As clocks roll over to 2022, 42 new lifts stand tall across North America. Lift manufacturer and resort employees accomplished a lot – operating through the pandemic and adding 13 more lifts than the year before despite supply chain bottlenecks and record low unemployment. Nearly all pandemic-postponed projects from 2020 were completed thanks to skiers, mountain bikers and sightseers flocking outside this year.
The 2021 lift class ranges from used T-Bars to the East’s first eight place chairlift and three new gondolas. Vail Resorts purchased the most new lifts of any single customer with seven projects across five mountains. Okemo moved a bubble detachable quad from Jackson Gore to the summit and added a six pack in its place. At Beaver Creek, a high alpine expansion will soon debut with two new quad chairs. Just as Vail’s construction projects entered the home stretch in September, the company shocked the industry and announced 19 new lifts would be built across its network in 2022. That number grew even further this month with the addition of two more projects in Pennsylvania as part of the Epic Lift Upgrade.
Boyne Resorts moved forward with two signature Doppelmayr D-Line lifts at Loon Mountain and Big Sky Resort. Boyne also worked to open a new peak at Sunday River dubbed Merrill Hill, serviced by a Sunday River Red triple chair. Seeing how smoothly its pandemic-postponed projects went, Boyne went ahead and announced three 2022 lifts early for Boyne Mountain, Loon Mountain and Sunday River.
No new lifts debuted at Alterra mountains this year but the growing company’s pause won’t last long. Leitner-Poma completed the towers and terminal foundations for the Base-to-Base Gondola, which will be one of the most unique lifts in America when complete next year at Palisades Tahoe. The project includes four stations, three haul ropes, more than 30 towers and a cabin storage facility. Alterra also has grand plans for new lifts at Steamboat including North America’s longest gondola.
This year’s projects were dispersed all across the US and Canada with particular strength in the traditional Rocky Mountain and Northeast markets.
2021 saw a roughly even split between fixed and detachable lifts with both increasing from last year. Gondolas took a slight pandemic pause again but will be back in a big way next year with Palisades Tahoe, Steamboat, Whistler all planning large installations. No resorts built aerial tramways in 2021 but two new surface lifts debuted.
Fifteen years ago, around half of new lifts were for expansions while the other half replaced older ropeways. The share of replacement equipment has only grown, making up nearly three quarters of all projects this year. We said goodbye to many lifts from defunct manufacturers in 2021 with 12 Halls, 6 Borvigs and 3 Heron-Pomas being retired this year.
The detachable business split right down the middle with Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr each completing eight lifts. Things will get interesting next year when MND Ropeways completes its first US detachable at Waterville Valley in partnership with Swiss manufacturer Bartholet. The last time three firms competed in the detachable space Amazon only sold books.
The fixed grip side of the business also split roughly evenly with Skytrac edging out Doppelmayr. Skytrac fabricated eight complete lifts plus two retrofit Monarch drive terminals, the most projects ever in one year for the company. Doppelmayr’s Alpenstar model continued to be popular with seven installations.
We saw the ski industry recover faster from the pandemic than other segments of the travel and tourism world. Only two installations were at places other than ski areas in 2020 and 2021, both gondolas at the Icy Strait Pont cruise port in Southeast Alaska.
The percentage of lifts installed used remained low this year with just seven reinstallations. Most customers opted for brand new machines from four different manufacturers.
Doppelmayr won the total project count with 18 installations while the Leitner-Poma/Skytrac duo installed 16. Partek completed a new quad chair at Trollhaugen, Wisconsin after a on-off year with no projects in 2020.
Projects in 2021 were incredibly diverse, from the tiniest platter at a new Club Med in Quebec to Big Sky’s Swift Current 6, the longest D-Line chairlift in the world. The below chart shows Leitner-Poma and Skytrac roughly split their business of large lifts and small lifts while Doppelmayr covered the entire gamut of Vertical Transport Feet per Hour under one roof.
The lift companies enjoyed a great year and so did Lift Blog. A record 617,000 people visited this website in 2021 and viewed 3.6 million pages. Next year I should finally finish visiting every US ski area, a milestone I’ve been chasing since I was four years old. There’s so much to look forward to in the lift world in 2022 and I hope you follow along as I do my best to cover it all. Happy New Year!