Mayflower Mountain Resort Eyes 2021 Opening

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Photo credit: Extell Development Company

Mayflower Mountain Resort, the fledgling billion dollar development near Park City, Utah, made headlines early this week on two fronts.  First, the proposed resort’s owner reached an agreement with Alterra Mountain Company for Deer Valley to continue leasing a chunk of land on Bald Mountain for 199 years.  Second, Mayflower held a media gathering, revealing grand plans for its first lifts to open in 2021.

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A 2018 Mayflower plan by SE Group identified nine possible lift alignments.

With the new lease between Deer Valley and Mayflower’s parent companies, the existing Mayflower lift and terrain will remain part of Deer Valley regardless of what happens with Mayflower Mountain Resort.

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Photo credit: Extell Development Company

Most of the 5,600 acres Extell Development of New York City has pieced together is currently undeveloped.  That could change shortly with three new hotels, 400 acres of ski runs and multiple chairlifts above the Jordanelle Reservoir.  Whether those lifts will be Deer Valley green and disallow snowboarders is an open question.  There are a lot of parallels with Moonlight Basin, Montana throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.  Initially a modest development with a couple access lifts operated under contract by Big Sky Resort, Moonlight turned into a ski resort of its own before eventually being integrated back into Big Sky’s ticket products and operations.

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Wasatch County’s parcel viewer shows existing Deer Valley ski runs in dark blue and upcoming Mayflower runs in light blue.  Deer Valley trails in neighboring Summit County are not highlighted.

Regardless of who operates the lifts, Mayflower could be big.  Current plans call for five main lifts and two surface lifts, not counting a potential connector lifts to Deer Valley.  Extell is commencing road and infrastructure work this fall with potential lift contracts a year away.  The company has roughly two years to sort out whether it wants to be independent, partner more broadly with Alterra or perhaps another ski industry player.

News Roundup: Heating Up

Three New Quads Debut in Utah

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The brand new Homestake Express seen on opening day at Deer Valley.

Utah ski resorts are proving this season that lifts need not be giant to positively impact guest experiences.  I got to visit the state’s three newest chairlifts this week, which are all short but sweet with beginner skiers in mind.

High Meadow Express – Park City Mountain

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The High Meadow Express is the centerpiece of re-imagined teaching terrain above Park City’s Canyons Village.  With mellow loading and unloading speeds, a quick ride time and an improved alignment, the high speed quad marks a significant step up from the fixed quad it replaces.  High Meadow Park is now wide open with perfectly pitched beginner trails.  Expanded snowmaking rounds out the freshened up beginner zone.

Homestake Express – Deer Valley Resort

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Homestake Express launched this morning at Alterra-owned Deer Valley, becoming the resort’s 13th detachable quad.  Ride time is now under two minutes between Silver Lake Lodge and Bald Eagle Mountain.  There are only eight towers now, down from 12, freeing up space on the busy Silver Link ski run.  The new Homestake also features slatted backrests for wind resistance.

Snowpine – Alta Ski Area

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In Little Cottonwood Canyon, the new Snowpine Quad carried its first skiers yesterday.  The Skytrac Monarch was manufactured just 30 miles away in Salt Lake.  While it only has two towers and a dozen chairs, the new lift serves dual functions.  It will provide ski-in, ski-out access to the new Snowpine Lodge, which opens January 30th.  Alta’s first fixed grip quad also provides a beginner-friendly alternative to the surface tow it replaces.  The return terminal is height adjustable for the big snow years.

 

How Many Lifts Might Alterra Buy in 2019?

At just 15 months old, Alterra Mountain Company finds itself with over 200 chairlifts, gondolas and tramways in two countries.  The 13 Alterra mountains mirror the broader ski industry with places like Deer Valley and Crystal Mountain sporting many newer lifts while the average chairlift at June Mountain is 45 years old.

On a Monday last March, the fledgling company based in Denver simultaneously unveiled its very first lift investments at Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park along with other improvements like snowmaking at Snowshoe and a new restaurant at the base of Steamboat.  Importantly, Alterra committed to spending $555 million in total capital over five years.  That was before it bought Solitude and Crystal Mountain, which could mean even more money flowing over the next few construction seasons.  While last year’s budget only included three new lifts, could we see more in 2019?

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With the September approval of major projects by the Forest Service, Steamboat is poised for a comprehensive on-mountain transformation.  Although the timing is fluid, a new Rough Rider learning center at mid-mountain will eventually be serviced by a new gondola from the village.  Here, skiers and snowboarders will be able to choose from three new carpet lifts, a new and improved Bashor lift and a second fixed-grip chair replacing the Rough Rider surface tow.

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A second initiative Steamboat could undertake in 2019 is the Pioneer Ridge expansion, which includes a 7,000 foot detachable quad and a dozen new trails.  Other possible upgrades include adding chairs to Pony Express (currently at only 1,200 skiers per hour but designed for 2,400)  or new cabins for the Silver Bullet.  Wouldn’t it be cool for the new gondola and original one to have similar cabins?

The average lift at Alterra-operated Winter Park Resort is 27 years old.  Six are early model detachable quads coming up for replacement.  In the case of 32 year old Pioneer Express, an upgrade is overdue and I expect coming in 2019.  A new version could add a snowboarder friendly mid loading station above the last section of Big Valley.

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Pioneer is one of only four remaining Poma detachables in North America with separate Alpha drive units.

A second project I hope to see is a second stage of the new gondola from Sunspot to Lunch Rock, truly uniting Winter Park and Mary Jane.  Sunnyside should be a high speed quad or six pack.  A high speed replacement of Challenger would be a nice upgrade at Mary Jane.  Looking Glass is tied for the oldest operating chairlift in Colorado.  After Pioneer, High Lonesome is the next Poma detachable up for replacement if we go solely by age.

The above Intrawest era master plan earmarked Gemini Express to be converted into an eight passenger gondola with a new learning center surrounding its top station.  Endeavor could go detachable as part of this project and/or Discovery made into a fixed grip quad.  Finally, a lift is envisioned to expand Vasquez Ridge Territory with four new intermediate trails. With all of these ideas on the table, I expect Winter Park to get at least one lift in 2019 and hopefully two.

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News Roundup: Down to the Wire

  • Beaver Creek renames the Buckaroo Express gondola Haymeadow Express, the name of the double chair which ran in the same alignment from 1980 to 2007.
  • Whether the Hermitage Club closes a $30 million loan to catch up on lift maintenance and operate this winter is still an open question.
  • Arapahoe Basin and Leitner-Poma fly steel for the Beavers project.
  • As of yesterday, Vail Resorts officially operates Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and Crested Butte.
  • Vail reports fiscal 2018 resort EBITDA was $616.6 million, an increase of 3.9 percent over the prior year.  2018-19 season pass sales are up 25 percent in units and 15 percent in dollars as of Sunday.
  • West Mountain adds a million dollar chairlift and looks to build another.
  • A New York-based developer receives one of many approvals for Mayflower Village at Deer Valley, which could eventually mean a slate of new lifts.

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  • Doppelmayr is named in connection with an urban gondola eyed for Long Beach, California.
  • Watch a remarkable 3S gondola launch live from Zermatt at 9:15 Eastern tomorrow morning, 6:15 Pacific.
  • The CFO and COO of Peak Resorts open up about their decision to buy Snow Time and note the three new mountains don’t immediately need much capital investment.
  • The longtime owners of Great Divide, Montana plan to sell to another couple next year.
  • Legendary ski resort builder Les Otten remains committed to The Balsams but laments, “time is killing this project.”
  • Mountain Capital Partners releases more details on the Spider Mountain Bike Park project.
  • The damaged Zugspitze cabin is successfully lowered to the valley for disassembly.  The cable car’s operator says damage exceeds $1.2 million and the lift could reopen by year end.
  • Boreal names its new quad California Cruiser.
  • The latest Leitner-Poma six-pack at Hunter Mountain, seen below, will be called Northern Express.

Three New Lifts Rise Across the Wasatch

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Vail Resorts is enhancing the beginner experience at Park City Mountain with a new High Meadow teaching zone above Canyons Village, one of three lift projects in the Beehive State.

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.

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Deer Valley Plans 13th High-Speed Quad to Replace Homestake

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Deer Valley’s Homestake lift is less than twenty years old and eyed for replacement with a detachable version.

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 Record reports Deer Valley is finalizing plans to replace the Homestake quad with a detachable of its own this offseason.dvhomestakemap

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.

News Roundup: Resources

  • Amid zip line dispute, Peak Resorts threatens to close Hidden Valley, remove five chairlifts and sell the land to a residential developer.
  • “I’m very confident we’re going to have new 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.
  • Saddleback sale to Australian firm still hasn’t closed.
  • Bear Valley’s six-pack looks great in green and now has a name: Mokelumne Express.
  • Who says detachable terminals must be symmetrical?  Leitner experiments in Europe.
  • T-Bar area in Edmonton, Alberta shuts down.
  • At the end of a tough year, Granby Ranch goes up for sale.
  • New Heavenly trail map confirms Galaxy won’t spin again this season, leaving a big hole in Nevada.
  • Epic Passes account for 43 percent of Vail Resorts revenue.
  • New lifts at the Yellowstone Club get names: Eglise, Great Bear and Little Dipper.  A few hundred families now enjoy the 14th largest lift fleet in the country.

News Roundup: Transformative

  • With The Beavers expansion, Arapahoe Basin ditches painted trail map for a VistaMap.
  • The BBC produces a fantastic 23-minute podcast explaining the success of Mexicable, the newest urban gondola built by Leitner Ropeways.
  • You can watch Belleayre’s gondola take shape live on their webcam. More recent photos are here.
  • The New York State Fair’s Broadway Skyliner appears to be a relocated Stadeli. I’m thinking it’s Bucksaw from Sugarloaf.
  • The latest from Orlando.
  • SNOW Operating to take over operations at Mountain Creek.
  • To compensate for a late July gondola opening, Steamboat extends “summer” season until late October.
  • Bob Wheaton says being part of a larger resort group will allow Deer Valley to negotiate better prices on lifts.
  • Lift operator and friends sentenced to probation and ordered to pay $96,000 in restitution for stealing and selling $116,000 in lift downtime vouchers from top shacks at Heavenly and Northstar.  Vail Resorts has since changed the way it handles the vouchers companywide.

Aspen/KSL Venture Buys Deer Valley

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
  • Steamboat, Colorado
  • Stratton, Vermont
  • Tremblant, Quebec
  • 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.