Another Six Pack for Snowbasin

Utah’s Snowbasin Resort has partnered with Leitner-Poma of America for its next big project, a six place chair in Middle Bowl. The lift will replace Snowbasin’s oldest fixed grip, a 1979 CTEC triple. Together with the recently-built Wildcat Express, the new six pack will offer an attractive alternate route up the mountain to the Needles Gondola. Middle Bowl Express will be the first Leitner-Poma lift for Sinclair Oil Corporation, the parent of Snowbasin and Sun Valley.

“Middle Bowl is a legendary lift that runs through the heart of Snowbasin,” said Davy Ratchford, General Manager of Snowbasin Resort. “We are committed to our guest experience and advanced lift infrastructure, so we’re thrilled to provide this upgrade to improve our guests’ access to upper mountain skiing.”

According to planning documents submitted to Weber County, the new Middle Bowl will load to the north of the current base station and terminate above Needles Lodge, allowing more room for egress. It will rise 1,190 vertical feet over 4,803 feet of slope length and 18 towers. Initial capacity is planned at 1,800 passengers per hour with 51 chairs on the line. In the future, 17 carriers could be added to reach 2,400 skiers per hour. A ride up Middle Bowl will last just 4.9 minutes compared with 9.2 minutes on the old lift at full speed.

Leitner-Poma is currently looking for employees to help build the six pack beginning in mid-July through November.

Granite Peak Expansion Options Unveiled

A big time mountain in a state full of mostly small ski areas, Granite Peak features three high speed lifts serving 700 vertical feet of diverse terrain. As Wisconsin’s largest ski area, Granite serves both the local community of Wausau and regional visitors seeking a big mountain experience. Under a new vision developed by the Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership and SE Group, the resort could see up to six new chairlifts, a gondola, 139 acres of new terrain, a second base area and year-round downhill mountain biking.

Like hundreds of other resorts in the United States, Granite Peak occupies public land leased to a private operator. In this case, development would be a partnership between Granite Peak owner Charles Skinner and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Skinner also co-owns Lutsen Mountains, the Midwest’s largest ski area with an ambitious expansion playbook of its own in partnership with the US Forest Service.) The plan notes that unlike most ski areas in the Midwest, Granite Peak has significant access to capital to make transformational improvements.

SE Group developed four alternatives, the first of which is the usual no action option. Granite Peak would remain a winter-focused operation with skiing and seasonal chairlift rides. Under this scenario, the ski area would expect to see fewer winter visitors over time consistent with current trends. Downhill mountain biking could be added but would be limited to about 12,500 visits a year.

Alternative 2 adds a new ski lift east of the existing Cupid lift servicing five new low intermediate trails. The Blitzen triple would become a detachable quad and Santa would be realigned to better service novice terrain alongside a new lodge. Blitzen Express would service summer downhill biking and chairlift rides. This alternative would attract some additional summer visitors and likely keep skier visits neutral.

A more ambitious Alternative 3 includes all of the projects from Alternative 2 plus a westward expansion with parking, a day lodge, gondola, chairlift and three surface lifts. Two of the new lifts would serve beginner runs from the summit, a key differentiator from the Granite Peak of today where novices are limited to mid-mountain and below. Summer operations would live here and include a zip line plus mountain coaster. Winter could see a total of 121 new skiable acres and an estimated 136,000 additional annual visits.

Alternative 4 adds a third westward expansion lift plus a year-round mountain biking chair on the south side of the mountain (yes, a lift dedicated to fat bikes instead of skiers all winter). Total visitation in winter and summer could reach 744,000 with the most diverse recreational offerings in the region.

Not surprisingly, Granite Peak supports Alternative 4, which provides the most flexibility for expanded terrain and services. “This is exciting,” noted General Manager Greg Fisher in a blog post today. “Of course as an operator and outdoor enthusiast I want to go big and Option 4 is awesome. It gives us the most opportunity to utilize so much of the natural resources we have here within the park boundary.”

I personally have never had the chance to ski at Granite Peak but have hiked up and down to photograph the existing lifts. It really is unique in Wisconsin and I would love to see it grow. The State is accepting public comments here through July 14th if you’d like to weigh in.

Mont Orford to Build New Quad Chair

One of Canada’s oldest chairlifts has spun its final laps and will be replaced this upcoming season with a fixed grip quad. Mont Orford’s Alfred-Desrochers double dates back to 1965 and was built by Samson. Doppelmayr will construct its replacement, which will increase capacity by 60 percent. The project represents a CA$4.5 million investment.

“We are very happy to be able to complete this major change that is long awaited by our customers, which is part of several improvements that we wish to carry out in the coming years,” said the ski area. “In addition to being faster and more efficient, the ascent will feature an easy-to-use boarding conveyor.” Unlike its predecessor, the new lift will operate seven days a week, enhancing access to beginner and intermediate trails.

Another New Quad to Debut at Welch Village

Minnesota’s Welch Village has announced a deal with Doppelmayr for an Alpen Star quad chair. The fixed grip lift will replace the East Ridge double, also known as Lift 4. The new machine will load about 30 feet to the west of the current Hall and open some time in December. “By moving the bottom of this new lift further to the west, we will be able to open up the bottom of the Harley’s Hollow enabling guests to actually ski and ride in between the new quad chair and the Triple Chair,” said Welch Village President and General Manager Peter Zotalis in a blog post.  “There are a lot of exciting aspects to this project (and other projects) that we will share with you over the course of the summer and fall.”

Welch Village also announced the removal of the Bakke double, which two newer lifts made redundant years ago. When this summer’s projects are complete, the mountain will operate six quads, one triple and one double.

Taos Eyes Base to Base Gondola, Lift Replacements

Taos Ski Valley is in the final stages of crafting a new Master Development Plan which will guide improvements at the ski area over the next decade. The big news is the resort seeks to build a second gondola from the Resort Center to Kachina Basin, which would spin in both winter and summer and relieve pressure off Lifts 1 and 2. “This is probably the number one request we’ve received,” said Director of Operations John Kelly at a public forum last week. He called the gondola a “better and more efficient way to move people between the main base area to the backside and Kachina Basin.” This signature lift would span approximately 7,200 feet with a vertical rise around 850 feet. Capacity and cabin size have not yet determined but the gondola would accommodate bikes and improve access to summer operations surrounding Lift 4.

Taos also intends to replace six existing lifts. “We’ve made some really great strides in the last couple years replacing the old Strawberry Hill lifts, Lift 1 and adding Kachina Peak but the remainder of our lifts are pushing 30 to 40 years old,” said Kelly. “We have an incredible lift maintenance team that will keep these lifts going safely as long as we need but at some point we need to upgrade to new infrastructure, technology and faster uphill capacity.” Top priorities are the aforementioned Lifts 2 and 4, both early ’90s Poma fixed quads with long ride times. Later in the decade, Taos looks to address Lifts 7 and 7A, the last two remaining Stadeli machines on the hill. Taos will also consider replacing Lifts 8 and Pioneer (to accommodate the gondola and improve the layout for beginners.) New lifts will utilize a mix of fixed and detachable technology. One project from the 2010 master plan which will no longer proceed is the Ridge lift, proposed for West Basin near Lift 8. Taos would like to keep current hike-to ridge access as is.

Unlike many mountains releasing new master plans these days, Taos does not want to expand its permit area or grow skier visits. “Being surrounded by wilderness is a competitive advantage for our resort,” said Kelly. In fact, the new plan is designed to comfortably accommodate 280,000 to 300,000 annual skiers, down from around 350,000 the resort attracted in the mid-1990s. The resort does seek to expand summer visitation, which will focus on natural activities such as hiking, via ferrata and mountain biking rather than coasters or zip lines. “We really think nature-based recreation is what’s best for Taos and supports our better, not bigger philosophy,” noted Kelly.

Comments may be sent to MDPFeedback@skitaos.com before the plan heads to the Forest Service in a few weeks. Once the final plan is accepted, individual projects will still be subject to environmental review and public comment periods before being implemented.

Seven Springs Announces New Avalanche Quad

One of the very first CTEC lifts built way back in 1979 is being retired from Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Doppelmayr will construct a new Alpen Star quad in its place on the Avalanche slope this summer. The new lift will transport 2,400 skiers per hour with a ride time of just 4.3 minutes. “Our new Doppelmayr chairlift will greatly improve our guest experience on the front face of the mountain allowing for many more runs each day,” said Joel Rerko, Seven Springs Director of Mountain Operations. “We continue to be committed to our season passholders, homeowners and growing the sport as a whole. After coming off an incredible winter, we cannot wait to unveil it this coming ski season.”

The Avalanche quad will follow a new alignment ending closer to the top of Tyrol. It will feature 7 towers, 88 chairs and a 200 horsepower electric motor. The lift will be 1,956 feet in length and will cover 492 vertical feet. Construction is already underway and scheduled to be completed by November.

Grand Targhee Selects Doppelmayr D-Line for Peaked Mountain

With skier visits up 17 percent this season from a previous record, Grand Targhee Resort will spend more than $20 million on improvements the next two years, including a new six place chairlift on Peaked Mountain.

The Peaked lift will become Targhee’s fifth chair and the seventh Doppelmayr D-Line system in the United States. Introduced in 2015, D-Line features more than 200 improvements to previous Doppelmayr detachable technology. The lift will transport 2,000 people per hour, gaining 1,815 vertical feet in just over five minutes. The Peaked area will offer unmatched views of the Tetons with access to over 600 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain. Heavier six passenger carriers will improve the lift’s ability to operate in windy conditions and full carrier parking will help speed storm recovery. Cat skiing will be offered on upper Peaked Mountain for one final season in 2021/22.

Tower/terminal foundations, communications trenching and the lift’s power supply will be completed this summer with steel installation to follow in 2022. New chairs will also be added to the nearby Sacajawea high speed quad during the summer of 2022 to bring its uphill capacity to 2,000 guests per hour. The resort will also construct new employee housing, increase parking and complete a new maintenance shop this summer. “Due to the efforts of many dedicated employees and the support of our guests and partners during challenging times, Grand Targhee is fortunate to be able to announce these projects,” the resort said in a statement.

MND Ropeways to Build First US Detachable at Waterville Valley

Waterville Valley Resort and MND Ropeways have inked a deal to bring a first-of-its-kind chairlift to New Hampshire. The six place bubble lift will replace the White Peaks Express, in operation since 1988. One hundred chairs designed by Porsche Design Studio will carry 3,000 skiers per hour along a 5,700 foot alignment.

Waterville Valley and MND previously collaborated to install three surface lifts and more than 400 snow guns. “We have been partners with Waterville Valley Resort since 2017 and are pleased to be continuing our collaboration,” noted Xavier Gallot-Lavallée, Chairman and CEO of MND. “This project will expand our position in the U.S. market by building our first detachable ropeway transportation system in the United States.”

The $9 million, 845 horsepower machine will become one of the largest bubble lifts in the East. “Replacing our White Peaks lift is the most important project in our investment plan for the existing resort footprint, and we will continue our work to enhance the guest experience at Waterville Valley Resort,” said President and General Manager Tim Smith. “This lift represents the best technology in the market today and we are pleased to extend our partnership with MND.”

MND Ropeways has built lifts in more than 40 countries to date. German Peter Loipolder founded the company as LST (Loipolder Seilbahn Technik) in 1989. Following Mr. Loipolder’s 2011 death, the French conglomerate MND (which translates in English as Mountain and Snow Development) acquired LST, moving manufacturing to the French Alps. MND went public on the Euronext Growth exchange in 2013 and constructed its first detachable chairlift in 2016. By 2019, the firm pivoted to a partnership with Bartholet Maschinenbau Flums (BMF) of Switzerland, allowing MND to utilize Bartholet’s detachable technology. MND has been present in the United States for 10 years with a main office in Eagle, Colorado and a satellite location in Laconia, New Hampshire.

A third player entering the North American detachable lift business is a big deal. The last time three companies offered detachables here was pre-2002, when Doppelmayr merged with Garaventa. Competition is good for ski resorts and ultimately the skiing and snowboarding public.

White Peaks is a turnkey project with MND providing design, project management, equipment fabrication, construction, installation, start-up and operator training. Foundations for Waterville’s six pack will be poured this year with steel erection taking place next summer. Commissioning is slated for the fall of 2022.

BC Businessmen Introduce Cascade Skyline Gondola Project

Just days after a new ski resort was floated near Chilliwack, British Columbia, a nearby sightseeing gondola proposal has formally launched. Former Sea to Sky Gondola and Arc’teryx Equipment executive Jayson Faulkner and partner Pete Tatham would invest CA$70 million to build the project, which would be similar to other sightseeing gondolas in Canada. “The Cascade Skyline Gondola Project is an eco-cultural tourism amenity similar to the very successful Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish,” notes a statement from the Cheam First Nations, which would be an equity partner in the venture. “The gondola would be a celebration of nature and natural spaces with non-motorized activities for a range of abilities and interests.”

Developers say both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma have offered favorable terms for the estimated CA$28 million in gondola equipment and installation costs. The lift would rise nearly 4,000 vertical feet from the Bridal Falls Golf Course with a 15 minute ride time. Permitting is already well underway and if approved, the new experience could open in spring 2023.

Major Mountain Resort Proposed Near Chilliwack, BC

British Columbia’s number of planned ski resorts grew by one today with the unveiling of Bridal Veil Mountain Resort. Unlike the remote Valemount Glacier, Zincton, Saddle Mountain and Jumbo Glacier proposals, this four season resort would serve the fast-growing Fraser Valley and surrounding region. Located along the Trans-Canada Highway, the site sits just 1.5 hours outside Vancouver and 2.5 hours north of Seattle.

The vision includes two 3,300′ vertical gondolas providing access to alpine villages and numerous skiing pods. “Upon arriving at the resort, the preliminary concept for Bridal Veil Mountain Resort will see guests travelling by gondola from the floor of the Fraser Valley to a vehicle-free mountain recreation area, where they could ski or snowboard, backcountry tour, hike, sightsee, mountain bike, and participate in year-round ecological and Indigenous cultural programs,” notes the project website. “These activities will effectively be separated and hidden from the valley, offering guests a remote mountain recreation experience with unparalleled views of the Fraser Valley and Cascade Mountain Range.” Downhill skiing would take place from approximately 1,000 meters above sea level (3,280 feet) to as high as 1,729 meters (5,673 feet) atop Mt. Archibald.

The study area typically receives plentiful snowfall, sitting just 18 miles as the crow flies from world record snowfall holder Mt. Baker Ski Area. Through multiple phases of buildout, the project could eventually encompass 11,500 acres. A preliminary economic impact analysis suggests that, as currently envisioned, BVMR could create more than 1,800 full-time equivalent jobs and generate more than one million visits each year. Based on that visitation, Bridal Veil would generate approximately CA$252 million in regional visitor spending and CA$35 million in tax revenue each year.

The project is being spearheaded by BC residents Norm Gaukel and Robert Wilson with assistance from mountain planner Brent Harley and market research firm RRC Associates. The proponents recently filed an Expression of Interest with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development. If the EOI is approved, the next phase would be the submission of a more detailed proposal, followed by the submission of a comprehensive Resort Master Plan. Any development remains years away but the concept deserves attention, especially considering nearby population growth and the shortage of destination skiing in neighboring Washington State.