- Squaw seeks extension for permit to replace Red Dog lift.
- MND Group turnover increases 15.1 percent year-over-year. The company aims to double sales by 2020 partially through LST Ropeways subsidiary. Referencing the new Cannon Mountain T-Bar in the latest magazine, MND notes “success has enabled LST to penetrate the US market, paving the way for other promising opportunities.”
- Doppelmayr will begin building its next tri-cable gondola in December. Who would have guessed Kenya would get a 3S before the United States!
- Forest Service gives final green light for Breckenridge and Keystone six-place upgrades.
- A slow landslide continues to move tower 6 of the Barrows lift at Howelsen Hill.
- SE Group will study placement of Aspen Mountain’s future Lift 1A.
- Denver Post publishes two part interview with Larry Smith of the CPTSB re: Granby Ranch.
- The LiftDigital safety bar display system with integrated Wi-Fi will launch in Colorado for 2017-18.
- New PomaLink newsletter features the Grand Canyon Express and a six-station gondola at a zoo in China.
- Poma’s 2016 Reference Book includes LPOA installations but not Skytrac ones.
- Mountain Creek files for bankruptcy protection with debts totaling $40+ million including $500,000 balance on 2012 Partek chairlift loan.
- One of Heavenly’s original 1962 tram cars is for sale. Email me if you’re interested.
- Artur Doppelmayr died Friday at age 95. May he rest in peace.
Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
- Jay Peak and Garaventa begin major tram overhaul.
- More positive press for Powder Seeker at Big Sky.
- There’s a new gondola idea for Mt. Benson in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, BC.
- Sky Lift update points to late-April reopening.
- Austin Wire won’t move forward.
- Stratton might replace the Snow Bowl quad.
- Critics file complaint against Belleayre expansion and gondola.
- Ski Blandford faces worsening financial situation with three aging Hall doubles.
- Squirrel kills power to three lifts at Eaglecrest.
- Unofficial Networks profiles outrageous gondolas.
- British Columbia approves Valemount Glacier with opening targeted for Christmas 2018.
- Town of Breckenridge study concludes gondola could cost $800-1000 an hour to operate with stations costing $2 million to build.
- Cabin to tour Staten Island in hopes of drumming up support for gondola.
- Bridger Bowl celebrates the end of an era with a center pole chair photo contest.
- Mt. Spokane expansion and new chairlift approved yet again.
- LST Ropeways’ first detachable opens in La Plagne.
- Fourteen years since construction started, Magic Mountain may finally finish Green lift.
Breck has been on my bucket list for a long time. Not because of the skiing, necessarily, but because its collection of 23 lifts is among the most unique anywhere. Nowhere else can you find so many lifts with turns (5), lifts that cross other lifts (4), not to mention North America’s only double-loading detachable and its highest elevation chairlift. This weekend I made a break for Breck and the three other Colorado Vail Resorts to see what Epic is all about.
I’ll start with the BreckConnect Gondola, which first connected one end of town to Peaks 7 and 8 in 2006. The Leitner-Poma gondola is free and operates both winter and summer. Locals I talked to can no longer remember life without it. Although it has two mid-stations each with an angle change of more than 40 degrees, the entire system operates with one haul rope. It’s way cooler than taking a bus from the parking lot.
With strong Epic Pass sales and early snow blanketing its properties, Vail Resorts revealed today it will go big on new lifts in 2017, adding additional six-place chairlifts at Vail, Keystone and Breckenridge as part of a $122 million capital program. In the company’s first quarter results, CEO Rob Katz noted, “we remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts, creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests and generating strong returns for our shareholders.” The news follows construction of four new lifts at Vail mountains in both 2015 and 2016.
On Vail Mountain, the Northwoods Express #11 will be replaced, leaving only three CLD-260 first-generation detachables in service. The new Northwoods will also become the mountain’s 10th new lift in 11 years. At Breckenridge, Vail will upgrade the Falcon high speed quad on Peak 10 to a six-person detachable, allowing more guests to experience some of the best intermediate and advanced terrain on the mountain. The Falcon SuperChair is a 1986 Poma high speed quad also approaching the end of its useful life. At Keystone, the 1990 Doppelmayr Uni-model Montezuma chair will be replaced with a six-pack version.
Leitner-Poma is likely to build Breckenridge’s newest lift, which would extend a 16-lift streak for the manufacturer at Breck. Vail and Keystone operate a mix of Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr lifts and could plausibly sign with either company. Noticeably absent from today’s release was any mention of new lifts for Park City or the newly-Epic Whistler-Blackcomb. Vail Resorts will detail further capital improvements in the spring but these three projects are a huge start.
Update 1/23/17: Leitner-Poma will build and install all three of these lifts.
The average detachable chairlift has 108 carriers while the average fixed grip lift has 103. Most people would assume the longest lifts have the most carriers but that’s usually not the case. One of the reasons is longer spacing on detachable chairlifts and gondolas. Also many long fixed-grip lifts get designed with lower hourly capacities and bigger spacing to save money. In fact, only one of the top ten lifts with the most chairs is also among the ten longest. Each of the lifts below has more than 200 chairs and, not surprisingly, all but two are fixed-grips.
- Cyclone – Sunrise Park Resort, AZ – 352 Yan triple chairs
- West Mountain – Sugarloaf, ME – 280 Borvig double chairs
- edited to add later: Town – Park City, UT – 264 CTEC triple chairs
- Alpine – Copper Mountain, CA – 218 Yan double chairs
- Porcupine – Snowbasin, UT – 212 Stadeli triple chairs
- Summit – Attitash, NH – 207 CTEC triple chairs
- C-Chair – Breckenridge, CO – 206 Riblet triple chairs
- A-Chair – Breckenridge, CO – 206 Riblet triple chairs
- Snowflake – Breckenridge, CO – 205 Poma double chairs
- Northwest Express – Mt. Bachelor, OR – 204 Doppelmayr quad chairs
- American Flyer – Copper Mountain, CO – 203 Poma quad chairs
What about gondolas? There are a bunch of them that stretch two-plus miles. Even so, no gondolas come close to making this list. The Sunshine Village Gondola has the most cabins in North America with approximately 175 CWA Omegas and the Whistler Village Gondola comes in at number two with 160 Sigma Diamond cabins. The average North American gondola has just 74 cabins.
Now, who can guess which lift has the most towers?
Last week, Vail Resorts announced their EpicMix mobile app will provide guests with live lift wait times for 55 lifts at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone starting this winter. Vail Resorts will use their app to track guests through lift lines to provide a crowd-sourced estimate called EpicMix Time. The technology is currently being tested at the company’s Perisher resort in Australia. Vail compares the system to Google’s Waze app, which crowd sources traffic and accident information for Google Maps. The company plans to expand the technology in future years to all its resorts and other places where guests have to wait in line such as restaurants and rental shops.
Other resorts have tried to provide lift waiting times in the past. For years, Whistler-Blackcomb has had lights on its lift status signs that indicate whether a lift line is less than 5 minutes, 5-15 minutes, or more than 15 minutes. I suspect Whistler’s system is powered by lift operators calling a dispatcher which is a less than perfect solution. Vail’s technology will be much more accurate and timely.
We’re used to lifts that run in a perfectly straight line between terminals but sometimes a lift just has to have a turn. Common reasons for this uncommon occurrence include buildings in the preferred alignment and challenging property lines. Most lifts with turns are detachable systems with angle stations which are very expensive. But not all lifts that need to turn require loading or unloading mid-way. In a handful of these cases, lift manufacturers have avoided the need for angle stations or extra bullwheels by designing towers with canted sheaves.
The first company to use this trick was Riblet with Chair 5 at Breckenridge way back in
1970 1986. Closely-spaced towers 10A, 10B and 11 have angled sheaves in a compression-support-compression setup. I’m not sure of the exact angle of the turn on Chair 5 but its a couple of degrees. (Edited to add later: the lower terminal and towers of Chair 5 were moved in 1986, 16 years after the lift was first built.)
Most of the lifts that turn using angled sheaves were built by Doppelmayr CTEC and its predecessor Garaventa CTEC and turn less than five degrees. A turn is typically accomplished over three towers with the middle of the three being a depression assembly. The Cabriolet at Park City (formerly Canyons) was the first modern lift with this setup and opened in 2000, connecting the main parking lot to village. Its five degree turn was required due to private property lines and existing buildings.
A year after the experiment at The Canyons, Garaventa CTEC built another detachable with a turn for Snowbird. The Baldy Express turns between towers 10 and 12 again due to private property lines. The first six pack with a turn was the Six Shooter at Big Sky (formerly Moonlight Basin) which was built in 2003 and has a couple degree turn between towers 24 and 26. I’ve heard Six Shooter’s turn was due to a surveying mistake that would have put the top terminal on Big Sky Resort’s property. Doppelmayr CTEC engineered the turn rather than re-doing a bunch of tower bases. The irony here is that ten years later Big Sky ended up buying the land and lifts anyways.