Big Sky and Loon Mountain Postpone Lift Projects to 2021

Boyne Resorts and Doppelmayr have reached an agreement to delay construction of two major lifts due to the Coronavirus emergency.  Both Swift Current 6 at Big Sky Resort and Kancamagus 8 at Loon Mountain will now be constructed in 2021.  “Proceeding with a complex and deadline sensitive construction project during the COVID-19 emergency would not be a prudent decision,” stated Troy Nedved, General Manager at Big Sky Resort.  “Concerns about construction worker health and the unknowns related to the construction supply chain make the project too risky to undertake in 2020,” he continued.

Site preparation and limited construction may proceed this summer if public health conditions permit.  Manufacturing of Swift Current’s components is nearly complete and the lift will be stored either in Wolfurt, Salt Lake or the Bozeman-Big Sky area until next year.  When completed in 2021, Swifty will become the fastest six place chairlift in North America.

At Loon Mountain, skiers and riders will have to wait another year to ride the east’s first eight passenger chairlift, Kancamagus 8.  “Although significant investment has already been made, we cannot proceed with a project of this scale knowing the COVID-19 situation could further complicate its installation – potentially cutting off the Governor Adams Lodge and base area from the rest of the resort next winter,” said Loon General Manager Jay Scambio in a letter to season passholders.  “This postponement allows us to better support our team, our guests, and the greater Loon community at a time when it is needed most.”  Permitting and planning will continue in preparation for 2021 installation.

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I spoke with Boyne Resorts President Stephen Kircher this morning about the decision and his outlook during this challenging time.  The company will closely monitor impacts on summer business as well as season pass sales and proceed accordingly.  “We are going to be assessing our capital projects each week,” said Kircher.  “We’ve got milestones on every single project and last possible start dates to meet deadlines for next winter.  We’re optimistic we are going to be executing a number of projects but we need to see clarity.”

As long duration, all-or-nothing projects, the two D-Line lifts had to wait.  Boyne knew it needed to be underway this week at Loon and within two weeks at Big Sky in order to meet aggressive construction schedules.  Bubble lifts by definition include carrier storage buildings that are as complex to build as the lifts themselves.  “What happens if work stoppages occur again in the middle of summer or the fall?” lamented Kircher.  “Once we tear the existing lifts down, we’re at risk.  We would be dead in the water [without Swift Current or Kancamagus.]  The second worst thing other than this shutdown would be not having a key lift coming out of the base next winter.”

Preliminary work on the Swift Current chair parking facility may occur this summer.

Boyne’s decision is the second such deferral among North American multi-resort operators this week.  On Wednesday, Vail Resorts delayed seven different lift projects with two different manufacturers in order to cut costs.  Kircher acknowledged his decision was difficult for both customer and supplier but in some ways proved clear.  “We are working with a great partner in Doppelmayr.  Obviously they are dealing with a lot of difficult conversations across the planet,” he said.  “We talked through what the best scenario was for both companies.  They don’t want to be in a situation where they can’t finish a lift either.  I want to install a lift that we own and is sitting in warehouses more than anybody but it’s just not prudent.”

News Roundup: Bidding War

Big Sky to Build North America’s Fastest Six Seat Chairlift

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Swift Current 6 will join the existing Ramcharger 8 as an out-of-base workhorse in winter 2020-21.

Big Sky Resort will cement its position as America’s leader in lift technology with the debut of Swift Current 6, the resort’s fifth major lift addition in four years.  The announcement comes just 12 months after the launch of Ramcharger 8, the only eight place and first D-Line lift in North America.  By December 2020, two groundbreaking bubble chairlifts will rise from Big Sky’s Mountain Village: one to Andesite Mountain and the other flanking Lone Peak.  Not only will Big Sky operate the only two ski lifts in North America with Doppelmayr D-Line technology, the Boyne Resorts flagship will also feature the most lifts with heated seats (three) and the most bubble lifts (four, not counting the private Yellowstone Club which has 8.)

Swift Current 6 will span twice the distance of Ramcharger – about 8,500 feet across 24 towers – making it the fourth longest bubble lift on the continent.  126 premium upholstered chairs will yield a capacity of 3,000 passengers per hour, an increase of more than 25 percent versus the current detachable quad.  “Consistent lift improvements are an essential part of Big Sky’s 2025 vision,” noted Big Sky President and COO Taylor Middleton. “We know efficiently dispersing skiers across our almost 6,000 acres of skiing is essential to our guests.  Swift Current will dramatically modernize and improve the flow of skiers in the Mountain Village base area.”

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Swift Current provides a critical link between Andesite Mountain and Lone Peak and is utilized in both winter and summer.

Swifty’s 6 m/s line speed will mark a first for North American six place chairlifts and a flight to the heart of the alpine will last just seven minutes.  Many aspects will mimic Ramcharger 8, a pioneer still unmatched in the Americas.  Bubbles will come in Big Sky blue with heated seats underneath.  “This technology offers guests reliability, efficiency, and a staggeringly fast, warm, and comfortable ride up to the iconic Lone Peak—America’s Matterhorn,” said Stephen Kircher, CEO and President of Boyne Resorts.  “There will be no faster, safer or more comfortable chairlift in North America.”

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News Roundup: A Late Addition

  • Big Sky’s two new lodging access lifts are on the map, bringing The Biggest Skiing in America to 37 lifts.
  • Sasquatch Mountain Resort needs help naming its shiny new Leitner-Poma quad chair.
  • Mont St. Mathieu will expand with a 3,100 foot Doppelmayr surface lift set for commissioning in January 2020.
  • The Sea to Sky Gondola confirms 9 cabins were undamaged in the August incident and will be used to shuttle workers this winter.  With 30 new cabins on the way from Europe, the company will be able to easily take the lift to final capacity (40 cabins) in the future.
  • Crested Butte’s new trail map shows the adjusted Teocalli alignment.
  • In Bolivia, the largest gondola operation in the world reopens following a week of shutdowns due to civil unrest and the resignation of President Evo Morales.  The general manager of the gondola company also resigned.
  • Win Smith of Sugarbush chats with Vermont Public Radio about why now was the right time to sell.
  • Mt. Timothy, BC is officially back in business.
  • On December 9th, Vail Resorts will report fiscal first quarter earnings, traditionally accompanied by guidance on capital investment plans for the year.
  • Thanks to Collin Parsons for these awesome photos of the gondola construction at the Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.

 

News Roundup: Interviews

  • The 117 year old Poconos hotel which just announced plans to build a chairlift burned down last Friday.
  • Yellowstone Club adds Silver Tip, its 18th major lift, giving YC the 13th highest lift count in the nation!
  • More awesome podcasts: Jeremy Davis of the New England Lost Ski Areas Project, Rob Katz on snowmaking across Vail Resorts, Geoff Hathaway on rebuilding Magic Mountain and the staff of Eldora on what it takes to open weeks ahead of normal.
  • Two new quads and a lift shortening are all now reflected on the Stevens Pass trail map.
  • Vandals slash upholstered seats on an Austrian gondola, cause $28,000 in damage.
  • Okemo receives a 24 month extension to its permit for building a beginner fixed grip quad at Jackson Gore.
  • Loveland gains approval to replace Lift 6 with either a fixed grip triple or detachable quad in 2021.
  • New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu tours the gorgeous new summit lodge and gondola at Bretton Woods.
  • Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory joins Bloomberg TV and Yahoo Finance to chat about opportunities he sees in the ski business.
  • The head of MND Group says financial struggles are history as the company ramps up to deliver $200 million worth of orders for lifts, Gazex and snowmaking.
  • The Forest Service plans to approve two new fixed grip quad lifts at Lee Canyon.
  • Big Sky looks for 30 more chairs for Six Shooter.
  • A Wyoming ranch with snow cat skiing considers adding lift service.
  • Chris Diamond’s new book, Ski Inc. 2020, was released last week and is a must read for those who follow North American skiing.
  • Simon Fraser University includes a 3S gondola as a core component of its new campus master plan.

News Roundup: Auction

 

News Roundup: Wrapping Up

  • Winter Park’s Gondola becomes the third direct drive lift to open in as many weeks in the United States.  As of October, there were zero!
  • Pico is added to Ikon, bringing the pass to 40 mountains with a combined 474 lifts in the the US and Canada.
  • The Hermitage Club won’t reopen until January at the earliest.
  • The last of British Columbia’s seven new lifts debuts at Sun Peaks.
  • I did a double take on this lift: a D-Line gondola with Carvatech cabins.
  • The new American Flyer is very close to becoming the world’s longest bubble chair.
  • Stratton’s new high speed quad is now set to open early in the new year.
  • Skeetawk remains on track to become Alaska’s eleventh lift-served ski area next winter with a SkyTrans triple chair.
  • An 8 year-old boy sustains only minor injuries falling 33 feet off a lift at Nordic Valley.
  • The Colombian capital of Bogotá launches a $73 million urban gondola called TransMiCable.
  • Frost Fire says it cannot open yet due to “contractual obligations with our chairlift,” a brand new Skytrac quad.
  • Big Sky brings high speed access to the southern flank of Lone Peak with Shedhorn 4.

Big Sky & Doppelmayr Christen Ramcharger 8

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Forty five years to the day since Chet Huntley welcomed the first skiers to Big Sky Resort, Boyne Resorts today debuted North America’s most technologically-advanced chairlift on Andesite Mountain.  The eight pack is a bold but logical move for Michigan-based Boyne, which once pioneered the world’s first triple and quad chairlifts.  Not only is Ramcharger 8 the first of its kind in North America, it’s also the first Doppelmayr D-Line eight place chairlift in the world.

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Boyne Resorts President Stephen Kircher and son Everett prepare to cut the ribbon.

“Doppelmayr and Boyne Resorts have been collaborating for over 40 years, and together have introduced many firsts to the ski industry,” said Stephen Kircher, President of Boyne Resorts at a mid-morning ceremony.  “We are incredibly proud to bring the first eight-seat chairlift to North America, setting a new standard for lift technology in the world.”

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Mark Bee, President of Doppelmayr USA, presented the Big Sky Resort team with a customary bell from Austria to celebrate.  He also thanked the construction team, led by Jamie Kanzler, for a successful project delivered on schedule.  “Without Jamie and his team, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Bee, noting the contract for this ambitious project was signed on March 5th.  “Ramcharger 8 is the culmination of everything we have learned so far, and incorporates many firsts for the North American market; first eight-passenger chairlift, first direct drive motor, first locking restraint bar, first height-adjustable loading carpet, first high resolution video display, and the first of our newest generation detachable lifts,” he continued.

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