Mountain High Express – Mountain High, CA

The Mountain High Express replaced a very long SLI double, which itself replaced a Ringer double on Holiday Hill, now known as Mountain High East.
The return terminal is in a “pancake” style.
The top few towers.
Unique view of the upper terminal.
View down the lift line.
Looking up the upper line.
Middle section of the line with EJ chairs and DS grips.
Top station unloading area.
Side view of the bottom terminal.
This is the drive location.
For some reason the chairs are a gold-like color.
Terminal with matching operator house.
Lift overview.

31 thoughts on “Mountain High Express – Mountain High, CA

  1. Duncan September 14, 2018 / 10:48 am

    What was Ringer?

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  2. Michael September 14, 2018 / 10:59 am

    Ringer was a chairlift company in the early 50’s. Interesting and weird at the same time! Google it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Duncan MacLaren February 26, 2019 / 9:19 pm

    Interesting bottom operator shack

    Liked by 3 people

    • Teddy's Lift World February 27, 2019 / 9:16 am

      It was designed to resemble the UNI terminals that are on the lift. I can’t imagine that it was manufactured by Doppelmayr because of the workmanship levels of this shack are not up to Doppelmayr’s standards.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. atc1701 February 27, 2019 / 10:35 am

    The windows on the terminal are uncommon in North America. They appear to be a predominantly European design, made by Doppelmayr of France / Études de Transport. There’s only one other lift in North America (unsurprisingly, in Quebec) with this specific design. This was also among the first UNI lifts in North America! Doppelmayr, interestingly enough, built the original UNI model in North America and not Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Collin Parsons February 27, 2019 / 12:32 pm

      The windows look like those on the second gen UNI the like Jordan Bowl Express at Sunday River, even though this is a first gen UNI.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Max Hart February 27, 2019 / 12:53 pm

      I think what he means are how the windows are bubbled out a ton. What other Uni has the bubbled out windows? The windows on Jordan Bowl are flush with the rest of the enclosure.

      I know that Mont Orignal in Canada has a Uni detachable six-pack (the first in North America) with some similar protruding windows, but they aren’t bubbled/round.
      Here they are: https://www.remontees-mecaniques.net/forums/uploads/1523217067/gallery_3330_2458_112667.jpg

      Liked by 1 person

      • atc1701 February 27, 2019 / 7:31 pm

        Yes, that’s what I meant. Unique windows! The Mont Orignal six-pack has the final Doppelmayr of France / Études de Transport design; this might be more of a precursor to that. It’s certainly a different-looking UNI terminal compared to the rest of the North American variants.

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  5. Bruzer June 19, 2020 / 10:11 pm

    Originally the Mt High Express bottom terminal was about 100′ to the west [behind] from where the camera vantage point is in picture #9. Relocation eliminated a long poling section when skiing the Canyon and Sundance runs. The present line follows the original Holiday Hill chair lines. This HSQ made Mt High East the best cruising hill in Southern California when it had snow. Mt. High stopped blowing man-made snow as frequently on MH East around the millenium, due to ?? less well water?? more emphasis on MH West with its extensive terrain parks?? or ?? East has barely opened, if at all, during some recent drought years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bruzer June 22, 2020 / 9:14 pm

      Mt High trail maps on skimap.org show the relocation as occurring a year or two after 2000.

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  6. Maboomba Maboomba August 10, 2022 / 3:46 pm

    This lift (Mountain High Express High Speed Quad) is not working right. Several of us are giving up on Mt High, not renewing our season passes. Mt High East is amazing, with a 6-minute ride to the top, 1600′ vertical drop, and long, fast trails. BUT the Mountain High Express lift has not run properly in several years now. It NEVER runs at the design speed. When they try to run it at full-speed, sensors shut it down, and then we have to wait 20 minutes facing the sun, with 30 lbs of equipment dangling off our knees, with no footrests (because it is supposed to be a HIGH SPEED quad), while someone authorized to restart the lift rides over on a snowmobile, walks into the shack, hits a couple of controls, and the lift restarts. With a 6-minute ride to the top, allowing 2-3 minutes to ski down and get back on the lift, we should be getting 6-7 runs per hour. Instead we get only 3 runs per hour. Not only is the lift running too slow, it STOPS ALL THE TIME, over and over. The fastest ride we’ve had is 8.5 minutes, but that is unusual. I’d estimate the average ride is 15 minutes. Last season I was stuck on the lift for 40 minutes with a former instructor who told me everyone had to be lowered with ropes the previous year. An employee came by below and yelled up something about lowering us with ropes, then that they would be running the lift backwards to get us off. The lift did briefly go in reverse a couple of times. They finally removed a chair using a front-end loader. In a recent season the lift stopped while our chair was near the top and we watched employees move chairs around by hand at the top station trying to get the spacing right so they could restart the lift. Such incidents are stressful because we never know if we are going to spend the night up there in the air. If you are alone, it REALLY sucks because you want to be on the best high-speed cruising trails in Southern California, but instead you are sitting alone in the wind for long periods on a stopped lift. When you ride with others, there is only one topic of conversation: WTF is wrong with this lift!?!?!?!? And WTF is wrong with management? I have talked to Doppelmayr and they say there is no reason the lift cannot be made to run properly. The forest service says the lifts are inspected every year, and do not seem responsive to factual feedback from actual users. The last few years Mt High has started offering “scenic chairlift rides” to pedestrians off the street, which makes it even worse. They have 8 months of warm weather to offer scenic rides, but they want to ruin our time on the snow. People are paying well over $100 for lift tickets, while the mountain makes excuses why the lift is not even open and people are waiting in line for a shuttle bus to take them over to the West side. Unbelievable. And they keep raising prices. Can’t take it anymore. We have other resorts we can go to, or other things to do. Management wants a medal for even running it at all. There is something very wrong with this lift, and nobody will listen. I’m predicting it will shut down one day full of scenic chairlift riders with their little kids stuck all day up there and maybe someone gets hurt or worse.

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    • ShangRei Garrett August 10, 2022 / 7:35 pm

      Well those are quite the candid claims. Unfortunately, I think that as far as this blog is concerned, there isn’t much that can be done. I really hope that nothing serious like your prediction happens, but as far as writing dissertations on Liftblog, I don’t believe that this will make much of a difference. Maybe I’m wrong and some employee or some other commentor who has some connections will stumble across this. I hope all the best for both you and Mountain High.

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    • Patrick Sullivan August 13, 2022 / 8:28 pm

      I was a Mountain High passholder the two winters I lived in California… 12-13 and 13-14, I believe. Both those seasons saw only very limited operation for East, but the quad was speedy every time I was up there. There were certainly more stops than I would’ve preferred, but they seemed reasonable considering the clientele (beginners accessing Discovery, the only green terrain open at East; beginners downloading afterwards; SoCal skiers and boarders who just aren’t all that great at working chairlifts). Running at low speed and waiting long amounts of time to restart after a shutdown seem to be newer problems, and I hope they get that fixed!

      Managing Mountain High brings all sorts of obstacles… sometimes-enormous crowds, tons of people who want to snow-play without spending any money, the most diverse customer base in the country, drought, desert climate, rain, low elevation, fire danger, demanding customers, fickle weather, fickle crowds, etc. I tend to think that this management team did a good job of facing all those obstacles and still delivering a quality ski experience (8+ years ago)… but the truth is that on any given day, there were multiple things to complain about if you looked for them.

      And Mountain High has the complainy-est locals I’ve encountered at a spot where I ski regularly (Bachelor and Stevens Pass locals also seem to do a whole lot of complaining). I never met Karl K either, but I suspect a big part of his success has been his thick skin–his willingness to let Mountain High and Stevens Pass customers rant at him without wilting. My advice would be to try to move away from the negativity, maybe by skiing more at other areas but also by changing the people with whom you’re spending time on the slopes–their negativity is infectious. Focus on your top one or two issues to try to get resolved, and cheerlead all the other efforts instead of making lists of negatives. Mt High Express replaced/fixed? Sounds like it’s very necessary, so push it! Catwalk to Conquest? Never was an issue for me as they almost always had Conquest open if there was enough snow… but if it’s going to significantly improve your experience, explain why and push for it. Less of a “ghetto” atmosphere? The current ownership/management team has clearly sided with efforts toward inclusivity and wear their success in hosting the most diverse clientele in the industry with pride… complaining about it probably singles you out in their eyes as a racist Karen. If this is a top issue for you, take the extra time to drive to Snow Valley and Big Bear.

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      • Maboomba Maboomba August 18, 2022 / 8:16 am

        Thanks for replying, Patrick. Yes you are right – years ago the lift ran fine. It was a great experience when they were able to keep it open at East. I do sense a bit of “shoot the messenger” in what you are saying. I’m simply relating that Mt High is not keeping the lift in proper running condition. By the time you are lowering people with ropes, re-arranging chairs by hand, and removing chairs with a front-end loader, during “normal” operation, with the regulars constantly in contact with management yet with no results, the regulars, very dedicated to the mountain, are giving up, because nothing we say makes any difference.

        I ski and snowboard with friends from all over the world at Mt High, and we all have a great time. Many are moving on to Snow Valley. When I say it is “ghetto” I’m talking about all the seat cushions ripped with the stuffing coming out, and all the chairs covered with stickers and graffiti. Everyone says the same thing, and we can go over to Snow Valley with a brand new Poma 6-seater lift and experience a more authentic mountain atmosphere, intact seat covers on a properly-runnig lift. People are polite and relaxed, the parking spaces are painted on the lot so people can quickly park where they want, rather than wait in a miles-long line, for a whole crew to motion where people should park, one… car… at a time.

        As you point out, there are usually multiple irritating things they do to ruin your day every time you go. They all add up to the point where you are questioning why you keep coming back. We have tried for many years to get them to place some snow on the catwalk trail (which is actually a paved road in the summer) to get from Chisolm over to Conquest, but they just don’t care about us. Half the time they rope it off instead. Why??? Clueless, I would say. I did listen to the interview with the owner, and it is nice to hear him SAY he wants to connect the two sides of the mountain, and add new lifts, but in 34 years, he has done nothing in that regard. Nor has he added a single new lift, just shut lifts down.

        He has put a Snowplay/tubing area right in the middle of our main trail at East. I think the whole North resort is abandoned now except for summer – we were up there to see a band the other night. He says the emphasis is now on beginners and lower-intermediate skiers and snowboarders because he says the Icon passes have made it so experts go elsewhere. NO, THAT IS WRONG! The experts WANT to be at Mt High. Nobody wants to drive 6 hours to Mammoth when they could drive 1 hour to Mt High. They stopped going to Mountain High because Mt High is abandoning them. It could be a world-class resort, but instead it is limping along with a SINGLE LIFT I will even ride. And they now take a position that the lift at East is OK if it can’t run at full-speed, when we know from daily experience, it is defective. That, to me is the last straw.

        What they are really saying is they have a problem with customer retention. Sure they can attract beginners who don;t know any better. What they don;t seem to understand is they are running a “bucket-list” operation, rather than pulling people into the sport that will stay. The experience is just not good enough to keep people coming back, so they are stuck with an ever-changing, mostly beginner clientele. Once you realize they only have a single lift you can even stand to ride, it gets kind of rinky-dink just going down the same few trails over and over on the smaller side, serviced by a single lift. They could connect the two sides with even a couple crossover trails, maybe a T-bar or two, and give a “big mountain” experience, but no steps have ever been taken. They talk big but seem unable to deliver.

        The locals in Wrightwood are very dedicated to the mountain, but disappointed in the way it has been run for decades now. If you read the history of Mt High it was constant expansion, with new lifts and terrain always being added. That all came to a screeching halt when the current management group took over. There hasn’t been a single new lift added, or any new terrain, but instead many lifts and trails have been mothballed, and others are, as the owner says in the interview, only run when it is crowded because as he states, they are too slow and nobody wants to sit there all day, but the old lifts are “paid for”.

        Really, by the time I can go to a website about lifts and explain how a lift is never working right, and have people trying to make excuses for it, I’m ready to just give up even the idea of people having any standards whatsoever. I figure maybe they will go out of business at some point and hopefully it can be acquired by someone more dedicated to the sports of skiing and snowboarding, who wants to nurture lifelong customers who become expert, dedicated skiers and snowboarders instead of scaring people away with decrepit lifts and multiple bad experiences that start before you even get there as you wait for them to park… one… car… at a time… as they slowly charge… people $25 bucks just to park…. in a taxpayer-owned lot…. with no marked parking spaces… so they have to slowwwwwly, have a whole crew… direct each car…. into an unmarked space….

        Once you suffer their unnecessary half-hour line to even get into a lot, the first experience for many is waiting in another line to ride a shuttle bus up to the side that is open. Many are then waiting in yet another line to rent equipment, so then can then get into a lift-line for a super-slow beginner lift, with no safety bars. I don’t see how people can stand it.

        They TALK about replacing the super-slow no safety-bar beginner lifts with a six- or eight-seater, but it never happens. Bottom line is if they wanted a good, more experienced clientele, they would have to give a better experience so people would stay with the sport, Instead they offer an unacceptable experience, but with 20 million local people as a total addressable market, they can keep limping along on first-timers who spend a few hundred bucks then never come back. Now they are on the stated policy of replacing skiing and snowboarding with snowplay and tubing, because they only need to make 2 or 3 acres of snow!

        We’ve tried to get them to be more responsive, but to me, if they can’t even keep snow on that one existing crossover trail, and keep giving excuses why their main lift not running right should be OK, those are strong “canary-in-the-coalmine” type indicators that something is wrong. And by the way, we’re friends with a lot of the people who work there, including the parking crews, and they are all very fun people who we are always glad to see and hang out with. Most everyone there are great people, it is just the policies in place are unacceptable. Having their main lift not running right these days is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

        My real reason for posting on this is to hear from people who are experts in lift operation and maintenance. At Mt High, everything revolves around rumors and guessing why they do what they do. For example, I can think of something like 6 different guesses of “reasons” why their main lift runs so slow. After a few years we’ve asked enough people enough questions to know the problem is the lift being shut down by sensors. I was even told the sensors are related to the alignment of the cable on the sheaves (pulleys). So the question is what needs to happen to the lift to get it running right. But you know the old saying – “you can;t push a rope”. We can;t force them to run this place right, so we are kind of stuck. But I hope maybe the experienced people here might offer some good information, and maybe some options we haven’t thought of. Thanks again! :)

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        • Kirk August 18, 2022 / 12:43 pm

          Maybe you should start mini series on Southern California ski areas?

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  7. Maboomba Maboomba August 11, 2022 / 10:02 am

    Thanks for responding. I was amazed when I saw this website. It seems like there are a lot of people on here who have much knowledge and experience with ski lifts and resort operation. I’m hoping someone here will have some advice on what to do about my favorite mountain sabotaging the resort they have the franchise to run.

    I feel like they are neglecting their duty and actually really ruining my life by ruining the ski resort I moved just to be closer to. I bought a ranch and several properties near Mt High, and now I am sort of stuck here, while the quality of the skiing and snowboarding experience has become unacceptable.

    By the way, I am a former racer and instructor, on the snow for 59 years now, and I’m still catching big air – some runs I hit every jump, especially if it is visible from the lift, so I can get a yell or two from the crowd. Or I can be on a beginner hill and people still yell about my jumps when they see me, even on flat ground.

    Sorry for such a long “dissertation” of a post, but it only scratches the surface. What I am saying is not just “claims”, but a factual accounting of my experience with this lift. I was on the snow 50 days this past season, and 65 days the previous season, so I can tell you what really happens at Mt High.

    I have been told by Mt. High personnel that their OTHER Doppelmayr lift on the West side, called “Blue Ridge Express” is in even worse shape, and it does occasionally break down and need servicing to get restarted, however I am in the habit of leaving the (better except for the slow lift) longer, less crowded East side to go to the more busy West side, to enjoy a 4-minute ride up for a 1000-foot vertical drop, with lots of steep trails that we can go straight down because most people stick to the easier trails and terrain parks.

    This shorter version of the same model of lift at Mt High West feels like you got on a rocket ship compared to the slow speed of the same lift at the East side. It is such a great feeling to know you will be at the top in literally 4 minutes! Zoom, zoom, zoom. We make 10 runs per hour, and a friend of mine has the record of 100 runs in a day – twice now – on this shorter-but-faster-running Blue Ridge Express high-speed quad.

    The same lift on the East side USED TO RUN FAST. They won;t even admit it can’t be run at full-speed, but we know a lot of the lifties and we have heard the real story, and ride there enough times to know the real story. I’m hoping maybe someone here has an answer – what can we do?

    Let me also say, in the case of both lifts, many of the seat covers are faded and ripped, with the stuffing coming out. The chairs are covered with graffiti and stickers. One gentleman in a position of authority there tried to tell me that people are slitting the seat covers with a knife. I told him I did not think so, because what I see is most of the chairs seem to have the original plasticized fabric covers from 40 years ago, and they all crack straight across following the weave of the fabric at the leading edge of the seat that most directly faces the sun, dries out, and eventually cracks. But thinking someone cut them all with a knife is the delusional thinking at this resort – another excuse. To me it seems they are in denial that they need new seat covers after 40 years. Also, different chairs on the same lift have different safety bars. Some are good, others we call the “ballbusters” or “nutcrackers” where they have struts in the middle that fall between riders, or between a single rider’s legs, that are supposed to allow the bar to rest on the front of the seat frame.

    The reason I am posting this here is, I actually moved from Orange County up to a ranch closer to Mt High and have a lot invested in this area now. What am I going to do now, sell everything and leave the state??? With my luck as soon as I would relocate, Mt High would get bought by a new owner who would get the lift fixed.

    I find the situation really unbelievable. To me it is NOT NORMAL for a resort to leave a great lift in such a debilitated condition. I doubt there is a single resort in North America with such a great lift, unable to run at its design speed for maybe 10 years now. As I was saying in the last post, the poor condition of this lift ends up being the main conversation ON the lift, and the slower the lift runs, and the more stops it makes, longer the lift takes to get us to the top, and the longer the conversation goes on. Usually, about 2/3 of the way up, everyone starts complaining about how their legs hurt from hanging off their knees with no footrest.

    The lift is DESIGNED with no footrests, because with the quick ride at the designed speed (1000 ft./min) your legs don;t have time to hurt. In the present case, the main theme is our legs get tired from the lift, not from being on the snow. And just as bad, by the time you have sat there for a 20-minute ride to the top, your legs are not even still warmed up for action. Your legs have forgotten you are even on the snow and every run is like another first run.

    Anyway, I was happy to find this website and I hope someone here has some helpful feedback or advice. THANKS in advance if anyone has any good suggestions! :)))

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    • Ryan August 11, 2022 / 12:25 pm

      Just speculation here- but given that this lift is now 33 years old, add to that the difficulty in obtaining parts for obsolete equipment that is no longer manufactured, at least many of the parts- They likely slowed this down to save on the wear and tear of the machine. I believe most of these older gen high speed lifts were engineered for about a 30 year average life cycle. Of course we see examples of some that go longer, and some that go shorter before being replaced. The real issue will be- when will the lift lines be long enough and the failures be bad enough that enough people complain to the ownership that it is time to invest 4-6 million in a new lift.

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      • Maboomba Maboomba August 11, 2022 / 6:36 pm

        Thanks for replying, Ryan. Doppelmayr, the lift manufacturer, says there is no reason the Mountain high Express can’t be run at full speed with proper maintenance. I think they have all the parts needed. We all spent many years “guessing” why the loft was running so slow. One opinion was Karl was saving money on electricity. Well we finally lost our patience and started grilling all possible sources of info, and just paying more attention to exactly what was going on, and it turns out that sensors that respond to whether the cable is centered on the sheaves (pulley wheels) were triggered when the lift ran at full-speed. The operators would keep trying to run it at full speed but it would always shut down. The forest service says they test it for two days and it runs full-speed, but I think it seems obvious they are being paid off to approve it not running properly, because we are there every day to experience it shutting down over and over again. One high level employee told me it is like an old 1970’s TV set – just can’t run right. I’m not buying it, and the design lifetime is irrelevant. Just as a 1970 Chevelle can run faster and better than it ever did new with modern upgrades, these lifts are just collections of parts. Change out the worn parts and adjust to get good performance, just like your 1970’s muscle car that is better than when it was new. Any solid machinery can almost always be brought into perfect operation. It just requires someone to actually care. if they can pay off inspectors to let it stay the way it is, that is what they will do because they just don;t care. They notice fewer skiers and snowboarders at East, but can’t understand it is because they don;t run it right. I just listened to the interview with the owner on StormSkiing.com and it is apparent that management is not focusing on the sport so much as just seeing how much money they can make on beginners and especially non-skiers. These people used to just clog the roads, but now they are clogging our resort and making management forget about the good skiers and snowboarders. A very sad situation, and I hope it changes! :)

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    • ShangRei Garrett August 11, 2022 / 1:27 pm

      Does Mountain High run #9/Competition on any sort of regular basis? Even every weekend or such?

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      • Maboomba Maboomba August 11, 2022 / 4:59 pm

        Hi Shangrei Garrett – No, they NEVER run lift 9 anymore. Personally, while I love catching big air, I do not appreciate super-slow, antique lifts, with no safety bar, Mt High East, West, and especially North, serve as an outdoor museum of obsolete, abandoned ski lifts. I wanna say it was a couple of decades ago that they stopped running #9. They would rather shut down the whole East (longer) side, as far as I can see. It used to be a separate resort called “Holiday Hill”. Now the current management owns it, but another great skier who gave up on Mt High last season wishes it could be sold off to someone who could take proper care of it. I think it is a case of Mt High owning it so they can eliminate it as competition by shutting it down. Sad when there are 20 million locals here who could be customers if run right. Maybe the largest total addressable market of any resort in the U.S. and I think the only resort in the U.S. whose main, longest lift can’t run at full speed. The longest, fastest lift on the longest trails in Southern California, and the only reason they even keep it open as much as they do now is for the scenic rides that they make more per rider than catering to the real skiers and snowboarders (I am both). The reason they neglect East is because they have neglected it for so many years that everyone now knows it will probably not be open, or won’t be groomed, or have enough snow, too many rocks, etc. Also, some people may not really pick up on how slow the lift is running and how often it is stopping, or how few runs they are getting per hour, so much as just having a vague feeling that they didn’t have enough fun for the money spent. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. Build it and they will come, neglect it and they will leave. The previous owners (Steinemann family) did a much better job of running East. The bottom of East is just low enough that it has a melting issue. They could make enough snow like they did this last season, or take all the snow from the parking lot and put it on the hill and that would solve that problem.

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        • ShangRei Garrett August 11, 2022 / 5:30 pm

          Well, if everything is truly going as badly as you describe, then I’m sure that something’s going to have to give eventually. Building off of what Ryan said, the lift’s old, hard to get parts for, and is probably trying to be preserved as much as possible, which means that it’s going to have to be replaced sometime. Hopefully it’s not directly due to an accident, but I’d be willing to bet that sometime relatively soon, there’ll at least be a consideration of a lift replacement. I highly doubt that the resort is purposefully trying to neglect East. I am honestly not sure what all you have done aside from coming to Liftblog, but I’m sure that you could work your way to speak with a higher-up somehow. Call them or send a message and just inquire if there’s any way that you could get in contact with a manager/COO/CEO/owner.

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      • Maboomba Maboomba August 11, 2022 / 9:58 pm

        Thanks for your well-considered opinion Shangrei Garrett. I did not see a “reply” button following your latest comment, so I am replying to your previous message again. I have been emailing with another small-percentage owner at Mt High who handles publicity, for years. It really goes nowhere since if they are not going to fix the lift, what are they really going to say? I’ve assumed I would eventually meet Karl by random chance but it has not happened. It’s always “you just missed him!” However, I just listened to his interview on stormskiing.com (Thanks Mike B!) and learned a lot.

        In many ways Karl K. is thinking like me. He would like to replace lifts and add lifts. He is aware that adding a lift at the top could connect the two sides. They would also like to replace two ultra-slow beginner no-safety-bar doubles with a six-pack going up Conquest, with a midstation for beginners to unload. He realizes the Conquest chair sucks and is too slow and nobody wants to sit there all day, and the six-pack could actually utilize that section of the mountain. But whether it ever happens I don’t know. They can’t even be bothered to put snow on a catwalk trail that gets us over to Conquest from Chisolm. That is the talk versus reality. It’s really like they just don’t care about so many little things that could make the place so much better. But he does have many similar ideas to mine, like a lift from the base of East parking lot area up to the base of West – just a people-mover, which would be way better then the current shuttle bus, that gets stuck in traffic anyway. Heck, a used T-bar would do the job! I’d like to help in some way. I’ve worked at a ski resort before.

        I’ve tried to call the owner, Karl, at his office, but he has never answered or called back. I did some research a few weeks ago and found Karl’s email; address. I explained my concerns and asked him to please call me or give me his phone number so I could talk with him,or at least write back. I think he’s too busy to write back or call. He had one of his managers, Ben Smith, email me back. Just the typical Mt High excuses. in fact, we sometimes call it “Excuse Mountain”. So many possibilities, yet they can;t even run their main lift right.

        Anyway I am thrilled to have found this website, LiftBlog!
        Here’s why: There are people on here who actually know about the mechanics of lifts, right?
        OK so you are saying the lift is likely worn out?
        I’m wondering which parts would be worn out?

        They replaced the motor, and I think maybe a gearbox recently.
        I’m aware the cables (“wire ropes”) have a limited number of “cycles” (complete round-trip rotations).
        I could see the sheaves (pulleys) or parts of the pulleys, needing to be replaced.
        Bearings would be an obvious item that might need periodic replacement.

        Towers? Maybe replace some bolts? I think usually the towers are structurally OK, right?
        Control Electronics – they must have improved in the last 34 years, so maybe replace them if they haven’t already.
        Parts of the mechanism that detaches the chairs could need replacement.
        The chairs themselves definitely need refurbishment.

        Maybe you’re saying by the time you replace everything, you might as well just buy a new lift?
        Well I am here to learn.
        If anyone can tell me about replacing parts versus replacing the whole lift, for a 34-year-old Doppelmayr 1000 ft/min detachable quad, I’d love to know the facts of the matter! Thank You in advance for any good info! :)

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        • ShangRei Garrett August 12, 2022 / 6:41 pm

          I’m not well versed in the art of lift maintenance, but I do know that pbropetech is himself a lift mechanic, so maybe he’ll see this and be able to help you out.

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        • ShangRei Garrett August 12, 2022 / 6:42 pm

          Or maybe, just maybe, we could get Peter to chime in

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        • pbropetech August 12, 2022 / 9:50 pm

          Maboomba- I’ve been reading your stories lately and can answer a few of your questions- primarily the technical ones as every ski area approaches operations, maintenance, and capital replacements differently.

          All chairlifts have wear items. Chair head bushings, seat pads, any and all bearings, sheave liners, assembly bushings and axles, the occasional bullwheel liner and/or bearings, driveline universal joints, and so forth. Electronics are a different animal but also have a lifespan, especially controls where new standards have been put in place. The haul rope itself can be replaced if necessary; there are a few factors that play into this including general condition and code requirements. The grips, especially detachable models, need periodic refurbishment. Every once in a while the electric motor will need major service, where we pull it out and send it in to a motor shop.

          A well-thought-out maintenance programme will take all this into consideration. The major manufacturers offer a ‘bulk order’ programme where we buy the majority of our anticipated parts early and all at once, and get a discount in so doing. We have standard maintenance items we attend to every summer, and a paperwork trail to keep us honest. There are many lifts out there older than the one you’re concerned with. I’m currently on the crew maintaining a ’94 Doppelmayr quite similar to this lift, and while it’s not quite the same age it’s a solid lift and we feel we can keep it running for at least another ten to fifteen years. I kept an ’86 Poma TB detach alive until it was 32 years old; what finally sealed its fate was a combination of increasing age and unavailability of parts- not too many lifts left that age so Poma understandably wasn’t keeping as many parts in stock. Doppelmayr built a great many of those older DS lifts so that’s not as much of an issue yet.

          It seems much of your frustration with the lift in question stems from the rider’s experience. Please don’t think I’m discounting your experiences here, I’m just telling you how it goes from our end (keep in mind I’ve never laid eyes on this lift or the area itself). I’ve had countless interactions with skiers getting off a lift I’ve just fixed telling me ‘it took you half an hour to get this piece of (expletive) running, what were you doing?’ I politely tell them the lift control clock says it was down for five minutes. I’ve also been the skier in question, so I totally understand what it feels like to hang out on a lift that’s gone 10-7. I can’t speak to the average speed you say this lift runs except to correct the common misconception that we mechanics don’t like running lifts full-speed to save wear and tear. Lift speeds are primarily dictated by the operations staff; we’ll run our primary beginner out-of-base lift at 4 m/s on a busy Saturday but at its full 5 m/s the rest of the week. There are always exceptions there. Sometimes it’s wind, sometimes (on a Doppelmayr, at least) it’s electronic where the tower safety circuit has issues and the control logic will not let the lift run full speed until the problem is corrected.

          Seat pads are an easy fix but one that falls through the cracks, unfortunately, if there are more pressing items on the list. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve definitely put off replacing pads as I simply didn’t have time for it and I assume your area is the same way.

          To your final point, replacing parts on a regular basis doesn’t add up to anywhere near the cost of a new lift. There’s quite a bit of ‘sticker shock’ when the accounts payable department is asked to cut a cheque for upwards of $7,000,000 for a new detachable lift, not to mention the added work of removing the old lift and building the new one; those two things add a ton of work to a summer far beyond the monetary aspect. The work may be done by the manufacturer but that merely adds to the cost of the new lift.

          I hope I’ve been able to answer some of your questions.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Mike B August 11, 2022 / 1:28 pm

      If you have paid attention over time, and especially if you listen to The Storm’s recent podcast with Karl K the owner, it’s pretty clear that experience, long-time skiers such as yourself are NOT the target market for MH. They are all about day trippers, boarders and non-skiing revenue sources (snow play, summer sight seeing, etc..). That’s up to 20% of their revenue but almost certainly much higher margin than the core business.

      FWIW, as someone who skis there 2-3x/year, I haven’t experienced these lift issues nor heard of them. But the their operating plan for MH East is abysmal, as it’s such a great gem. Regardless, if MH factored into your ranch purchase, I think that’s where things went wrong. If you want reliable conditions and lift investment, you’re much better off hitching your wagon to Big Bear – deeper pocketed owners with unlimited water appealing to much more of a weekend skier.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maboomba Maboomba August 11, 2022 / 5:27 pm

        Thanks Mike B. I did not know about “The Storm” interview with Karl K. I should check that out, but I have read an interview – maybe the same one, and it made me want to puke. A traitor among us. Yes the exact problem is the owner could give a flytng F*** about skiers and snowboarders, and does not appreciate the gem he has in Mt High East. He does not enjoy a good reputation among the locals in Wrightwood, that I can tell you for sure.

        Yes they have summer stuff now too – we’ll be up to see a band on Saturday at North. And here’s the thing: Your average person who, like you, goes up maybe 2-3 times a year, is usually more concerned that their legs are tired than whether the lift is running properly so they can get lots of laps in, I am not up there for a suntan. I’m up there to bomb the mountain over and over and get in some laps. My legs don;t get tired because I don’t turn. I’m on DH or Super-G boards, and we go 70 mph+.

        My Ranch is about Equidistant between Mt High and Big Bear. I can see both areas from home. But it takes 3 times as long to drive up to Big Bear, because there is no straight road to Big Bear.. We were members at Big Bear one year, and it was just too much driving. Also, one ti9me I was chased down the the ski school director and an instructor for going too fast. They said “You are really good, but you just can’t ski that fast here.” Never heard that one before in 59 years on the slopes…

        The reasons I moved to this location 30 minutes from Mt High are:
        1) I have a 20 acre ranch with a huge house and a 5000 sq ft garage for the same price as a small, elbow-to-elbow tract home in Orange County.
        2) I am in wind energy research, and the ranch is wind-powered, with strong winds every day, a perfect location for my wind energy research projects;
        3) We’re minutes off the 15 Freeway so we can get to places fast like L.A., Orange County, Las Vegas, Mammoth, etc.
        4) Fastest-growing area in the U.S. – property values here increase (buy low, sell high)
        5) proximity to Mt High, Big Bear, and Snow Valley

        Snow Valley DOES HAVE A NEW HIGH-SPEED 6-seater lift that is like a dream. I can be up there in an hour going up the back way through Lake Gregory. But the layout at Snow Valley is just not that great. We can go up there and have fun, and the people are great and the atmosphere is more authentic and less Ghetto than Mt High, AND it is half the price of Mt High, but the overall runs are just not as exciting as the runs at Mt High, and it is still twice the driving. I’m all about time on the slopes, NOT time driving and NOT time sitting on slow or stopped lifts. I love to be on the snow, but do not care to freeze my ass off, hence Southern California at 8000 feet elevation! We could be hosting the winter Olympics here in SoCal if people would get it together! :)

        Like

  8. Maboomba Maboomba August 13, 2022 / 8:38 am

    Wow, thanks for chiming in, pbropetech!
    Good info. And like I was saying, I’ve talked to Doppelmayr about the problem(s), and they say there is no reason the Mt. High Express lift cannot me maintained in perfect running condition. I know what I write seems to go on and on – trying to provide enough details and facts so you guys here understand I am not just some mildly dissatisfied customer, but a former resort employee (at a different mountain) who knows a good operation from a bad one. By the time they’ve had to lower passengers with ropes, and cannot run the lift at full-speed, it needs some work. And it has been that way for about 10 years now.

    1) They TRY to run it at full speed and sensors shut it down
    2) I was told by a high-up lift operations guy that it is like a 1970’s TV set and can;t operate properly – so they are not willing to maintain the lift
    3) It;s the best, fastest, longest lif serving the longest trails within hundreds of miles with 20 million potential customers within day-trip driving distance and they can;t understand nobody shows up at East because they receive a bad experience.
    4) All the locals and regulars are disgusted and frustrated becuase we literally can only get in less than half the runs we should, due to the slow speed and incessant stops
    5) Girls in our group who are also fast on the snow have been timing it with stopwatches – it is not in our imagination how slow the thing goes.
    6) The lack of footrests makes it worse.
    7) It makes me leave and go over to the other side of the mountain where the same midel of lift DOES operate at full-speed and FEELS LIKE A ROCKETSHIP!

    It is GREAT to hear from someone who knows lift maintenance – THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR POST!!! :)

    Like

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