Silver Star Announces New Gondola for 2018

Silver Star Mountain Resort in Vernon, British Columbia will build a Summit Gondola next year, ending a three-year drought for new lifts in the region.  The 8-passenger Doppelmayr will replace the Summit double, a 4,000′ Mueller built in 1970.  The lift will open in July 2018 and serve summer guests before opening to skiers and snowboarders for 2018-19. After the upgrade, Silver Star will operate one of the most modern lift fleets in Western Canada with seven Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr lifts built since 2002.

A new gondola at Silver Star will complement the Comet Express six-pack with a 4.5 minute ride for both summer and winter visitors in the approximate location of the existing Summit double.

An initial fleet of 21 Omega IV LWI cabins in the five colors of the Silver Star logo will provide an uphill capacity of 1,200 passengers per hour, with the ability to add 22 more to meet future needs.  “These new cabins will whisk guests from the bottom to the top of the summit in a third of the time of the existing double chair,” says Silver Star Director of Operations and Maintenance Brad Baker. “The ride will now take four and a half minutes from village to summit traveling at five meters per second.”  Slope length will be 3,487′ and vertical rise 961′.  In a unique move, all foundations and the top terminal will be completed this fall with the remainder of the lift going in next spring in time to celebrate the resort’s 60th anniversary.  The addition of a gondola is a huge milestone for any resort and Silver Star will be no exception.

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Doppelmayr to Build Arizona Snowbowl’s Third New Lift in Three Years

The new Hart Prarie quad at Arizona Snowbowl will be among the first Doppelmayr Alpinstars in a top drive configuration.

After debuting the Humphreys Peak Quad in 2015 and the Grand Canyon Express in 2016, Arizona Snowbowl will replace its Hart Prarie lift this summer, marking another major investment by owner James Coleman.  Surprisingly, the contract went to Doppelmayr and Snowbowl will operate new lifts from all three major manufacturers next winter.  In a blog post announcing the project, General Manager J.R. Murray noted, “Arizona Snowbowl enjoys having the best learn to ski and snowboard progression terrain in the entire western US with Hart Prairie boasting a wide open and gentle meadow, allowing beginners to learn and gain confidence on the slopes. Snowbowl is where Arizonans learn to ski and snowboard because of the fantastic and easy terrain.”  The new quad chair will only improve that offering.

Hart Prarie is a 1981 Riblet with center-pole double chairs, one of two such lifts remaining at the resort.  The new top drive, Alpinstar-model Hart Prarie will feature a Chairkit loading carpet, padded seats and footrests.  An 1,800 skier per hour capacity doubles that of the previous lift.  The alignment will be slightly shorter – 2,533 feet – with a vertical of 518′.

With new Skytrac, Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr chairlifts built since 2015, Snowbowl will have increased uphill capacity by 85 percent next winter. Impressive indeed.

Stoneham Replacing Two Lifts with Doppelmayr Quad

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Stoneham, Quebec will build a new quad chair to replace this fifty year-old double and the T-bar next to it.
Finally, some news from Canada!  Resorts of the Canadian Rockies has announced two relics at Stoneham will be replaced with a Doppelmayr carpet-load quad in time for 2017-18.  The 1967 Poma double La Bordée and 1986 Doppelmayr T-Bar Le Chinook will be retired.  The new lift will be approximately 4,700 feet long with a vertical of 1,250′.   Stoneham’s other lifts include a Doppelmayr bubble detachable and two Poma fixed-grip quads.

stoneham-01This is big news as the last new lift built at Stoneham is 28 years old!   Thanks to Julien C. for the head’s up.

Loen Skylift – World’s Steepest Tramway – Opens in Norway

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A new Garaventa aerial tram opened today along a Norwegian Fjord with a vertical rise of more than 3,000 feet and only one tower.  Photo credit: Hoven Loen AS

From Fjord to Sky in Five is the tagline for the Loen Skylift, a spectacular new sightseeing tramway and adventure destination in Norway that debuted this morning.  Rising from the sea to 1,011-meter Mt. Hoven, the brand new Garaventa aerial tram becomes the steepest jig-back built in modern times and is already being hailed as one of the world’s great lifts.  “The Loen Skylift is the quickest and easiest way to explore the best of what Norwegian mountains have to offer,” said Richard Grov, general manager of Loen Skylift. “The trip from the fjord to the mountain only takes a few minutes.”

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The Loen Skylift is 2.5 times steeper than the mechanically similar Jackson Hole Aerial Tram, which only averages 19.1 degrees. Photo credit: Hoven Loen AS.

An ascent from dock to dock is 3,248 feet over a slope length of 5,021 feet, yielding an insane average grade of 53 degrees.  That’s much steeper than every lift in North America, the steepest of which averages only 34.3 degrees.  At seven meters per second, a Skylift ride takes just five minutes and the machine can transport 460 passengers each hour in two 45-passenger CWA Kronos cabins.  As the Doppelmayr annual brochure notes, “[The Skylift] features one strongly-overhanging tower standing on two feet and anchored back with a tie bar.  The tramway has two sets of track ropes and no track rope brake.”

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Forest Service Green Lights Big Lookout Pass Expansion

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In a plan approved today, Lookout Pass will upgrade Chair 1 to a quad and add two new lifts serving a 650-acre Eagle Peak expansion.

Lookout Pass is the only ski resort in America spanning two states, two National Forests and two time zones.  While markedly low-key, this local favorite on the Idaho-Montana border has grown rapidly from one lift to four since 2002.  A Record of Decision published today by the Idaho Panhandle and Lolo National Forests gives Lookout approval to build two new lifts on Eagle Peak, upgrade Chair 1 and add 15 new trails spanning 654 acres.  Vertical rise will increase more than 40 percent to 1,650′ as the lift-served summit moves from Runt Mountain to Eagle Peak.  Taken alone, the expansion will be larger than all but four ski areas in the Eastern United States.  When combined with current terrain, once little Lookout will provide more than 1,000 acres of terrain for a growing number of skiers in the Inland Northwest.

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Lift 1, a 1982 Riblet double, will be upgraded to a fixed- or detachable-grip quad in the existing alignment.  A new fixed-grip double, triple or quad chair on Eagle Peak dubbed Lift 5 will be 5,200′ long by 1,300′ vertical with around 24 towers.  A smaller 2,800 x 800′ Lift 6 was approved as a double chair ending on the same summit.  A 12,000′ power line will need to be trenched to both relatively remote new bottom drive terminals.  “The new lifts will incorporate components recycled from the Lift 1 upgrade as well as used components purchased from other ski areas to promote resource conservation and to reduce costs,” the ROD notes.  Lookout Pass already operates four Riblet fixed-grips, three of which were relocated from other resorts. Fittingly, one of the new lifts will be located in Idaho and Pacific Time, the other in Montana on Mountain Time.

Not wasting a moment, Lookout Pass said in a statement, “Phase One projects will be initiated starting this summer.  Specific projects are subject to logging bids and contracts plus additional ski lift and building plan review.  We will announce the proposed projects timeline as soon as possible.”  You can learn more and follow the progress here.

Bear Valley to Install Six-Pack for 2017-18 Season

Following a winter with three times normal snowfall, California now has its second major lift project for the coming construction season. Bear Valley in the Stanislaus National Forest plans to construct a six-passenger detachable in place of the Bear chair from the day lodge at mid-mountain to the 8,500′ summit.  The Leitner-Poma installation will closely match one built last year at Skyline Investments’ other mountain in Canada, Horseshoe Resort.  Leitner-Poma also supplied Bear Valley’s first detachable, the Polar Express quad, in 2006.

Bear is a 1967 Riblet double running parallel to a Yan triple called Kuma, built in 1981, that combine to serve the heart of the mountain.  Kuma will remain for now.  The 11-tower, 58-chair six-pack will rise approximately 750 vertical feet in just over three minutes.  “This lift investment is a game changer for Bear Valley that will greatly enhance our guests’ experience during the winter operations, and with the new high speed lift being 100% downloadable it aligns well with our heightened focus on summer recreation and activities on the mountain,” said Andrea Young, general manager at Bear Valley. “This is a continuation of the many improvements that Skyline Investments is making at Bear Valley on the heels of two strong winters which will elevate the guest experience and further establish the area as a year-round Sierra family destination.”  Bear Valley plans to build two additional lifts on the backside of the mountain in the coming years, directly connecting the Bear Valley Village to the ski area for the first time.

A classic Riblet at Bear Valley, the Bear Chair, will be retired this spring and replaced.

Bear Valley’s sixer is the seventh to be announced this year.  With only five high-speed quads scheduled in the United States and Canada, more-six packs than detachable quads may go in for the first time ever this year.  In 2010, the ratio of quads to six-packs was 9:1, in 2013 it reached 3:1 and last year hit 1:1.  Six-place lifts can be built with any capacity that quads can, allow families to ride together and can offer greater wind resistance.  The new one at Bear Valley is sure to be a hit over the 50-year old center pole double it replaces.

If Aspen & KSL Go Lift Shopping, What Will They Buy?

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Although both KSL and Aspen have bought lots of new lifts lately, aging machines at many of their new and existing properties could be replaced over the next few years, including this 1989 Poma at Squaw Valley.

It’s been two weeks since the bombshell news that Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners are joining forces to bring twelve ski resorts under a new entity rivaling Vail Resorts.  While the deals won’t close for months, the new partners already say they plan to invest heavily in the guest experience.  “We have earmarked a lot of capital for improvements to be able to continue to reinvest significantly in the communities and the mountains,” KSL CEO Eric Resnick told the Denver Post.  “What’s exciting is being able to bring new opportunities with these communities and with these mountains to those customers who are already so passionate.”  This could come in the form of new lifts ahead of the 2018-19 season and beyond.  Below is a summary of announced plans and my speculation of what might be in store for KSL and Aspen’s upcoming resorts.

  • Alpine Meadows, CA:
    • Alpine Meadows applied for and received approval to replace the Hot Wheels chairlift in a new, longer alignment back in 2012.  A mid-station offload would allow beginner and intermediate skiers to access the lower mountain while others could continue to an unload near the top of Sherwood, providing direct access to Sherwood and Lakeview.  Approval for this lift likely expired in September 2015 but there’s no reason to believe Placer County would not approve it again.

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      The top station of Hot Wheels at Alpine could one day be home to a mid-station with a new high-speed quad continuing to Sherwood Ridge, where this photo was taken from.
    • Speaking of Lakeview, it is arguably the largest remaining pod at Alpine Meadows without detachable access.  This 1984 CTEC is older than Sherwood and with approximately the same vertical rise.  A high-speed quad is likely to replace it eventually.
    • Doppelmayr and CTEC have both built lifts at Alpine Meadows while Leitner-Poma has not.  That could change with the unification of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
    • I’ve written before about the Base-to-Base Gondola which is still on the table but still requires multiple government approvals.  It would traverse the White Wolf property between Squaw and Alpine with two angle stations along the way.

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      Uncompleted lift towers on Troy Caldwell’s White Wolf property between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows could become home to a public gondola between the two mountains.

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Killington Adding South Ridge Quad in 2018

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A new South Ridge quad chair will debut at Killington Resort for 2018-19 in the path of an old chairlift retired in 2011.

Killington Resort and a local developer will invest $110 million to revitalize Bear Mountain over the next few years, including the addition of a fixed-grip quad chair at South Ridge next summer.  Most of the plans involve base infrastructure and real estate but the lift news is exciting given the South Ridge area has been without direct service since its triple chair was removed in 2011.  The $3 million quad chair will be the first new lift at the East’s most visited resort since the addition of the Skye Peak Express in 2008.  “This Bear Mountain Revitalization Plan is especially exciting for me because I know that our core group of season pass holders has wanted a new South Ridge lift since the day we removed the old one,” says Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington Resort. “With the trail work our team has planned, this layout should greatly enhance the Killington experience by improving connectivity between the north and south sides of the resort.”  The Bear Mountain Quad, a 1979 Yan will remain for now but is likely to be upgraded in the future with new development at its base.

Lift Engineering built the old South Ridge lift in the shape of a triangle, a wacky setup that will not be repeated.  The new version will follow the path of the old light side from the bottom of Roundabout to an unload near the summit of Killington Peak.  “From the top of the Bear Mountain Quad, the long-awaited replacement of the South Ridge lift will give skiers and snowboarders easy access the resort’s north side terrain including the Canyon and Snowdon areas, or easy access to the many trails in the sunny South Ridge area,” says Jeff Temple, director of mountain operations.  Leitner-Poma is likely to build the fixed-grip quad as a longstanding supplier to Killington, but there’s also a chance it could go to Doppelmayr with Powdr Co.’s recent history.  In further good news, The Beast also announced an agreement yesterday to host World Cup ski racing in both 2017 and 2018.

Sun Valley Plans Cold Springs Canyon Expansion & High-Speed Quad

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Sun Valley Resort plans to replace its oldest chairlift with a new, longer high-speed quad and open 380 acres of Cold Springs Canyon to skiing in 2018.  A future plans webpage launched today details the planned expansion within Bald Mountain’s existing permit area on Bureau of Land Management and National Forest lands.  North-facing terrain in Turkey Bowl and Cold Springs Canyon would be gladed with an extended Lower Broadway run leading to the bottom of a new detachable quad chairlift.  South-facing terrain underneath the lift would also be opened when conditions permit.

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Along its 5,500 foot length, the new Cold Springs detachable quad would traverse some crazy side-hill and actually go downhill for a stretch.

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The proposed extended alignment of the new detachable Cold Springs chairlift.
The new high speed quad is slated to replace the Cold Springs double, a Yan/Riblet hybrid that dates back to 1970.  The new chairlift would be nearly twice as long and rise 1,550 vertical feet, up from the current 1,069′.  Ride time would still decrease from 6.7 minutes to 6 minutes with a top terminal moved closer to the Roundhouse Gondola.  After the upgrade, Bald Mountain would have only two fixed-grip chairlifts remaining – Mayday and Lookout – with two more left on Dollar Mountain.

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Going Blue: Fourth Gondola Line to Launch Friday in La Paz

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The world’s largest urban gondola network leaps forward this week with the addition of the Línea Azul (Blue Line) in the Bolivian twin cities of La Paz and El Alto. Since debuting with just one line in May 2014, the state-owned Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car) system has now transported more than 75 million passengers on its Green, Yellow, and Red gondolas.  In 2015, My Cable Car committed $450 million to build six additional lines through 2020, and it ordered two more last year.  Mi Teleférico has quickly become one of Doppelmayr’s largest customers, exclusively utilizing the Austrian company’s ten-passenger monocable detachable gondola technology.

Los trabajos de pruebas se realizan para cumplir con normas internacionales que serán completadas el año entrante y antes de que la #LíneaAzul comience a brindar servicio a la población en 2017. Resaltar que el objetivo de #MiTeleférico es ofrecer una óptima #seguridad de operación y calidad de servicio a los usuarios. La línea Azul inicia en inmediaciones de la Estación Jach´a Qhathu de la línea Roja (16 de Julio – El Alto) y se extenderá en dirección a la Plaza Libertad, continuando por la avenida La Paz, pasando por la UPEA y arribando a la estación de servicio en el cruce de Río Seco. *Características: Tiempo de viaje: 20 minutos (aproximadamente) Longitud de la línea: 4,9 kilómetros Número de cabinas: 208

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Construction commenced on Línea Azul in late May 2015 with cable pulling (by drone!) wrapping in September 2016.  The first cabin launched later that month with Bolivian President Evo Morales taking the inaugural ride in November.  After three more months of terminal buildout and system testing, the Blue line’s five stations are ready for show time.  Línea Azul is La Paz’s longest to date, with 208 CWA Omega IV-10-LWI cabins that will cover an impressive 32,700 feet per revolution beginning March 3rd, just 645 days after groundbreaking.

Like the Red, Yellow and Green lines, the Blue line is actually two lifts with two separate haul ropes and two drive systems with cabins transferring between them.  Nearly all of the Mi Teleférico network will be built this way, with multiple haul rope loops forming single “lines” with two to five stations each (most have either three or four.)  Multi-stage gondolas operating with this principle in North America include Whistler Village and Excalibur at Whistler Blackcomb, Panorama at Mammoth and Revelation at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

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