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.
Aerial view of a leg of the Disney Skyliner's Epcot line, across the Boardwalk Resort. Arrows at cable support tower locations. pic.twitter.com/ByswFoo5IY
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.
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.
Aerial view of the turn in the Disney Skyliner route between Riviera Resort and Epcot. Located south of Boardwalk Resort. pic.twitter.com/6EGqXpHbB7
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.