Announcing Kancamagus 8, the East’s First Eight Pack

Infographic_1000x563

Boyne Resorts will invest millions to build its third D-Line chairlift, an eight place at Loon Mountain set to open for the 2020-21 season.  The first such lift in the Eastern United States will replace the Kancamagus Express, a 1995 detachable quad servicing the lower mountain.  Like Boyne’s two Doppelmayr D-Line systems at Big Sky, the Kanc will feature tinted bubbles, heated seats, locking safety bars, a loading conveyor and direct drive.  “The Kancamagus 8 chairlift will be a leap into the future of skiing for our guests,” said Jay Scambio, president and general manager of Loon Mountain Resort.  “We are committed to bringing the latest advancements to our guests—this lift is the next example of that, following our first-in-the-world dual-frequency RFID installation.”

IMG_5875
Boyne will operate the only two eight place chairlifts in the Americas.

Loon Mountain currently operates an all-Doppelmayr fleet of ten lifts.  “We have a deep, long-standing relationship with both Loon and Boyne Resorts,” noted Mark Bee, President of Doppelmayr USA.  “We are proud to be a part of a major step forward in the eastern ski scene that puts Loon on a path towards achieving its goal of having one of the most advanced lift systems in the world.”  The east’s most technologically advanced lift will spin at 1,100 feet per minute, making it even faster than Ramcharger.  A ride on one of 62 ultra-wide chairs will take just 4.5 minutes.  Capacity out of the Governor Adams base area will increase 25 percent to 3,500 guests per hour.

IMG_9230
The Kancamagus quad is 24 years old and in need of a capacity upgrade.

No other American or Canadian ski operator has purchased eight place or D-Line lifts to date.  I asked Stephen Kircher, Boyne’s chief executive, what it feels like to be the American early adopter for such technology and this was his response:

It is humbling to be able to continue our company and family’s legacy of over 70 years bringing skiers the next generation of chairlift technology.  Now doing it beyond the midwest, with Doppelmayr’s new D-Line technology and doing it with the first two 8 place chairs is even more gratifying.  Ironically it took the rest of North America time to adopt triple, quad and six place chairlifts after those were introduced at Boyne in the 60’s through early 90’s, it seems eerily similar for 8 place chairlifts and the new D-Line.  Boyne Resorts is proud to be showcasing the future of uphill transportation in the rockies and the east.  We believe this will become the new standard of quality and efficiency in the decades ahead. This is likely only the beginning of many more of these types of lifts across North America.  Ultimately, enhancing the experience and attracting many more people to the mountains.”

– Stephen Kircher, CEO/President, Boyne Resorts

Kanc 8 will be the first major investment of Flight Path: 2030, a ten year infrastructure push at Loon also announced today.  Future projects will seek to elevate the ski experience, grow the business responsibly in every season and connect with the local community.  Lift upgrades over the next ten years may include Seven Brothers, Lincoln Express, North Peak Express and the gondola .  “Loon’s 10-year plan will have a positive impact on development throughout the Lincoln and Woodstock communities—as we travel together on our path to be New England’s premier mountain destination,” said Scambio.

The Forest Service has already approved the Kanc 8 project and construction will commence in early spring.

Big Sky to Build North America’s Fastest Six Seat Chairlift

IMG_5743
Swift Current 6 will join the existing Ramcharger 8 as an out-of-base workhorse in winter 2020-21.

Big Sky Resort will cement its position as America’s leader in lift technology with the debut of Swift Current 6, the resort’s fifth major lift addition in four years.  The announcement comes just 12 months after the launch of Ramcharger 8, the only eight place and first D-Line lift in North America.  By December 2020, two groundbreaking bubble chairlifts will rise from Big Sky’s Mountain Village: one to Andesite Mountain and the other flanking Lone Peak.  Not only will Big Sky operate the only two ski lifts in North America with Doppelmayr D-Line technology, the Boyne Resorts flagship will also feature the most lifts with heated seats (three) and the most bubble lifts (four, not counting the private Yellowstone Club which has 8.)

Swift Current 6 will span twice the distance of Ramcharger – about 8,500 feet across 24 towers – making it the fourth longest bubble lift on the continent.  126 premium upholstered chairs will yield a capacity of 3,000 passengers per hour, an increase of more than 25 percent versus the current detachable quad.  “Consistent lift improvements are an essential part of Big Sky’s 2025 vision,” noted Big Sky President and COO Taylor Middleton. “We know efficiently dispersing skiers across our almost 6,000 acres of skiing is essential to our guests.  Swift Current will dramatically modernize and improve the flow of skiers in the Mountain Village base area.”

big sky 2-18-07 113
Swift Current provides a critical link between Andesite Mountain and Lone Peak and is utilized in both winter and summer.

Swifty’s 6 m/s line speed will mark a first for North American six place chairlifts and a flight to the heart of the alpine will last just seven minutes.  Many aspects will mimic Ramcharger 8, a pioneer still unmatched in the Americas.  Bubbles will come in Big Sky blue with heated seats underneath.  “This technology offers guests reliability, efficiency, and a staggeringly fast, warm, and comfortable ride up to the iconic Lone Peak—America’s Matterhorn,” said Stephen Kircher, CEO and President of Boyne Resorts.  “There will be no faster, safer or more comfortable chairlift in North America.”

Continue reading

Keystone Seeks to Build Bergman Bowl Lift

Layout 1

Fresh off announcing a plan to replace the Peru Express, Keystone Resort has submitted an application to the White River National Forest for construction of a new lift in Bergman Bowl.  As outlined in the resort’s 2009 master plan, the Bergman Bowl Express would rise approximately 1,000 vertical feet and service high alpine terrain above North Peak.  Topping out at an elevation of 12,200 feet, the lift would expand the resort’s lift-served vertical to nearly 3,000 feet.  The detachable quad would service 500-plus acres of terrain in both Bergman and Erickson Bowls, which are already within Keystone’s permit area.  The proposal also includes new snowmaking, below treeline trails, a warming hut and expansion of the existing Outpost restaurant.

keystonemdpmid
The Bergman lift alignment as envisioned in 2009.

“Keystone’s high alpine bowl skiing offers an exceptional variety of terrain which is currently only accessible via hiking or cat skiing,” said Jody Churich, vice president and general manager of Keystone Resort.  “This project would be transformational for Keystone, allowing guests to spread out across the resort and better utilize some of our existing above treeline terrain, as well as provide an open bowl skiing experience that appeals to a wide variety of ability levels from novice to expert.”

The project timeline and level of environmental review are up to the Forest Service.  More details should become public when the project hits the agency’s Schedule of Proposed Actions website.

Vail to Build New Lifts at Four Resorts in 2020

Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Okemo will all add new lifts next year in a mix of expansions and replacements.  Parent company Vail Resorts made the project announcements alongside a quarterly earnings report this afternoon.  “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts, creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests and generating strong returns for our shareholders,” said Vail Chairman and CEO Rob Katz.

At Beaver Creek, a new detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone.  “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company.  A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.

img_3752
The Peru Express opened in 1990 and will be supplanted by a higher capacity lift.

At Keystone, the Peru Express will be replaced by a six pack subject to government approval.  The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve overall circulation.  Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair.  “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.

Continue reading

Wasatch Peaks Ranch Targets 2021-22 Opening

wprsimulation

A group of investors plan to begin construction soon on a new 3,000 acre, 3,000′ vertical ski resort just 30 minutes from Salt Lake City.  Unlike at Utah’s 15 existing resorts, skiing at Wasatch Peaks Ranch will be reserved exclusively for investors and homeowners.  The site lies 10 miles south of Snowbasin Resort near the community of Peterson.  Wasatch Peaks recently tapped Bob Wheaton, former head of Deer Valley Resort to be President and CEO of the new venture.  Past Deer Valley owner Lessing Stern is one of 10 investors with more being sought.  Their plan includes building seven lifts, up to 750 housing units and two golf courses.

WPR_conceptual land use plan.jpg

Private mountain resorts have a checkered history in the United States.  The Yellowstone Club in Montana has grown to include 20 ski lifts and sold more than $1 billion worth of real estate.  But others in the east such as the Hermitage Club, Plymouth Notch and Otsego Club are now either shut down or open as public areas.

Utah is unique in the West with large swaths of the Wasatch Mountains privately owned.  Even public ski resorts like Deer Valley, Park City and Powder Mountain are located on private land, giving them more freedom to add lifts quickly and develop slopeside real estate.  Wasatch Peaks plans to build in phases based on market demand and fundraising.  Infrastructure construction is planned to begin next summer with the first phase of lifts following in 2021.

Gondola to Anchor Redeveloped Site Along Colorado’s Interstate 70

20191113Colwell-CoSun-Argo-Gondola-2AC0288-1
Photo credit: Andy Colwell via The Colorado Sun

Halfway between Denver and Summit County’s ski resorts, 22 million vehicles a year transit I-70 in the town of Idaho Springs.  Local businesswoman Mary Jane Loevlie sees an opportunity for 400,000 of them to stop and take a gondola ride from the historic Argo Mill and Tunnel to a new summit plaza.  The Colorado Sun reports a group of investors led by Loevlie has partnered with Leitner-Poma to build The Mighty Argo Cable Car, an eight passenger gondola system in what was once a mining boom town.  “We are marrying outdoor recreation and heritage tourism at a reclaimed EPA Superfund site,” said Loevlie at a community gathering yesterday.  “You know what, we are putting the fun in Superfund.”

The concept resembles Silver Mountain, Idaho, a successful public-private partnership that saw construction of a 3.1 mile gondola adjacent to Interstate 90 atop of one of the nation’s largest EPA cleanup sites.  The Colorado project initially focused on constructing a hotel, conference center and stores but morphed to begin with the gondola due to revenue potential.  The 10 minute lift ride would ascend 1,300 vertical feet to a restaurant and park.  Capacity would be 600 visitors per hour, modest by ski lift standards.  Bike carriers would be included for adventurous guests seeking to take advantage of nearby trails.

Local approval for the project is still pending but it’s possible the gondola could launch as soon as next summer.  The Mighty Argo Cable Car would join an elite group of scenic tramways and gondolas across Colorado: the Estes Park Tramway, Glenwood Gondola, Monarch Crest Scenic Tram and Royal Gorge Gondola, all of which were constructed by Leitner-Poma and its predecessor companies.

Doppelmayr to Install Gondola Network at Icy Strait Point, Alaska

norwegian-joy-at-icy-strait-point-adventure-landing

As part of its commitment to the growing Alaska market, Norwegian Cruise Line today announced several strategic initiatives, including partnering with an Alaska Native corporation to transform Icy Strait Point into a vehicle-free tourism hub.  Two eight passenger gondola systems will transport 5,600 guests per hour between a new Wilderness Landing, the historic Icy Strait cannery and Hoonah Mountain, which features the world’s longest ZipRider.

“Wilderness Landing will cater to visitors in search of individualized experiences with the land, wildlife and native peoples of Alaska,” said Norwegian, which will gain preferred berthing rights at Icy Strait.  As part of the expansion, Huna Totem Corporation will install two gondolas and develop the upper part of Hoonah Mountain near its ZipRider attraction to offer additional experiences for visitors in 2020.  To elevate the experience and maintain its natural setting, Wilderness Landing will be a vehicle-free zone.  Instead of needing an estimated 72 buses to move guests around the site, travelers will be able to move through the treetops between the historic cannery and Wilderness Landing on the Transporter, a high-speed gondola system supplied by Doppelmayr.  The gondola will be wheelchair and scooter accessible.

icy-strait-point-historic-cannery

Opening a few months later in mid-summer, a second gondola will take guests up the 1,600-foot Hoonah Mountain to the forested area around the ZipRider launch. The six minute ride will unlock additional areas for exploration and afford spectacular views of icefields, the Fairweather Range and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tlingit people.  Huna Totem Corporation will develop new attractions for guests: a top-of-the-mountain nature trail around a glacially-carved reflecting pond, a 340-foot suspension bridge swaying over a box-canyon with a 900-foot vertical drop, and a tour departure center for bear searches and ATV adventures.  Helicopter flightseeing and more will be added during the 2021 season.

“The natural beauty of Alaska makes it one of the most popular destinations to visit, and our investments in the region will enable us to provide our guests with a best-in-class experience as they explore the wonders of the Last Frontier,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.  “These strategic initiatives mark the latest steps in our ongoing efforts to promote economic development in the region and make a positive economic and environmentally sensible impact on the Alaska tourism industry.”

McCoy Park is a Go for 2020-21 at Beaver Creek

18528_McCoyParkExpansionAd-1000x1500px-FINAL-NoLocatorInfo

Beaver Creek will expand by 250 acres with a new detachable quad for the 2020-21 ski season, the resort has confirmed.  The expansion will feature 17 “groomable glades” for guests seeking low angle adventure at high elevation.  “McCoy Park is a separate, family-friendly zone allowing for a more relaxed experience for beginner families,” Vail Resorts notes, describing the terrain as “welcoming for beginner and intermediate skiers to connect and elevate their mountain experience.”  The new runs will be accessible from the existing Larkspur, Strawberry Park and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.

BC_Hero_mccoy_016_1400x400

Transporting 2,400 skiers per hour, the high speed McCoy Park Express will span approximately 5,900 feet in length with a vertical rise of 840′.  A manufacturer was not announced but Doppelmayr has built every new lift at Beaver Creek since 2003.  The McCoy Park expansion was first proposed in late 2017 and green lighted by the Forest Service last November.  A second lift for egress from McCoy Park was also approved but is not yet slated for construction.

Whitefish Plans a Fourth Detachable

great_northern_express

A new detachable quad will soon join the lift fleet at Whitefish Mountain Resort, although the exact timeline is uncertain.  The Chair 4 Express (name TBD) will be the first detachable lift servicing the mountain’s new day lodge, where nearly 70 percent of Whitefish skiers now start their day.  The big lift will replace Great Northern, a Stadeli triple which opened in 1978 but loads higher than the replacement.  The top terminal will be very close to where the old Chair 5 unloaded.

The new lift will open a half hour earlier than the workhorse Big Mountain Express and relieve pressure from the Base Lodge and Bad Rock beginner lifts.  Hourly capacity will be 2,200 skiers, more than double Chair 4 on the rare occasions it is open.  A number of trails will be re-graded to converge at the new load point.  “When people stand at the current carpet lift and look up the mountain when this project is done it will look very different from how it looks today,” says Whitefish.

IMG_9375
The new Chair 4 will be approximately 7,000 feet long with 2,200 feet of rise, even more than the current triple.

The resort did not release a timeline or manufacturer although planning is well underway.  Whitefish is already seeking Forest Service approval for its Hellroaring Basin improvement project, which includes two new lifts.  If approved, all three new lifts will be well worth the wait on an already great Big Mountain.

Loon Mountain & Waterville Valley Look to Build Big New Lifts

loon1819
The current Loon Mountain trail map shows two lifts on the lower mountain which are now slated to be replaced.

The Interstate 93 corridor in New Hampshire could soon be a hotbed of lift construction.  Four exciting projects appeared on the White Mountain National Forest proposed actions page this week.  In what would be a major move, Loon Mountain is seeking to replace the Kancamagus detachable quad with an eight seater chairlift.  Next, the Seven Brothers triple would be replaced with a detachable quad, presumably utilizing equipment removed from the Kanc.  This project would be similar to one Loon’s owner Boyne Resorts completed last year at Big Sky.  There, the Ramcharger detachable quad was replaced by North America’s first eight passenger chairlift and the old machine moved to replace a Heron-Poma double.

IMG_9230
The Kancamagus quad at Loon is 24 years old and in need of more capacity at peak times.

Just to the south at Waterville Valley, the White Peaks Express is proposed to be replaced by a six passenger detachable lift.  The current machine was built in 1988 and shortened to its current length in 1996.  In a second project, the Sunnyside triple would be swapped for a fixed-grip quad and the Northside double removed.  Both of these lifts were built decades ago by Stadeli.  Waterville Valley has been independently owned and operated by a local group of investors since 2010.  They recently replaced another aging Stadeli lift with an LST T-Bar.

IMG_0053
The White Peaks Express is one of just three lifts in North America utilizing a unique 1988 design from Poma.  The others are at Crystal Mountain, Washington and Sunshine Village, Alberta.

It is unknown whether any of these new lifts will feature bubbles and/or heated seats, which have become popular across New England.  The Forest Service expects to make decisions on whether to approve the projects in December.

watervillemap1819
With new White Peaks and Sunnyside lifts, Waterville’s seldom-operated Northside double would no longer be needed.