- Vail Resorts officially takes ownership of Seven Springs, Laurel Mountain and Hidden Valley.
- Vail faces a mountain of criticism for operational struggles from Colorado to Washington, Ohio, New Hampshire and beyond.
- Vail slashes operating days and/or hours at Crotched Mountain, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek, Boston Mills/Brandywine/Alpine Valley and Mad River Mountain due to employee shortages.
- Stevens Pass rope evacuates two chairlifts in one day citing power outages.
- Park City Chief Operating Officer Mike Goar sits down for an extended interview to explain some of the issues facing Vail.
- The Park City ski patrol union rejects Vail Resorts’ latest contract offer, fundraises for a possible work stoppage.
- Beaver Creek will open the McCoy Park expansion Monday.
- Vail applies with the Forest Service to replace the Summit Triple at Attitash with a four or six passenger detachable.
- Waterville Valley proposes building an MND T-Bar in the former World Cup Triple alignment.
- Monarch Mountain advances the No Name Basin expansion.
- No link but I’m told Montana Snowbowl is moving forward with building a lift from the base area up TV Mountain.
- Ditto for Windham Mountain replacing the Whiteway triple with a Doppelmayr D-Line detachable.
- Sandia Peak management says tram icing which led to a 14 hour evacuation was unprecedented.
- Crystal Mountain announces a lift reservation system, quickly changes course to parking reservations instead.
- Another of Iowa’s ski areas transitions from private to public ownership.
- Some 80 containers arrive from Europe for the Caribbean’s next big urban gondola.
- Sunshine Express at Steamboat is closed all week for a motor repair.
- Magic Mountain’s Red lift passes another inspection and load test, will reopen Saturday.
- Charles Skinner takes full ownership of Lutsen Mountains.
- Mad River Glen introduces a new James Niehues trail map.
- White Pass shareholders vote to sell Washington’s fifth largest ski area.
- Sun Peaks expects business to decline 50 percent this season due to extended road closures.
- Sierra at Tahoe tracks toward a limited reopening in Spring 2022.
- Magic Mountain apologizes to customers for not having a summit lift operational.
- Searchmont, Ontario reopens with a new chairlift after a 645 day Covid closure.
- It may be months before Kimberley’s main lift is operational; Revelstoke and Kicking Horse provide people-moving snowcats.
- Stevens Pass apologizes for severe staffing shortages resulting in only five open lifts.
- Deer Valley rope evacuates 167 people from the Carpenter Express.
- The largest gondola network in the world looks to add four more lines.
- Aspen Mountain is likely to gain approval for Pandora’s next month with lift installation targeted for 2023.
- The Burnaby Mountain Gondola remains a top funding priority in the Vancouver region.
- 49 Degrees North names its new detachable quad Northern Spirit.
- Opposition emerges to the Lutsen Mountains expansion proposal.
- Kelly Canyon flies towers for its new Skytrac.
- Ground is broken for a seven station urban gondola system in Santiago, Chile.
- Beaver Creek releases its new map with McCoy Park. Okemo’s new lifts hit the trail map. Saddleback too.
- A proposed wildlife park with gondola ride receives a $400,000 grant from the State of North Dakota.
- Maine’s Mt. Abram reactivates its long disused Mini T-Bar.
- A documentary about Canada’s largest lost ski area will debut at the Banff Film Festival.
- MND Ropeways commences construction on its first North American detachable at Waterville Valley.
- 462 ski areas operated last season in the United States, 8 fewer than 2019/20.
- Purgatory’s Ice Creek expansion and triple chair are approved, subject to a 45 day objection period.
- Ski Cooper’s wish list includes a frontside detachable quad and lifts on Chicago Ridge.
- Alberta’s Hidden Valley may not open this season.
- Nitehawk takes delivery of Lake Louise’s former Summit Platter for immediate installation and conversion to a T-Bar.
- A Snow King gondola update.
- Fire-damaged Big Snow American Dream will remain closed into 2022.
- As some suggest a gondola, Denver International Airport seeks proposals for a non-rail link between its three concourses.
Despite an 18 month pandemic, supply chain challenges and continued uncertainty, a handful of US and Canadian ski resorts are putting finishing touches on expansion projects set to debut this winter. Two of these were delayed in 2020 and resumed construction this year while others were actually accelerated during Covid. Many of this year’s projects focus on learning terrain enhancements following the pandemic winter when new and lapsed skiers gravitated toward the mountains.
McCoy Park – Beaver Creek Mountain, Colorado
The lone expansion this year featuring two new chairlifts is Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park, encompassing 250 acres of new high alpine terrain. This beginner zone follows in the footsteps of Haymeadow Park and Red Buffalo Park, which both offer dedicated terrain for new skiers and snowboarders with detachable lifts. The new McCoy Park Express will service 17 trails and the Reunion Quad will provide easy exit from McCoy Park to the Upper Beaver Creek Mountain and Strawberry Park Express lifts.
Lower Juniper – Lake Louise, Alberta
Another beginner-focused expansion featuring a detachable quad is underway at Lake Louise. The new Lower Juniper Express is the second new chairlift here in two years. It will access four new low intermediate trails and provide an alternate out-of-base option to access the upper mountain.
Sunny Side – Snow King Mountain, Wyoming
Shadowed somewhat by construction of a new 8 passenger gondola on the front side of the mountain, Sunny Side at Snow King Mountain will also open this winter. This new backside bowl features extensive snowmaking and a Skytrac fixed grip quad.
Buzzsaw – Searchmont, Ontario
Searchmont hasn’t hosted a single day of skiing since March 2020, which makes its terrain expansion even more remarkable. New owner Wisconsin Resorts took delivery of two Skytrac triples last year, one of which replaced an existing Borvig double. The second lift sat in storage last winter and is now being installed to service two brand new beginner trails.
Merrill Hill – Sunday River, Maine
2021’s only New England expansion is a ninth peak at Sunday River. Merrill Hill features four ski trails and 23 new home sites near the South Ridge base area. This low angle zone will be serviced by a new Doppelmayr fixed grip triple, the mountain’s 15th chairlift.
- New Zealand and Victoria, Australia resorts reopen after extended Covid closures (New South Wales remains locked down.)
- Mt. Spokane will replace the drive terminal of Chair 2 with a new one from Skytrac.
- Skytrac is completing similar mods to Tumbelina at Monarch Mountain.
- The fate of the Pandora’s expansion on Aspen Mountain will be decided October 13th.
- Sierra at Tahoe still doesn’t know the full extent of lift damage from the Caldor Fire but remains optimistic.
- Users get stuck on one of Mexico City’s new gondola lines following an earthquake.
- The Holding family agrees to sell most of Sinclair Oil Corporation’s assets, though Sun Valley and Snowbasin aren’t included.
- The Forest Service issues a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Lutsen Mountains’ proposed expansion with public comments being solicited through October 25th. A new alternative would see the addition of five new chairlifts on Moose and Eagle Mountains rather than the initially planned seven.
- The only lift in Oklahoma won’t open for the second year in a row and is in danger of removal.
- Schweitzer adds 14 chairs to Stella.
- A quick update from Snow King Mountain:
- Mexico’s Grupo Vidanta will build a second SkyDream gondola system, this time at Vidanta Riviera Maya.
- Sundance auctions chairs from the former Arrowhead triple.
- The team at Craigleith, Ontario wins the inaugural Ski Area Management/Leitner-Poma Rise Up Challenge.
- Four Japanese resorts sign on to the Indy Pass.
- Arizona Snowbowl’s new gondola has been down for two weeks and the ski area moves its entire summer operation to a different base area and the Grand Canyon Express.
- Beaver Creek’s two new quads will be named McCoy Park Express and Reunion.
- The sale price for Blue Mountain, PA is revealed as $31.9 million.
- MND reports annual results with ropeway sales up 32 percent and a firm order backlog of €91.7 million.
- A group continues to push for a West Seattle gondola as a planned rail project gets delayed.
- Squaw Alpine and Leitner-Poma make great progress on the base to base gondola, though they aren’t publicly committing to a completion timeline.
- Citing staffing and fire danger, Mt. Shasta ends its summer season early.
- After missing a year, Searchmont plans to reopen this season with two new triple chairs.
- Manitoba’s Holiday Mountain announces it won’t open in 2021-22.
- Vail Resorts unveils a succession plan with CEO Rob Katz moving to an Executive Chairperson role and Chief Marketing Officer Kirsten Lynch becoming CEO November 1.
- Icy Strait Point and Norwegian Cruise Line cut the ribbon on the Transporter gondola with another 8 passenger system set to open later this summer.
- Jay Peak’s former President and CEO will plead guilty to a single charge of providing false statements and other charges are expected to be dropped.
- Keystone posts a big update on the Peru Express replacement project.
- Aspen Snowmass introduces a new brand and logo which is already on some gondola cabins.
- Snowbasin’s Middle Bowl replacement project gets off to the races.
- Utah’s transportation department will host an open house July 13th to explain as solicit feedback on the gondola and enhanced bus alternatives for Little Cottonwood Canyon.
- Loon and Doppelmayr fly the towers for Kancamagus 8.
- A brown bear did not ride a chairlift at Vail as you may have read on Facebook.
- Welch Village’s new lift will be called the Cannon Valley Quad.
- The first test of UpBus, a passenger-carrying pod which transitions between wheel and cable propulsion, takes place at Doppelmayr headquarters.
- Mt. Southington replaces chairs and towers on the Avalanche double.
- The asking price is reduced for the defunct Plymouth Notch ski area in Vermont.
- Beaver Creek breaks ground in McCoy Park.
- Gondolas arrive at Snow King Mountain.
- Pueblo, Colorado considers building a $20 million sightseeing gondola.
- The investigation into the Mottarone disaster widens to 12 people including Leitner employees and the company itself. Leitner says in a statement that it is cooperating with investigators and that its maintenance operations were done in full compliance with the law and contractual obligations.
Despite a 44 percent decline in earnings, Vail Resorts plans to invest in new lifts across five mountains in 2021. The seven projects at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone and Okemo were initially planned for 2020 but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts and creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests,” noted CEO Rob Katz. “We plan to maintain a disciplined approach to capital investments, keeping our core capital at reduced levels given the continued uncertainty due to COVID-19.” The company will announce its complete capital plan for calendar year 2021 in March.
At Beaver Creek, a new Doppelmayr detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone. “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company. A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry Park and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.
At Keystone, Leitner-Poma will replace the Peru Express with a six pack. The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve circulation. Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair. “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.
Crested Butte plans to replace the two-person Peachtree chairlift with a Skytrac triple servicing beginner terrain at the base of the resort. Grading around the new lift will create a more consistent experience for beginner and ski school guests.
- Beaver Creek’s website is updated to show the McCoy Park expansion coming for the 2021-22 ski season.
- Doppelmayr will build a $9.3 million temporary gondola for a horticulture show in Germany.
- A developer in St. George, Utah looks to build a lift-served bike park.
- An unnamed ski area in New York hits the market with an asking price of $1.6 million.
- The pandemic may have actually helped Timberline Mountain rebuild faster this summer.
- Searchmont, located near the Ontario-Michigan border with two new lifts under construction, remains uncertain what this winter will look like.
- Jamie Storrs, Senior Manager of Communications for Vail Resorts in the east, answers questions about reservations and more on the Out of Bounds Podcast.
- Spirit Mountain receives a $300,000 cash infusion allowing it to open this winter.
- Solitude profiles a major maintenance project on the Eagle Express.
- The Park Record checks in on Mayflower Mountain Resort construction and The Wall Street Journal reports Extell would like to partner with an established ski operator like Vail or Alterra.
- Indy Pass sales are pacing six times higher than last year!
- New Alaska ski area Skeetawk plans a December 5th grand opening.
- Poma launches a fresh new website.
- Mt. Baldy, Ontario, which initially held off on construction of a new chairlift this summer, decides to proceed with a fall installation.
- A virtual open house is now open for Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit project scoping.
Ski industry fallout from the global pandemic continues. Vail Resorts today announced the deferral of lift construction projects slated for Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Okemo due to a dramatic decline in revenue, which is expected to continue into fiscal year 2021. The suite of projects was first announced last December, the same month COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China. While the virus spread across Asia, lift manufacturers were gearing up to build lifts that now won’t happen this year. Beaver Creek had planned a major expansion into McCoy Park and Okemo earmarked a new bubble six pack for Jackson Gore. Both Breckenridge and Keystone planned new chairlifts to increase uphill capacity in high traffic areas.
Vail said weeks ago coronavirus will cost the company between $180 and 200 million in March and April alone. Eliminating lift construction, terrain expansions and discretionary base area improvements will save the publicly-traded company $80 to 85 million while allowing the vast majority of maintenance capital projects to proceed. “The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are unprecedented and the financial impact to our Company and the broader travel industry has been significant,” noted Rob Katz, Chief Executive Officer of Vail Resorts. “We are taking proactive steps to align our capital spending and return of capital approach to ensure that we remain positioned for long-term success.” Other steps revealed today include the furlough of nearly all year-round hourly employees, suspension of the company’s shareholder dividend, salary reductions for non-hourly employees and elimination of cash compensation for the CEO and board of directors.
The decision to postpone lifts is a blow to both major lift manufacturers but particularly Leitner-Poma, which like Vail itself, is Colorado-based. The firm had been awarded contracts to build three detachable chairlifts and move another this summer. Doppelmayr USA had planned to install the two machines at Beaver Creek.
As goes Vail, often go others. While I’m hopeful some lifts (and the jobs that come with them) are safe, more deferrals are possible. Rival Alterra Mountain Company planned to add only two lifts this year, both six place chairlifts at Mammoth Mountain. The privately-held group has not announced any changes to its capital plan thus far. In tough times, every company is understandably revisiting capital budgets and commitments, however.
The sudden onset of such deep uncertainty in this critical period of the lift production cycle is unprecedented. With the elimination of Vail Resorts projects for 2020, announced US and Canada complete new lifts stand at 24, fewer than Doppelmayr built by itself last year.