News Roundup: Ramping Up

Chair Pileup Shutters Big Squaw

Multiple chairs slipped this afternoon at Maine’s Big Squaw Mountain, necessitating a rope evacuation of the Donaher triple. Pictures show at least three groups of chairs spaced at abnormal intervals on the light side of the lift. Sam Shirley was on the triple chair at the time and provided me with the below account and pictures.

“I was riding the triple at Big Squaw around 1:00 when I noticed chairs coming down which had slid into each other. About two minutes later, the lift stopped. We were told that there was a partial derailment on the downhill side near the summit (likely tower 9 or 10).  I’m not sure what caused the chairs to slide into each other or why the lift didn’t stop immediately. Maybe they were catching in something or hitting a tower. Everyone was evacuated by rope within an hour and the staff did a great job. They had three different teams evacuating people. We were given vouchers to use later in the season.”

Sam Shirley

Donaher is a 1986 Borvig triple rising 587 vertical feet. An organization called Friends of Squaw Mountain operates the lift on a nonprofit basis. Back in 2004, another chair-slipping incident caused multiple injuries on the Thompson double. In that case, one of the chairs fell to the ground rather than remaining on the rope. The Stadeli-built lift never reopened but a Louisiana-based investor recently joined with a Maine developer in hopes of revitalizing the mountain with new lifts, a hotel and summer activities.

Thankfully there were no injuries reported today. It was only the mountain’s fourth day operating this season due to snow conditions and the lift opened later than normal because of cold temperatures. Big Squaw will remain closed at least through the holiday weekend.

Could Another Maine Mountain Stage a Comeback?

The mostly defunct Big Squaw Mountain would transform into Moosehead Lake Resort under a new plan by a Maine developer and nonprofit partner. The $75 million project would include a new summit quad chairlift, snowmaking system, a day lodge, hotel and summer activities. “Moosehead Lake Ski Resort and the Greenville area represent one of the only true Four Season resort venues in all of New England,” notes Big Lake Development, LLC, which seeks to purchase the resort from current owner James Confalone. Confalone was ordered by a court judge to restore the mountain to operating condition last year. Maine developer Perry Williams is behind the rebirth plan along with Provident Resources Group of Louisiana. Provident specializes in “mission-based business activities” in the housing, education and health care sectors. “Combining a family friendly ski experience with a high quality, big lake experience will be a unique product in the New England resort industry,” notes the company.

Big Squaw Mountain first opened in 1963 and passed through numerous owners over the decades including the Scott Paper Company and State of Maine. In 2004, while under the ownership of Confalone, the mountain’s Stadeli double suffered an accident which injured four skiers. The lift never reopened, rendering the summit inaccessible. Currently a local nonprofit operates the mountain’s lower mountain triple on weekends when natural snow permits. With the rebuild, that lift would remain in addition to the new summit lift and a connector surface lift between the two base areas.

The vision in many ways mimics the story of Saddleback, which a Boston-based impact investing group began rebuilding last spring. At Moosehead, Big Lake Development would finance its project with bonds from the Finance Authority of Maine. If successful, the group could reopen skiing from the 3,196 foot summit of Big Moose Mountain in late 2022.

News Roundup: Black Friday

News Roundup: Perfect

News Roundup: Shutdown

News Roundup: Public vs. Private

  • After a tower shifted downhill this spring, the City of Steamboat will again fix Howelsen Hill’s chairlift rather than replacing it.
  • In the Jay Peak fraud case, former resort owner Ariel Quiros and executive Bill Stenger settle with the State of Vermont for $2.1 million without admitting wrongdoing.
  • In a separate class action lawsuit, a group of Jay Peak investors allege more than 100 immigration lawyers received $5 million in kickbacks from the resort, creating undisclosed conflicts of interest.
  • The federal government orders an immediate shutdown of the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center, which allowed foreigners to invest in ski resorts such as Jay Peak and other businesses in exchange for green cards.
  • No big deal: a Chinese theme park might build three 3S gondolas.
  • A lawsuit by the State of Maine seeks to finally right the tragedy that followed the sale of a public ski resort to a private company which ran it into the ground.
  • Mt. Snow confirms its next logical lift upgrades will be in Sunbrook and Carinthia.
  • Hermitage Club members could lease Haystack Mountain to reopen next season but Berkshire Bank will not.  Homeowners may have a senior lien on the Barnstormer six-pack but would need to pay for $300,000 of lift maintenance to reopen.
  • Even though his purchase of Saddleback never closed, Australian businessman Sebastian Monsour did spend $400,000 on the closed Maine ski resort last year.  Hopefully some went to lift maintenance!
  • Peak Resorts reports record fourth quarter revenue, up 9.3 percent over last year to $56 million with EBITDA up 3.9 percent to $21.5 million.
  • Arizona Snowbowl reopens tomorrow after a month-and-a-half fire danger closure.
  • Parks Canada seeks public comments on possible Sunshine Village lift and terrain expansions into Goat’s Eye II, Lower Meadow Park and Hayes Hill. Another new lift could eventually parallel the gondola.

sunshineexpansion
Overview of proposed Sunshine Village expansion areas.  Other acreage would be removed from Sunshine’s area of occupation to compensate for environmental impacts of expansion.

Instagram Tuesday: Scenes

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

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfAoECghWdz/

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News Roundup: Progress

News Roundup: Losses

  • Wire Austin gets some attention from folks who matter – the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.
  • Peak Resorts loses $7.9 million in the first quarter (it owns Alpine Valley, Attitash, Big Boulder, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Crotched Mountain, Hidden Valley, Hunter Mountain, Jack Frost, Mad River Mountain, Mt. Snow, Paoli Peaks, Snow Creek and Wildcat.)
  • The deropement and evacuation of the pulse gondola between the Aiguille du Midi and Pointe Helbronner makes CNN.
  • Austria’s Foreign Minister meets with former London Mayor Boris Johnson to talk Brexit.  The mayor says the Doppelmayr cowbell that came with the Emirates Air Line is one of his most prized possessions.
  • Federal receiver hopes to sell Jay Peak in the spring, says resort President Bill Stenger was duped.
  • Laurel Mountain’s new Skytrac is complete.
  • Maine’s Attorney General sues the owner of Big Squaw Mountain for not operating the ski area as promised.
  • Tamarack Homeowners meet to discuss the future of Idaho’s newest ski resort ahead of an October lift auction. Owner Credit Suisse and its operator Replay Resorts appear to be on the way out.
  • The owner of Montana Snowbowl tells the Missoulian he started construction on a new TV Mountain lift a few weeks ago and there’s a chance it will be completed in time for the coming winter season.
  • Preservation group calls abandoned mines in American Fork Canyon a “ticking time bomb,” calls on Snowbird to turn private land over to the Forest Service where the resort plans to build two new lifts.