Alterra Capital Plan Includes New Lifts and Expansions for 2020-21

North America’s second largest resort operator today announced the purchase of two lifts for Mammoth Mountain, new terrain at Steamboat Resort and a two year project to build new trails and lifts at Tremblant.  Alterra Mountain Company will complete $223 million worth of capital improvements in total for next season, up from $181 million in 2019-20 and $130 million the year before.  Rival Vail Resorts announced back in December spending of $210 to $215 million across 37 mountain resorts, including construction of six new lifts in 2020.

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Mammoth’s Broadway Express #1 and Canyon Express #16, both built by Yan and upgraded by Doppelmayr, will be replaced this summer.

At Mammoth, one of the most utilized lifts in the Alterra system, Broadway Express, will be replaced with a high-speed six place detachable, increasing uphill capacity by 42 percent to 3,200 skiers per hour.  Sister lift Canyon Express will be replaced with a 3,000 people per hour six pack, increasing uphill capacity out of Canyon Lodge by 66 percent.  Both of these lifts are likely to be supplied by Doppelmayr.

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This will be the last season for the Canyon Express, a workhorse lift above the Village at Mammoth.

In Colorado, Steamboat Resort will expand onto 355 acres of Pioneer Ridge, providing skiers and riders with more terrain to explore.  Pioneer Ridge will feature 1,800 vertical feet of advanced and expert gladed terrain accessible via the Pony Express lift.  Twenty five new chairs will be added to the Garaventa CTEC high speed quad, increasing capacity from 1,200 people per hour to 1,800.  The Steamboat master plan calls for Pioneer Ridge to eventually feature its own detachable chairlift.

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Steamboat will open up hundreds of acres of new terrain beyond Pony Express and become Colorado’s third largest ski area.

This summer, Tremblant will begin a two-year expansion project called Timber.  Quebec’s most popular mountain will open a new beginner zone with a magic carpet on Versant Soleil for 2020-21 to enhance the learning experience for new skiers and riders.  In late 2021, the Timber summit will open with a new high speed quad and eight trails leading to Versant Soleil and the North side.  “This project, which aims at diversifying the ski area, is part of the continued development of Versant Soleil and reaffirms Tremblant’s leader position as the #1 ski resort in Eastern North America,” said the resort.

“Three years ago, when we formed Alterra Mountain Company, an initial priority was to commit to investing a half a billion dollars by 2023 across our family of North American destinations,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra Mountain Company.  “To date, we have invested more than $350 million and are committed to exceeding our original plan, spending $575 million by 2020 on lifts and gondolas, snowmaking, summer activities, real estate development, hospitality and technology, all in the name of creating memories for our guests through an elevated mountain experience.”  Privately-held Alterra owns 14 resorts, having recently completed its acquisition of Sugarbush.

News Roundup: Sunshine

  • The Summit at Snoqualmie shuts Hidden Valley for the season due to an “unusual mechanical problem.”
  • Sugarloaf closes King Pine due to a sheave assembly issue.
  • Dave Brownlie, former head of Whistler Blackcomb and current Revelstoke President, weighs in on the state of the British Columbia ski industry and his company’s plans for Grouse Mountain.
  • The Colorado Sun interviews three Colorado resort pioneers about industry trends and challenges.
  • As the gondola at Mont-Sainte-Anne reopens, the resort says an external power issue caused last month’s sudden stop.  A lawsuit has been filed and the power company denies responsibility.
  • Just the Leitner portion of Mexico City’s new urban gondola network will feature seven stations and 300 cabins.
  • Experienced resort executives Andy and Jace Wirth may take over operations at Granby Ranch.
  • Limited Ikon/Mountain Collective visits to Arapahoe Basin are 69 percent lower than unlimited Epic visits last year and the “experience is way up,” says Al Henceroth.
  • Another informative podcast from Stuart Winchester features an executive from Mountain Creek and Big Snow talking about the next new lift and a possible Big Snow Miami.
  • Smugglers’ Notch has no intentions of losing its independence or ditching its fleet of fixed grip double chairs.
  • Whitefish will begin work in Hellroaring Basin this summer and move the current Hellroaring triple to a new alignment in 2021.

Arizona Snowbowl to Install Combination Lift

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Arizona Snowbowl’s fourth new lift in six years will be the largest yet –  a chair/gondola combo lift rising almost 2,000 vertical feet.  The new base-to-summit workhorse will operate year round for skiers, snowboarders and sightseers beginning next winter.  “Since its inception, Agassiz has been the beating heart of Snowbowl,” notes the resort.  “With the replacement of the lift, we’re ushering in a new era.  More than an upgrade, the new Agassiz lift completely redefines the Snowbowl experience.”

Unlike most combination lifts, Agassiz will feature eight passenger gondolas between every two chairs (usually the ratio is more like one in four or five.)  Agassiz reaches an elevation of 11,500 feet and enclosed cabins will offer guests a comfortable option in inclement weather.  The gondolas will also provide improved access for guests with disabilities and ride time will decrease from 15 minutes to seven.  Capacity will remain a modest 1,200 skiers per hour so as not to overwhelm expert trails off the summit.

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In addition to summer and winter, Agassiz operates all fall for scenic rides.

The Leitner-Poma Telemix will be the third lift in the Agassiz alignment over six decades of history.  The existing Agassiz triple opened in 1986 and is currently inoperable due to a mechanical issue.  The CTEC is expected to be repaired this week and will finish out the remainder of the season.  Once removed, it will be stored for eventual re-installation at a location to be determined.

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Mountain Capital Partners has invested heavily in Arizona Snowbowl since purchasing the resort back in 2014.  Improvements to date include a new lodge, two different fixed-grip quads and a six place called the Grand Canyon Express.  2020’s project will be the largest in resort history and one of the most significant lift additions in North America this year.

Instagram Tuesday: Sightseeing

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

Timberline Lodge to Build Pucci High Speed Quad

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Timberline’s quest to become an all-detachable mountain will become closer to reality this fall with the replacement of Pucci by a new quad chair.  Already approved by the Mt. Hood National Forest, the project will see the retirement of Timberline’s oldest operating chairlift, a Poma triple dating back to 1987.  Another Poma fixed grip lift built the same year, Bruno’s, is slated to be replaced with a conveyor in the near future.

Timberline’s sixth high speed quad will re-use most of the existing towers and maintain the same 1,800 passenger hourly capacity.  Ride time will decrease to just 4.5 minutes.  The new lift will enhance the beginner and intermediate experience at the next lift guests progress to after Bruno’s.  Timberline did not announce a manufacturer, though Doppelmayr built the area’s last four new lifts.

News Roundup: Season Pass Season

Instagram Tuesday: Western

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

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Gondola Riders Injured in Incident at Mont-Sainte-Anne

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Photo credit: CBC Radio Canada

Nearly two dozen passengers suffered injuries this morning when a gondola lift came to an abrupt stop at Mont-Sainte-Anne, a large resort near Quebec City.  The incident occurred just before 10:00 am and cabins stopped suddenly enough that skis and snowboards fell from exterior racks.  At least one cabin became lodged at an angle in a station with a broken window.  Other cabins reportedly contacted towers.  Out of the 21 people injured, 12 were transported to hospitals by ambulance.

By around 10:45, the gondola was restarted in reverse to unload riders.  The rescue operation was completed by noon and the lift is now closed.  A spokesperson for Mont-Sainte-Anne said there were 80 cabins on the line today and an investigation will be undertaken.  “Our main objective is to make sure that everyone is taken care of quickly, then, afterwards, we will have more details on the mechanical aspects,” said Simon Lefebvre with the ski resort.

The gondola, known as L’Étoile Filante, was constructed by Doppelmayr and opened in 1989.  It is the largest of seven lifts at Sainte-Anne, a mountain owned by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.  Calgary-based RCR operates a total of six ski resorts in Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec.

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News Roundup: Upper Peninsula

Sugarloaf Outlines West Mountain Expansion & Future Lift Upgrades

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Boyne Resorts will embark on a major investment campaign at Sugarloaf in the coming years called Sugarloaf 2030, similar to plans revealed recently for Big Sky, Loon Mountain and Sunday River.  The central Maine resort will begin work this summer on a 450 acre expansion of West Mountain with a variety of new trails.  The area will eventually feature a big new lift.  As part of the expansion, the current West Mountain double will be shortened to about half its current length.  The expansion includes a modest new base area with expanded parking, tubing and a small lodge.

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“This development will expand Sugarloaf’s beginner and intermediate terrain, and will greatly alleviate traffic congestion at the SuperQuad by shifting significant numbers of riders to this new area,” says the Sugarloaf 2030 website. “Several options are being considered for size and type of lift for this location, with lift construction expected to begin in the summer of 2021.”  The lift will be designed with foot passengers in mind as Bullwinkle’s will see expanded use for weddings and conferences.  West Mountain will also be home to a future lift-served mountain bike park.  “This will be the most significant project at Sugarloaf since the SuperQuad was built in the mid 1990s,” noted Sugarloaf General Manager Karl Strand. “We’re thankful for leadership of Boyne Resorts, which, over the past 13 years, has helped us get Sugarloaf to a position of growth that allows for development projects like this.”

Lifts across the mountain will be replaced over the next decade.  Timberline, a Borvig quad serving the summit will be replaced with another new lift supporting varied year round experiences.  A third near term priority is the Double Runner double-double, which is approaching 50 years of age.  A new quad would better serve ski school programs and increase out-of-base capacity.  Carrabassett Valley Academy also plans to partner with Sugarloaf on a new alpine training surface lift servicing race trails above Double Runner.

Further out, Boyne plans to replace two more aging quads.  A new King Pine would run in a modified alignment with better wind resistance and improved reliability.  A future SuperQuad replacement is more about increasing capacity with state-of-the-art equipment.

Between this new plan, Sunday River’s vision announced two weeks ago and the rebirth of Saddleback, the 2020s are already proving to be an exciting time in Maine.  The Pine Tree State is well positioned to be a great place to ski in a changing climate and companies are responding with big investment plans.