Barker Mountain Express – Sunday River, ME

Lift Engineering bottom terminal with Poma modifications.
The lift crosses over Sunday River’s snowmaking reservoir.
Riding up.
Yan “Y” tower number 11.
Top terminal arrival side.
Unload ramp.
Bottom terminal and lift line.
Top station with Poma mods.

14 thoughts on “Barker Mountain Express – Sunday River, ME

  1. Peter Danis August 13, 2018 / 5:54 pm

    Any chance Sunday River would ever upgrade this to a high speed six?


    • Collin August 13, 2018 / 6:49 pm

      They definitely need to. This lift is frequently closed for unscheduled maintenance and can only go 700 feet per minute to reduce wear and tear. However, Boyne has proven they have no intention of investing in any resort other than Big Sky while using money from their New England resorts to help pay for it.

      This year they “upgraded” Loon’s 4 person gondola with new cabins, but it will still only have a capacity around 800/hr and won’t be able to run in hardly any wind. Meanwhile Big Sky got a new 8 person lift with bubbles, heated seats, and just about any other feature you can imagine and then relocated the high speed quad to replace a double chair that never had a line at all.

      Back in 2016 when the top of Spruce Peak collapsed in summer 2016 they forced Sunday River to do without any lift there for a whole season while they replaced Big Sky’s Challenger which also needed an unscheduled replacement that same year and also built a 6 pack bubble that’s only 2700 feet long.

      If that’s not enough, then consider that the only complete lift built at Sugarloaf since 1997 was to replace one that had a high profile accident. Since then they replaced a drive terminal on King Pine (after another high profile accident) and removed Bucksaw without replacement.

      With this history of cutting corners and cheaping out at the New England resorts while spending like a drunken sailor at Big Sky, I wouldn’t get my hopes up about any lifts at Loon, Sunday River, or Sugarloaf.


      • Thomas Jett August 13, 2018 / 9:24 pm

        According to Peter, the upgrades at Big Sky aren’t pulling money from any of Boyne’s other properties. Additionally, they just recently bought all the New England resorts that they operate in May, so you should expect to see some new investment soon.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Collin August 14, 2018 / 6:45 am

        Of course they’re pulling money from the other resorts. Do you see any other ski areas that get only 500k visits spending that much? The two other ski areas with similarly large projects do close to or over 1 million visits.


      • Thomas Jett August 14, 2018 / 6:31 pm

        No other resort in North America with Big Sky’s numbers is building that much, I’ll grant you that. However, North American areas tend to spend much less of their revenue on lifts than comparable European areas. If Big Sky 2025 were being carried out in Austria, it wouldn’t be that significant of a plan. What’s probably happening is that Boyne is pumping a massive amount of Big Sky’s profits into the 2025 plan, with the goal of reaching 1,000,000 ski visits once everything’s built.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Collin August 14, 2018 / 7:31 pm

        What happens if Big Sky doesn’t get the skier visits they planned on after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on improvements? Likely Boyne will be done spending for a while and while Big Sky got 10 or more new lifts everyone else got squat and now has to wait even longer before getting much needed improvements. Or they could’ve done the important upgrades across all the resorts and then worry about making Big Sky into the high end European style resort they want after everyone else is up to speed. The last time any ski company spent ALL their money on one resort was Les Otten/ASC at The Canyons and that was a disaster for all the other resorts he owned at the time.


        • Doppelmayr FTW November 12, 2018 / 3:20 pm

          I’ve said this many times, but Boyne DID NOT OWN Sunday river in 2016 it was owned by CNL lifestyle properties who would not let them replace the lift. Big Sky is 100% self funding its projects. Other resorts don’t spend this much because most american operators do not seed the value in having high end lifts while in Europe it is seen as extremely important. Boyne is one of the oldest still operating ski operator in North America they know what they are doing. People were saying the exact same thing when Boyne Mountain got the first six pack and the First quad and the first triple and look at the ski industry now.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Max Hart November 12, 2018 / 6:42 pm

        You’re forgetting something very important here: SR, Loon, and Loaf were all being LEASED BACK FROM CNL BY BOYNE. SR and Loon are profitable mountains (Loaf not so much), but Boyne has had to contribute significant portions of revenue back to the operating leases. Boyne has not had the checkbook in terms of lift investment until now.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Collin Parsons November 12, 2018 / 9:26 pm

          Selling off in the first place (for all the operators who did not just Boyne) was a short sighted quick cash grab that f***ed them over in the end. Everyone who bought back their leases paid several times more than they sold for after handing over their profits to CNL for many years. Unfortunately this is an all too common theme in the ski industry.


  2. John November 12, 2018 / 2:21 pm

    There are other considerations for replacing a lift besides whether or not it gets crowded. Many of the old lifts at Big Sky are Herons, and they are almost impossible to find parts for (trust me, I deal with that every summer).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Max Hart November 12, 2018 / 6:35 pm

      The big thing with Barker is reliability. It’s the No. 2 lift at SR, it’s always going to have a line; you can only up the capacity so much until snow quality and on-mountain skier congestion become a concern. The terrain can handle the full capacity of a detachable quad (that being a 30 year old detachable quad @ 3000 riders/hour). A detachable six would work very well here, and frankly I can see it happening sooner rather than later.

      In the last few years Barker has broken down on almost a weekly basis. It hasn’t had any major issues since its retrofit in 1996; however all of the smaller components that experience wear and tear are starting to fail (after all this lift has a very long season, usually from mid-November to May 1). Those smaller issues are significant enough to take down the lift for several days mainly because spare parts often need to be custom fabricated because this is a former Yan detachable. It’s not like they can call up Doppelmayr or LP and get some obscure part that they would probably stock. That’s what causes the lift to go down for days. On top of that, when it is running, it usually isn’t running faster than 700 fpm (it’s still moving ~2100 rider per hour at that speed). It all boils down to trying to keep Barker running most of the time rather than running it full speed sometimes and being broken down more often.

      As much as I would like to see it be replaced, I don’t think it will happen until one of three (or all) scenarios play out:
      1. season passholders get pissed about the lift and pass sales take a hit
      2. the lift is “totaled” from a mechanical failure / the lift becomes to expensive to maintain
      3. Boyne decides that they want to take a not-so-subtle jab at Powdr (Killington) and Vail (Okemo, Sunapee, and Stowe).


  3. Max Hart November 12, 2018 / 7:25 pm

    Here’s how I see this playing out:

    Loon’s a pain in the neck in terms of lift upgrades because the current infrastructure already super-saturates trails with skiers. They need more terrain to justify greater uphill capacity. The problem with that is that they’re on Nat. Forest land so if they so much as apply to expand some group of eco-maniacs comes along and challenges it. That’s what made an expansion (South Peak) roughly the size of Jordan Bowl at SR take 10 years to open (SR did it in 3 months on private land).

    The Loaf needs more skier visits to justify increasing capacity. There’s never any lines there (except maybe at the SuperQuad but there are ways around that). The best way to increase skier visits to to take some not-so-subtle jabs at some other [Vermont] ski areas by either going nuts with snowmaking or installing a staple lift (Gondola or bubble chair, something that they can use as a marketing tool). The Loaf is so far away from anything that they need to create a reason (other than being the largest ski area in the east) for people to drive through the extra state (or two) to get there. I like to think of the Loaf as the Jackson Hole of the East (Cannon is also a contender for that title); It’s in the middle of nowhere and has a reputation for being a hard mountain; perhaps they could take a Jackson Hole style approach and invest in their intermediate and beginner terrain (which likely means replacing DRE/W, bringing a lift back to Bucksaw and cutting some more intermediate trails in that area).

    SR is a little bit different in that it is an East Coast giant with a reputation for snow (and only snow), and it gets 500,000+ skier visits per year. Overall they have a pretty good lift system (Barker has to go but that’s beside the point). The key is that they need to spread skiers out. Nobody ever skis Whitecap or Aurora; both peaks have a reputation for slow lifts (3 Yan quads on WC and 1 Yan Quad at Aurora) and mediocre snow (in comparison to Jordan, Barker, Locke, and Spruce) mainly because they don’t make as much there. I think that Barker should go HS6, but then they would have to find a way to spread skiers out to underutilized areas. They have to make Aurora a bit more user friendly (i.e. faster lift) and make more snow on Aurora. Aurora is tough because if they end up in a freeze-thaw cycle, Aurora tends to get really cold during the “freeze” part of the cycle, turning the peak into a rink. Only way to fix that is to groom it well and make more snow. Aurora doesn’t get much mid-season snowmaking; I think it needs more, particularly right before Feb. vacation. If they can get more people to ski Aurora, upgrade the lift to HSQ. If not, leave it as is (it’s reliable now; if they chose to remove that lift I think it would find a good home somewhere else). White Cap is a little more complex because it is divided into three pods. The upper section (often referred to as the White Heat area because of its lift and namesake trail) is perfect; no need to change anything about that. It has good expert terrain and a reliable lift; the only thing it could use more of is mid-season snowmaking / resurfacing. Lower White Cap on the other hand is home to the incredibly underutilized White Cap lodge, which is underutilized because the only lift out of there (the White Cap Quad) is very slow. If the White Cap Quad was upgraded to a HSQ, more people would use that lodge (taking some stress off of South Ridge).There’s more unused terrain around that lift; I say cut new trails and glades and see what happens. Little White Cap is also a problem; there are a few nice trails in that area that always have good snow, but the lift is a snail. Nobody skis that area because of the slow ride. LWCQ has components from the Barker double, a 1972 Pullman-Berry, and was a frankenlift from the beginning. If that ride was faster (perhaps FG Triple @ 480-500 fpm, possibly with a carpet), that area would have plenty of capacity and see more use. All of that would be good for White Cap, but what that area really needs is for the partying to be brought back to the White Cap Lodge. It sounds ridiculous, but in the Les Otten days that lodge was the place to be because of the partying (e.g. Bust’n’Burn, Parrothead, and all of the other shenanigans they used to do there that have since been moved to South Ridge). It may be worth noting the MASR (Maine Adaptive Sports & Rec or whatever it’s called now) moved to White Cap this year. Faster lifts, plus the return of the old White Cap ways would revitalize that area.


    • Collin Parsons November 12, 2018 / 9:45 pm

      Loon really needs a new gondola as their main lift has to have a greater capacity than a double chair. If they are so dead set on not replacing it, then Kancamagus needs to be upgraded to a 6 and relocated to replace 7 Brothers so at least the high capacity out of the Octagon Base is a detachable. Plenty of trail acreage in both areas. The South Peak beginner area is also approved and should be finished ASAP to allow Loon to address their parking limitations.

      You make a very good point about Sugarloaf. The problem is that any upgrade would be done to make it profitable, not because it is profitable. Killington invested 25 million in capital improvements this year because they are the most visited resort in the East and have the money to pay for it in hopes of increasing visits even more. The best thing that Sugarloaf could get is a new base to summit gondola (hopefully D-Line 10 person). They have the trail acreage to support a very high capacity and it would allow one to access any terrain with just one lift. Yes there’s wind at the top, but there are many gondolas in the west and in Europe that are in much more exposed locations. The Double Runner lifts also should be replaced and a surface lift added to Brackett Basin.

      Sunday River’s 2nd most important lift (Barker) is an embarrassment in terms of speed and reliability when it should be a flagship lift. A bubble 6 similar to Powder Seeker would be great and maybe they could even buy the one from The Hermitage Club to save money. For White Cap, I think a high speed quad from the base to the top of White Heat would bring a lot more people to the area. That would allow for 1600 vertical skiing off of one lift. The White Cap Quad would only need to run on weekends and Little White Cap could be sped up with a loading carpet. The snowmaking upgrade should help get more snow made on White Cap and Aurora. It looks like a very similar plan to Mount Snow’s West Lake which has already driven significantly increased.


  4. Max Hart November 16, 2018 / 10:38 am

    Well BMX just broke down after about 10 hours of operating this year. That didn’t take very long.


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