Galaxy – Heavenly, CA/NV

This beautiful lift replaced an SLI double which had been out of service for more than a year at the time.
Near the bottom terminal with Carson Valley, Nevada in the background.
Doppelmayr bottom return terminal with a long tension carriage.
Loading area and lift shack powered by solar and generator energy.
Leaving the bottom terminal.
Many of the towers on this lift came from another Vail resort.
The first of two flat sections.
The lift is more than 5,600 feet long with a relatively small vertical rise of 1,000 feet.
Tower 10 with a mix of new and used components.
New chair taco, hanger and grip.
The second flat section.
A new depress tower head.
View back down the lift line.
Arriving at the top.
A rare Doppelmayr Alpen Star terminal without tensioning.
View down from the summit.
Looking up near the top.
Another view up the line.
View down at T12.
Middle part of the line.
View up the center of the line.
Looking up at T6.
Bottom terminal overview.
Return bullwheel.
Riding up with the Dipper Express in the distance.
EpicMix reader at the summit due to the lack of electricity at the base.
Another look at the motor room.
Top station overview.

20 thoughts on “Galaxy – Heavenly, CA/NV

  1. Collin Parsons March 14, 2019 / 5:38 pm

    I think the separate drive/tension Alpine Star looks better than the combined drive/tension one. Not sure why they didn’t go detachable for a 5600 foot lift. I guess to be cheap, but that means fewer people will use this part of the mountain.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Danny Bryant March 14, 2019 / 6:29 pm

    The Heavenly Master Plan that was approved by the USFS originally had this lift scheduled to be a detachable quad. I agree with you, Collin, that Vail Resorts did it to save a buck. It’s too bad because it would have funneled many lower intermediate skiers away from the East Peak lodge (where Dipper and Comet lifts load).


    • Peter Landsman March 14, 2019 / 6:54 pm

      You can tell this lift was built as if the only alternative was closing the terrain for good. Even some of the sheaves are from retired lifts. The amount of skier traffic in these photos demonstrates why Vail decided against spending $7+ million on a detachable. ‘Build it and they will come’ only works so much.

      I timed the ride at 14.5 minutes.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ralph April 28, 2019 / 2:49 pm

        I snowboarded the area a number of years ago, and rode the old Galaxy. It was a very long time to sit. But the trip down wasn’t all that interesting either, and having an HSQ wouldn’t have helped with the low slope gradient.
        I find it fairly interesting that Vail even spent money on this replacement lift. I suppose it is convenient for getting from the Nevada side if one wants to get up to the East Peak Lodge area.
        Interesting that in a 2005 Tahoe Daily Tribune article, they commented then on the 14 minute Galaxy ride time, and said it was “due to become an express lift.” But then, they also said the Wells Fargo lift was slated to be added back, too. Huh.


        • Donald Reif September 18, 2019 / 2:26 pm

          Putting a high speed quad on Galaxy certainly would draw more traffic to that area, given people naturally gravitate towards detachables most of the time.


  3. Jordan Deas March 15, 2019 / 10:41 am

    Galaxy did not become a detach quad because if they installed detach quad they would have to run power down to the base and put snowmaking down there to make it profitable due to how low galaxy reaches and the lack of snow. So they opted for a Triple CLF to save on a major infrastructure project that Heavenly would have to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. skitheeast March 15, 2019 / 12:54 pm

    I agree this lift should have gone detachable. It’s just way too long of an intermediate lift to be fixed grip, especially at a Vail Resort with two nice intermediate detachables right next door in Dipper and Comet. I understand it would have been more expensive, but they invested millions into a lift no one will use instead of investing more into a lift at least some people would have used.

    Heavenly has a lot of lift upgrades that need to be done across the mountain and Vail has invested surprisingly little into Heavenly since acquiring the mountain in ’02 (Galaxy is the fifth lift constructed and the only one in the past decade). North Bowl and Boulder should be replaced, a new lift needs to be added to Sky is not the only way to get back to Nevada/the Village, about 1/3 of their lifts were built before 1990, etc.


  5. TebsDab March 16, 2019 / 3:03 pm

    Peter – re: your comment “…closing the terrain for good”. I predict this will happen in the not too distant future, anyway. Vail’s decision to forego a high speed lift here makes it painfully clear they have no interest in making this area viable. The new Galaxy has seen precious little use so far, even with the big winter we’re having this year. The simple fact is that no one wants to ride old, slow, fixed grip chairs anymore. Look at how little use North Bowl Chair gets, even though it serves exponentially better terrain.


  6. TebsDab March 16, 2019 / 3:41 pm

    Skitheeast – You’re right, 5 new chairs (only 3 of which are high speed) in 17 years is pathetic. While Vail has spent a lot of money on other, non-skiing related projects like Tamarack Lodge and all the “stuff” at the top of the Gondola, none of this has improved the skiing at Heavenly one bit. Moreover, since these activities and attractions no doubt generate lots of income (summer and winter), seems like some of those profits could be used on lifts and terrain.

    Jorden Deas – I often hear about the base of Galaxy being “too low”. At about 7900′, it’s quite a bit higher that either Nevada base. Snowmaking may be needed, but it’s usually colder (at night), and always drier, than the same elevation of the CA side, ideal for snowmaking…


    • skitheeast March 16, 2019 / 5:23 pm

      I agree that I do not completely buy into the “base too low” argument and see it more as a “we are too cheap” argument. Powderbowl is at ~8000 and is open late into the spring and Squaw has a base elevation of 6200 and is open late as well. It will never last as long as the summit, that is correct, but it should easily last mid-Dec. through April 1.


    • Jordan Deas March 16, 2019 / 6:48 pm

      Tebsdab- You are correct about Galaxy being too low, and Skitheeast- your right about “we are too cheap” argument that’s why they took out Wells Fargo and did not expand into the valley and if we did build a Detach Quad and all the Snowmaking to go with it it would cost around 12.5 million to pull off so Vail went with the cheaper option cutting the price tag by nearly 2/3rds. I find it ashamed that Heavenly has become a resort driven by the Gondola and only by the Gondola, as being a born and raised local in Tahoe I saw the Gondola being built and the Vail take over of 3 of the best resorts in the Tahoe Basin and no investment into Heavenly for over 2 decades it is sad for me and all the people who enjoy Heavenly as their go-to resort.


      • skitheeast March 16, 2019 / 7:30 pm

        The problem is that Vail has no direction with Heavenly. Northstar is their “premium” Tahoe resort (like Beaver Creek), Kirkwood is their more “rugged” Tahoe resort, and they would like Heavenly to be their family resort but the casinos prevent them from doing so. I know they eventually want to redirect traffic from route 50 around the back of the village on Lake Parkway (mountain not lake side) and convert the street into a pedestrian zone. They then want a private developer to purchase the old motels across the street from the Grand Residence Marriott and make them into more premium accommodations to better fit in with the new area. But even this is a private developer plan and not Vail’s plan, Vail is just simply going along and agreeing with it. The fact that Squaw alone is able to compete with Northstar/Heavenly/Kirkwood combined says something, they need significant on-mountain investment.


  7. Mark March 18, 2019 / 12:52 am

    Real shame it is not a detachable chairlift. It has been almost ten years since I have been to heavenly but I particularly remember the runs being very long and fun and meandering through there.

    I don’t even understand why they replaced it unless the old SLI lift had issues. There is no way there will be demand to justify a fixed grip triple considering the old double was empty all the time when it ran.

    It just seems like a waste of a new lift because that terrain is not going to get any additional utilization. If it had a detachable, it would be visited a LOT more. But since Heavenly is so large, people will just choose other areas.


  8. tebsdab September 17, 2019 / 4:08 pm

    One or two low snowfall years and Galaxy will close for good. Even with the big year we had last season, never saw more than 1 chair in 10 occupied in the 50+ times I skied past the upper terminal. Vail should have just put up the “permanently closed” sign, and saved the money.
    .. HEY VAIL, are you listening? NOBODY wants to ride old, slow, fixed grip chairs anymore!


    • Donald Reif September 18, 2019 / 2:40 pm

      These days, fixed grips make the most sense for lifts that are solely being used for transferring from one peak to another or are merely feeding into another detachable, like Park City’s Timberline (two-way transit between Tombstone and Iron Mountain), new Over and Out (bottom of Tombstone back to main base area bypassing Red Pine Lodge), or Breckenridge’s Zendo Chair on Peak 6 (used solely for accessing the Kensho SuperChair, as Breck had to work around a private property parcel), or Wayback on Keystone’s North Peak (primarily used to bring skier traffic back from the Outback to North Peak; although Keystone has a proposal to upgrade Wayback to a high speed quad in their master plan). Or on expert pods (Seventh Heaven at Stevens Pass, for instance).


    • RT February 3, 2020 / 1:41 pm

      Now that Vail has invested the money in the new lift it won’t be closing down anytime in the near future. Galaxy serves amazing tree skiing on a powder day and the slow ride keeps it from getting tracked out too fast. If I can ride freshies for hours I will ride slow, fixed grip chairs!


      • Donald Reif February 3, 2020 / 3:46 pm

        I would rather they have built a high speed quad to entice people to come over, had they chosen to spend the needed money. (Unfortunately, in most cases, when it comes to “moving people around the mountain” vs. “preserving powder stashes for the minority of the crowd that are powder hounds,” the “moving people around the mountain” crowd tend to prevail most of the time)


        • RT February 3, 2020 / 4:42 pm

          Ha ha! Not this time!


  9. Brian September 17, 2019 / 5:51 pm

    I’ll still ride fixed grips, if they’re open, they don’t burn me out as quick. Nearly every time I’ve been to Heavenly, Galaxy’s been closed. They probably could have went even cheaper and hung about half as many chairs on Galaxy’s line, or took one of their older detachable’s and moved it down there, replacing it with a new one. Cough.. comet, dipper or sky, although comet is kinda BDNWW, aka on its last leg. I agree North Bowl needs to be replaced and extended from the Boulder lodge to its current unload.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Somebody September 17, 2019 / 9:55 pm

      Long Fixed grips are okay as long as they service steep terrain. For example, Chair 9 at telluride is the most popular chair on the mountain because of it’s extreme terrain, despite the fact it’s a 6,200 foot long triple. For more tame terrain though, fixed grips need to be under 3,000 feet long.

      Liked by 1 person

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