News Roundup: Wyoming

  • The Province that owns Atlantic Canada’s largest ski resort grows tired of losing money and looks for a private operator for Marble Mountain.
  • Doppelmayr will build the largest vertical six-pack in the world this year at Ischgl, Austria with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain in a single section.
  • Boyne Resorts President and CEO Stephen Kircher says a recent bond sale and tax cuts should yield increased capital investment at his resorts over the next five years.  Boyne doesn’t plan to buy new mountains any time soon, however.
  • Fire update: Purgatory reopens summer operations, Arizona Snowbowl is still closed while Taos, Red River, Sipapu, Ski Santa Fe and Sandia Peak are under partial closures due to extreme fire danger.
  • Antelope Butte, Wyoming has raised the $360,000 it needs to complete lift work and reopen next winter.
  • Beartooth Basin ends its summer season early due to problems with the upper platter lift.
  • Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory says of committing $555 million to mountain improvements: “We went to each resort and said, ‘Tell us, as resort operators, what will make the biggest positive impact on the guest experience.’ They had long lists.”
  • Leitner is pulling ropes at 12,740′ for the highest-ever 3S gondola.
  • Big Sky posts sweet photos from the Austrian factory where America’s first eight passenger chairlift and D-Line stations are being prepared for shipment. Chairs will have some unique designs on the back too.
  • The Portland Aerial Tram returns to service 5:30 am Monday, three weeks early, thanks to crews slipping track ropes much faster than expected.
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Alterra to Acquire Solitude

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Make it a dozen!  Alterra Mountain Co., the 11 month-old company formed by KSL Capital Partners, Aspen Skiing Company’s owner and others, is buying Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah.  The Big Cottonwood Canyon destination will become the company’s second Utah property after Deer Valley, which Alterra acquired from the same ownership group last fall.  “With its close relationship with Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort is a natural fit for Alterra Mountain Company, and a tremendous addition to our family of destinations,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of Alterra Mountain Company in a press release.  “We are especially excited to expand our reach within Utah and offer another ski and snowboard experience in a state known for its exceptional snow and mountain culture.”

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The Summit Express is the newest lift at Solitude, Utah, which is set to become Alterra’s newest resort later this year.

Brighton owner Boyne Resorts attempted to buy Solitude back in 2014 but it was sold to Deer Valley months later.  Prior to that, the DeSeelhorst family had operated the resort for more than three decades.  Today, Solitude operates a fleet of eight Doppelmayr and CTEC lifts including four detachable quads.  Just yesterday, the resort confirmed to me its intention to replace the Sunrise lift with another high-speed quad next summer.

“Joining the impressive group of Alterra Mountain Company destinations Solitude Mountain Resort places in a strong position to grow and enhance Solitude,” said Kim Mayhew, the mountain’s General Manager in a statement. “We are excited about the opportunities for our guests, our staff, and for our community in Big Cottonwood Canyon.”  The transaction is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.  Terms of the agreement and Ikon Pass access details were not disclosed.  Assuming Solitude gets added to Alterra’s 2018-19 season passes upon closing, Ikon passes would include access to 408 lifts at 33 US and Canadian mountains.  With Vail’s recent acquisitions and partnerships, the competing 2018-19 Epic Pass is up to 309 lifts at 24 mountains in North America.

California Express Draft Environmental Impact Statement Released

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A 16 minute flight between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows took a jump forward this morning as the Truckee National Forest and Placer County released the draft environmental impact statement for the California Express gondola.  The big three stage lift was first proposed by the owner of both mountains, KSL Capital Partners, more than two years ago and is now being championed by Alterra Mountain Co.  At 808 pages, the EIS required under the National Environmental Policy Act outlines three possible alignments which could unite the steeps and village at Squaw Valley with the beginner and intermediate paradise of Alpine Meadows.

Two of the alternatives are new while the other two should be familiar to readers of this site.  Other concepts such as a pulse gondola, expanded shuttle service and even an underground train were eliminated as part of the preliminary review, which was completed by SE Group and Ascent Environmental of Sacramento.  Alternative 1 is the required no-action option, which would keep Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows separate but equal.  Shuttle buses would continue running every 30 minutes between the two mountains, which already share a common lift ticket.

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The lift would move 1,400 skiers per hour in 8-passenger cabins painted white to blend in with the winter environment.  It would operate from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm with skiing allowed from the mid-station(s) when conditions permit.  There would be separate drive systems and separate cabin parking facilities at each end so two sides could operate independently.  The middle section of the lift would operate as part of the Alpine Meadows side and approximately 40 percent of the cabins would be stored at Squaw Valley with the remaining 60 percent at Alpine during storm events and the summer.

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Deer Valley Plans 13th High-Speed Quad to Replace Homestake

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Deer Valley’s Homestake lift is less than twenty years old and eyed for replacement with a detachable version.

When Alterra revealed its hefty roster of 2018 upgrades on a Monday in March, Deer Valley Resort was noticeably absent.  The Utah flagship has averaged nearly one new lift every year since its 1981 inception but is coming off of a five year drought since the Mountaineer Express was added.  Now, as the Vail-owned owned neighbor builds a detachable beginner lift above Canyons Village, the Park Record reports Deer Valley is finalizing plans to replace the Homestake quad with a detachable of its own this offseason.dvhomestakemap

Garaventa CTEC installed the current Homestake lift, which runs roughly parallel to the downhill section of the Silver Lake Express, in 1999.  It is only 1,720 feet long but serves as a key link between Bald Mountain and Bald Eagle Mountain.  The new machine would be the sixth shortest detachable in the U.S. and might re-use some components like towers.  It is almost certain to be built by Doppelmayr USA, which is based just down I-80 in Salt Lake.  The resort says it is still finalizing plans and lining up permits but it’s looking like there will be only a handful of fixed-grip chairlifts remaining next season at Deer Valley.  With this likely addition, 2018 is now pacing nearly 30 percent above last year for announced new lift construction with a very busy summer ahead across North America.

Alterra Building New Lifts at Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park

Alterra Mountain Co., the new operator of eleven leading North American mountain resorts, today announced a transformational capital investment of $130 million to be followed by hundreds of millions more over the next five years.  New lifts will debut at Winter Park Resort in Colorado, Mont Tremblant in Quebec and Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont in time for next winter.  Competitor Vail Resorts revealed a similar $150 million plan for 2018-19 with six new lifts across its resorts last December.

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Goodbye massive lines at Zephyr, hello gondola.

The largest single project for Alterra is a 10-passenger Zephyr Gondola at Winter Park replacing the current 1990 high-speed quad, the key people mover out of The Village at Winter Park.  The new $16 million Leitner-Poma lift will be capable of moving 3,600 guests per hour to Sunspot, up from 2,600, and is the first new lift at the resort since 2007.  It will feature Leitner-Poma’s DirectDrive technology, reducing energy consumption and the number of moving parts that can lead to down time.  The new lift may also get a new name.  “Zephyr is certainly on the table but nothing’s been decided yet,” said Steve Hurlbert, a spokesman for the resort.

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Winter Park’s first true gondola will sport Sigma Diamond 10 cabins.

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Epic Pass Adds Six Canadian Resorts + Telluride, Ikon Gains Five, Mountain Collective Scores Big Sky

The latest battle in the 2018-19 season pass war is being waged to the north.  Vail Resorts today announced the Epic Pass will now include up to seven days at six mountains owned by Resorts of The Canadian Rockies – Fernie, Kicking Horse, Nakiska, Kimberley, Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham.  The addition of these MAX Pass refugees follows Alterra’s recent announcement that Revelstoke, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay and Sugarbush will join the new Ikon Pass.  In addition, Telluride has defected from the MCP to join Epic and Ikon partner Big Sky Resort will also join the Mountain Collective.

The 10th anniversary Epic Pass will go on sale tomorrow with access to 21 North American destinations with 284 lifts.  It will offer unlimited skiing with no blackout dates at Vail Resorts owned mountains and a limited number of days at partner properties like Telluride.  Epic Passes will also offer access to international resorts including Hakuba Valley, Japan; Perisher, Australia; and Val d’Isère, France.  In theory, you could hit a crazy 61 resorts on this pass.  Pricing is still pending.

The 2018-19 Mountain Collective Pass is on sale now for $409 and includes up to 33 days at 16 destinations, most of which are unchanged from last year (Telluride is out, Big Sky in.)  The MCP includes access to 19 separate mountains in North America with 231 lifts and 50 percent off days after the first two.  Most Mountain Collective destinations are also on the new Ikon Pass for those seeking more days.

The Ikon Pass offers unlimited access to most of Alterra Mountain Co.’s resorts with limited access to Deer Valley and numerous partner resorts.  The flagship pass will cost $899 with a blackout date version for only $599.  Ikon includes the most North American options by far with 32 mountains and 400 lifts.  It’s not quite as many as the defunct MAX Pass (45 mountains, 435 lifts) but Ikon offers many more days at higher-caliber places.  The Ikon also goes on sale tomorrow.

News Roundup: Ahead

  • Doppelmayr and CWA unveil world’s most luxurious gondola cabin with air conditioning, a fridge and more powered by carriage wheel generators.
  • The five chairlift Hermitage Club lays off 50 to 80 employees and cuts ski operations to weekends only, a result of significant financial challenges.
  • Children fall from lifts at West Mountain and Windham Mountain.
  • 2022 Winter Olympics host China is up to an impressive 236 ski areas with at least one chairlift.
  • Woodward Park City remains in limbo pending the outcome of three appeals.
  • Theme park projects such as the Doppelmayr-supplied Hogwarts Express and Disney Skyliner drive record revenue for PCL Construction of Edmonton.
  • There was a deropement followed by partial rope evac of the triple chair at Red Lodge Mountain over Presidents’ weekend.
  • Apres Vous at Jackson Hole was evacuated yesterday following a gearbox issue.
  • Sunday River reveals why it takes 3.5 hours to put cabins back on the Chondola after a windstorm.
  • Here’s more construction eye candy from Disney World.
  • Stella, the only six-pack in Idaho, was named and themed by a former Disney imagineer.
  • Catch up on the upcoming season pass battle and what else lies ahead for Alterra with company President Dave Perry.
  • Speaking of the Ikon Pass, it now includes 400 lifts with new partners Revelstoke, Sugarbush, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay for $899.

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.

News Roundup: Eruption

  • Move over Epic Pass, Alterra is launching the Ikon Pass.
  • Granby Ranch is officially listed for sale.
  • Aspen CEO Mike Kaplan says snow challenges bring out the best in people.
  • Think your area is busy on a Saturday?  The urban gondola network in La Paz sets a new one day record: 278,621 riders!
  • New York Governor calls previously announced state fair gondola “an exciting idea” but withholds funding for now.
  • More stories surface of the Hermitage Club owing people money.
  • Skier records volcano erupting from a Doppelmayr detachable in Japan. One person was killed and a gondola damaged by rockfall.
  • ORDA, the state owner of Belleayre, Gore Mountain and Whiteface, lost $20.8  million last year.
  • Powder catches up with Alterra President and COO David Perry, who stresses the company will do things differently than Vail.
  • Public comment period opens for Mt. Rose’s Atoma expansion, which would include construction of one or two new chairlifts as early as 2019.
  • The draft environmental impact statement is also out for Steamboat’s expansion, to include a second gondola, Rough Rider chairlift, new Bashor lift and Pioneer Ridge pod with groundbreaking possible by May.
  • Lake Louise and Nakiska are probable venues for a possible 2026 Calgary Olympics. Denver, Reno-Tahoe and Salt Lake also weigh bids.
  • Just upgrading electric infrastructure for Disney’s Skyliner gondola system will cost $3.8 million, around the total price tag of a typical ski lift project!
  • For the first time since I started keeping track, 2018 new lifts are pacing behind 2017.

Introducing: Alterra Mountain Company

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Combine altitude and terrain and you get a portmanteau called Alterra.  Starting today, it’s the new name for the affiliate of KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company (owner of Aspen Skiing Company) that brought 12 major mountain resorts under one umbrella last year.  Based in Denver, Alterra now rivals Vail Resorts in scale but promises each of its resorts will retain an independent character.  “Alterra Mountain Company is made up of unique mountain destinations, each with a personality and spirit that has delighted visitors for generations,” said David Perry, President and COO of the company in a release.  “Our vision at Alterra Mountain Company is to protect and enhance what makes each destination special, inviting guests back to their favorite mountain, and enticing them to visit new destinations on their bucket list.”  Alterra’s dozen resorts operate a combined 196 lifts while Vail has 228 across its 13 North American resorts.

Hopefully you’ll be reading about Alterra often on this blog in the coming years as the group makes lift investments across its mountains.  They include Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in California; Stratton, Vermont; Snowshoe, West Virginia; Deer Valley, Utah and Tremblant and Blue Mountain in Canada.