News Roundup: A Long Time Coming

Vail Resorts to Build 19 Lifts at 14 Resorts in 2022

Vail Resorts today announced it will pump $320 million into its mountains coming out of the pandemic, building a whopping 19 new lifts next year. The company’s largest-ever annual investment will include a new gondola at Whistler Blackcomb, the firm’s first North American eight person chairlift at Park City and expansion into Bergman Bowl at Keystone. Vail properties across the Northeast and Midwest will also see new lifts. “Our mission at Vail Resorts is to provide an Experience of a Lifetime to anyone who visits our resorts – and delivering on that mission requires constant re-imagination and investment into the guest experience,” said Rob Katz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vail Resorts. “Our teams have been hard at work identifying significant opportunities to improve the guest experience and have produced an initial list of exciting lift upgrades, a restaurant expansion and projects that expand access to incredible terrain for next season, with more to be announced.”

Subject to government approvals, lift projects planned ahead of the 2022-23 season include:

British Columbia, Canada

  • Whistler Blackcomb, Creekside Gondola: A new 8-person gondola, replacing the existing 6-person gondola, will significantly improve wait times and increase out-of-base uphill capacity by 35% in the Creekside area, especially on high-volume days.
  • Whistler Blackcomb, Big Red Express: The replacement of the existing high-speed 4-person lift with a high-speed 6-person chair will increase uphill capacity by nearly 30% and enhance and modernize the guest experience mid-mountain out of the Creekside area.

Colorado

  • Keystone Resort, Bergman Bowl: Enhancements to Bergman Bowl will include a new high-speed 6-person chairlift, increasing lift-served terrain by 555 acres. Additional enhancements include 16 new trails, a ski patrol facility and snowmaking infrastructure. This project unlocks access for novice and intermediate guests and provides expanded entry to expert terrain in Independence and Erickson Bowls.
  • Vail Mountain, Sun Down Lift: The installation of a new high-speed 4-person chair in the Sun Down Bowl from the base of Chair 5 (High Noon Express) to the Wildwood restaurant will materially reduce wait times on peak days at Chair 5 and create the opportunity for skiers and riders to much more conveniently access the trails in Sun Down Bowl.
  • Vail Mountain, Game Creek Bowl: Skiers and riders will see improved reliability and capacity in this popular bowl with the replacement of the current 4-person chair with a new high-speed 6-person lift, increasing capacity by nearly 50%.
  • Breckenridge Ski Resort, Rip’s Ride Lift: The beginner/ski and ride school experience will be enhanced at the highly utilized Peak 8 base area by replacing the current fixed-grip double with a high-speed 4-person chair, increasing uphill capacity by nearly 70% and improving out-of-base circulation.

Utah

  • Park City Mountain, Eagle Lift: A high-speed 6-person chair with a new mid-station will replace the existing Eagle lift, significantly reducing crowding and wait times, and improving the guest experience, especially for beginner skiers and ski and ride school guests.
  • Park City Mountain, Silverlode 8-Person Lift: Vail Resorts’ first-ever high-speed 8-person chair, replacing an existing 6-person chair, will increase uphill capacity by 20% and reduce wait times at a critical spot to circulate guests on mountain.

Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada

  • Northstar California, Comstock Lift: A new high-speed 6-person chair will replace the existing mid-mountain 4-person chair and is designed to reduce wait times at one of the mountain’s most popular lifts and increase uphill capacity by nearly 50%.
  • Heavenly Ski Resort, North Bowl Lift: The replacement of an existing fixed-grip triple with a high-speed 4-person chair will increase uphill capacity by more than 40% and reduce the combined ride time of the Boulder and North Bowl lifts, which is expected to reduce wait times at the Stagecoach and Olympic lifts.

Vermont & New Hampshire 

  • Stowe Mountain Resort, Mountain Lift: The replacement and extension of the existing fixed-grip triple to a high-speed 6-person lift will increase uphill capacity by 100%, eliminate the steep hike to the base of the lift, improve reliability on windy days and offer beginner and intermediate guests with better access to lower-level terrain choices.
  • Mount Snow, Sundance/Tumbleweed Lift: The replacement of the Sundance and Tumbleweed triples with one high-speed 6-person lift will improve access to underutilized terrain and alleviate pressure on other lifts in the main base area, increasing uphill capacity by nearly 70%.
  • Mount Snow, Sunbrook Lift: A new high-speed 4-person chair to replace the existing fixed-grip quad will significantly decrease the current 14-minute ride time by approximately 30% and result in better utilization of the Sunbrook terrain.
  • Attitash Mountain Resort: The replacement of the East and West Double-Double chairs with one fixed-grip 4-person chair will improve reliability and enhance the overall guest experience.

Pennsylvania & Ohio

  • Jack Frost/Big Boulder: The replacement and consolidation of multiple lifts at both resorts will improve reliability and enhance the overall guest experience. Jack Frost will receive two new fixed-grip 4-person chairs (one to replace the B & C lifts and the other to replace the E & F lifts) and Big Boulder will receive a new fixed-grip 4-person chair to replace the Edelweiss Triple.
  • Boston Mills/Brandywine: At Boston Mills, the resort will get a new fixed-grip 4-person chair replacing the Lift 5 double. At Brandywine, a new fixed-grip 4-person chair will replace the Lift 3 triple.

Including this latest capital plan dubbed the Epic Lift Upgrade, Vail Resorts’ total investment is expected to reach approximately $2.2 billion over 15 years. The move comes as Vail enjoys brisk season pass sales. Epic Pass adoption through September 17, 2021 for the upcoming 2021/2022 North American winter season increased approximately 42 percent in units and approximately 17 percent in sales dollars as compared to the same period in the prior year. Compared with pre-pandemic 2019, Epic Pass sales increased an incredible 67 percent in units and 45 percent in sales dollars.

Although no manufacturers were identified for the 19 new lifts, an initiative of this size is likely to include multiple suppliers.

News Roundup: Powerhouse

News Roundup: Companies

  • All of a sudden, the Aspen Lift One project finds itself in jeopardy.
  • The City of Branson ends its exclusive agreement with a would-be gondola developer after years of false starts.
  • Two companies bid to replace the Barrows double at Howelsen Hill in 2020 or 2021.
  • Disney Skyliner attendants will start at $12 an hour.
  • Competing resorts comment on the New Hampshire Vail acquisitions as Attitash touts major lift maintenance investments.
  • A jury decides Wachusett Mountain should pay $3.3 million to the family of a child who was injured in a 30 foot fall from the Polar Express in 2015.
  • The Placer County Board of Supervisors unanimously approves the California Express gondola project.
  • Utah Olympic Park breaks ground on the first phase of its major expansion with a second new lift to follow in two to five years.
  • A study concludes Teton Pass, Montana would need to attract 15,000 visitors annually to reopen as a viable resort.
  • Big changes are coming to the EB-5 visa program, which some ski areas have used to pay for big ticket improvements in the past.
  • Timberline’s owners hire an investment bank to sell the ski area.
  • Berkshire Bank and others slam the latest Hermitage restructuring plan.
  • TransLink gets serious about building a 3S in metro Vancouver.

News Roundup: Slow Boat

  • After years of gondola negotiations with the Town of Jackson, a frustrated Snow King Mountain presses pause while it waits for the U.S. Forest Service to weigh in.
  • Doppelmayr completes the final link in the world’s largest gondola chain.  The stats: 10 lines, 21 miles, 34 stations and 1,324 cabins carrying 300,000 daily passengers.
  • Crested Butte’s longest lift goes down for more than four days due to communication line damage.
  • The announced sale of Montana’s Great Divide won’t happen.
  • Peak Resorts posts a solid financial quarter with organic growth in revenue and earnings.
  • The Whistler paper highlights what happens when the big Blackcomb Gondola goes down.
  • SkyTrans Manufacturing says it’s not to blame for the Ohio State Fair’s delay in replacing potentially corroded chairs on its skyride.  As a result of the chairlift situation, Ohio will require all ride operators to forward manufacturer directives to state inspectors going forward.
  • After tons of hard work by its lift mechanics and contractors, Attitash concedes it won’t be able to fix Summit‘s gearbox this season.  “We’ve heard your calls for a new lift to replace the Summit Triple, and while we appreciate all your feedback, this is not a project our parent company, Peak Resorts, is looking to do in the near future,” says GM John Lowell.
  • Leaders of AltaAspen Snowmass, Big Sky and Jackson Hole all pen letters addressing the chorus of Ikon Pass crowding criticism.
  • The Glenwood Caverns gondola takes flight tomorrow with 17 Sigma cabins.  27 more are on a delayed boat from France and will be put on line when they arrive.

News Roundup: Passcape

  • LST Ropeways’ prototype detachable chairlift in France is once again open.
  • Despite a wild winter in Colorado, the shiny new Glenwood Gondola is tracking towards a March 16th launch.
  • Mt. Spokane’s first new lift in four-plus decades has been spinning since December but the mountain’s nonprofit operator is still seeking donations to help pay for it.
  • Epic Passes go on sale and a new Epic Day Pass offers Vail Resorts skiers the option to pre-buy a flexible number of days at a big discount.
  • The Mountain Collective Pass is back for 2019-20 and, as expected, no longer includes Sun Valley or Snowbasin.
  • Following the collective model, an Indy Pass is brewing with eleven regional resorts already signed on.
  • Court documents suggest the Hermitage Club may file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
  • The highly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Walt Disney World Resort August 29th, which would be a great date for the Skyliner to start carrying guests to it.
  • Aspen voters approve the Lift 1 corridor project by 26 votes, but it may be a few years before a Telemix joins the Ajax lift fleet.
  • Two years after a fatal ride accident blamed on corrosion, the Ohio State Fair is spending $116,000 to replace all the carriers on a different attraction – its chairlift.
  • Doppelmayr is looking for workers to help build lifts across the country this summer.
  • Vail Resorts season-to-date lift revenue is up 9.6 percent from a year ago, with skier visits increasing 7.9 percent.
  • Attitash won’t open Summit this weekend but not for lack of trying.
  • In California, the City of Long Beach is in the very early stages of considering a multistop gondola.
  • For the first time in years, Black Mountain is opening its 1935 vintage J-Bar this weekend.

News Roundup: Four Too Many

News Roundup: Shutdown

News Roundup: Tough Week

News Roundup: Coast to Coast