Alterra Announces $344 Million Capital Plan for 2022

Alterra Mountain Company today affirmed plans to open big new lifts in 2022 and more next year as it increases investment across its 14 resorts. This year’s $344 million plan includes $93 million in increased capacity and terrain expansion, $91 million for skier services upgrades, and $16 million in guest experience technology with a focus on Palisades Tahoe, Steamboat, Crystal Mountain, Mammoth Mountain and Deer Valley.

At Palisades Tahoe, the $65 million Base-to-Base Gondola will be completed this summer after two seasons of construction. The Leitner-Poma gondola will connect the two mountains of the resort for the first time, giving skiers and riders access to a combined 6,000 acres of terrain and making Palisades the third largest resort in North America. The 16 minute gondola ride will take skiers and riders between The Village at Palisades Tahoe and Alpine Lodge, reducing road congestion in the region and making it easier to enjoy both mountains in a single day. It is the first gondola of its kind in North America, with four terminals connecting two base areas via a climb of nearly 2,000 vertical feet.

Winter 2022-23 will also see phase two of Steamboat’s Full Steam Ahead redevelopment completed with $90 million of investment to include the relocation of the lower terminal of the Christie Peak Express and the first leg of the Wild Blue Gondola, which will take guests to the new Greenhorn Ranch learning center at mid-mountain.

Wild Blue will become the longest gondola in North America and the fastest 10-person gondola in the country. With the lower leg opening in 2022-23, and the upper leg opening in 2023-24, the state-of-the-art Doppelmayr D-Line gondola will feed skiers/riders through a newly created mid-station adjacent to Bashor Bowl with the final destination of Sunshine Peak. It will feature the first Omega V cabins in the United States. At a total length of 3.16 miles, the new gondola will increase the out of base capacity from 6,000 people per hour to 10,000 people per hour, getting skiers from bottom to top in 13 minutes. The recently re-graded Rough Rider/Bashor Basin area will be home to Greenhorn Ranch, an area dedicated to beginner skiers and riders. It will feature progressive terrain-based learning and a dedicated chairlift.

For winter 2023-24, 650 acres of advanced terrain will open on Pioneer Ridge, making Steamboat the second largest ski resort in Colorado. This expert, gladed terrain will be serviced by a new detachable chairlift.

At Washington’s Crystal Mountain, $100 million will be spent over the next five years. The largest investment ever made at Crystal will focus on greater access, more space and significantly enhanced skier services. Work will begin this spring with $25 million for additional parking and a new 25,000 square foot skier services facility called Mountain Commons. No lift projects were announced but Crystal Mountain President Frank DeBerry has made no secret his wish list includes a replacement for the Rainier Express, a new gondola to the summit and relocation of the current Mt. Rainier Gondola to Campbell Basin.

At Mammoth Mountain, summer 2022 will see ground and infrastructure work to facilitate the replacement of the Canyon Express at Canyon Lodge and Broadway Express at Main Lodge. Doppelmayr initially planned to build these lifts in 2020 before the Coronavirus pandemic postponed the project. The new high-speed six packs are planned to finally debut in winter 2023-24.

New for winter 2022-23 at Deer Valley, the Burns Express chairlift will debut at the Wide West learning area. This high speed chairlift will connect the Snow Park base area to Little Baldy Mountain, offering ski school access to more beginner teaching terrain and providing an additional option for skiers to navigate out of the main arrival area. The $6 million investment to improve the learning area on Wide West will also include enhancements to the existing Snowflake chairlift, installing and reconfiguring surface lifts and grading beginner terrain.

“This historic investment is clear evidence of our commitment to deliver a premier guest experience at our North American destinations and our engagement towards the long-term future of our mountains,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra Mountain Company. “More than ever, we continue to infuse meaningful capital into projects that will transform our base areas while significantly improving our physical and digital on-mountain offerings to ensure that our guests experience the best of the mountains.”

Some previously-approved projects were absent from Alterra’s latest announcement, namely the Red Dog replacement at Palisades, Timber expansion at Tremblant and Pioneer Express upgrade at Winter Park.

Big Sky to Transform Base-to-Summit Lift Experience

The final chapter of Big Sky 2025 will be the largest yet, with a new gondola and tram connecting Big Sky Resort’s Mountain Village to Lone Peak. This multi-year project will cement Big Sky as a leader in lift technology among North American resorts.

Big Sky embarked on the 2025 initiative six years ago to enhance the mountain experience with a focus on lifts and dining. Boyne Resorts partnered with Doppelmayr to bring North America’s first eight place and fastest six place chairlifts to Big Sky in 2018 and 2021 and now the companies will build two more signature lifts leading up to 2025.

A new Explorer Gondola will load at the north end of the village and replace Big Sky’s last remaining original Heron-Poma lift which turns 50 next year. Together with Ramcharger 8 and Swift Current 6, three high capacity D-Line lifts will all load in the village. An intermediate gondola station will house a new ski school center and underground parking for cabins. This station will also include a direct drive powering both gondola haul ropes via a double-grooved bullwheel. Cabins will turn 22 degrees before ascending to a second new lodge near the top of Big Sky’s original Gondola One. Unlike Boyne Resorts’ five other D-Line lifts, the Explorer Gondola will feature squared glass enclosures, matching the style of the new tram stations and Bowl restaurant. The architecture alone will be unlike anything else in North American skiing.

Garaventa will build the reconfigured Lone Peak Tram, which will start at the new mid-mountain hub and operate year round. Large cabins will pass one tower before arriving at a glass-enclosed terminal at 11,166 feet. The new tram will be nearly twice as long as the current one but also faster and more capable.

“The new lift system from the base area to the summit of Lone Peak will revolutionize the way we access ‘America’s Matterhorn’ in both winter and summer,” said Big Sky Resort president and COO Taylor Middleton. “In creating this must-do experience accessible to all, we will offer the premier high-alpine experience on Montana’s highest scenic overlook.” Although tram cabins will be able to accommodate more passengers at once than the current 15 person tram, Big Sky plans to carefully manage throughput depending on conditions and season.

“We couldn’t think of a more significant and emblematic series of initiatives to close out the transformation we’re accomplishing with the Big Sky 2025 vision,” noted Stephen Kircher, CEO and president of Boyne Resorts. “Coupling a truly world-class tram experience with the most architecturally thoughtful on-mountain food and beverage and Mountain Sports facilities will set a new standard for mountain communities in North America. This innovative project will kick off an exciting new chapter in transforming the future of tourism in Big Sky and across southwest Montana, and sets the stage for planning Big Sky’s next steps.”

Construction will begin this summer although a project of this size will take multiple construction seasons to complete. The current Lone Peak Tram and Explorer lifts will remain in service throughout the process with the new tram set for completion in Fall 2023.

Sterling Vineyards to Debut New Gondola in 2023

The one-of-a-kind gondola at a California winery will not run again, Sterling Vineyards has announced. The 1972 Hall installation, which travels in a triangle alignment, was closed in 2020 due to Covid and subsequently damaged by a wildfire. In its place, Sterling and Doppelmayr USA will partner to construct a detachable eight place gondola running in a similar historic alignment. “Over the past twelve months, our team has been working diligently to safely assess and stabilize the property and fully scope this major project,” the company wrote. “We are excited to share that we are now moving into reconstructing the winery in preparation of a re-opening in Spring 2023.”

“After careful assessment, it was determined that our beloved and historic Aerial Tram must be replaced,” the statement continued. “The Aerial Tram has been, and will continue to be, central to our visitor experience, as well as an iconic feature of the winery. We anticipate a full year of hard work ahead of us, to bring this special property back to you safely and beautifully.”

The new lift will be as modern as the old one was quaint, becoming the first D-Line lift in California and featuring Omega V cabins from CWA. The one way journey will remain similar with three stations and drive/tensioning systems located at the valley station. There will of course still be a glass of wine waiting for each rider at the first angle station. “We welcome you to join us behind the scenes as we give you sneak peeks through photos and videos of the site during construction and watch Sterling Vineyards literally rise from the ashes, regaining its historic splendor, and bouncing back to once again be one of the most visited sites in the Napa Valley.”

Eight Seater Coming to Sunday River’s Jordan Bowl

Doppelmayr will build the fastest eight place chairlift in North America for the 2022-23 season, a Sunday River Red bubble chair in Jordan Bowl. Dubbed Jordan 8, the lift will feature the world’s first red-colored bubbles along with heated seats, a loading conveyor and direct drive. Jordan 8 will spin a blazing 6 meters a second, shaving a minute off the ride time of the current Jordan Bowl Express and transporting 3,200 skiers per hour. “We are proud as a team and so excited to bring the latest Doppelmayr technology to Sunday River,” said Stephen Kircher, CEO of Boyne Resorts. “With each milestone in the Sunday River 2030 plan, Boyne Resorts is enhancing the experience across the board with major investments in infrastructure.”

The current Jordan high speed quad will be refurbished to replace the Barker Mountain Express for winter 2023-24. Some may wonder why Jordan for a D-Line lift rather than Sunday River’s original peak with an older detachable quad. The answer lies in Jordan Bowl’s popularity with guests, the amount of wind and snow it sees as well as the fact Sunday River owns thousands of acres next door. The Jordan/Oz peaks and future terrain beyond will be known henceforth as the Western Reserve. “The Jordan 8 is a significant jumping off point for the Western Reserve, creating a portal that could double our skiable terrain in the coming decades,” said Dana Bullen, President of Sunday River. “This lift also acts as an immediate catalyst for upcoming renovations to the Jordan Hotel, new activities and amenities.” Both Jordan 8 terminals will feature glass weather protection, allowing all 60 chairs to be parked without a separate storage building. Each chair weighs 2,262 pounds, making the lift wind resistant during storms.

Jordan 8 is the third major lift project announced by Boyne Resorts for 2022. Also in New England, the company is relocating the former Kancamagus detachable quad at Loon Mountain to replace Seven Brothers. Last week, Boyne Mountain unveiled plans for Disciples 8, the Midwest’s first eight passenger chairlift. When Disciples 8 and Jordan 8 open next winter, Boyne Resorts will operate eight seat chairlifts at four of its nine mountains and 80 percent of all the eight seaters in the United States.

Towers Take Flight for Big Sky’s Swift Current 6

North America’s fastest six passenger chairlift is on track to open this Thanksgiving at Big Sky Resort. For the past three days, teams from Big Sky, Timberline Helicopters and Doppelmayr placed 23 towers and removed another set from the previous Swift Current quad. The new, conical towers are so burly it took nearly 200 heli trips to complete installation.

Swift Current ranks among North America’s largest new lifts this year and will complement Ramcharger 8, the trailblazing eight place bubble chair on neighboring Andesite Mountain. Swifty 2.0 features the same three ring Doppelmayr Direct Drive motor and 125 Big Sky Blue bubble chairs with heated seats. The previous Swift Current detachable quad will be placed in storage for re-installation somewhere within the Boyne Resorts portfolio.

The nearly complete bottom terminal sits just uphill of the old loading point, freeing up space the base area. The bottom is also no longer the drive station, increasing efficiency and reducing noise in the village. Together with Ramcharger, two D-Line lifts will lift up to 6,600 skiers per hour out of Big Sky’s Mountain Village.

Like at Ramcharger, an indoor parking facility is taking shape adjacent to Swifty’s top terminal, which will will feature 90 degree unloading and totally reimagined flow. Skiers and snowboarders coming from Shedhorn will enjoy a wider skiway around the top terminal instead of dodging unloaders from Swift Current. Snowmaking will reach the top of Swifty for the first time ever this season, a welcome addition to a high traffic spot subject to sun and wind. Come summer, 38 bike carriers will come out of the parking facility and carry four mountain bikes apiece.

Big Sky will now feature four distinct bubble chairlifts on Andesite Mountain, Lone Peak and Spirit Mountain. Along with the Swift Current project, the Lewis & Clark high speed quad is in the process of receiving new blue bubbles and a capacity increase to coincide with the planned Christmas opening of Montage Big Sky.

With seven new lifts in five years, there’s always something exciting going on at Big Sky. As Swift Current 6 nears completion, I can’t help but wonder what this mecca for modern lifts will build next.

Grand Targhee Selects Doppelmayr D-Line for Peaked Mountain

With skier visits up 17 percent this season from a previous record, Grand Targhee Resort will spend more than $20 million on improvements the next two years, including a new six place chairlift on Peaked Mountain.

The Peaked lift will become Targhee’s fifth chair and the seventh Doppelmayr D-Line system in the United States. Introduced in 2015, D-Line features more than 200 improvements to previous Doppelmayr detachable technology. The lift will transport 2,000 people per hour, gaining 1,815 vertical feet in just over five minutes. The Peaked area will offer unmatched views of the Tetons with access to over 600 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain. Heavier six passenger carriers will improve the lift’s ability to operate in windy conditions and full carrier parking will help speed storm recovery. Cat skiing will be offered on upper Peaked Mountain for one final season in 2021/22.

Tower/terminal foundations, communications trenching and the lift’s power supply will be completed this summer with steel installation to follow in 2022. New chairs will also be added to the nearby Sacajawea high speed quad during the summer of 2022 to bring its uphill capacity to 2,000 guests per hour. The resort will also construct new employee housing, increase parking and complete a new maintenance shop this summer. “Due to the efforts of many dedicated employees and the support of our guests and partners during challenging times, Grand Targhee is fortunate to be able to announce these projects,” the resort said in a statement.

Announcing Kancamagus 8, the East’s First Eight Pack

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Boyne Resorts will invest millions to build its third D-Line chairlift, an eight place at Loon Mountain set to open for the 2020-21 season.  The first such lift in the Eastern United States will replace the Kancamagus Express, a 1995 detachable quad servicing the lower mountain.  Like Boyne’s two Doppelmayr D-Line systems at Big Sky, the Kanc will feature tinted bubbles, heated seats, locking safety bars, a loading conveyor and direct drive.  “The Kancamagus 8 chairlift will be a leap into the future of skiing for our guests,” said Jay Scambio, president and general manager of Loon Mountain Resort.  “We are committed to bringing the latest advancements to our guests—this lift is the next example of that, following our first-in-the-world dual-frequency RFID installation.”

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Boyne will operate the only two eight place chairlifts in the Americas.

Loon Mountain currently operates an all-Doppelmayr fleet of ten lifts.  “We have a deep, long-standing relationship with both Loon and Boyne Resorts,” noted Mark Bee, President of Doppelmayr USA.  “We are proud to be a part of a major step forward in the eastern ski scene that puts Loon on a path towards achieving its goal of having one of the most advanced lift systems in the world.”  The east’s most technologically advanced lift will spin at 1,100 feet per minute, making it even faster than Ramcharger.  A ride on one of 62 ultra-wide chairs will take just 4.5 minutes.  Capacity out of the Governor Adams base area will increase 25 percent to 3,500 guests per hour.

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The Kancamagus quad is 24 years old and in need of a capacity upgrade.

No other American or Canadian ski operator has purchased eight place or D-Line lifts to date.  I asked Stephen Kircher, Boyne’s chief executive, what it feels like to be the American early adopter for such technology and this was his response:

It is humbling to be able to continue our company and family’s legacy of over 70 years bringing skiers the next generation of chairlift technology.  Now doing it beyond the midwest, with Doppelmayr’s new D-Line technology and doing it with the first two 8 place chairs is even more gratifying.  Ironically it took the rest of North America time to adopt triple, quad and six place chairlifts after those were introduced at Boyne in the 60’s through early 90’s, it seems eerily similar for 8 place chairlifts and the new D-Line.  Boyne Resorts is proud to be showcasing the future of uphill transportation in the rockies and the east.  We believe this will become the new standard of quality and efficiency in the decades ahead. This is likely only the beginning of many more of these types of lifts across North America.  Ultimately, enhancing the experience and attracting many more people to the mountains.”

– Stephen Kircher, CEO/President, Boyne Resorts

Kanc 8 will be the first major investment of Flight Path: 2030, a ten year infrastructure push at Loon also announced today.  Future projects will seek to elevate the ski experience, grow the business responsibly in every season and connect with the local community.  Lift upgrades over the next ten years may include Seven Brothers, Lincoln Express, North Peak Express and the gondola .  “Loon’s 10-year plan will have a positive impact on development throughout the Lincoln and Woodstock communities—as we travel together on our path to be New England’s premier mountain destination,” said Scambio.

The Forest Service has already approved the Kanc 8 project and construction will commence in early spring.

Big Sky to Build North America’s Fastest Six Seat Chairlift

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Swift Current 6 will join the existing Ramcharger 8 as an out-of-base workhorse in winter 2020-21.

Big Sky Resort will cement its position as America’s leader in lift technology with the debut of Swift Current 6, the resort’s fifth major lift addition in four years.  The announcement comes just 12 months after the launch of Ramcharger 8, the only eight place and first D-Line lift in North America.  By December 2020, two groundbreaking bubble chairlifts will rise from Big Sky’s Mountain Village: one to Andesite Mountain and the other flanking Lone Peak.  Not only will Big Sky operate the only two ski lifts in North America with Doppelmayr D-Line technology, the Boyne Resorts flagship will also feature the most lifts with heated seats (three) and the most bubble lifts (four, not counting the private Yellowstone Club which has 8.)

Swift Current 6 will span twice the distance of Ramcharger – about 8,500 feet across 24 towers – making it the fourth longest bubble lift on the continent.  126 premium upholstered chairs will yield a capacity of 3,000 passengers per hour, an increase of more than 25 percent versus the current detachable quad.  “Consistent lift improvements are an essential part of Big Sky’s 2025 vision,” noted Big Sky President and COO Taylor Middleton. “We know efficiently dispersing skiers across our almost 6,000 acres of skiing is essential to our guests.  Swift Current will dramatically modernize and improve the flow of skiers in the Mountain Village base area.”

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Swift Current provides a critical link between Andesite Mountain and Lone Peak and is utilized in both winter and summer.

Swifty’s 6 m/s line speed will mark a first for North American six place chairlifts and a flight to the heart of the alpine will last just seven minutes.  Many aspects will mimic Ramcharger 8, a pioneer still unmatched in the Americas.  Bubbles will come in Big Sky blue with heated seats underneath.  “This technology offers guests reliability, efficiency, and a staggeringly fast, warm, and comfortable ride up to the iconic Lone Peak—America’s Matterhorn,” said Stephen Kircher, CEO and President of Boyne Resorts.  “There will be no faster, safer or more comfortable chairlift in North America.”

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Skyliner Begins Flying at Walt Disney World

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Nearly 300 gondolas joined the transport fleet at the world’s most visited resort this morning, commencing an exciting new era for the U.S. ropeway scene.  The milestone comes more than two years since construction began and almost 50 years from when a simpler VonRoll gondola system first opened at Walt Disney World Resort.

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Crews fired up all three Skyliner lines pre-dawn, giving guests their first opportunities to skip bus rides and explore multiple parks in one day.  Connecting Epcot and Hollywood Studios with four resort hotels, the system is sure to become among the most-ridden gondolas in the world.

This is the second D-Line detachable system from Doppelmayr to open in the Americas following Big Sky Resort’s Ramcharger 8 launch last December.  Although the Austrian builder maintains a strong presence as maintenance contractor for the Skyliner, you won’t find the Doppelmayr name and logo prominently displayed here.

The cabins are highly customized CWA Omega IV models seating up to ten passengers.  About half of them feature wraps with characters from Disney, Pixar and Marvel movie franchises.

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Disney Skyliner Launches September 29th

It’s official: the Disney Skyliner gondola network will open Sunday, September 29th.  Three lines will connect the Trinidad hub with terminals at Epcot, Pop Century/Art of Animation and Hollywood Studios.  The launch falls just one month after the highly anticipated grand opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios on August 29th.

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Recent photos show finishing touches like landscaping and painting underway in advance of the opening.

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