Utah ski resorts will debut three new chairlifts for the 2018-19 season and although none of them service new terrain, each will make lives better for skiers and snowboarders. One of my stops this weekend was Park City Mountain, where Vail Resorts announced the creation of a reimagined High Meadow Family Fun Zone back in December. A new Doppelmayr detachable quad, opened up runs, upgraded snowmaking and candy cabin are coming together above the Red Pine Gondola. The new lift will have 8 towers, down from 11 on the old CTEC quad, which is sitting under the Cabriolet for now.
Across old town Park City at Deer Valley, another Doppelmayr detachable quad is replacing another CTEC fixed-grip quad. Highlander Lift Services & Construction is assembling Homestake Express in the existing alignment but again with fewer towers. I think the new number is eight, down from a dozen in this high traffic area above Silver Lake Lodge. For its second winter under Alterra, Deer Valley will operate an impressive 13 high speed quads this season. The 1999 version of Homestake is bound for Utah Olympic Park.
When Alterra revealed its hefty roster of 2018 upgrades on a Monday in March, Deer Valley Resort was noticeably absent. The Utah flagship has averaged nearly one new lift every year since its 1981 inception but is coming off of a five year drought since the Mountaineer Express was added. Now, as the Vail-owned owned neighbor builds a detachable beginner lift above Canyons Village, the Park Recordreports Deer Valley is finalizing plans to replace the Homestake quad with a detachable of its own this offseason.
Garaventa CTEC installed the current Homestake lift, which runs roughly parallel to the downhill section of the Silver Lake Express, in 1999. It is only 1,720 feet long but serves as a key link between Bald Mountain and Bald Eagle Mountain. The new machine would be the sixth shortest detachable in the U.S. and might re-use some components like towers. It is almost certain to be built by Doppelmayr USA, which is based just down I-80 in Salt Lake. The resort says it is still finalizing plans and lining up permits but it’s looking like there will be only a handful of fixed-grip chairlifts remaining next season at Deer Valley. With this likely addition, 2018 is now pacing nearly 30 percent above last year for announced new lift construction with a very busy summer ahead across North America.
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“I’m very confident we’re going to havenew resources we haven’t had in previous years,” Steamboat COO says of Crown/KSL ownership. Deer Valley President and COO Bob Wheaton makes similar comments in Park City.
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The new ski empire backed by the owner of Aspen Skiing Company along with KSL Capital Partners has reached a deal to purchase Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. The news follows the group’s combination of Intrawest, Mammoth Resorts and Squaw Valley, and brings together 13 mountains rivaling the scope of Vail Resorts. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed and it does not include Solitude, which the Deer Valley partners bought in 2015. A new name and brand for the combined Aspen/KSL venture, currently known as Hawk Holding Company, will launch sometime this fall with a unified pass product expected to follow next spring. “Deer Valley Resort is one of the pre-eminent mountain resorts in the world and is a tremendous addition to our existing portfolio,” said David Perry, president and chief operating officer of the new ski conglomerate in a press statement. “Prior to this acquisition, we were able to offer our guests exceptional experiences throughout most of North America’s major ski regions, but we did not have a resort in Utah, a state that is renowned for great skiing and mountain town life.”
Bob Wheaton, Deer Valley’s president and general manager, noted “joining this portfolio of resorts will enable Deer Valley to build upon its outstanding traditions and further enhance our ability to provide our guests with a world class skiing experience. I look forward to working with them as we develop our vision for the future of the resort and the new company.” The still all-but-legally nameless company’s coast to coast portfolio now includes:
Alpine Meadows, California
Bear Mountain, California
Blue Mountain, Ontario
Deer Valley, Utah
June Mountain, California
Mammoth Mountain, California
Snow Summit, California
Snowshoe, West Virginia
Squaw Valley, California
Winter Park, Colorado
A new 2018-19 season pass product could also include the four Aspen mountains, which are separately owned by the Crown Family. With Ajax, Buttermilk, Highlands and Snowmass included, the pass would get you on 229 lifts in North America, exactly the same number as next year’s Epic Pass. The acquisition of Deer Valley is expected to close by the end of the year.
If you’ve never driven over 9,700′ Guardsman Pass in the summer, you might not realize just how close Brighton Ski Resort is to the upper reaches of Park City Mountain. In fact, from Brighton’s fire station to the top of the Jupiter lift is less than 7,000 linear feet. It’s this reality and a similar one in Alta’s Grizzly Gulch that makes Ski Utah’s One Wasatch concept tantalizingly close to becoming reality. But the feeling that the Wasatch just isn’t that big also has environmental groups scrambling to prevent any more of these mountains from becoming ski runs. The challenge for Save Our Canyons, the Sierra Club and others is that all the land needed to complete One Wasatch is already in the private hands of Royal Street Land Company (owner of Deer Valley,) Iron Mountain Associates (developer of The Colony) and Alta Ski Lifts Co.
Over the Pass
I’m convinced Park City and Brighton will be connected first. Ski Utah calls the two lifts needed for this connection Guardsman A and Guardsman B. They would rise from a common point adjacent to Guardsman Pass Road between Brighton and Park City’s Jupiter pod on land owned by Royal Street a.k.a. Deer Valley. Operationally, it would make the most sense for CNL/Boyne to build and operate these lifts as part of Brighton. Guardsman A, which would need approval from UDOT to cross State Route 190, would likely be a detachable quad approximately 4,065′ long with a vertical rise of 740′ ending near the top of Jupiter. Guardsman B would rise back towards Brighton and be a detachable quad about 3,800′ long with a vertical of 1,235′.
Royal Street Land Company has a strong interest in completing the Guardsman connection because it now also owns Solitude. With Guardsman in place, a Deer Valley skier at the top of Lady Morgan Express could ride 4 lifts (Pioneer and Jupiter at Park City, Guardsman B and Milly Express at Brighton) and be at Solitude in less than an hour. The return trip would be almost as easy – Summit Express to Great Western Express to Guardsman A and Park City Mountain, which already abuts Deer Valley. Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County would both need to approve the Guardsman lifts before construction could begin.
We’re used to lifts that run in a perfectly straight line between terminals but sometimes a lift just has to have a turn. Common reasons for this uncommon occurrence include buildings in the preferred alignment and challenging property lines. Most lifts with turns are detachable systems with angle stations which are very expensive. But not all lifts that need to turn require loading or unloading mid-way. In a handful of these cases, lift manufacturers have avoided the need for angle stations or extra bullwheels by designing towers with canted sheaves.
The first company to use this trick was Riblet with Chair 5 at Breckenridge way back in 1970 1986. Closely-spaced towers 10A, 10B and 11 have angled sheaves in a compression-support-compression setup. I’m not sure of the exact angle of the turn on Chair 5 but its a couple of degrees. (Edited to add later: the lower terminal and towers of Chair 5 were moved in 1986, 16 years after the lift was first built.)
Most of the lifts that turn using angled sheaves were built by Doppelmayr CTEC and its predecessor Garaventa CTEC and turn less than five degrees. A turn is typically accomplished over three towers with the middle of the three being a depression assembly. The Cabriolet at Park City (formerly Canyons) was the first modern lift with this setup and opened in 2000, connecting the main parking lot to village. Its five degree turn was required due to private property lines and existing buildings.
A year after the experiment at The Canyons, Garaventa CTEC built another detachable with a turn for Snowbird. The Baldy Express turns between towers 10 and 12 again due to private property lines. The first six pack with a turn was the Six Shooter at Big Sky (formerly Moonlight Basin) which was built in 2003 and has a couple degree turn between towers 24 and 26. I’ve heard Six Shooter’s turn was due to a surveying mistake that would have put the top terminal on Big Sky Resort’s property. Doppelmayr CTEC engineered the turn rather than re-doing a bunch of tower bases. The irony here is that ten years later Big Sky ended up buying the land and lifts anyways.