Instagram Tuesday: At Sunset

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

Top of Beaver Creek with a nice pink afterglow of light illuminating high clouds after sunset.

A post shared by Scott Cramer (@adventure_photo) on

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In California, Parks & Zoos Wow with Gondolas

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Oakland Zoo stepped up its game this year, building a major expansion accessed exclusively by gondola, one of many across California.

From flying over bison to coasting through redwood forests, wine tasting and beach cruising, visitors to California can do it all by gondola even when far from ski country.  In every major region of the vast California Republic, gondolas greet more than 250 million annual tourists, providing unique experiences and spectacular views in one of America’s most diverse states.

California Trail – Oakland Zoo

California’s newest gondola debuted at the Oakland Zoo in June, whisking guests on a three minute safari to an $80 million experience called California Trail, which features animals native to the Golden State.  In some ways this is America’s first urban gondola with the top terminal located in the basement of a combination transit station, restaurant and visitor center.  The Doppelmayr UNI-G system sports 17 cabins that can move 1,000 guests each hour between California Station and the new hub for wolves, bears and mountain lions.  Even though the exhibits don’t open until next year, the gondola is already so popular that the zoo’s chairlift rarely runs anymore as guests binge-ride the California Trail lap after lap.

Skyfari – San Diego Zoo

The VonRoll-built Skyfari is a big reason why the San Diego Zoo grew to become the most-visited zoo in America.  Since 1969, 42 four-passenger cabins have transported some 75 million riders from the east side of the park to the west.  Today, the Skyfari operates more than 3,300 hours a year and an impressive 60 percent of zoo guests choose to take the ride, making it by far the most-ridden gondola in this most populous state.  The lift’s four towers reach up to 89 feet, yielding zoogoers spectacular views of their surroundings and downtown San Diego.  Now presented by Alaska Airlines, the ride is impeccably maintained and features updated Doppelmayr controls and automated cabin launching.  Just based on ridership, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it replaced with a modern system with more capacity in the coming years.

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News Roundup: Resources

  • Amid zip line dispute, Peak Resorts threatens to close Hidden Valley, remove five chairlifts and sell the land to a residential developer.
  • “I’m very confident we’re going to have new resources we haven’t had in previous years,” Steamboat COO says of Crown/KSL ownership.  Deer Valley President and COO Bob Wheaton makes similar comments in Park City.
  • Saddleback sale to Australian firm still hasn’t closed.
  • Bear Valley’s six-pack looks great in green and now has a name: Mokelumne Express.
  • Who says detachable terminals must be symmetrical?  Leitner experiments in Europe.
  • T-Bar area in Edmonton, Alberta shuts down.
  • At the end of a tough year, Granby Ranch goes up for sale.
  • New Heavenly trail map confirms Galaxy won’t spin again this season, leaving a big hole in Nevada.
  • Epic Passes account for 43 percent of Vail Resorts revenue.
  • New lifts at the Yellowstone Club get names: Eglise, Great Bear and Little Dipper.  A few hundred families now enjoy the 14th largest lift fleet in the country.

Instagram Tuesday: Stealth

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

El Supremo Bendito. #alta #supremelift #newskilift #liftmaintenance

A post shared by Warren (@greasebomb) on

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Belleayre Gets Its Gondola

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The first gondola in the Catskill Mountains stands nearly complete at Belleayre Mountain, owned and operated by New York State.
Governor Andrew Cuomo surprised many back in February when he committed $8 million in public money to erect a gondola and make other improvements at Belleayre, the smallest of New York’s three state-owned ski resorts.  Reaction was swift with a vocal group of critics questioning the use of funds at a mountain with a modest 135,000 annual skier visits.  “Gondola to nowhere,” one user wrote on the NY Ski Blog.  “The stupidest lift ever built in the world,” said another passionate New Yorker.  Yet another, simply “a waste.”  Then came an anti-gondola petition.

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The Olympic Regional Development Authority stuck to its guns and Doppelmayr USA won the contract, beginning work on June 21st.  Just four and a half months later, a grand new machine stands with 13,615 feet of haul rope, 60 cabins and 16 towers coming together.  The new lift rises 1,350 feet from Discovery Lodge to the summit with super views along the way.

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Why T-Bars are Trending Again

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The Valar T-Bar opened at Cannon Mountain last year to service an expansive race venue, demonstrating one of reasons resorts are building new T-Bars these days.
Seventy percent of the 1,277 T-Bars, J-Bars and platter (sometimes called Poma) lifts built in North America to date are no longer in service.  That would suggest the traditional surface lift is a dying breed in the age of beginner-friendly carpets, which go in by the dozen every year of late.  But over the last two seasons, a bit of a renaissance has emerged, with more mountain resorts adding brand new T-Bars and platters.  Four T-Bars being completed right now represent the highest number in North America since 1987.  Even more resorts are considering building these classic surface lifts, although the reasons why have little to do with learning to ski.

Peak T-Bar construction occurred in 1964 (not shown) but the platter remained popular as a beginner lift into the 1990s when the carpet came along.  Peak J-Bar was back in 1967 and those are probably gone for good.

Race Training

Yesterday I visited both Burke Mountain, Vermont and Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire, where local ski clubs recently partnered to build dedicated surface lifts on terrain used for racing.  In some cases, these types of lifts are open to the public but other times not.  New T-Bars are relatively cheap with costs typically covered by donors and/or program fees.  Another reason for this application is speed; every T-Bar built since 2011 can move at least 550 feet per minute, significantly faster than most fixed-grip chairlifts.  The Franconia Notch Ski Club’s new T was built by LST Ropeways and goes up to 690 fpm; Burke Mountain Academy’s nearly-finished one is a Leitner, shown below.

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News Roundup: Under the Radar

  • Chinese investment firm acquires a majority stake in Swiss ropeway manufacturer BMF, which also owns Gangloff.
  • Wolf Creek will build a third high-speed quad called Meadow in 2018.
  • Aspen Skiing Company settles with a woman who sued after falling in the loading area of the Village Express.
  • Private operator of Val Bialas Ski Center in New York resigns, citing continued financial losses.  The publicly-owned mountain has a 1973 Borvig.
  • Check out these architectural drawings of Disney World’s Skyliner gondola network.
  • No real news but this recent drone video shows the current state of lifts and why Saddleback is worth saving.
  • The Skytracs in St. Maarten open this week and are expected to draw some 135,000 cruise passengers a year.
  • Here’s a Mt. Spokane expansion construction update.
  • Adanac Ski Hill in Ontario replaced its 1950s Poma double with an Alpen Star quad this summer, bringing Doppelmayr to 15 new lifts for 2017 in North America.

Instagram Tuesday: Night Sky

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

Incredible night sky at the top of Summit Express. | Photo credit: @daxspix | #solitudemountain #bigcottonwoodcanyon #saltlake #utah

A post shared by Solitude Mountain Resort (@solitudemtn) on

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News Roundup: Following

  • Mt. Hood Meadows, Skytrac and Timberline Helicopters fly Buttercup towers in just 45 minutes.
  • Vail Resorts schedules annual meeting for Wednesday, December 6th, where multiple new lift projects are likely to be revealed.
  • Aspen Skiing Company, the City of Aspen, private landowners and the public collaborate towards building a long-sought detachable Lift 1.
  • Latest LST detach update: chairs are back at the factory being reworked and the Envers lift is expected to be up and running around Christmas.
  • Revelstoke adds 24 new gondola cabins, Crystal Mountain gets five more.
  • Navajo Nation leadership soundly rejects Grand Canyon Escalade gondola in 16-2 vote.
  • SkiCo and the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club plan to build a platter surface lift on the skier’s right side of Golden Horn at Aspen Highlands next summer.
  • There’s an unconfirmed rumor that the Cyclone at Sunrise Park, AZ won’t operate this winter.  The 1983 Yan is North America’s longest triple chair at 7,982′ with 32 towers and 352 chairs.  I’ve reached out to Sunrise for comment and will update if I hear anything.
  • Montana Snowbowl’s TV Mountain expansion won’t open this season.
  • After building three new lifts in a row, the Hermitage Club finds itself in a cash flow crunch.

Instagram Tuesday: Home Stretch

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

Lumberjack Shuttle Stützenmontage #shuttleberg #skiamade #bestcrew #doppelmayr #heliaustria

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