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.
The Province that owns Atlantic Canada’s largest ski resort grows tired of losing money and looks for a private operator for Marble Mountain.
Doppelmayr will build the largest vertical six-pack in the world this year at Ischgl, Austria with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain in a single section.
Boyne Resorts President and CEO Stephen Kircher says a recent bond sale and tax cuts should yield increased capital investment at his resorts over the next five years. Boyne doesn’t plan to buy new mountains any time soon, however.
Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory says of committing $555 million to mountain improvements: “We went to each resort and said, ‘Tell us, as resort operators, what will make the biggest positive impact on the guest experience.’ They had long lists.”
Leitner is pulling ropes at 12,740′ for the highest-ever 3S gondola.
Big Sky posts sweet photos from the Austrian factory where America’s first eight passenger chairlift and D-Line stations are being prepared for shipment. Chairs will have some unique designs on the back too.
The Portland Aerial Tram returns to service 5:30 am Monday, three weeks early, thanks to crews slipping track ropes much faster than expected.
Jackson, Wyoming stakeholders mostly agree to site a new gondola in a public park at the base of Snow King Mountain.
Loveland will hold a lottery for season passholders to win purchase rights for Lift 1 chairs.
The final last chair for the Norway lift at A-Basin is Sunday.
We're sad to say goodbye to this legendary lift that's been sending us to the summit since 1978. Alas, it's time for Norway Lift to retire on Sun., May 13. Celebrate her final day of operation with one last ride up, and share your favorite Norway Lift stories with us! #ABasinpic.twitter.com/5oagNspkhU
Boyne Resorts acquires six mountain resorts plus the Gatlinburg Sky Lift it leased from CNL Lifestyle Properties and later Och-Ziff Capital Management. “This opportunity will enable us to accelerate and fine tune the execution of our reinvestment plans for these spectacular properties, which will boost our competitive advantages and support our focus on continuous enhancement of the guest experience,” says Boyne President Stephen Kircher.
The Australian man who was supposed to buy Maine’s third largest ski resort is caught on tape saying, “We’re not going to deliver on Saddleback,” “Opening the mountain is not a primary concern for us,” and “We’re not going to lose any sleep with regards to it,” acknowledging it was mostly about cashing in on the EB-5 immigrant investor program.
Triple Peaks’ Okemo, Crested Butte and Mt. Sunapee join the Epic Pass through a long-term alliance with Vail Resorts.
Anti Edmonton gondola editorial argues “challenges to a gondola could include its operational reliability in a harsh winter climate.” Guess again.
Alterra Mountain Company dropped a bomb at the Outdoor Retailer/SIA show this morning, announcing the forthcoming Ikon Pass will bring together its dozen North American resorts along with eleven other major mountains. Aspen Skiing Company, Boyne Resorts, Powdr Co. and more have partnered with Alterra to add destinations such as Aspen Snowmass, Alta, Snowbird, Big Sky, Killington and Jackson Hole. “The Ikon Pass is a collaboration of like-minded mountain destinations across North America where incredible terrain, unique character and local traditions are celebrated,” said Erik Forsell, Chief Marketing Officer for Alterra Mountain Company. “We’ve curated a community of iconic destinations. We believe this new pass offers tremendous opportunity and appeal to mountain enthusiasts who have a passion for outdoor adventure.”
Pass options will range from a set number of days at varying destinations to an ultimate, unlimited season pass. I can’t stress enough how much this changes big mountain skiing in North America. For years now, Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass has been the largest and most successful season pass product in the world, now offering access to 272 lifts and 44,000 acres at 15 mountains in North America and Australia to some 750,000 passholders. Ikon will one-up Vail’s terrain offering with access to 23 top-tier North American resorts, a ridiculous 363 lifts and 48,840 acres (for both passes, I am counting gondolas, chairlifts and surface lifts with towers. If carpets and rope tows are included, the Epic Pass offers 340 lifts while Ikon has 434.)
Ikon Pass resorts for 2018-19 will be:
Alpine Meadows, California
Aspen Highlands, Colorado
Aspen Mountain, Colorado
Bear Mountain, California
Blue Mountain, Ontario
Big Sky, Montana
Copper Mountain, Colorado
Deer Valley, Utah
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
June Mountain, California
Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
Mammoth Mountain, California
Snowshoe, West Virginia
Snow Summit, California
Squaw Valley, California
Sunday River, Maine
Winter Park, Colorado
Ikon passholders will also receive discounts and special offers at CMH heli-skiing in British Columbia. Epic holders already enjoy limited access to 30 European resorts. The Liftopia-powered Mountain Collective Pass, which allows destination skiers to sample many large resorts, will remain an option in its current form and also go on sale in March. The M.A.X. Pass, founded by Intrawest, Powdr and Boyne, will sunset. Specific Ikon tiers and prices will be released in the coming weeks.
Two days shy of six months since an intentionally-set wildfire killed 14 people and destroyed more than 2,000 buildings near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the iconic Gatlinburg Sky Lift will reopen this Friday. On November 28th, 2016, Sky Lift employees left the lift running on its auxiliary diesel as they fled the fire, saving the haul rope. However, the top terminal and some towers were so severely burned that the entire lift needed to be replaced.For 62 years, Boyne Resorts has operated a chairlift on Crockett Mountain and the company chose a Doppelmayr Alpen Star triple chair for its third incarnation. Previous versions were a Heron double recycled from Sugar Bowl in 1954 and Riblet double brought to Tennessee in 1991.
Boyne Resorts announced construction of the new $2.4 million lift in early February and received its operating permit less than three months later on April 27th. Doppelmayr and Boyne collaborated to re-create the Sky Lift’s iconic appearance with 11 orange towers and 92 yellow chairs with wooden slats in place of galvanized ones. Although guests cannot yet get off at the top due to ongoing construction, the new lift is sure to be as popular as it has been for generations. When Boyne sold and leased-back the Sky Lift operation in 2005, it attracted 400,000 annual visitors and was valued at $19.9 million. Not bad for a 1,300′ double chair!
Three months since a wildland fire ripped through Gatlinburg, Tennesee, two brand new lifts are under construction as the gateway to the Smoky Mountains rebuilds. As many suspected, the Gatlinburg Sky Lift will be replaced with a new version this spring. “We are investing in a total replacement and are excited to be in process with installation of a new scenic chairlift,” spokeswoman Julie Ard of Boyne Resorts tells the Mountain Press. The Riblet double’s haul rope and chairs have already been pulled in preparation for tower removal. The new Sky Lift will be the third version following the original Heron that operated from 1954-1991 and the Riblet that followed from 1991 until last November. I’ve reached out to Boyne for the manufacturer of Sky Lift 3.0 and am waiting to hear back. Update 2/6/17: The new lift will be a Doppelmayr Alpen Star triple chair with custom wooden seats.
Before the fire, Boyne Resorts had planned for and received approval to build an adventure park on the site, where the company has operated continuously for more than sixty years. Zip lines, a suspension bridge, walking trails and more will eventually occupy 17.5 acres. While that expansion will take some time, the lift project is progressing quickly. “Reopening of the Gatlinburg Sky Lift is expected to be April/May 2017,” says Ard. “Just as our past guests who want to come back to Gatlinburg to continue traditions of experiencing this iconic attraction, and locals who are aware of its draw among tourists, we are eager to have this lift spinning again just as quickly as possible.”
Big Sky Resort plans to build the most high-speed, high-tech lift network in North America over the next ten years, the company announced at media event this afternoon. Boyne Resorts Principal Stephen Kircher outlined Big Sky 2025, a $150 million road map for capital investment that includes a new North Village gondola, replacement of core lifts with bubble six-packs and additional lifts to serve new terrain. Enhanced snowmaking, new on-mountain dining and improvements to the Mountain Village will complement the massive investment in new lifts.
The rise of Big Sky from Chet Huntley’s four-lift outpost in 1973 to the Biggest Skiing in America with 26 lifts owes in large part to the Matterhorn-like mountain named Lone Peak. Boyne Resorts bought Big Sky in 1976 and slowly grew it into America’s largest ski resort by 2013 with the purchase of Moonlight Basin and the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club. Mr. Kircher noted none of the three mountains were financially sustainable in the 2000s and the uniting of the three has been transformative. Now with 5,800 acres of terrain, Boyne seeks to elevate the ski experience to match the grandeur of its mountain that is unmatched in North America. “We have a unique opportunity with the high alpine terrain here at Big Sky,” he noted.
With $13 million of construction underway on the mountain, Big Sky Resort will operate the second third largest lift fleet in North America this winter behind Whistler Blackcomb and Park City. The sprawling complex already includes two six-packs, five detachable quads and the famous Lone Peak Tram. This summer’s new lifts are just the beginning of a plan that includes the return of a gondola and ten more lifts (eight with bubbles) within existing boundaries and beyond. Big Sky 2025 will transition the resort from one with nearly the most lifts to one with the best lifts featuring loading carpets, bubble chairs, head rests and heated seats that skiers have become accustomed to in Austria and Switzerland but rarely find in the States.
Sunday River announced this morning a $2.1 million Doppelmayr fixed-grip triple will replace the Spruce Peak triple, where a terminal literally fell over last month. Willis MountainGuard and Boyne Resorts deemed the lift a loss after suspected grout failure sent the top station sliding from the bedrock it was anchored to the weekend of July 9th. The 1986 Borvig triple was Sunday River’s second oldest lift and the new version will re-use its new Chairkit loading conveyor. Doppelmayr will also replace the top terminal of Sunday River’s other Borvig triple on Locke Mountain.
Exactly when the new lift will open is unclear. Doppelmayr already has a packed summer building 17 lifts across the US and Canada. In the meantime, most of Spruce Peak can be accessed from the Chondola and Aurora lifts.
This is far from the first (and won’t be the last) late-season lift replacement after unexpected disaster. On June 11, 2012, a wildfire burned through Ski Apache in New Mexico, damaging two chairlifts and a gondola. The Native American tribe that owns the mountain announced a $15 million deal with Doppelmayr on September 5th and three new lifts were completed by January.