News Roundup: Heavy Snow

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How Many Lifts Could Vail Resorts Announce Next Month?

With four recent additions, Vail Resorts Inc. now operates just over 10 percent of American and Canadian lifts, more than any other company.  Vail prides itself on investing heavily in its mountains and the average lift at an Epic resort is three years newer than the rest of the industry.  The company’s lifts now number 305 in the United States, Canada and Australia with an average age of 24.6 years.  If we assume the average lift lasts 35 years, Vail would now need to replace an average of about nine lifts per year just to turn over its fleet.

A little less than a year ago, a smaller VR unveiled plans for seven new lifts as part of a $150 million annual capital plan, the largest in the company’s history.  Back in 2016, Vail committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (VR later added a fourth detachable to that year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.)  In December 2015, the Broomfield-based company announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, it was $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six pack at Vail.  Over the last five years, more resorts have consistently led to more revenue and more capital investments.  The company said it will invest $35 million at the four new mountains in the next two years, making it possible this December’s announcement will be the most valuable ever.

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Going resort by resort, the most obvious projects are ones already in the pipeline, namely the Game Creek Express #7 replacement and Golden Peak race lift at Vail.  But VR could go bigger like it did this summer at Whistler Blackcomb, spending $52 million to package four lift replacements together.  On Vail Mountain, additional aging lifts likely to be up-gauged to six-packs eventually are Orient Express #21, Born Free Express #8 and Wildwood Express #3.  The mothership mountain has the third largest and third newest lift fleet in the company and I expect investment to continue at Vail following this year’s pause.

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Vail’s lift 7 is the only chair in Game Creek Bowl and could use more capacity.

On average, the newest lifts within Vail Resorts are at Beaver Creek, which opened decades later than its peers.  A major expansion was approved in September – McCoy Park – which may be implemented in 2020.  In advance of those two new lifts, the Strawberry Park Express could be updated in 2019 to a higher capacity gondola.  The oldest lift at Beaver Creek is the 1988 Arrow Bahn Express, which eventually will be replaced by a newer detachable.  Probably not this year though.

Sticking in Colorado, Breckenridge is usually the first or second most visited resort in America and did not see a new lift in 2018.  I say a Riblet gets replaced here in 2019 and my vote would be 6-Chair with a high speed quad.  My second guess would be C-Chair followed by 5, A, E and Rip’s Ride.  If Vail decides to continue replacing older high speed quads instead, Beaver Run SuperChair is the logical candidate.

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6 Chair at Breckenridge is wildly popular despite being fixed grip and 40 years old.

Keystone has both expansion possibilities and lifts that could be upgraded.  The project everyone’s been clamoring for is a detachable lift from The Outback to replace WaybackPeru Express is the oldest high speed lift at Keystone and a core workhorse, making it likely to be replaced with a six pack soon.  Outback Express is one year newer and in a similar situation.  Another possible replacement is Argentine, a 1977 Lift Engineering double that the 2009 Keystone Master Development Plan proposed replacing with a two stage detachable.  The new lift would load near Peru, have an angle station above Lower Schoolmarm and continue all the way to the ridge of Dercum Mountain.  The Keystone MDP also outlines major expansions that I expect we will hear more about over the next decade.  They include a Ski Tip gondola, Bergman Bowl lift, Independence Bowl lift, Windows lift and Outback surface lift.  Whatever Vail chooses, I am hopeful for a new lift or two at Keystone in 2019.

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I don’t mind Wayback at Keystone but I also rarely ski in Colorado on weekends or holidays.

Crested Butte is the new kid on the block and Vail may wait a year or more to do anything lift wise.  The mountain’s Teocalli II expansion is still moving through the Forest Service NEPA process.  The Mueller family invested heavily in the Triple Peaks resorts over the years and I don’t see a whole lot needed near-term at CBMR.  Replacing original Teocalli with a high speed quad would be a nice way to burn some of the promised $35 million.

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News Roundup: Down to the Wire

  • Beaver Creek renames the Buckaroo Express gondola Haymeadow Express, the name of the double chair which ran in the same alignment from 1980 to 2007.
  • Whether the Hermitage Club closes a $30 million loan to catch up on lift maintenance and operate this winter is still an open question.
  • Arapahoe Basin and Leitner-Poma fly steel for the Beavers project.
  • As of yesterday, Vail Resorts officially operates Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and Crested Butte.
  • Vail reports fiscal 2018 resort EBITDA was $616.6 million, an increase of 3.9 percent over the prior year.  2018-19 season pass sales are up 25 percent in units and 15 percent in dollars as of Sunday.
  • West Mountain adds a million dollar chairlift and looks to build another.
  • A New York-based developer receives one of many approvals for Mayflower Village at Deer Valley, which could eventually mean a slate of new lifts.

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  • Doppelmayr is named in connection with an urban gondola eyed for Long Beach, California.
  • Watch a remarkable 3S gondola launch live from Zermatt at 9:15 Eastern tomorrow morning, 6:15 Pacific.
  • The CFO and COO of Peak Resorts open up about their decision to buy Snow Time and note the three new mountains don’t immediately need much capital investment.
  • The longtime owners of Great Divide, Montana plan to sell to another couple next year.
  • Legendary ski resort builder Les Otten remains committed to The Balsams but laments, “time is killing this project.”
  • Mountain Capital Partners releases more details on the Spider Mountain Bike Park project.
  • The damaged Zugspitze cabin is successfully lowered to the valley for disassembly.  The cable car’s operator says damage exceeds $1.2 million and the lift could reopen by year end.
  • Boreal names its new quad California Cruiser.
  • The latest Leitner-Poma six-pack at Hunter Mountain, seen below, will be called Northern Express.

News Roundup: Not Cheap

  • Above: lots more Ramcharger 8 parts arrive in Big Sky.
  • Schweitzer weighs alignment options and manufacturers for two new backside lifts scheduled for construction in 2019.
  • The only aerial tramway in Texas closes after nearly six decades.  “Replacement of the Wyler Aerial Tramway is estimated to cost millions of dollars.  Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does not have the financial resources to execute a capital construction project of this size at this time.”
  • Disney gives an Orlando TV station a rare official peak into Skyliner construction.
  • Following last week’s mishap, the operator of the Zugspitze Cable Car orders a new 120 passenger cabin, hanger and carriage.
  • Beaver Creek’s big McCoy Park expansion should be official in November and is planned to open in late 2020.
  • The Lewis & Clark bubble high-speed quad at Big Sky will finally see some action in 2021 when a $400 million Montage hotel opens at its base.
  • Ascutney Outdoors is on track to install a T-Bar this fall, anchoring a scaled down version of what was once a five chairlift area.
  • LST builds a T-Bar atop a waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen for residents to ski on year round.
  • Vail looks to Asia for growth.
  • Michael Doppelmayr is profiled for his 60th birthday.  Some interesting facts: his company’s gross margin was 12.1 percent last year and his father Artur vehemently opposed Doppelmayr’s merger with Garaventa.
  • New York’s high court clears the way for Belleayre to expand into the former Highmount Ski Center.
  • Bretton Woods and Doppelmayr make great progress on New Hampshire’s first 8 passenger gondola.
  • The leaders of North and South Korea ride a pulse gondola during their three day summit.
  • The State of New Hampshire will hold a public meeting about transferring the Mt. Sunapee lease to Vail Resorts on September 26th.
  • As it tries to secure a $30 million loan to open this winter, the Hermitage Club lawsuits keep coming.
  • Two major lifts are getting closer to reality at Copper Mountain.

News Roundup: Not Cool

News Roundup: One Billion

  • Despite competition from the Ikon and Epic passes, Peak Resorts reports sales of its Peak Passes are up 14 percent year over year through 4/30.
  • HTI, the parent company of Leitner, Poma, Aguido, MiniMetro, Prinoth and more reports it built 75 ropeways in 2017 and exceeded $1 billion in revenue.
  • The Hermitage Club opposes its primary lender’s motion to appoint a receiver and says it has found a financial firm willing to loan $26 million in restructuring capital.  A key court hearing is scheduled for one week from today.
  • TransLink’s ten year, $8.8 billion vision includes funding for Burnaby Mountain Gondola planning.
  • Gondola fever spreads in Edmonton.
  • A gondola is being looked at for Idaho Springs, Colorado along I-70.
  • SE Group and the White River National Forest test an interactive storyboard as a public engagement tool for Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park Expansion.  Comments are due May 29th and a decision is expected in September.
  • The Forest Service proposes quickly approving the replacement of Arizona Snowbowl’s Agassiz triple with a 6,100 foot combination lift utilizing gondola cabins between every three or four chairs.  Capacity would be only 1,200 passengers per hour.
  • Magic Mountain commits to finishing the Green lift and weighs the future of its nearby Pohlig-Hall-Yan contraption.

Six Big Lifts Launch in Colorado

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This new high-speed chairlift on Beaver Creek Mountain is one of six new lifts on Colorado slopes this season, representing the most new additions in a single year since 2013.

With over 100 detachable chairlifts, 22 gondolas and some 150 fixed-grip lifts, the Colorado lift fleet represents a total investment somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 million.  The Centennial State has more ski lifts than any other state or province and on each visit I’m amazed by the caliber of ski infrastructure here.  More than half of Colorado’s lifts are detachable models, a feat which no other North American region comes close to achieving.  This winter, six more high-speed chairlifts came on scene, and while none open up new terrain, each one serves an important purpose.  I was lucky enough to ride the new machines at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper, Eldora, Keystone and Vail over three days this week, testament to the remarkable amount of skiing available within a few hours’ drive here.  This year’s class includes two Doppelmayr high-speed quads, a Doppelmayr six-pack and three Leitner-Poma six-place chairs representing half of all new detachable chairlifts built in North America for 2017-18.

Red Buffalo Express – Beaver Creek Mountain

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The last lift from Beaver Creek’s 1980 inaugural season, Drink of Water, was replaced with a new lift with a new name over the summer.  The quad’s namesake, Red Buffalo Park, is now a dedicated learning zone with awe-inspring views of the Gore Range from 11,400 feet.  While lift 5’s terminals, hangers, grips and operator houses are new, most of the tower components and chairs are from the former Montezuma lift at Keystone.  Like its sister Vail, Beaver Creek now has just one fixed-grip lift of appreciable length remaining alongside an amazing 14 detachable chairlifts and gondolas.

Falcon SuperChair – Breckenridge

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Breckenridge debuted its third next-gen Leitner-Poma LPA six-pack on December 28th.  The new Falcon SuperChair replaces a Poma high-speed quad that opened along with Peak 10 itself in 1985.  The new ride lifts capacity by 25 percent to 3,000 guests per hour in this popular advanced-intermediate pod.  The Falcon has the same sweet plush chairs as the new Colorado and Kensho SuperChairs.

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Instagram Tuesday: Bluebird

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

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Beaver Creek Eyes Two-Lift McCoy Park Expansion

Beaver Creek says it will seek Forest Service approval to build two new lifts, just as it debuts the resort’s 14th detachable lift in Red Buffalo Park.  Vail Resorts-owned Beaver Creek is unique in that much of its beginner and low intermediate terrain lies on the upper mountain, giving guests learning to ski and snowboard the high alpine experience many of us take for granted.  Just a few miles from its older, more famous cousin, Beaver Creek’s visitation has increased ten percent in just the last five years to well over a million skiers annually.  B.C. has grown to encompass 16 lifts despite opening in 1980, decades later than most American ski resorts.  Now the 16th largest resort, Beaver Creek’s success came largely through catering to families, a legacy which McCoy Park will build on.

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This expansion was previously mapped out on Beaver Creek’s 2010 master plan, though some details could change.  The Park is located near the top terminals of the Strawberry Park, Upper Beaver Creek Mountain and Larkspur Express lifts and currently features cross-country ski trails.  “McCoy Park is the ideal location for a protected family zone,” notes Beth Howard, vice president and COO of Beaver Creek Resort. “The views are spectacular, and the Park has an amazing natural feel that will be preserved. It is gentle terrain that will be separated from the rest of the mountain so that guests looking for a more relaxed, beginner and intermediate experience at a slower pace will enjoy it, and others won’t find themselves travelling through it on their way to another run or lift.”

Seventeen trails serviced by two lifts will encompass 250 acres left mostly in a natural state.  Three quarters of the trails will be green circles with the rest rated intermediate.  A McCoy Park Express quad will serve most of the new, gladed runs with a shorter, possibly fixed-grip lift providing egress.  The detachable lift will run approximately 4,746 feet with a vertical of 710′ and capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.  The other lift will be just over 2,000 feet rising 300 feet and capable of moving around 1,200 guests per hour.

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By the time McCoy Park opens, the Strawberry Park Express will be near the end of its useful life and could be replaced by a gondola, providing direct access to and from Beaver Creek Village.

As part of the expansion, the 23 year-old Strawberry Park Express will probably be upgraded to a gondola.  Strawberry Park already allows for downloading, but a gondola or chondola would better serve beginner folks and families.  The almost 7,000-foot new lift would carry approximately the same number of people as the 2,800 pph quad it replaces.  Vail Resorts plans to release additional details on the approval process and timeline for McCoy Park in the next few weeks.

Instagram Tuesday: Lifted

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

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Day one, complete. What a day it was. #iheartwh2o

A post shared by Whitewater Ski Resort (@whitewaterskiresort) on

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