technology gives us greater control over skiers delivered per hour, while at the same time giving our skiers a shorter ride time,” notes Alta GM Onno Wieringa.  Unlike Collins, the lift will turn 8.4 degrees using canted tower sheaves instead of an angle station.  In place of the Garaventa CTEC Stealths and Doppelmayr Uni-Gs so ubiquitous in the Wasatch, Supreme will sport Leitner-Poma LPA terminals manufactured in Grand Junction.

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Fans of Supreme’s light side flyovers and half towers will have to get their fix at Wildcat after this winter.

The news is huge for Utah, the third largest lift market in America but one nearly devoid of competition since the 2002 merger of Doppelmayr and CTEC.  Of 138 operating lifts in the Beehive State, Doppelmayr or companies it acquired built 98 of them. Second for market share in Utah with 27 operating lifts still belongs to Lift Engineering, out of business since 1996.  Salt Lake-based Skytrac arrived on scene in 2011, installing a handful of lifts at PowMow, Sundance and Beaver Mountain, but never joined the detachable lift game before being acquired by Leitner-Poma last spring.  Poma last built lifts in Utah at The Canyons in 1997, apparently because neither Doppelmayr nor Garaventa CTEC could fulfill American Skiing Company’s massive order for eight new lifts that year.  The Cottonwood Canyons are chock full of Doppelmayr and CTEC lifts and only four Pomas remain in the entire state, until next fall.

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Snow Valley Announces Southern California’s First Six-Pack

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Lift 1 at Snow Valley Resort will be replaced this summer with a Leitner-Poma detachable six-place chairlift serving the heart of the mountain.

Snow Valley Resort in the San Bernadino Mountains will join the growing ranks of American ski resorts with a high-speed lift next winter, opening a six-pack in place of Chair 1.  More details are below, but first, resort marketers take note. Snow Valley made two interesting choices today.  One, they announced the new lift on a Sunday, when there is a smaller audience but also a lot less “noise” on the internet (I can’t remember the last time lift news broke on a weekend and yesterday was not an option.)  Two, they teased the announcement with a photo and invited guests to guess the big reveal on Facebook with a chance to win free lift tickets.  As of this writing, that post has garnered 92 comments, likely more than the actual announcement will see.  Many commenters nailed it, while others opined Snow Valley was opening a Starbucks, had discovered a new way to control the weather or would begin offering free beer.  Nothing like a little suspense to grab people’s attention and spur engagement on a Sunday morning.

Now to the lift news.  Snow Valley is one of those high density resorts with twelve Yan fixed-grips and an hourly uphill capacity of 17,500 skiers on 240 acres (at Jackson Hole where I work, we operate a dozen lifts with about the same capacity spread across 2,500 acres.)  Leitner-Poma of America completed a retrofit of Chair 13 at Snow Valley in 2013 and will build the new detachable six-pack, which will ascend approximately 800 feet over 5,000 feet of slope length with a ride time of 4.9 minutes. “This new lift will open up new opportunities for Snow Valley in the future, including the possibility of summer operations,” said Kevin Somes, Vice President and General Manager of Snow Valley Resort.  “We look forward to sharing many seasons of fun ahead and we dedicate this lift to all of our guests and team members.”  The new lift will cost just under $6 million.

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News Roundup: Opponents

Copper Mountain Adding Kokomo Express

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Copper Mountain’s Kokomo triple is a 1981 Poma that will be replaced with a new, longer high speed quad this summer.

Powdr Co. has reached a deal with Doppelmayr to build a new Kokomo high speed quad at Copper Mountain, following a recently announced Eldora six-pack for 2017-18.  The new lift will extend downhill of the current triple chair, built in 1981 at Copper Mountain’s West Village.  Kokomo Express will serve 362 vertical feet of dedicated beginner terrain with a four minute ride time, “setting the bar for an exceptional beginner ski and ride experience,” Copper said in a press release today.  The new Kokomo follows on the heels of the Union Creek Express, built in 2011, and two new surface lifts in 2013, all installed by Doppelmayr USA.

Copper also announced implementation of RFID lift access technology at key lifts and a mountain coaster for next season.  “The future is extremely bright for Copper,” said Gary Rodgers, President and General Manager of Copper Mountain. “These strategic capital improvements will enhance our product offerings and truly elevate the year-round guest experience at Copper.”  The Kokomo Express is the seventh lift to be announced at Colorado resorts for this summer.  New lifts will also debut at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Eldora, Keystone, Vail and Wolf Creek next winter.  The addition of Kokomo means Doppelmayr will build at least 14 North American lifts in 2017; last year the company built 18 in the United States and Canada.