News Roundup: Needs

  • Mt. Sunapee plans to install the former Sunbowl quad in place of the North Peak triple and move that lift to the other side of North Peak as early as 2019.
  • There are now four Snow King Mountain master plan alternatives; all include a base-to-summit gondola and three have a new backside chairlift.
  • The first fly day of 2018 title goes to SilverStar, Doppelmayr and Vancouver Island Helicopters.
  • A top ramp incident at Wachusett Mountain apparently leads to a $72,000 verdict.
  • The approved Mt. Baldy tram at Alta remains contentious and may never happen.
  • In hot and dry Arizona, officials close large swaths of National Forest including all outdoor summer activities at Arizona Snowbowl until further notice.
  • The asking price for Blacktail Mountain is $3.5 million.
  • As BMF builds its first detachable lift in Iran, the Swiss company says it has no interest in the U.S. market.
  • OSHA proposes $64,673 in fines for 15 violations identified during the investigation into Loveland lift mechanic Adam Lee’s death.
  • West Mountain needs a Poma return terminal and eight quad gauge towers in order to complete its third new lift of the decade.
  • When Alta’s reimagined Snowpine Lodge opens in January, you will be able to get there on a dedicated Skytrac chairlift.

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News Roundup: Timelines

  • The Staten Island Economic Development Corporation secures $212,000 to study the feasibility of a gondola connection to Bayonne, New Jersey.
  • The Forest Service green lights Alta’s big plans for a new Baldy tram, Flora lift, Wildcat detachable and replacement for Sunnyside.
  • The Colony’s master plan now includes two new lifts along Pinecone Ridge at the center of Park City Mountain.
  • Copper is selling parts from the Flyer and the Eagle detachables.  Must act fast!
  • Crested Butte says the three lift Teo 2 expansion, if approved, would likely be built over approximately five years.
  • Snow King’s gondola and terrain expansion public process moves along at a glacial pace.
  • Mountain Capital Partners, the company behind Arizona Snowbowl, Hesperus Pajarito, Purgatory and Sipapu, will operate Nordic Valley and add it to the Power Pass.
  • Doppelmayr breaks ground for its eleventh cable-propelled automated people mover, set to open in 2021.
  • Spokane’s paper traces the history of three lifts that have graced Riverfront Park, including a new gondola.
  • The Forest Service seeks feedback on Arizona Snowbowl’s chondola proposal.
  • An ice storm apparently causes a track rope to jump out of a saddle at Jay Peak, closing the tram and nearby lifts indefinitely.
  • As legal wrangling continues, nothing seems out of the ordinary this week at the Hermitage Club except for notices on the clubhouse doors.

Game-Changing Ikon Pass to Launch with 23 Mountain Resorts

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Alterra Mountain Company dropped a bomb at the Outdoor Retailer/SIA show this morning, announcing the forthcoming Ikon Pass will bring together its dozen North American resorts along with eleven other major mountains.  Aspen Skiing Company, Boyne Resorts, Powdr Co. and more have partnered with Alterra to add destinations such as Aspen Snowmass, Alta, Snowbird, Big Sky, Killington and Jackson Hole.  “The Ikon Pass is a collaboration of like-minded mountain destinations across North America where incredible terrain, unique character and local traditions are celebrated,” said Erik Forsell, Chief Marketing Officer for Alterra Mountain Company. “We’ve curated a community of iconic destinations. We believe this new pass offers tremendous opportunity and appeal to mountain enthusiasts who have a passion for outdoor adventure.”

Pass options will range from a set number of days at varying destinations to an ultimate, unlimited season pass.  I can’t stress enough how much this changes big mountain skiing in North America.  For years now, Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass has been the largest and most successful season pass product in the world, now offering access to 272 lifts and 44,000 acres at 15 mountains in North America and Australia to some 750,000 passholders.  Ikon will one-up Vail’s terrain offering with access to 23 top-tier North American resorts, a ridiculous 363 lifts and 48,840 acres (for both passes, I am counting gondolas, chairlifts and surface lifts with towers.  If carpets and rope tows are included, the Epic Pass offers 340 lifts while Ikon has 434.)

Ikon Pass resorts for 2018-19 will be:

  • Alta, Utah
  • Alpine Meadows, California
  • Aspen Highlands, Colorado
  • Aspen Mountain, Colorado
  • Bear Mountain, California
  • Blue Mountain, Ontario
  • Big Sky, Montana
  • Buttermilk, Colorado
  • Copper Mountain, Colorado
  • Deer Valley, Utah
  • Eldora, Colorado
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • June Mountain, California
  • Killington, Vermont
  • Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
  • Mammoth Mountain, California
  • Snowbird, Utah
  • Snowmass, Colorado
  • Snowshoe, West Virginia
  • Snow Summit, California
  • Squaw Valley, California
  • Steamboat, Colorado
  • Stratton, Vermont
  • Sugarloaf, Maine
  • Sunday River, Maine
  • Tremblant, Quebec
  • Winter Park, Colorado

Ikon passholders will also receive discounts and special offers at CMH heli-skiing in British Columbia.  Epic holders already enjoy limited access to 30 European resorts. The Liftopia-powered Mountain Collective Pass, which allows destination skiers to sample many large resorts, will remain an option in its current form and also go on sale in March.  The M.A.X. Pass, founded by Intrawest, Powdr and Boyne, will sunset.  Specific Ikon tiers and prices will be released in the coming weeks.

As an employee of one of the independent resorts on the MCP and now Ikon Pass, I watched first hand the worry of consolidation last spring turn to optimism in the fall.  Now I know why.

Behold The Bend, Alta’s Latest Lift Creation

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The new Supreme lift at Alta, Utah turns 8.1 degrees in a totally unique arrangement engineered by Leitner-Poma.

Jagged ridgelines spread in seemingly endless directions at Alta Ski Area, serviced by relatively few lifts in just the right places to make skiing there a blast.  Alta has collaborated with various lift manufacturers over its 80 year history to create unique contraptions such as the Transfer Tow, a Yan rope tow mechanically more similar to a chairlift and one of the world’s only high-speed triple chairs, called Sunnyside.  In 2004, Alta and Doppelmayr CTEC dreamed up Collins, two Stealth high-speed quads joined together at a 29-degree angle with loading but no unloading at the mid-station.  “Don’t text and bend,” a sign at the Wildcat base warns riders destined for the full trip.

This season, the new Supreme detachable quad goes where no bend has ever gone before, replacing both the Cecret double and Supreme triple but without an angle station.  Prior to 2017, there were a handful of lifts that turn a few degrees using canted sheaves, particularly in Utah, where the mining scene created an enduring checkerboard of public and private lands.  Snowbird, Park City, Deer Valley and Moonlight Basin in Montana all sport lifts that bend a few degrees for one reason or another.

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Instagram Tuesday: Mystery

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

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Instagram Tuesday: Metropolitan

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

Sunday Line work. #portland #portlandaerialtram #liftmaintenance #pnw #linework

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Instagram Tuesday: Stealth

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

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

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Instagram Tuesday: Home Stretch

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

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News Roundup: 2019

  • Valemount Glacier Destinations says it’s in talks with both Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr for construction of phase one lifts in 2018-19.
  • SE Group to present nine alignment options for a new Lift 1A on Aspen Mountain.
  • La Paz breaks ground on its 17th and 18th gondolas, set to open in 2019.
  • The Saddleback sale still hasn’t closed and an update suggests a shift in focus from building new lifts to reopening with a limited number of existing ones.
  • Here’s a great rundown of Sigma’s new Symphony 10 gondola cabin, which complements the Diamond series.
  • In surprise announcement, Teton Pass says it won’t open this winter.  This awesome but remote Montana resort has a 1973 SLI double and a number of used chairlifts in the parking lot for possible expansion.

  • New Zealand’s longest chairlift will reopen December 5th, nine months after a wildfire burned chairs and ruined the haul rope.
  • Forest Service releases draft draft Environmental Assessment for Alta’s Baldy tram, Flora lift and Wildcat/Sunnyside replacement projects.  Final public comment is now open.
  • World’s largest gold producer proposes building a ski resort with up to 18 lifts on a former mine site near Hope, BC.
  • The Economist looks at why Latin American countries build so many urban gondolas.
  • The Grand Canyon Escalade bill goes before the Navajo Nation Council on Tuesday and needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
  • Squaw Alpine names 13,000-foot interconnect gondola California Express, plans 2019 opening.

Alta’s New Supreme will be Just That

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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.
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