Leitner-Poma is building a big new lift in Little Cottonwood Canyon this summer, the company’s first in the Beehive State since 1997. Alta Ski Area created a brand around being old school but the new Supreme high-speed quad will showcase the latest technology from Grand Junction and beyond. The new lift will bring detachable access to nearly all of Alta’s terrain and will be Leitner-Poma’s first lift to make a turn using canted sheaves rather than an angle station (there must be something in Utah’s water because Supreme will be the state’s fourth lift to make such turns of varying degrees for various reasons.) Alta Ski Area worked with LPOA and the Forest Service on an alignment that effectively replaces both the Cecret and Supreme lifts while reducing impacts to wetlands and surrounding forests in exchange for expedited approval. As I saw yesterday, it’s all coming together nicely.
The rugged Point Supreme is abuzz with construction. The new lift’s first few towers follow a direct path from the future drive station near Alf’s Restaurant to the former Supreme bottom terminal. Just above the old station site, a series of three closely-spaced towers achieve the necessary line turn. From here, the lift jogs steeply up, mirroring the former triple chair. Two Yan tower tubes near the summit still stand and might be re-used with new tower heads.Update 9/14/17: All 16 towers will be new.
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.