News Roundup: Northward

  • Sun Peaks considers four possible lift projects for summer 2018, most likely being a CAD$8 million replacement of Crystal with an extended detachable.  The world’s longest fixed-grip chairlift, Burfield, could be shortened with a corresponding capacity increase or new lifts added to Orient Ridge or West Morrisey.
  • Ski Magazine updates us on Big Sky 2025 and plans for a new tram or south side lift on Lone Peak.
  • A power outage closes Lake Louise to the public on World Cup Saturday.
  • Burke Mountain says goodbye to Willoughby, a 1988 CTEC quad.
  • The Florida Department of Transportation studies possible gondola routes from Sarasota to nearby barrier islands.
  • Mad River Glen launches $6.5 million Preserve our Paradise capital campaign which includes replacing the 1966 Mueller Birdland with a newer used chairlift.
  • Upcoming Aspen Mountain master plan update likely to include new Pandora’s, Gent’s Ridge and Bell Mountain lifts.
  • Ski Apache is replacing its 1981 Riblet Chair 6 with a brand new Doppelmayr.
  • Less than two years after opening a $7.3 million chairlift, the Hermitage Club falls behind on water and sewer payments.
  • Enjoy these sneak peak photos of two new quad chairs at Giants Ridge courtesy of Benjamin B.

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Why T-Bars are Trending Again

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The Valar T-Bar opened at Cannon Mountain last year to service an expansive race venue, demonstrating one of reasons resorts are building new T-Bars these days.
Seventy percent of the 1,277 T-Bars, J-Bars and platter (sometimes called Poma) lifts built in North America to date are no longer in service.  That would suggest the traditional surface lift is a dying breed in the age of beginner-friendly carpets, which go in by the dozen every year of late.  But over the last two seasons, a bit of a renaissance has emerged, with more mountain resorts adding brand new T-Bars and platters.  Four T-Bars being completed right now represent the highest number in North America since 1987.  Even more resorts are considering building these classic surface lifts, although the reasons why have little to do with learning to ski.

Peak T-Bar construction occurred in 1964 (not shown) but the platter remained popular as a beginner lift into the 1990s when the carpet came along.  Peak J-Bar was back in 1967 and those are probably gone for good.

Race Training

Yesterday I visited both Burke Mountain, Vermont and Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire, where local ski clubs recently partnered to build dedicated surface lifts on terrain used for racing.  In some cases, these types of lifts are open to the public but other times not.  New T-Bars are relatively cheap with costs typically covered by donors and/or program fees.  Another reason for this application is speed; every T-Bar built since 2011 can move at least 550 feet per minute, significantly faster than most fixed-grip chairlifts.  The Franconia Notch Ski Club’s new T was built by LST Ropeways and goes up to 690 fpm; Burke Mountain Academy’s nearly-finished one is a Leitner, shown below.

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News Roundup: Progress

News Roundup: Confirmed

  • $150 million Raymond James settlement includes $762,503 for Burke Mountain’s new Leitner-Poma T-Bar.
  • Power outage leads to rope evacuation of Loveland’s newest lift.
  • Steamboat gondola refurbishing begins  (I got to tour Northstar’s gondola this week which received a similar upgrade in 2015.)
  • Orlando Sentinel confirms Walt Disney World is building three Doppelmayr 10-passenger gondolas with six stations.
  • Crystal Mountain breaks away from Boyne Resorts, orders five additional gondola cabins and plans to build new Discovery and Gold Hills lifts in 2018.
  • Eldora is selling Hall and Heron chairs as six-pack construction begins.
  • Preview Oakland’s new $13 million restaurant accessible only by gondola.
  • Sunday River’s new owner commits to replacing Spruce Peak.
  • This week’s cities floating gondolas include Edmonton and Burlington, Vermont.
  • Fatzer delivers four 153-ton track ropes to Germany’s Zugspitze using two trucks linked together for the entire journey.

News Roundup: Multiplying

News Roundup: Vermont

  • In the wake of fraud allegations and a federal takeover, Q Burke Mountain Resort will lose the Q and likely be sold within a year.
  • At Jay Peak, Doppelmayr says the 52-year old aerial tramway needs $4.15 million in repairs.  In a press conference, the Florida lawyer put in charge of both properties said “we’re not even sure we have to fix the tram.  The company that tells us we have to fix it is also the one that will get the contract.”  At least he’s stopped calling it a gondola.
  • A new lease for Ascutney Mountain will allow a nonprofit group to build up to three lifts at the ski area, which closed in 2008.  Skytrac removed Ascutney’s four CTECs from 2012-2014 and sold them to Crotched Mountain, Pats Peak and Liberty Mountain.  A 1970 Hall double remains standing on the property.
  • Washington, DC taps the same company that conducted the feasibility study for the Portland Aerial Tram to study the proposed Georgetown Gondola.
  • A D-Line gondola is coming to Innsbruck.
  • The Mi Teleferico “My Cable Car” network in La Paz carried 43 million passengers in its first 22 months with 99.3% reliability.

Feds Seize Jay Peak & Burke Mountain, Allege $200 Million Fraud

Jay Peak and Q Burke Mountain Resorts have new management today courtesy of the federal government.  In a joint press conference with Vermont’s governor and state regulators this morning, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission released an 81-page complaint alleging Q Resorts Inc. owner Ariel Quiros and CEO Bill Stegner defrauded investors and misused $200 million over the past eight years in a “Ponzi-like” scheme.

The EB-5 Visa program gives foreign investors permanent U.S. residency in exchange for investing $500,000 and creating jobs at American businesses.  Funds are supposed to be used for specific projects such as the snowmaking expansion at Mt. Snow.  At Jay Peak, Mr. Quiros and Mr. Stegner raised $350 million with 700+ investors from 74 countries for seven different projects.  At least $200 million of that money was instead redirected to pay off loans used to buy both ski mountains, purchase a condo for Quiros at Trump Place in New York and pay personal income taxes.  “The alleged fraud ran the gamut from false statements to deceptive financial transactions to outright theft,” said Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s enforcement division.

The alleged flow of funds is so complicated the State of Vermont set up an interactive page to view it.
State of Vermont diagram showing the alleged flow of funds.
What does this all mean for the ski operations?  The SEC froze assets yesterday and appointed Kansas City-based Leisure Hotels and Resorts to operate Burke and Jay.  The company has no ski resort experience but owns numerous hotels in the Midwest. Jay’s Communications Director said this afternoon that Quiros and Stegner no longer have any authority to conduct business or direct operations until the case has concluded.

Longtime Chief Marketing Officer Steve Wright has stepped in as General Manager for now an

Jay Peak is open for skiing today with 4 

lifts spinning.

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Oldest Operating Lifts in the US & Canada

1. Single Chair, Mad River Glen, VT – 1948 American Steel & Wire Single Chair

The single chair at MRG still has its original towers and terminal structures but everything else was replaced by Doppelmayr CTEC in 2007.  As part of that project, towers were removed, sandblasted and repainted before being flown back to new foundations with new line gear.  Doppelmayr also replaced the bullwheels, chairs, grips, drive and haul rope.  This begs the question of ‘when is an old lift a new lift?’

2. Gatlinburg Sky Lift, Gatlinburg, TN – 1954 Riblet double

Everett Kircher of Boyne fame bought this chairlift from Sugar Bowl, CA for $3,000 in 1954.  Originally it was a single chair built in 1939.  Modified sheave assemblies were machined at the Kircher’s car dealership in Michigan when the lift went to Tennessee.  At some point it appears to have gotten newer-style Riblet towers.  Boyne Resorts still operates this lift 800 miles from their nearest ski resort. (edit: JP notes in the comments below that this version was replaced by a Riblet double in 1991.  Thanks JP!)

3. Chair 1, White Pass, WA – 1955 1962 Riblet double

This lift only operates on busy weekends and holidays but it’s an old one and a good one .  A classic Pacific Northwest center-pole double with very few modifications from its original design and no safety bars! (edit: Brian notes in the comments that this lift was actually installed as Chair 2 in 1962.  The original chair 1 operated 1955-1994.)

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Chair one at White Pass lives on despite an adjacent high speed quad.

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