Sixty-seven, five, zero. Those are the numbers of lifts built in the state of Utah by Doppelmayr, Skytrac and Leitner-Poma since 1998, respectively. Nevertheless, a Leitner-Poma high-speed quad will replace both the Cecret and Supreme chairlifts at Alta this summer, further modernizing the famed Wasatch ski area’s lift fleet.
Like the Collins lift, the new Supreme will feature an angle change and rise from Alf’s Restaurant to near 10,600-foot Point Supreme. “Detachable technology gives us greater control over skiers delivered per hour, while at the same time giving our skiers a shorter ride time,” notes Alta GM Onno Wieringa. Unlike Collins, the lift will turn 8.4 degrees using canted tower sheaves instead of an angle station. In place of the Garaventa CTEC Stealths and Doppelmayr Uni-Gs so ubiquitous in the Wasatch, Supreme will sport Leitner-Poma LPA terminals manufactured in Grand Junction.
The news is huge for Utah, the third largest lift market in America but one nearly devoid of competition since the 2002 merger of Doppelmayr and CTEC. Of 138 operating lifts in the Beehive State, Doppelmayr or companies it acquired built 98 of them. Second for market share in Utah with 27 operating lifts still belongs to Lift Engineering, out of business since 1996. Salt Lake-based Skytrac arrived on scene in 2011, installing a handful of lifts at PowMow, Sundance and Beaver Mountain, but never joined the detachable lift game before being acquired by Leitner-Poma last spring. Poma last built lifts in Utah at The Canyons in 1997, apparently because neither Doppelmayr nor Garaventa CTEC could fulfill American Skiing Company’s massive order for eight new lifts that year. The Cottonwood Canyons are chock full of Doppelmayr and CTEC lifts and only four Pomas remain in the entire state, until next fall.
Wolf Ridge, NC closes for the season following lightning damage to 1988 Doppelmayr quad. The place has an interesting past; a 2006 Doppelmayr CTEC quad and 1980 Borvig were both abandoned after a 2014 fire and only two lifts remain.
Heavenly’s Comet Express remains closed following a Jan. 1st rope evacuation, apparently due to a gearbox issue. This is one of the reasons Vail Resorts is replacing its fleet of 1980s-vintage detachable quads.
Alta submitted some grand plans to the Forest Service last week – 12 projects including at least five new lifts. The 77-year old ski area wants to replace more than half of its chairs in the next five years and build a low-capacity tram up 11,068′ Mt. Baldy. If approved and implemented, these would be the biggest changes to Alta’s lift system since the two-stage Collins high speed quad debuted in 2004.
Five lifts would be replaced with three new ones. Sunnyside, one of only two detachable triple chairs remaining in North America, would be subbed with a higher-capacity Chondola with chairs and gondola or cabriolet cabins. It would utilize the existing lift line and tower tubes where possible and have a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour. Albion, a 1980 Yan double running adjacent to Sunnyside, would be removed without being replaced.
Higher on the Albion side of the mountain, Cecret and Supreme would be replaced by a single detachable quad with an angle station, much like Collins’ mid-station. Cecret and Supreme are both Yans built in 1981. The new detach would follow the first third of Cecret’s current lift line before joining the Supreme line so it could utilize some of the current towers. With these upgrades, the Albion side of Alta would go from five lifts to three. That’s before a new lift called Flora is added. Flora would be a short (985 foot) double chair replacing the East Baldy Traverse with a lift to get from the top of Sugarloaf to the top of Collins. The top-drive chair would move 1,200 skiers per hour out of Sugarbowl and have just four towers.
If you’ve never driven over 9,700′ Guardsman Pass in the summer, you might not realize just how close Brighton Ski Resort is to the upper reaches of Park City Mountain. In fact, from Brighton’s fire station to the top of the Jupiter lift is less than 7,000 linear feet. It’s this reality and a similar one in Alta’s Grizzly Gulch that makes Ski Utah’s One Wasatch concept tantalizingly close to becoming reality. But the feeling that the Wasatch just isn’t that big also has environmental groups scrambling to prevent any more of these mountains from becoming ski runs. The challenge for Save Our Canyons, the Sierra Club and others is that all the land needed to complete One Wasatch is already in the private hands of Royal Street Land Company (owner of Deer Valley,) Iron Mountain Associates (developer of The Colony) and Alta Ski Lifts Co.
Over the Pass
I’m convinced Park City and Brighton will be connected first. Ski Utah calls the two lifts needed for this connection Guardsman A and Guardsman B. They would rise from a common point adjacent to Guardsman Pass Road between Brighton and Park City’s Jupiter pod on land owned by Royal Street a.k.a. Deer Valley. Operationally, it would make the most sense for CNL/Boyne to build and operate these lifts as part of Brighton. Guardsman A, which would need approval from UDOT to cross State Route 190, would likely be a detachable quad approximately 4,065′ long with a vertical rise of 740′ ending near the top of Jupiter. Guardsman B would rise back towards Brighton and be a detachable quad about 3,800′ long with a vertical of 1,235′.
Royal Street Land Company has a strong interest in completing the Guardsman connection because it now also owns Solitude. With Guardsman in place, a Deer Valley skier at the top of Lady Morgan Express could ride 4 lifts (Pioneer and Jupiter at Park City, Guardsman B and Milly Express at Brighton) and be at Solitude in less than an hour. The return trip would be almost as easy – Summit Express to Great Western Express to Guardsman A and Park City Mountain, which already abuts Deer Valley. Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County would both need to approve the Guardsman lifts before construction could begin.