Double Turnarounds! Disney Skyliner Advances

Three of the highest capacity lifts America has ever seen continue to take shape this spring at Walt Disney World in preparation for a 2019 opening.  With steel coming together for the first two megastations announced almost a year ago, the Hollywood Studios gondola seems on track to be completed first.

To keep things consistent, I’ll start this month’s update at Epcot, where the longest of three Disney World lifts will terminate.  This zigzagging line will feature two intermediate stations between Epcot’s International Gateway and the south end of the Caribbean Beach Resort.  Foundation work is in progress at all four stations and the second to last tower (number 25 I think) was recently set near the park entrance.  You can see in the bottom left of the above photo that it might be finished in a green shade to blend into its surroundings.

More towers are either standing or soon will be between Epcot and the first turn station near the parking lot for Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.  This section appears to have around seven towers total.  The ride will be very cool with one water crossing, a forest section and Eiffel Tower views.

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Disney Skyliner Work Accelerates

Those interested in reading only about ski lifts can skip this post.  For everyone else, the Disney Skyliner is poised to become among the world’s highest profile ropeways a bit over a year from now and one worth following.  I plan on scrambling to Walt Disney World as soon as the three Skyliner gondolas open, but for now, we can rely on Twitter user bioreconstruct, a relentless documentarian of everything Disney.

The Skyliner will bring Epcot within just a few minutes’ reach for guests staying at four Disney World Resort hotels.  At the storied park’s International Gateway, what will likely be the second busiest gondola station is in the early phases of construction near the current boat dock.  This one will be mostly open air with a few unique Disney touches on an otherwise dark gray Doppelmayr terminal.

A few tower foundations are going in for the stage from Epcot to the BoardWalk Inn parking lot, where an angle station is also beginning to form.  Cabins will turn sharply here but doors will stay closed in both directions.

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News Roundup: Symphony

Disney Skyliner Reaches Skyward

Walt Disney World is currently building America’s inaugural Doppelmayr D-Line gondola, actually three gondolas.  Although Orlando is a long way from the mountains of Wyoming, the world’s most visited resort is also one of Earth’s most photographed places.  So, through the magic of the internet, I am able to give a construction tour of the Disney Skyliner from afar.

Let’s start at Epcot.  Foundations for this key station are taking shape but the bulk of work still lies ahead.  Though they look like lift terminals, the dark green roofs are actually related to ferry boats the Skyliner will partially replace.

Next up is an angle station that Disney says will showcase the inner workings of the Skyliner as riders pass.  No loading or unloading will take place here but the line will deflect around 110 degrees (double grooved bullwheel, maybe?)  This one is also just beginning to be formed in what used to be a pond.

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Big Sky to Launch North America’s First Eight Passenger Chairlift

This afternoon couldn’t have been a more beautiful one for unveiling what will be America’s biggest lift.  Over the next nine months, Big Sky Resort and Doppelmayr will create Ramcharger 8, a machine packed full of technology on Andesite Mountain.  The current Ramcharger high-speed quad will move to Shedhorn and replace one of Big Sky’s most popular high-alpine lifts while a two-stage North Village gondola and more will eventually follow as part of Big Sky 2025.  “The Biggest Skiing in America is getting bigger and better, again,” said Big Sky Resort General Manager and President Taylor Middleton before the bombshell announcement.  Never before has America seen an 8-passenger chair of any kind, let alone one packed with every bell and whistle available.

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We trail Slovakia in 8-Passenger chairlifts, Stephen Kircher noted to laughter in the gathered crowd.  Not anymore.

I was lucky enough to be invited by Big Sky Resort and the Kircher family to be part of this momentous day in the Mountain Village, where Boyne Resorts’ Stephen Kircher detailed plans for being the North American ski industry’s D-Line launch customer.  Kircher emphasized Big Sky’s lengthy path to this point and how the community has really come together in the past decade.  “My family is proud of its 42-year commitment to southwest Montana and will continue the momentum that is underway at Big Sky Resort,” he said. “We are excited to bring the biggest chair in the world to Big Sky, and to work with the resort team and community to recognize the Resort’s full potential – rivaling the best of the Alps and our North American brethren.”  With a huge snowpack, the Biggest Skiing in America is on track to have its best season ever with more than 500,000 skier days – a feat once only dreamed of here.

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Lone Peak on an afternoon that turned into a historic one in Big Sky, Montana.

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Disney Chooses Doppelmayr D-Line

The new EPCOT gondola station at Walt Disney World Resort will feature metal and glass with hand-painted murals, the park revealed in a blog post today.  Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog

Doppelmayr’s next-generation detachable lift technology appears headed for North America.  Walt Disney World Resort released new details about the upcoming Disney Skyliner gondola system this morning and renderings appear to show D-Line Station-D enclosures.  Each of the six gondola stations will be themed differently, reflecting unique character of the destinations they serve.

D-Line is Doppelmayr’s latest detachable product that debuted two years ago in Hochgurgl, Austria.  Numerous D-Line lifts have since opened in the Alps but no American resort operator has opted to pay extra for one so far, opting instead for the proven UNI-G terminals and standard line equipment.  The Walt Disney Company isn’t your standard lift customer, however.  D-Line sports hundreds of innovations including rope speeds up to 7 m/s or 1,378 feet per minute and wider line gauge for wider carriers.  CWA has developed D-Line-specific Omega gondola cabins with 11 percent greater seating area than non-D 10-passenger versions.  At Disney World, cabins will sport custom wraps with the Disney characters guests know and love.

The Disney Hollywood Studios station will be themed to match nearby buildings in a retro style. Most Disney guests will have no idea they are riding some of the most technologically-advanced lifts in North America.  Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog

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News Roundup: Photos

  • Bear Valley seeks a name for its new six-pack.
  • While we wait for D-Line to come to North America, check out this one going up in Austria.
  • Fly day photos from Pats Peak show major Skytrac upgrades to Ascutney’s old Snowdance triple.
  • I was asked by ANSI to link to the new B77.1-2017 Standard for Passenger Ropeways, which replaces the 2011 version.
  • See how Sun Valley swaps a haul rope.
  • Connecticut’s Woodbury Ski Area, with one 1976 Hall double, is for sale.
  • As NSAA weighs its future again, industry leaders chime in anonymously on aging lifts and more.
  • Proposed Steamboat budget includes $3.78 million to replace the Burrows chairlift at Howelsen Hill with a fixed-grip quad in 2019.
  • Powder and others spread headlines that Colorado resorts are adding more roller coasters than chairlifts this season.  However they missed Copper Mountain’s new high-speed quad and counted Vail Resorts’ four new detachables separately from Colorado Ski Country USA.  The state as a whole is actually adding its most new lifts since 2013 (six) and fewer mountain coasters (four.)

News Roundup: Quebec

  • Intrawest likely won’t buy any new lifts this year.
  • TV station in Maine highlights lift maintenance and oversight with visits to Sugarloaf and Camden Snow Bowl.
  • Denver7 lands the first interview with Larry Smith of the Colorado Passenger Tramway Board following Granby Ranch incident.
  • Sunshine Polishing moving gondola refurbishing operation to Grand Junction.
  • A $67 million, six-year old gondola in Rio sits abandoned.
  • Poma double rope evacuated at Mont Orford.
  • Heron-Poma double rope evac’d at Sleeping Giant before problem apparently fixed with a screwdriver.
  • French lift site reports on two brand new lifts in Quebec.
  • Waterville Valley’s new Green Peak triple will finally open Saturday.
  • “Mexicable is a great experience and it is something that you need to do should you ever visit Mexico City.”
  • Austrian rope manufacturer Teufelberger acquires Italian competitor Redaelli (Fatzer of Switzerland and ArcelorMittal of France are the other big two.)
  • See more photos of the mind-blowing Giggijochbahn gondola.
  • La Paz’s fourth gondola opens March 6th.
  • Leitner Ropeways will complete the new 8-passenger gondola in Torreón, Mexico in April.
  • British Columbia approves construction of Revelstoke Adventure Park with chairlift/gondola construction planned for 2017 and 2018 adjacent to Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
  • Seilbahn Blog has some awesome new photos of the first and only D-Line chairlift.
  • Seven year-old falls from chair at Thunder Ridge.
  • The New York Times checks in at Tamarack.
  • Arapahoe Basin formally unveils Beavers/Steep Gullies trail map & expansion plan with fixed-grip quad chairlift to debut in late 2018.
  • Doppelmayr to build 21,000′, $18 million gondola in Silao, Mexico.
  • Sugarloaf and Doppelmayr are doing a mid-season load test of Skyline on Thursday.

News Roundup: Building

  • talk six-packs with the Vail Daily.
  • Heavenly’s Comet Express remains closed following a Jan. 1st rope evacuation, apparently due to a gearbox issue.  This is one of the reasons Vail Resorts is replacing its fleet of 1980s-vintage detachable quads.
  • Doppelmayr and the United Nations are hosting a week-long urban mobility ropeway class in April.
  • The New York Times tells the tale of Big Sky Resort.
  • Ski patroller severely injured in fall from chair at Terry Peak.
  • Gondola proposed to serve airport in Vietnam’s congested largest city.
  • BC Parks considers a gondola to Mt. Seymour to alleviate parking and traffic problems.
  • Ski Area Management‘s lift construction survey dropped this week.  Highlights from its outlook for 2017:
    • “We’re off to a strong year for ’17, there are lots of people asking about lifts…It’s very positive compared to the previous two years.” – Jon Mauch, Senior Sales Manager at Leitner-Poma
    • “There’s a lot of enthusiasm about what could happen under a Trump administration.  People expect deregulation and a more business-friendly climate.” – Mark Bee, President at Doppelmayr USA
    • “We’re seeing lots of requests quotes, lots of major modifications and retrofits…It’s all being driven by the age of the existing lift infrastructure.” – Carl Skylling, General Manager at Skytrac
    • I’ve already identified 29 new lifts likely to be built in 2017, pacing well above the last few years for mid-January.
  • Slovakian manufacturer Tatralift debuts its third detachable lift using a Wopfner grip.  That makes seven companies capable of building a detachable lift globally – BartholetBMHRI (China), Doppelmayr/Garaventa (Austria), LeitnerPoma (Italy), LST (France), STM (Turkey) and Tatralift (Slovakia.)

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News Roundup: The People