- A bill introduced in Congress would allow National Forests to use some of the fees collected from ski resorts to be used to expedite permitting for improvement projects.
- Poma will break ground on its first urban 3S in July.
- Lookout Pass intends to buy a second Skytrac quad for the Eagle Peak Expansion and relocate Chair 1.
- In addition to its Lake replacement project, Owl’s Head decides to also remove the Panorama double without a direct replacement.
- Breckenridge proposes building an infill chairlift on Peak 7 to improve skier circulation.
- Local electeds vote in support of an urban gondola to Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus.
- Retired Riblet double chairs bring in $146,000 for nonprofit organizations surrounding Schweitzer Mountain Resort.
- Towers supporting the world’s first eight passenger monocable gondola are history.
- This video shows how the Disney Skyliner’s innovative loading works. Every 9th gondola goes to a second turnaround, stopping about 50 seconds for unloading and another 1:10 for loading before rejoining the moving line. Pretty slick!
- The Hermitage Club files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, listing more than 200 creditors. A company called Restructured Opportunity Investors could lend the club up to $1.75 million for restructuring if approved by a bankruptcy court.
- Berkshire Bank wants the Hermitage receiver to stay on the job while a different bankruptcy court considers whether to initiate a Chapter 7 liquidation, which at least 187 club members now support.
- At Smugglers’ Notch, hundreds of trout take a spin up Sterling to their new home in Vermont’s highest pond.
- A Dutch-American joint venture proposes building an indoor snow park on a Northern Virginia landfill serviced by a two stage gondola.
- It sure looks like the Skyline Express is moving as part of the Brooks/Daisy replacement project at Stevens Pass.
- The haul rope is up on the Bretton Woods Skyway.
- Construction is well underway on Jackson Hole’s 10th chairlift.
- The Pandora’s high speed quad is a go for next summer on Aspen Mountain.
- Construction of a T-Bar on Golden Peak should begin even sooner at Vail.
- Prying doors open and jumping out of a gondola at Steamboat is not a good idea.
- Nor is bailing from a chairlift at Crested Butte.
- The owner of closed Timberline Resort writes an op-ed about the situation.
- Remember the avalanche that took out a six pack tower in New Zealand last winter? The lift is back together again.
- One of the last remaining Yan detachable lifts, out of service for much of this season, will be torn down this summer.
- Vail CEO Rob Katz says his company will continue to invest in infrastructure such as lifts and steer customers towards season pass products.
- The names for Schweitzer’s upcoming new lifts are Cedar Park Express and Colburn.
- Deer Valley-turned-Alterra executive Bob Wheaton discusses the benefits of being part of a conglomerate.
- Winter Park’s C.A. Lane explains Alterra’s capital allocation is based on resort wish lists.
- Hogadon considers putting $250,000 toward the purchase of a quad chairlift.
- Fernie announces the Timber Bowl Express will close this summer for a bunch of upgrades.
- Sugarloaf uses the backup to the backup on a busy Saturday at Skyline.
- The Austrian resort whose 1980s bubble detachable is apparently destined for Mission Ridge is building two D-Line Omega V 10/bubble 8 combination lifts worth $35 million.
- The first D-Line half station is coming to Sölden.
- There could be another gondola in Banff.
- The BreckConnect won’t spin for much of Breckenridge’s extended winter season out of concern for wildlife.
- A full complement of cabins is spotted on a second Disney Skyliner line.
- The owner of 49 Degrees North says he plans to build a detachable summit lift within three years.
- A Balsams update.
- Mountain Capital Partners will modify the Nordic Valley expansion proposal to address Forest Service concerns.
- The first lift-served bike park in Texas opens January 18th with a fixed-grip quad called the Texas Eagle.
- What was once the longest triple chair on the continent is officially off the Sunrise Park trail map.
- Pajarito does a rope evac of the Aspen lift on opening day.
- Simultaneously, Whitefish evacuates East Rim, which goes over quite the cliff.
- Breckenridge brings out the ropes for the Quicksilver Super6 the same day.
- Yet another lift is rope evacuated at Loch Lomond, Ontario.
- 39 lawsuits have been filed against The Hermitage Club and its founder to date.
- Attitash provides daily updates on Summit, which has been down a bunch lately.
- Hickory, NY won’t reopen this winter.
- Killington still plans to open the new South Ridge quad sometime this winter.
- Map master James Niehues gives up on retirement and is painting a new trail map for Mt. Bachelor.
- The planned race training T-Bar at Sunday River is a go for this summer.
- A teenager dies from a chairlift fall at Blue Mountain, PA.
- A lucky nine year old keeps on skiing after falling 40 feet from Solitude’s Moonbeam Express.
- A teen girl dies after jumping from a quad chair in Quebec.
- Greater Vancouver’s transit agency still wants to build a gondola up Burnaby Mountain but needs funding for it.
- Searchmont, Ontario sells to Wisconsin Resorts, the firm behind Pine Knob, Mt. Holly and Ski Bittersweet in Michigan as well as Alpine Valley, Wisconsin.
- Mike Solimano of Killington reveals what three lifts he would upgrade if given $100 million to spend at The Beast.
- The new Winter Park gondola is creatively named Gondola.
- Grand Junction’s NBC affiliate takes viewers inside the factory where Leitner-Poma lifts are created.
- The two stage Blackcomb Gondola is almost finished; thanks Max for these pictures.
- Next up for Ramcharger 8 at Big Sky: installation of an in-terminal video wall and the haul rope, which is going up right now.
- Beech Mountain commissions its twin fixed grip quads.
- Freeskier looks at Alterra’s whirlwind growth and future trajectory.
- Rope pulling commences tonight at Walt Disney World, 24 years to the day since the Disneyland Skyway cable was taken down for good.
- This week’s new trail map comes from Hunter Mountain.
- In an act of sabotage, someone cuts into three haul ropes at a Pyrenees ski resort.
- Construction of Montana Snowbowl’s TV Mountain lift may stretch into a fourth construction season.
- Sun Peaks wins my vote for the best new lift color scheme of 2018.
- SnowBrains shines a light on the lift maintenance profession.
- Mountain Creek looks to exit bankruptcy with SNOW Operating as a controlling partner.
- Westside Six comes together at Windham Mountain.
With four recent additions, Vail Resorts Inc. now operates just over 10 percent of American and Canadian lifts, more than any other company. Vail prides itself on investing heavily in its mountains and the average lift at an Epic resort is three years newer than the rest of the industry. The company’s lifts now number 305 in the United States, Canada and Australia with an average age of 24.6 years. If we assume the average lift lasts 35 years, Vail would now need to replace an average of about nine lifts per year just to turn over its fleet.
A little less than a year ago, a smaller VR unveiled plans for seven new lifts as part of a $150 million annual capital plan, the largest in the company’s history. Back in 2016, Vail committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (VR later added a fourth detachable to that year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.) In December 2015, the Broomfield-based company announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, it was $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six pack at Vail. Over the last five years, more resorts have consistently led to more revenue and more capital investments. The company said it will invest $35 million at the four new mountains in the next two years, making it possible this December’s announcement will be the most valuable ever.
Going resort by resort, the most obvious projects are ones already in the pipeline, namely the Game Creek Express #7 replacement and Golden Peak race lift at Vail. But VR could go bigger like it did this summer at Whistler Blackcomb, spending $52 million to package four lift replacements together. On Vail Mountain, additional aging lifts likely to be up-gauged to six-packs eventually are Orient Express #21, Born Free Express #8 and Wildwood Express #3. The mothership mountain has the third largest and third newest lift fleet in the company and I expect investment to continue at Vail following this year’s pause.
On average, the newest lifts within Vail Resorts are at Beaver Creek, which opened decades later than its peers. A major expansion was approved in September – McCoy Park – which may be implemented in 2020. In advance of those two new lifts, the Strawberry Park Express could be updated in 2019 to a higher capacity gondola. The oldest lift at Beaver Creek is the 1988 Arrow Bahn Express, which eventually will be replaced by a newer detachable. Probably not this year though.
Sticking in Colorado, Breckenridge is usually the first or second most visited resort in America and did not see a new lift in 2018. I say a Riblet gets replaced here in 2019 and my vote would be 6-Chair with a high speed quad. My second guess would be C-Chair followed by 5, A, E and Rip’s Ride. If Vail decides to continue replacing older high speed quads instead, Beaver Run SuperChair is the logical candidate.
Keystone has both expansion possibilities and lifts that could be upgraded. The project everyone’s been clamoring for is a detachable lift from The Outback to replace Wayback. Peru Express is the oldest high speed lift at Keystone and a core workhorse, making it likely to be replaced with a six pack soon. Outback Express is one year newer and in a similar situation. Another possible replacement is Argentine, a 1977 Lift Engineering double that the 2009 Keystone Master Development Plan proposed replacing with a two stage detachable. The new lift would load near Peru, have an angle station above Lower Schoolmarm and continue all the way to the ridge of Dercum Mountain. The Keystone MDP also outlines major expansions that I expect we will hear more about over the next decade. They include a Ski Tip gondola, Bergman Bowl lift, Independence Bowl lift, Windows lift and Outback surface lift. Whatever Vail chooses, I am hopeful for a new lift or two at Keystone in 2019.
Crested Butte is the new kid on the block and Vail may wait a year or more to do anything lift wise. The mountain’s Teocalli II expansion is still moving through the Forest Service NEPA process. The Mueller family invested heavily in the Triple Peaks resorts over the years and I don’t see a whole lot needed near-term at CBMR. Replacing original Teocalli with a high speed quad would be a nice way to burn some of the promised $35 million.
With over 100 detachable chairlifts, 22 gondolas and some 150 fixed-grip lifts, the Colorado lift fleet represents a total investment somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 million. The Centennial State has more ski lifts than any other state or province and on each visit I’m amazed by the caliber of ski infrastructure here. More than half of Colorado’s lifts are detachable models, a feat which no other North American region comes close to achieving. This winter, six more high-speed chairlifts came on scene, and while none open up new terrain, each one serves an important purpose. I was lucky enough to ride the new machines at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper, Eldora, Keystone and Vail over three days this week, testament to the remarkable amount of skiing available within a few hours’ drive here. This year’s class includes two Doppelmayr high-speed quads, a Doppelmayr six-pack and three Leitner-Poma six-place chairs representing half of all new detachable chairlifts built in North America for 2017-18.
Red Buffalo Express – Beaver Creek Mountain
The last lift from Beaver Creek’s 1980 inaugural season, Drink of Water, was replaced with a new lift with a new name over the summer. The quad’s namesake, Red Buffalo Park, is now a dedicated learning zone with awe-inspring views of the Gore Range from 11,400 feet. While lift 5’s terminals, hangers, grips and operator houses are new, most of the tower components and chairs are from the former Montezuma lift at Keystone. Like its sister Vail, Beaver Creek now has just one fixed-grip lift of appreciable length remaining alongside an amazing 14 detachable chairlifts and gondolas.
Falcon SuperChair – Breckenridge
Breckenridge debuted its third next-gen Leitner-Poma LPA six-pack on December 28th. The new Falcon SuperChair replaces a Poma high-speed quad that opened along with Peak 10 itself in 1985. The new ride lifts capacity by 25 percent to 3,000 guests per hour in this popular advanced-intermediate pod. The Falcon has the same sweet plush chairs as the new Colorado and Kensho SuperChairs.
- Aspen Mountain 1A stakeholders narrow replacement options to a few alignments with a two-stage lift or pulse gondola still in the mix.
- Crystal Mountain, WA retires its hand-painted trail map for a computer-rendered VistaMap.
- Antelope Butte, Wyoming inches closer to reopening with its two existing Riblet chairlifts.
- Local paper tells the story of how Borvig’s owner came to own Berthoud Pass.
- Breckenridge and Vail debut new Leitner-Poma six-place lifts.
- A power outage closes Sugarloaf on the always-busy day after Christmas.
- Two different New Hampshire ski areas remain closed due to problems with lifts.
- LST detachable lift number one is still undergoing testing in France with opening now planned for January.
- Bromley’s Sun Mountain Express is back in action today following Monday’s incident. Ironically, it’s currently on wind hold.
Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
If you follow the ski industry, mark your calendar for four months from now, the week of December 4th. Very early one morning that week, the largest mountain resort operator in the world will release its fiscal 2018 first quarter results and, more importantly to this audience, outline capital expenditures for 2018. Last year, this is the moment Vail Resorts committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (the company later added a fourth detachable to this year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.) In December 2015, MTN announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six-pack at Vail. So, what might be on the likely $120+ million agenda for 2018?
- Game Creek Express #7 six-pack. The current 1985 version of Game Creek is the oldest operating lift on Vail Mountain and one of three remaining CLD-260 style Doppelmayr detachables there. It is likely to be replaced with a six-pack, increasing capacity by at least 25 percent in popular Game Creek Bowl. Of the recent six-pack upgrades at Vail, two were built by Doppelmayr (Avanti #2 and Mountaintop #4) and one by Leitner-Poma (Northwoods #11.)
- Orient Express #21 six-pack. Three years newer than Game Creek but still with DS grips, Orient Express serves some of the most popular terrain in Vail’s famous Back Bowls below the equally popular Two Elk Lodge. A six-pack upgrade would be the first such lift in the Back Bowls or Blue Sky Basin.
- Wildwood Express #3 six-pack. A 1995 CTEC, Wildwood is not as old as other detachables recently replaced at Vail, but it serves a high-traffic pod between Mid-Vail and its namesake Wildwood. Parts from this lift could be used as spares for Riva Bahn/Pride Express and Cinch, Bachelor, Grouse Mountain and Strawberry Park high-speed quads at Beaver Creek.
- Born Free Express #8 replacement. Born Free is the 1988 sister ship to Orient and runs parallel to the Eagle Bahn Gondola, built 1996. Vail could opt to address both lifts in the coming years with a gondola like Keystone’s or replace only Born Free with a new high-speed quad or six-pack.
- Golden Peak Race lift. In April, Vail submitted a master plan amendment to add a third lift on Golden Peak above the Riva Bahn mid-station. This short fixed-grip chairlift or surface lift would primarily serve an extended race course.
- Arrow Bahn Express replacement. Beaver Creek doesn’t see nearly the traffic that Vail does and has seen ten new lifts since 2000. However, Arrow Bahn Express is by far the oldest lift at Beaver Creek, built in 1988 to serve a separate Arrowhead ski area. A CLD-260 like Game Creek, Orient and Born Free but with lower hours for its age, Arrow Bahn might make it a bit longer.