- Blackcomb Glacier won’t host skiing this summer.
- Snow King Mountain sells $150,000 worth of retired chairs in one hour.
- Poma unveils the first 34 passenger cabin for the new urban 3S in Toulouse.
- Okemo’s new lifts will be called Evergreen Summit Express and Quantum Six.
- Former Ticketmaster chief Jared Smith is named President of Alterra overseeing mountain and hospitality divisions.
- The latest on the Stresa-Mottarone disaster:
- Numerous pictures surface showing brakes blocked with passengers aboard as far back as 2014.
- An employee says pre-operational checks were skipped entirely on the day of the crash.
- Two of the three men arrested are released.
- A lawyer for the manager still held alleges Leitner was slow to respond to service calls.
- Leitner was paid €127,000 ($155,000) per year to perform major maintenance on the tram under a long-term contract, though officials do not consider the company or any of its employees suspects.
- The owner of the operating company is also under investigation over two injury incidents on a Wiegand mountain coaster at the facility.
- Eitan, the little boy who survived, is released from intensive care.
- Cannon Mountain opens its tramway for the first time in 14 months.
- Europe’s largest ski operator plans to spend €200 million ($244 million) per year through 2025 to catch up on investments sidelined by the pandemic.
- The Pandora’s expansion on Aspen Mountain notches another approval.
- Anakeesta’s chondola lift breaks down for a bit.
- New Zealand’s first 8 passenger chairlift is complete and she’s a beauty.
- With 35 percent of jobs unfilled, Whitefish Mountain Resort cuts summer operating days.
- Schweitzer raises $80,000 for local charities through the sale of chairs from Snow Ghost.
- The Sea to Sky Gondola outlines some of its security plan.
- Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit (LAART) unveils more on its planned 3S: four stations, three towers, 44 cars and underground cabin storage at Dodger Stadium.
- Steamboat’s gondola building comes down after 35 years.
- Trollhaugen will sell chairs from Chair 1 next week.
- Quebec records 6.1 million skier days in 2020-21, slightly above average.
- The State of Texas commits $10 million towards a replacement Wyler Aerial Tramway in El Paso.
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will become one this summer with construction of an interconnect gondola to coincide with the renaming of the resort. The innovative three section gondola will follow in the footsteps of other great interconnect lifts: the Quicksilver Gondola unifying Park City and The Canyons, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola linking Whistler and Blackcomb and the Slide Brook Express connecting Mt. Ellen to Sugarbush. Leitner-Poma of America will build the 2.2 mile B2B (base to base) gondola, comprising of four stations, more than 30 towers and two drive systems.
The current Red Dog triple will be shortened to make way for the Olympic Valley station. Cabins departing this terminal will cross over the Exhibition and KT-22 lifts before arriving at the first angle station on Olympic Ridge. This section of the lift could operate independently without the other two segments in operation. At most times, cabins will continue to a middle segment. A second angle station will then redirect cabins toward Alpine Meadows without offering unloading for the general public. Alpine Meadows’ base station will sit near the new Treeline Cirque detachable quad, offering guests easy access to all of Alpine’s base area lifts. The system will transport 1,400 passengers per hour in each direction with a ride time of 16 minutes.
The $60 million project is part of Alterra’s $207 million capital plan announced today for 2021-22. The commitment includes $111 million in significant resort projects, $31 million for enterprise technology systems and $65 million worth of resort maintenance. “This past season has proven that our guests are loyal, passionate and looking forward to the many seasons ahead, and we plan to provide them with a premier guest experience as we focus on the long-term future of our mountain destinations,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra. “Alterra Mountain Company has exceeded our initial five-year goal to invest over half a billion dollars into our destinations, in just four years. We continue to be committed to infusing meaningful capital into on-mountain enhancements, base area development, and advanced technology that will elevate the mountain experience for all who visit.” In addition to the B2B Gondola, the company announced a transformation of Steamboat’s Gondola Square, which will include moving the Steamboat Gondola base terminal. The first section of the proposed Wild Blue Gondola is planned for installation next year, subject to Forest Service approval.
- Woods Valley takes delivery of a used CTEC quad, likely the former Kenny’s Parkway.
- West Mountain considers adding a lift as part of a real estate play.
- Big Snow is a bright spot at the otherwise struggling American Dream mall.
- The Ever Vail project and related gondola plans are dead.
- Mt. Spokane seeks state funding to replace Chair 1 and Chair 2, one of which could be done this summer.
- Mark Brownlie is named Chief Operating Officer of Alterra’s resort portfolio.
- MND wins a $21 million contract to build lifts at a new ski resort in Russia.
- Starting next year, most Big Sky Resort lift tickets, season passes, Ikon and Mountain Collective passes will no longer include access to the Lone Peak Tram.
- Cape Smokey provides an update on Canada’s only new gondola this year.
- Schweitzer introduces a new logo and brand identity.
- Despite losing a significant portion of the season, another Ontario ski area still plans to complete a new chairlift for next season.
- Doppelmayr France is selected to build and maintain a five station urban gondola in Paris.
- Doppelmayr also will build the first urban gondolas in Guatemala.
- Retired cabins from Killington’s K-1 Gondola fan out across the country as dining venues.
- Under new ownership, Sleeping Giant increases visits by 71 percent.
- Vermont skier visits decline 40 percent.
- New Mexico also reports a significant drop in visitation.
- A company called Trident tried to buy Brundage Mountain last year with the intention of creating a much larger resort.
- Here’s a preview of Snow King’s gondola cabins.
- Leitner-Poma seeks employees to help build the new high speed quad at Breckenridge.
- PyxisAI announces a successful beta test of technology designed to alert lift operators when slows or stops might be needed.
- Whitefish Mountain Resort smashes its previous visit record by more than 20 percent.
- The European Union will pay French ski operators up to 49 percent of lost revenue from this winter.
- Ober Gatlinburg’s tram closes for two months for track rope and drive replacement projects totaling $4.5 million.
- Bluewood’s general manager explains why fixing a 43 year old lift still makes sense for the mountain vs. buying a new one.
- The Burke Mountain and Jay Peak receiver says in a court filing the mountains are “desperately in need of liquidity” while battling financial services giant Raymond James.
- Whiteface issues a request for proposals to replace the Bear double with a fixed grip quad starting lower in the base area.
- Kelly Canyon’s new Skytrac will be a triple reaching 600 feet beyond the top of Chair 2.
- With one Doppelmayr gondola finished but never opened to the public and another partially complete, Icy Strait Point removes all booking availability until April of 2022.
- Skiland performs a rope evacuation of the northernmost chairlift in the Americas.
- The National Ski Areas Association updates its lift safety fact sheet.
- Mission Ridge isn’t done with On the Way Up just yet! Episode 18 explores the parking system and more.
- At a leadership forum in Park City, Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory says his company will invest $200 million on capital improvements this year and plans to build the Squaw-Alpine gondola.
- We also learned Deer Valley is in talks with Mayflower Mountain Resort about shared access.
- Rusty next joined the Storm Skiing Podcast, confirming the Ikon Pass will add at least one new resort for 21-22.
- Vail Resorts slashes Epic Pass prices by 20 percent.
- Developers say the Moosehead Mountain project is “moving fast” with a lift to be ordered as soon as May for completion late this year.
- Two more days until Snow King’s Summit double stops for good to make way for a gondola, though the Forest Service’s Record of Decision has not been signed and litigation looms.
- Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry confirms it’s investigating last weekend’s chair fall at Camelback but does not expect to make the report public.
- Bogus Basin shells out $53,000 to settle alleged environmental violations related to the construction of the Morning Star Express and other projects.
- Former owner Ariel Quiros will plead guilty to orchestrating a fraudulent investment scheme at Jay Peak.
- The Jay Peak receivership has racked up more than $8 million in attorney and accountant bills so far.
- Aspen Snowmass hasn’t decided whether the Big Burn six place will get bubbles.
- A near collision leads to an evacuation of a Leitner-Poma six pack in New Zealand.
- Skiing in that country proves super popular even without international travel.
- The State of New York makes huge investments at Whiteface this summer: $2.4 million worth of gondola upgrades, a new quad chair, a new lodge and snowmaking enhancements.
- Skytrac is the low bidder to replace Howelsen Hill’s Barrows double with a quad next summer.
- Alterra characterizes season pass sales for next winter as “shockingly strong.”
- Mt. Norquay will try again for approval to build a gondola linking the ski area to Banff.
- The Italian parent of Leitner and Poma reports record revenue of €1.06 billion, having completed 78 ropeway projects in 2019, though the company expects sales to fall 30 percent in 2020.
- Public comments are now being solicited regarding Steamboat’s proposed Wild Blue Gondola, Sundown Express replacement and Priest Creek removal projects.
- Vail Resorts suspends operations at two Australian resorts just three days into the season due to the evolving Coronavirus situation.
- Even though American Dream and Big Snow in New Jersey are closed, a second American Dream location remains in development in Miami.
- Vail Resorts-owned OnTheSnow.com and sister websites will shut down Monday due to the challenging financial landscape. A Vail-owned TV station is also closing.
- Bloomberg speaks with the CEOs of both Alterra and Vail about next winter.
- Today is the last day to comment on Little Cottonwood Canyon transportation alternatives, including a 3S gondola.
- Walt Disney World won’t allow unrelated parties to ride together in gondola cabins when the Skyliner reopens.
- Doppelmayr USA, Leitner-Poma of America, MND America, Skytrac and SkyTrans all received Paycheck Protection Program loans supporting more than 400 American jobs.
- A key link located on a receding glacier, the Horstman T-Bar at Whistler Blackcomb is no more.
- Design work continues for Aspen Mountain’s Lift One Telemix and related developments.
A 17,000 foot gondola. Two boundary expansions. Three six place chairlifts. Those are among the items on Alterra Mountain Company’s new wish list for its flagship Colorado resort. The two year-old operator acquired Steamboat in 2018 from Canadian developer Intrawest, which struggled to complete the volume of sustained improvements needed at this premier destination resort. The same was true for prior owner American Skiing Company.
Nonetheless, Ski Town USA grew to become Colorado’s fifth largest resort, hosting nearly 1.1 million skier visits in 2018/19. A new master plan amendment seeks to build on Steamboat’s success by boosting out-of-base capacity, enhancing experiences for varying ability levels and more efficiently moving guests around the mountain.
Perhaps most exciting is the prospect of a base-to-summit lift called Wild Blue. This would be the longest gondola on the continent, rising an impressive 3,465 vertical feet. Intrawest and Alterra spent millions to transform the existing Steamboat Gondola into a modern 3,600 per hour machine, but it’s still not enough to handle the more than 16,000 skiers who show up on peak days. Wild Blue would carry 3,200 riders per hour to a learning center in Bashor Bowl before ascending Sunshine Peak. The two stage gondola would pass over a total of four other lifts.
- Mt. Baldy runs out of snow, ending North American lift served skiing for now.
- Aspen Skiing Company expresses frustration with the Colorado governor’s order for ski resorts to remain closed until at least May 23rd.
- Arapahoe Basin still wants to reopen.
- Oregon may beat Colorado to the punch.
- Eaglecrest, Alaska joins the Powder Alliance.
- Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory says his company is well-capitalized and delayed projects should be completed next year (plus he’s still looking to buy more resorts!)
- Skeetawk completes its chairlift, becoming the first new ski area in Alaska since 1983.
- Mountain planner Paul Mathews of Ecosign talks about the development of Sun Peaks and future plans in the West Bowl and the Gil’s areas.
- Norwegian Cruise Line reiterates its commitment to Alaska including the funding of two gondolas currently under construction in Hoonah.
- As part of a land swap, the Yellowstone Club seeks to gain 500 acres of expert terrain.
- Cuchara remains on track to reopen next year with one lift.
- The Utah Department of Transportation will evaluate gondolas from the Salt Lake Valley and Park City as two possible options to improve mobility in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
- Doppelmayr’s first Wir magazine of 2020 highlights new installations from around the world.
When Vail Resorts spelled out its suspension of operations in mid-March, the shutdown was hoped to last only a week. Fifty days later, all 37 resorts remain shuttered and the company has borrowed more than a billion dollars to weather a possible extended recession.
Almost immediately, Vail Resorts postponed discretionary capital improvement projects including seven new chairlifts. Vail is just one of numerous operators of lifts facing epic challenges due to COVID-19. The impacts trickle down to suppliers, particularly global suppliers of large machinery like the Leitner Group and Doppelmayr. While the two major lift manufacturers are of similar size and structure, their customers are incredibly diverse, from mom and pop outfits to governments, NGOs and Fortune 100 companies.
As regular readers of this blog know, the lift business is not the same as the ski business. Leitner-Poma, Skytrac and Doppelmayr USA have all completed projects for non-ski venues recently such as theme parks, zoos, stadiums and cruise ports. Not only are these projects making up an increasing share of contracts, they tend to be large in scope and often include lucrative operation and maintenance deals. Some of these non-traditional customers are in even worse shape than the ski business, more dependent on high guest densities and air travel. Put another way, there is little chance the Walt Disney Company, Carnival Corporation or the Miami Dolphins would have signed to build their recent lift projects in today’s environment. So-called “point of interest” projects may disappear entirely for a few years.
One bright spot could be urban transport. The Portland Aerial Tram and Roosevelt Island Tramway have both remained operational throughout the pandemic, albeit at reduced capacity (the Portland Tram carries health care workers to three different hospitals and is about as essential as it gets.) Large aerial tramways have been ceding market share to monocable, 2S and 3S gondolas, a trend which will probably accelerate with new personal space concerns. With gondolas, each person or family can take their own cabin unlike on trains or buses. There are lots of great concepts for urban gondolas in North America and infrastructure spending programs could finally get one or two off the ground. Mexico already has a large urban gondola system in operation with two more under construction.
In addition to 17,000 early layoffs of seasonal employees, Alterra Mountain Company has made the difficult decision to furlough many of its year-round workers and defer capital projects. Affected workers will remain employed with benefits such as health insurance but will not receive any pay for the foreseeable future. CEO Rusty Gregory will forego his entire salary as long as full time employees are furloughed. Employees in key roles who continue to work will receive full salaries for now. “While it is my fervent intent to avoid reducing anyone’s full pay rate for work going forward, we do not know how long this crisis will continue,” said Gregory in a letter to employees. “It is imperative that we ensure that our finite resources last long enough to get us to the other side of this pandemic and fully open for operation when the time comes.”
More than 50 percent of planned capital spending will be cut. In a sign of just how fast the coronavirus changed everything, Alterra announced $223 million worth of improvements just four days before being forced to shut down all 15 of its resorts. Postponed Alterra lift projects are both located at Mammoth Mountain in California, where Doppelmayr was slated to replace the mountain’s two oldest high speed quads with six place models. The Broadway Express and Canyon Express were constructed in 1988 and 1994, respectively. Alterra also announced last month the purchase of a Doppelmayr high speed quad for Tremblant, Quebec to be installed in 2021. The future of that project will be determined at a later date.