Will Vail Resorts Build Big in 2018?

Winter Dual Mountain Bluebird DavidMcColm
With the additions of Whistler Blackcomb and Stowe, Vail Resorts’ reach is larger than ever.  The company typically announces new lifts projects in a single press release each December.  Photo credit: Whistler Blackcomb/Vail Resorts.

If you follow the ski industry, mark your calendar for four months from now, the week of December 4th.  Very early one morning that week, the largest mountain resort operator in the world will release its fiscal 2018 first quarter results and, more importantly to this audience, outline capital expenditures for 2018.  Last year, this is the moment Vail Resorts committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (the company later added a fourth detachable to this year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.)  In December 2015, MTN announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six-pack at Vail.  So, what might be on the likely $120+ million agenda for 2018?

Vail Mountain

  1. Game Creek Express #7 six-pack.  The current 1985 version of Game Creek is the oldest operating lift on Vail Mountain and one of three remaining CLD-260 style Doppelmayr detachables there.  It is likely to be replaced with a six-pack, increasing capacity by at least 25 percent in popular Game Creek Bowl.  Of the recent six-pack upgrades at Vail, two were built by Doppelmayr (Avanti #2 and Mountaintop #4) and one by Leitner-Poma (Northwoods #11.)vail 4-1-07 184
  2. Orient Express #21 six-pack.  Three years newer than Game Creek but still with DS grips, Orient Express serves some of the most popular terrain in Vail’s famous Back Bowls below the equally popular Two Elk Lodge.  A six-pack upgrade would be the first such lift in the Back Bowls or Blue Sky Basin.
  3. Wildwood Express #3 six-pack.  A 1995 CTEC, Wildwood is not as old as other detachables recently replaced at Vail, but it serves a high-traffic pod between Mid-Vail and its namesake Wildwood.  Parts from this lift could be used as spares for Riva Bahn/Pride Express and Cinch, Bachelor, Grouse Mountain and Strawberry Park high-speed quads at Beaver Creek.
  4. Born Free Express #8 replacement.  Born Free is the 1988 sister ship to Orient and runs parallel to the Eagle Bahn Gondola, built 1996.  Vail could opt to address both lifts in the coming years with a gondola like Keystone’s or replace only Born Free with a new high-speed quad or six-pack.
  5. Golden Peak Race lift.  In April, Vail submitted a master plan amendment to add a third lift on Golden Peak above the Riva Bahn mid-station.  This short fixed-grip chairlift or surface lift would primarily serve an extended race course.vailgoldenpeakexpansion

Beaver Creek

  1. Arrow Bahn Express replacement.  Beaver Creek doesn’t see nearly the traffic that Vail does and has seen ten new lifts since 2000.  However, Arrow Bahn Express is by far the oldest lift at Beaver Creek, built in 1988 to serve a separate Arrowhead ski area.  A CLD-260 like Game Creek, Orient and Born Free but with lower hours for its age, Arrow Bahn might make it a bit longer.img_4153

Continue reading

Advertisements

News Roundup: Recycling

  • The Wallowa Lake Tramway makes the New York Times Daily 360 Postcard.
  • Doppelmayr’s new headquarters building is super cool.
  • You can follow along as Garaventa enters the home stretch building the record-breaking Eibsee Cable Car 2.0 in Germany.
  • There’s also a construction blog for Leitner’s 3S project in Zermatt.
  • Steamboat finally opened its gondola Monday, lamenting “we made a mistake by trying to set an opening date” and thanking guests for weeks of patience.
  • Sunshine Village reopened the same day following fire scare.
  • Bidding opens for construction of a four-stage, 10-passenger urban gondola in Santiago, Chile – a contract estimated to be worth $78 million.  When complete, Latin America will sport urban gondolas in Mexico City, Mexico (Leitner); Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Poma); Medellín, Colombia (Poma); Caracas, Venezuela (Doppelmayr); Lima, Peru (Poma); Quito, Ecuador (Poma); La Paz, Bolivia (Doppelmayr); Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Doppelmayr and Poma) and Santiago, Chile (TBD.) Impressive.
  • The Roosevelt Island Tramway is going to one-car service for an extended platform replacement project.
  • This week’s Disney Skyliner construction update comes from the Kingdom Insider.
  • Beaver Creek recycles Drink of Water, reuses from Montezuma.
  • The Leitner-Poma Group’s striking new Symphony 10 gondola cabin has been spotted in the wild.  More photos are here (sign up required.)
  • A-Basin posts cool photos from a bullwheel bearing replacement project.
  • Troy Caldwell still wants to build a private ski area between Squaw and Alpine but as of this spring, he has a long way to go.

News Roundup: Replacements

  • Suit filed against Ski Liberty by family of boy who dangled from a chair for seven minutes after mis-loading.
  • Mi Teleférico’s four gondola lines transported 194,971 passengers last Wednesday, an impressive single day record.
  • Squaw|Alpine now wants an extension of permit for replacing Hot Wheels.
  • Doppelmayr remembers past CEO Artur Doppelmayr, who died May 12th.
  • Apparently the Utah Olympic Park is adding two new chairlifts this summer, although I am still trying to confirm.
  • Steamboat’s gondola rebuild is taking longer than expected and reopening has been pushed back two weeks to July 15th.
  • Vail Resorts will re-use chairs and towers from Keystone’s Montezuma Express in building the new Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.
  • Saddleback Mountain Foundation needs $11.2 million to purchase Maine’s third largest ski area, including $3.2 million to replace the Rangeley lift with a fixed-grip quad.  So far, the group has only raised a fraction of that amount.
  • Sunday River’s new Spruce Peak triple will be a Doppelmayr Tristar, Boyne Resorts’ fourth.
  • Schweitzer works toward $6-8 million Snow Ghost replacement.
  • “It is not rocket science about lift geometry,” Aspen Council member says in frustration re: Lift 1A. “There is enough expertise in this community to know where a lift goes.”
  • Mont Ripley offers $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of arsonist(s) who damaged lift.
  • Longtime Whistler Blackcomb COO and Peak 2 Peak visionary Dave Brownlie is leaving to pursue new opportunities just seven months into Vail ownership.

Instagram Tuesday: Sun

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

No caption needed. P: @jresnick215 #beavercreek

A post shared by Beaver Creek Resort (@beavercreek) on

Continue reading

Beaver Creek Announces Red Buffalo Express to Replace Drink of Water

Adding to the big December announcement of new six-packs at Vail, Breckenridge and Keystone, Vail Resorts today revealed another high-speed lift will replace Drink of Water at Beaver Creek.   The new 4,300′ high-speed quad will reduce the ride time from 8.6 to 4.3 minutes and nearly double capacity.  “Upgrading this essential beginner lift will provide high-speed lift access to the amazing beginner and intermediate terrain at the top of Beaver Creek, increasing capacity and making for a seamless lift experience for our guests on the hill,” said Beth Howard, chief operating officer. “We expect this improvement to take significant volume off Cinch Express, Beaver Creek’s second most-popular lift, and it really is an improvement befitting of Beaver Creek’s luxury, family experience, as it enhances a key beginner and family area of our mountain.”   The Drink of Water double is the last remaining lift at Beaver Creek from the resort’s inaugural season in 1980.

img_4564
Drink of Water will be retired in April. Next season, Beaver Creek will only have two fixed-grip lifts remaining – Highlands and Elkhorn.

The Red Buffalo Express will almost certainly be built by Doppelmayr USA, as Beaver Creek operates an all Doppelmayr/CTEC fleet of 16 lifts.  The four new detachable lifts in Colorado are part of Vail Resorts’ $100 million capital plan this year and we learned this week the six-packs at Vail, Breck and Keystone will be installed by Leitner-Poma.    Eldora, Wolf Creek and Aspen are also likely to build new lifts for 2017-2018.

co06tm01f

Instagram Tuesday: Builders

Every Tuesday, we pick our favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

#jasna #jasnanizketatry #chopok #new #ropeway #doppelmayr #winter #nizketatry

A post shared by Jasná Nízke Tatry (@jasna_nizke_tatry) on

Continue reading

The Ten Shortest Detachable Lifts in North America

I”ve written a few times about the longest lifts of different types but what about the shortest? The considerable expense of a detachable lift is usually justified for long profiles where speed makes sense.  The average detachable lift in this part of the world is over 5,200 feet long while the average fixed grip lift is under 2,800 feet.  However, the slow loading speed of a high-speed lift also make sense for beginners and foot passengers regardless of the length of the line.  Hence there are plenty of very short detachable lifts that cost millions and take less than two minutes to ride.  Below are the ten shortest ones in the US and Canada.

Beaver Creek's Buckaroo Gondola is among the shortest detachable lifts but makes for a perfect beginner lift.
Beaver Creek’s Buckaroo Gondola is among the shortest detachable lifts but makes for a perfect beginner lift.
  1. Cabriolet – Mont Tremblant, QC – 1994 Doppelmayr detachable 6-passenger cabriolet

Slope length: 1,100 feet, ride time 1.4 minutes.

  1. Easy Rider Express – Sierra-at-Tahoe, CA – 1996 Doppelmayr detachable quad

Slope length: 1,165 feet, ride time 1.3 minutes

  1. Chair 3 – Horseshoe Resort, ON – 1989 Doppelmayr detachable quad

Slope length: 1,400 feet, ride time 1.6 minutes

  1. Super Glide – Alpine Valley Resort, WI – 2011 Leitner-Poma detachable quad

Slope length: 1,421 feet, ride time 1.4 minutes

  1. Valley Flyer – Alpine Valley Resort, WI – 1999 Poma detachable quad

Slope length: 1,426 feet, ride time 1.6 minutes

Continue reading

Vail Resorts to Add Lift Wait Times to EpicMix

The EpicMix app will show lift wait times in minutes for major lifts at Vail's four Colorado resorts.
The EpicMix app will show lift wait times in minutes for major lifts at Vail’s four Colorado resorts.

Last week, Vail Resorts announced their EpicMix mobile app will provide guests with live lift wait times for 55 lifts at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone starting this winter.  Vail Resorts will use their app to track guests through lift lines to provide a crowd-sourced estimate called EpicMix Time.  The technology is currently being tested at the company’s Perisher resort in Australia.  Vail compares the system to Google’s Waze app, which crowd sources traffic and accident information for Google Maps.  The company plans to expand the technology in future years to all its resorts and other places where guests have to wait in line such as restaurants and rental shops.

Vail's Gondola One can move an impressive 3,600 skiers per hour but sometimes even that isn't enough.
Vail’s Gondola One can move an impressive 3,600 skiers per hour but sometimes even that isn’t enough.

Other resorts have tried to provide lift waiting times in the past.  For years, Whistler-Blackcomb has had lights on its lift status signs that indicate whether a lift line is less than 5 minutes, 5-15 minutes, or more than 15 minutes.  I suspect Whistler’s system is powered by lift operators calling a dispatcher which is a less than perfect solution.  Vail’s technology will be much more accurate and timely.

Continue reading

Top Ten Biggest Lifts in North America by VTFH

Vertical transport feet per hour (VTFH) is the best way to measure how lifts move people up mountains.  VTFH combines hourly capacity and vertical rise into one number, usually measured in millions.  Ski Area Management uses this metric each fall when they look at how good of a year it was for the lift-building business.

The second stage of Revelstoke's Revelation Gondola has a VTFH of over 8 million, the highest in North America.
The second stage of Revelstoke’s Revelation Gondola has a VTFH of over 8 million, the highest in North America.

For a lift to score big it has to have a high hourly capacity (think lots of carriers, high speed) and large vertical rise (think big slope length with many towers.)  The Jackson Hole tram has a huge vertical (over 4,000′) but very low capacity so its VTFH is only 2,654,600 – not even in the top 400.  The Peak 2 Peak Gondola has a huge capacity but only rises 119 feet for a dismal VTFH of 243,950.  There are 49 lifts in the US and Canada that move enough people high enough to achieve a VTFH over five million.  Below are the top ten.

1. Revelation Gondola Stage II, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, British Columbia

2007 Leitner-Poma 8-passenger gondola

2,952′ vertical x 2,800 passengers per hour = 8,265,600 VTFH

2. Gold Coast Funitel, Squaw Valley, California

1998 Garaventa CTEC 28-passenger funitel

2,000′ vertical x 4,032 passengers per hour = 8,064,000 VTFH

3. Heavenly Gondola, Heavenly Mountain Resort, California

2000 Doppelmayr 8-passenger gondola

2,874′ vertical x 2,800 passengers per hour = 8,047,200 VTFH

4. Gondola One, Vail Mountain, Colorado

2012 Leitner-Poma 10-passenger gondola

1,996′ vertical x 3,600 passengers per hour = 7,185,600 VTFH

5. Centennial Express, Beaver Creek Resort, Colorado

2014 Doppelmayr 6/10 chondola combination lift

2,102′ vertical x 3,400 passengers per hour = 7,146,800 VTFH

Continue reading

Lift Profile: Centennial Chondola at Beaver Creek

Centennial is the world's only 6/10 chondola lift.
Centennial is the world’s only 6/10 chondola lift.

Beaver Creek Resort faced a unique challenge last year when they needed to replace their aging workhorse lift.  The original Centennial Express was one of Doppelmayr’s first high speed quads, built in 1986.  Vail Resorts wanted the new lift to serve skiers as well as private events at the Spruce Saddle Lodge while at the same time achieving a high hourly capacity.  Originally announced as a regular six pack, Vail and Doppelmayr later decided to build the world’s only chondola with six passenger chairs and ten passenger gondola cabins.

IMG_0770
This is the longest Uni-G terminal I have ever seen.
IMG_0597
During summer operation the loading carpet is covered but queuing gates remain.

The result is an impressive lift nearly 8,000 foot long that moves 3,400 passengers an hour.  25 10-passenger CWA Omega gondola cabins alternate with 125 chairs in a 5:1 ratio.  The old lift had 195 quad chairs but moved 35 percent fewer people.  The new Centennial rises over 2,000 vertical feet in 7.9 minutes at 1,000 fpm.  It has 25 towers, five fewer than the original.

Continue reading