News Roundup: A Late Addition

  • Big Sky’s two new lodging access lifts are on the map, bringing The Biggest Skiing in America to 37 lifts.
  • Sasquatch Mountain Resort needs help naming its shiny new Leitner-Poma quad chair.
  • Mont St. Mathieu will expand with a 3,100 foot Doppelmayr surface lift set for commissioning in January 2020.
  • The Sea to Sky Gondola confirms 9 cabins were undamaged in the August incident and will be used to shuttle workers this winter.  With 30 new cabins on the way from Europe, the company will be able to easily take the lift to final capacity (40 cabins) in the future.
  • Crested Butte’s new trail map shows the adjusted Teocalli alignment.
  • In Bolivia, the largest gondola operation in the world reopens following a week of shutdowns due to civil unrest and the resignation of President Evo Morales.  The general manager of the gondola company also resigned.
  • Win Smith of Sugarbush chats with Vermont Public Radio about why now was the right time to sell.
  • Mt. Timothy, BC is officially back in business.
  • On December 9th, Vail Resorts will report fiscal first quarter earnings, traditionally accompanied by guidance on capital investment plans for the year.
  • Thanks to Collin Parsons for these awesome photos of the gondola construction at the Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.

 

News Roundup: Tallying

  • Just in time for summer, the Sea to Sky Gondola welcomes ten more cabins to the line, increasing capacity by 50 percent.
  • The Idaho Springs, Colorado city council may vote Monday on rezoning for a proposed 17 tower, 27 cabin gondola lift.
  • Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes explains his reorganization plan but for now, a receiver remains in place.
  • Snowshoe is purportedly planning to replace Powder Monkey with a fixed grip quad next summer.
  • Although it doesn’t build lifts in the United States, Bartholet has built some very slick machines lately.
  • The Indy Pass grows to 28 resorts.
  • A rocket from Syria damages a ski lift at Israel’s Mt. Hermon, where a Leitner gondola is also currently under construction.
  • Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz launches a podcast with a great first episode about the Park City acquisition.
  • The City of Steamboat is still weighing options for bringing in a private operator and/or replacing Barrows at Howelsen Hill.
  • California Express notches another approval but litigation could be coming.
  • Vail Resorts reports a great quarter: skier visits up 14.3 percent and lift revenue up 16.4 percent with season pass sales for next year trending up 9 percent and 13 percent in units and dollars.  “We are still absolutely aggressive on looking for additional resorts that we think add to our network and make the experience that we provide our guests better,” says Rob Katz on the quarterly conference call.
  • Quebec tallied 4.6 million skier visits last winter, a ten year high for a province with three new chairlifts already under construction for next year.
  • New Hampshire resorts logged 100,000 more skier days than 2017-18.
  • Colorado is king with 13.1 million estimated skier visits, a new record.
  • This was supposed to be the summer the town of Grafton, Illinois celebrated a new gondola.  Instead, 2019 will be remembered for the flooding that has thrown a wrench in its construction.
  • Teo II is approved but has no timeline for construction yet.

News Roundup: New Gondolas

News Roundup: Slow Boat

  • After years of gondola negotiations with the Town of Jackson, a frustrated Snow King Mountain presses pause while it waits for the U.S. Forest Service to weigh in.
  • Doppelmayr completes the final link in the world’s largest gondola chain.  The stats: 10 lines, 21 miles, 34 stations and 1,324 cabins carrying 300,000 daily passengers.
  • Crested Butte’s longest lift goes down for more than four days due to communication line damage.
  • The announced sale of Montana’s Great Divide won’t happen.
  • Peak Resorts posts a solid financial quarter with organic growth in revenue and earnings.
  • The Whistler paper highlights what happens when the big Blackcomb Gondola goes down.
  • SkyTrans Manufacturing says it’s not to blame for the Ohio State Fair’s delay in replacing potentially corroded chairs on its skyride.  As a result of the chairlift situation, Ohio will require all ride operators to forward manufacturer directives to state inspectors going forward.
  • After tons of hard work by its lift mechanics and contractors, Attitash concedes it won’t be able to fix Summit‘s gearbox this season.  “We’ve heard your calls for a new lift to replace the Summit Triple, and while we appreciate all your feedback, this is not a project our parent company, Peak Resorts, is looking to do in the near future,” says GM John Lowell.
  • Leaders of AltaAspen Snowmass, Big Sky and Jackson Hole all pen letters addressing the chorus of Ikon Pass crowding criticism.
  • The Glenwood Caverns gondola takes flight tomorrow with 17 Sigma cabins.  27 more are on a delayed boat from France and will be put on line when they arrive.

News Roundup: More Epic

  • The Spanish ski resort that closed when a chair fell from its Yan detachable quad reopens with uploading via snowcat.
  • The San Diego Fire Department performs a successful over water night evacuation of the Bayside Skyride at SeaWorld San Diego.
  • Timberline Four Seasons Resort, which has struggled with lift breakdowns and other issues of late, is closed this weekend and could be placed in receivership.
  • Snow Valley missed all of President’s weekend will remain closed indefinitely due to road damage.  Mountain High is kindly honoring their season passes during the shutdown.

News Roundup: Back to Work

 

Crested Butte to Replace Teocalli Lift

Just weeks after declaring the Teocalli lift wouldn’t spin this season due to needed maintenance, Crested Butte Mountain Resort today announced the Riblet double will be replaced with a new fixed-grip quad next summer.  Teocalli opened in 1979 and was the last operating Riblet lift at the resort.  Pending Forest Service approval, the larger lift will increase capacity by more than 50 percent.  The lower terminal will remain in its current location while the top station will shift closer to the Red Lady Express summit.

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“The realignment and improved capacity of the lift will provide an elevated on-mountain experience via quick terrain access, improved egress to the resort base area and access to Uley’s Cabin – one of CBMR’s premier on mountain restaurants,” said Tim Baker, general manager of the resort in a blog post.  “We believe this investment can provide a significant benefit to a variety of guests in the near future, and we’ll continue to listen to feedback and evaluate other potential investments that will have a similar impact for a spectrum of guests moving forward.”  Ten of Crested Butte’s eleven lifts are of Leitner-Poma lineage but no manufacturer was specified.  The new lift is the third to be announced by Vail Resorts for 2019, following the company’s commitment to replace two chairlifts at Stevens Pass next summer.  Both Crested Butte and Stevens were acquired by Vail last summer.

News Roundup: Worth the Wait

How Many Lifts Could Vail Resorts Announce Next Month?

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.

Colorado

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.

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Vail’s lift 7 is the only chair in Game Creek Bowl and could use more capacity.

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.

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6 Chair at Breckenridge is wildly popular despite being fixed grip and 40 years old.

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 WaybackPeru 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.

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I don’t mind Wayback at Keystone but I also rarely ski in Colorado on weekends or holidays.

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.

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Coast to Coast! Vail Resorts Buys Okemo, Crested Butte, Mt. Sunapee & Stevens Pass

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Crested Butte Mountain Resort operates a dozen lifts in central Colorado, mostly built by Poma.

The largest publicly-traded ski resort company in the world today simultaneously unveiled two major transactions to buy ski resorts in four different states for more than $300 million.  Vail Resorts will acquire Triple Peaks, LLC for $82 million and Stevens Pass, Washington for $67 million, subject to regulatory approval.  The former, founded and owned by Tim and Dianne Mueller, operates Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado and Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire, hence the name Triple Peaks.  Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail will buy out the three resorts’ long term leases from Oz Real Estate upon closing for an additional $155 million.  Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and Crested Butte signed onto the industry-pioneering Epic Pass back in March and will now offer unlimited, unrestricted access for Epic passholders.

Another Oz-owned resort, Stevens Pass, will be sold to Vail for $67 million in a separate deal subject to regulatory approval.  Stevens Pass is currently operated by Karl Kapuscinski along with Mountain High, California.  The SoCal resort is not included in Vail’s purchase.  Stevens Pass will join the Epic Pass for the first time, making it an even more compelling product for Pacific Northwest skiers who frequent Whistler Blackcomb.  Stevens will also be included in the Edge Card, a product that predated Vail and is offered exclusively to residents of British Columbia and Washington.  Notably, Stevens Pass has major lift expansions on both flanks of the current trail system in its approved master plan.

Okemo is a nearly 100 percent Poma mountain in southern Vermont that competes with the powerhouses of Stratton, Mt. Snow and Killington.

With today’s news and other deals including the sale of six resorts to Boyne Resorts, the Oz Real Estate Ski Resort Holdings portfolio now includes just Jiminy Peak and Sierra at Tahoe, down from 15 resorts at its peak under CNL Lifestyle Properties.  Northstar California, Mountain High and Bretton Woods were also sold off over the last few years.

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