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.
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.”
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.”
A judge okays the sale of Hermitage Club assets, including its six pack. Two more bidders emerge, including a group of former members. If Boyne wins the lift, it would be relocated to a New England mountain.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.