News Roundup: Must Read

  • planning document shows Big White has applied to build two lifts east of Black Forest Express called Backcountry and Backcountry Connector.
  • Snow King Mountain’s expansion officially enters the National Environmental Policy Act pipeline.  Proposed lifts are a 1,500 pph gondola with cabin storage, a 3,015′ backside fixed-grip quad, one 679′ T-Bar or platter and two new carpets.
  • The iconic Volkswagen funitel marks 15 years of operation, having delivered over three million vehicles from factory to test track.
  • A proposed urban gondola in Loveland, Colorado would be built by Leitner-Poma with up to five stations.
  • Arapahoe Basin drops its new trail map showing the big Beavers expansion.
  • An avalanche takes out the last tower of a Doppelmayr six-pack in New Zealand.

  • Skytrac is hiring for project foreman and general construction positions.
  • Denver Post alum Jason Blevins, now writing for the Colorado Sun, traces the remarkable ski industry journey of the Mueller family from Vermont to Colorado.  Insights from his must read piece: Tim and Diane Mueller took out a second mortgage on their home to buy Okemo, invested in Catamount before it failed, nearly bought Steamboat and once bid to operate Winter Park.
  • Windham’s retired F lift heads to Greek Peak to upgrade lifts 3 and 5.
  • The New Mexico State Fair will sport a new skyride-style chairlift beginning next month.
  • Alterra Mountain Company hires an Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer from Wall Street and looks to name a Vice President of Planning and Resort Development.
  • Enjoy the most detailed glimpse yet of the world’s longest lift.
  • The name game continues: Wolf Creek’s newest high speed quad is now Charity.
  • One of the world’s oldest high speed quads is going away in favor of a six pack.
  • I’m in New Mexico this weekend checking out as many lifts as I can.  First stop: Taos, where this yet-to-be-named Leitner-Poma detachable quad is the fourth new lift in five years!
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Building a Bigger Big White

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Big White is famous for its above tree line skiing and grew to become one of BC’s busiest ski resorts by catering to families.

The Schumann Family is about to construct its twelfth new lift at Big White Ski Resortthe first lift addition in a dozen years here.  Back in 1985, Australian Desmond Schumann bought the mountain out of receivership following his success at Mt. Hotham before acquiring nearby Silver Star to form Schumann Resorts Ltd.  Back in the eighties, Big White was a sea of T-Bars and double chairs as primarily a day use area for nearby Kelowna.  Fast forward to my first visit there in the 1990s and nearly every lift had been moved or replaced, with the eventual addition of a Leitner-Poma six-pack in 2006.  Mr. Schumann died in 2012 and Big White and Silver Star went their separate ways with separate children.  Today, the larger of the two is run by descendant Peter Plimmer and the last pre-Schumann-era lift will carry its final passengers on Sunday.

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Now in its third-generation of family ownership, Big White has been working with Brent Harley & Associates of Whistler over the last 15 years on an ambitious master plan to guide development over the next many decades.  It’s important to note that Canadian master plans tend to be aspirational and do not necessarily represent eventual reality.  Whistler Blackcomb has its own big plan; Sun Peaks has one and so do unproven destinations such as Revelstoke and Valemount Glacier.

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Part of the current Big White vision focuses on the Gem Lake area, which opened with a single 8,000’+ high-speed quad in 1996 that services approximately half of the entire resort.  New lifts are eyed for either side of the current one to add more capacity and terrain.  A much-needed mid-mountain infill lift is also planned for between Powder and Gem.  As the first base area one encounters when driving from Kelowna, Gem Lake will continue to serve primarily as a base camp for locals.  Two more lifts could rise on the west side of the highway for intermediate skiers and snowboarders.

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The current Gem Lake Express is a workhorse with over 2,300′ of vertical and often many riders.

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News Roundup: Symphony

News Roundup: Available

  • The latest Doppelmayr Wir highlights Yellowstone Club’s expansion and more.
  • The Gondola Project updates us on the Leitner-Poma tram project at San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower transit center.
  • Aspen Skiing Co. eyes opening the Pandora quad chairlift on Aspen Mountain in 2020.
  • Majella Group CEO Sebastian Monsour tells the Bangor Daily News his Australian company is still working to close on the purchase of Saddleback Mountain while a former employee is suing for unpaid wages.
  • A Montana community grapples with options for Teton Pass, a closed ski resort listed for $650,000 with one SLI double.
  • In advance of its new gondola, Silver Star’s 1970 Mueller is listed for sale on SAM.
  • CWA launches a slick new website and refreshed logo.
  • Val Neigette, Quebec will close for good on April 1st and its 1990 Doppelmayr quad is on the market.
  • An editorial in the Park Record floats the cool idea of a gondola from offsite parking at Kimball Junction to Park City’s Sun Peak zone with a possible mid-station at Utah Olympic Park.
  • Big White’s Powder Chair will soon be available for $150,000 CAD.
  • Alpine Media Technology raises $1 million to bring digital screens to more lifts including Winter Park’s new gondola.
  • SkyTrans hopes to build and operate a $2 million gondola at an Illinois winery.
  • A lawsuit against Sugar Mountain filed by the family of a child who jumped from a lift after closing has been settled.
  • Leitner’s fifth 3S gondola will be a spectacular one with Symphony cabins and a combination gondola/railway/transit station.
  • A Jacksonville, Florida developer proposes a river crossing gondola.
  • What appears to be Walt Disney World’s gondola cabin maintenance facility is taking shape.
  • Instagram suggests the Hermitage Club may have reached a deal to open this weekend following a state-ordered closure.

Big White Upgrading Powder Chair to a Leitner-Poma Quad

British Columbia’s third largest ski resort will retire its oldest lift this summer, a Mueller which dates back to 1979 called Powder.  A new $3.1 million Leitner-Poma Canada Alpha quad chair will be capable of moving 1,900 skiers per hour versus the current 1,710.  Big White calls the outgoing lift one of Canada’s oldest and most popular triple chairs with more than 15 million rides logged to date.  “I’m proud to be leading the third generation of our family owned business, which was established in the summer of 1985,” said Peter Plimmer, president and CEO of Big White Ski Resort Ltd. in a press release announcing multiple summer projects worth $10 million CAD.  “My grandfather, Desmond Schumann, would be proud of what we’re doing here at the resort.”

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Big White’s Powder chair on a snowy Saturday last month.

Next season Big White will operate a fleet of a dozen Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma lifts including a six-pack and gondola.  The new Powder Chair is the second announced Leitner-Poma fixed-grip project for 2018 after Arapahoe Basin’s Beavers installation.  Last year, most of the Leitner-Poma Group’s fixed-grip orders went to Skytrac, though that division has yet to build a lift in Canada.  New lifts are also coming to Blackcomb, Whistler, SilverStar and likely Sun Peaks in BC next winter.

Instagram Tuesday: Gondolas

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Replacing a Crossarm in the Middle of Winter

Big White is a ski resort that lives up to its name.  Like many of its counterparts in British Columbia, the upper mountain gets pummeled by Pacific storms leaving trees and lifts looking like “snow ghosts” all winter.  On January 27th, Doppelmayr issued a service bulletin due to cracks found on the crossarms of depression towers of lifts in California, Colorado and New Hampshire.  Big White crews found damage to tower 14 of the Gem Lake Express and took the lift out of service on January 28th.

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A storm coats the Gem Lake Express in feet of rime January 27, 2016.  Photo credit: Michael Ballingall

More than 8,000 feet long and rising 2,300 feet, Gem Lake accesses a huge portion of Big White’s terrain.  The detachable quad lift was built by Doppelmayr in 1996 and has 24 towers.  Tower 14 sits about two thirds of the way up the line at 5,914 feet in elevation. Gem Lake has a parking rail for some of its 128 chairs at the bottom terminal but not for the entire line.

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Mountain operations folks making it happen.  Here, the Big White grooming team hauls a forklift to the site of the damaged tower.  Photo credit: Michael Ballingall

After the cracks on tower 14 were discovered, Doppelmayr fabricated a new crossarm in St. Jerome and shipped it from Quebec early last week.  Of course, the 20-foot long, 2.5 ton part got stuck in a winter storm of its own and ended up taking 119 hours to cross Canada. Meanwhile, Big White maintenance staff rigged the haul rope and removed the broken crossarm.

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Instagram Tuesday: Grand Gondolas

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Instagram Tuesday: Poma

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Instagram Tuesday: Snow Ghosts

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