News Roundup: New Names

News Roundup: Cold Front

  • Sunday River releases maps of the upcoming Merrill Hill project.
  • Updated stats from NSAA show how many ski areas operated in each state last winter.
  • Las Vegas’ decision to go with Teslas in a tunnel rather than a Doppelmayr automated people mover may have been short sighted.
  • Jay Peak President Steve Wright discusses joining the Indy Pass, limited winter tram operations and potential future lift upgrades.
  • Mission Ridge begins erecting terminals for the new Liberator Express, which load and unload inside buildings.
  • Whiteface’s new beginner quad will be called Owl Express.
  • A new lift at Sun Valley will also get a fresh name, to be announced soon.
  • Gunstock burns down an old T-Bar station for firefighter training.
  • An Ontario ski area worries about lift safety following a rash of vandalism.
  • With the launch of a gondola up Hoonah Mountain next year, an Alaska Native corporation sees new opportunities for development.
  • Despite a 30 percent drop in business last winter, at least two New Zealand resorts plan to build new lifts this offseason.
  • As Smartwool moves headquarters from Steamboat to Denver, the company gifts $1.5 million to Howelsen Hill for a new Barrows chairlift, to be built by Skytrac.
  • A Michigan ski area with 12 lifts won’t make snow and will operate weekends only due to Coronavirus.
  • Mont-Sainte-Anne is no longer certain its base-to-summit gondola will be functional by December.
  • Big Sky wraps up a busy season of preparation for the Swift Current 6 top terminal and carrier storage facility.

News Roundup: Good Things

News Roundup: California Dreaming

  • The Town of Jackson, Wyoming inches closer to approving the Snow King Gondola five years after it was first proposed.
  • Aspen Skiing Company eliminates nearly 50 positions citing the “ever shifting Covid landscape.”
  • The Miami Dolphins won’t operate their SkyView stadium gondola this NFL season.
  • In New Zealand, ski resorts say they are not the mask police.
  • Alps resorts prepare to reopen this month.
  • The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board grants a variance for a new Telemix on Aspen Mountain.
  • Ikon Pass holders will need a reservation to visit certain resorts this season while other mountains will not require reservations and more are still deciding.
  • Big Sky’s Lone Peak Tram will be open this winter but guests may be allowed to boot pack to the summit as an alternative.
  • A second indoor ski resort for the United States moves ahead near DC.
  • Aspen Snowmass and other creditors will appeal a judge’s decision to keep Liftopia out of bankruptcy.
  • Some Canadians aren’t happy with Vail’s pandemic-era customer service.
  • Magic Mountain, Idaho is threatened by a wildfire.
  • A study finds the proposed Oakland Athletics gondola would carry a million riders a year and generate $685 million in economic activity.
  • This summer’s construction projects are just the beginning for the new Saddleback Mountain.
  • A planned urban gondola in Los Angeles get a fresh name and website as it prepares for environmental review.
  • Leitner Ropeways will build New Zealand’s first eight passenger chairlift.
  • The Utah Department of Transportation continues to refine alternatives for Little Cottonwood Canyon and will release a report this fall.
  • Great Bear solicits bids for a new chairlift.

News Roundup: 2020 and Beyond

News Roundup: Master Planning

News Roundup: Preparing

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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