News Roundup: Good Friday

News Roundup: Four More Weeks

  • I managed to completely miss an installation from last year – a used Doppelmayr quad at a publicly-owned hill in Lévis, Quebec.
  • Bousquet acknowledges engineering issues with its chairlift project and offers passholders privileges at nearby ski areas until its new triple is complete.
  • Ontario extends the closure of ski resorts another 28 days, forcing business like Mt. St. Louis Moonstone to make more difficult decisions.
  • France’s 250+ ski resorts may not open at all this season.
  • Austrian resorts expect business to plunge 75 percent this year, calling operating “philanthropic” rather than profitable.
  • One of British Columbia’s largest resorts provides a sobering look at business: lodging occupancy down 87.5 percent, midweek skier visits down 84 percent and ski school down 96 percent.
  • Here’s another 1A update from Aspen.
  • As it negotiates with Vail Resorts, the Park City ski patrol union weighs attempting to unionize other work groups such as lift operators.
  • Skeetawk remains closed for a second week following a lift malfunction.
  • Kimberley reopens the Northstar Express after a successful multi-continent repair effort.
  • Utah’s new Governor expresses support for a gondola in Little Cottonwood.
  • A new lift garners rave reviews at Lake Louise.
  • There’s tons of cool lift history in this feature on the legendary Lone Peak Tram.

News Roundup: Settling Up

News Roundup: Key Weekend

News Roundup: Affirmation

Exploring Big White’s Backcountry Project

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As I first wrote last summer, Big White Ski Resort is eyeing its most ambitious expansion since the 1996 Gem Lake megaproject.  This time, a pair of quad chairs are planned for east of the Black Forest Express, servicing 300 acres of new intermediate trails and glades within the mountain’s existing controlled recreation area.  The expansion is in place of one once planned for west of Gem Lake.  “The Black Forest Connector and Backcountry chairs will build on and complement the Black Forest ski pod, the most popular area at Big White,” notes Brent Harley and Associates, which prepared the plan.  “Together, these chairlifts represent the full realization of the vision described in the 1999 Master Plan, and the fulfillment of the Controlled Recreation Area’s physical potential to offer a world class alpine skiing experience.”

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A gorgeous new daylodge and parking lot opened at the base of Black Forest in 2015, encouraging regional guests to bypass the congested village portal.  The upcoming lifts are envisioned as gateways to even more terrain planned for East Peak eventually.  Both lifts would be 2,400 passenger per hour quads with Backcountry being detachable and Black Forest Connector being fixed grip.  The former would rise 1,250 feet over a slope length of 4,977′ in under five minutes.  The smaller lift would be about 4,354 feet long with a vertical of 666′ and ride time just under nine minutes.

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Big White operates a mix of mostly older Doppelmayr lifts and a few newer Leitner-Poma models, so I could see either company winning the next contract.  Just last year, the resort’s Powder triple was replaced with a Leitner-Poma Alpha quad.  Big White initially intended to build both Backcountry lifts in 2019 but the project is still listed as “Under Review” by the province.  Not to worry though, the resort is focusing on new bike trails, Gem Lake base area improvements and new employee housing this summer.

News Roundup: Urban Momentum

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!

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