News Roundup: $4.6 Billion

Snowbasin Announces Wildcat Six-Pack

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The Wildcat triple at Snowbasin will be retired this spring and replaced with the resort’s fifth detachable.
New lift week continues!  Snowbasin’s oldest lift, Wildcat, will be replaced with a Doppelmayr six-place chairlift for next season.  The resort’s first six-pack will rise 1,290 feet in just five minutes in place of the 1973 Thiokol and its ten minute ride.  The new lift will have 17 towers and a capacity of 2,400 passengers per hour.  9-second chair spacing will make the lift more beginner-friendly than a high-speed quad.

“Snowbasin Resort is very excited to announce several improvements to the Wildcat area of the mountain that should greatly enhance the guest’s experience,” said John Loomis, General Manager at Snowbasin. “With the addition of a new Doppelmayr 6 passenger high speed chair lift, we will be able to better utilize this area of the Resort that was the original heart of the ski area. The new lift will service beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain and include new snowmaking on Wildcat Bowl, Blue Grouse, Herberts, Eas-A-Long, Wildcat Traverse and Stein’s. These improvements will improve access to this wonderful terrain with earlier access and better conditions when Mother Nature is not as cooperative as we would like.”

Snowbasin, owned by Sinclair Oil Corporation along with Sun Valley, will have just three fixed-grip chairlifts remaining next season.  The Forest Service also recently approved a high-speed-quad for Strawberry Bowl that will be able to run in higher winds than the Strawberry Express Gondola.  Snowbasin will hold a Wildcat last chair party and final ride at 4:00pm April 15th.

News Roundup: Colorado

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Likely new lifts for 2017 are pacing 39 percent ahead of last year, when 28 new lifts had been announced on this date.  I’ve identified 39 lift projects for 2017 and if last year’s pattern holds, lift manufacturers will build approximately 57 new ropeways in N. America in 2017, the most since 2004.  We’ll know by about July 1.

News Roundup: Inaugural

Eldora to Debut Doppelmayr Six-Pack Next Season

Eldora Mountain Resort will launch its first detachable lift next ski season, a six-pack replacing two decades-old fixed-grips at Powdr Co.’s newest resort near Denver. Doppelmayr USA and Highlander Ski Lift Services & Construction will partner to manufacture and install the six-pack this summer and fall, reuniting the team that collaborated to launch the new Cloudchaser lift at sister resort Mt. Bachelor in 2016. Highlander also installed Solitude’s Summit Express in 2015.

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The new detachable labelled here as Challenge is one of four approved for Eldora in 2015 as part of the resort’s 2011 Master Plan.

“This new high speed lift is another significant improvement that will greatly enhance the Eldora experience for our snowsports community,” said Brent Tregaskis, general manager at Eldora in a press release. “The goal of Eldora and Powdr Adventure Lifestyle Co. is to service our guests and community as best we can.”  Powdr bought Eldora last June and promised to make major upgrades.

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Out with the old, in with the new.  Both Challenge and Cannonball will be removed this spring to make way for a new six-pack in a modified alignment.

The new six-place detachable will replace both Cannonball, a 1973 Heron-Poma double, and Challenge, a 1971 Hall triple relocated to Eldora from Sun Valley in 1992.  The yet-to-be-named new lift will load between the Indian Peaks and Timbers lodges and rise 1,000 vertical feet in just 4.5 minutes. Capacity will reach an impressive 3,600 skiers per hour with 17 towers and a slope length of 3,829′.  Eldora released renderings of the new lift showing sleek dark red and black Uni-G terminals.

The old lifts will be recycled and chairs sold to the public with a contest to be held soon to name the big new lift.  Four other detachable chairlifts have been announced by Colorado resorts for next ski season: a Doppelmayr high-speed quad at Beaver Creek and Leitner-Poma six-packs at Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail.

Going Blue: Fourth Gondola Line to Launch Friday in La Paz

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The world’s largest urban gondola network leaps forward this week with the addition of the Línea Azul (Blue Line) in the Bolivian twin cities of La Paz and El Alto. Since debuting with just one line in May 2014, the state-owned Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car) system has now transported more than 75 million passengers on its Green, Yellow, and Red gondolas.  In 2015, My Cable Car committed $450 million to build six additional lines through 2020, and it ordered two more last year.  Mi Teleférico has quickly become one of Doppelmayr’s largest customers, exclusively utilizing the Austrian company’s ten-passenger monocable detachable gondola technology.

Los trabajos de pruebas se realizan para cumplir con normas internacionales que serán completadas el año entrante y antes de que la #LíneaAzul comience a brindar servicio a la población en 2017. Resaltar que el objetivo de #MiTeleférico es ofrecer una óptima #seguridad de operación y calidad de servicio a los usuarios. La línea Azul inicia en inmediaciones de la Estación Jach´a Qhathu de la línea Roja (16 de Julio – El Alto) y se extenderá en dirección a la Plaza Libertad, continuando por la avenida La Paz, pasando por la UPEA y arribando a la estación de servicio en el cruce de Río Seco. *Características: Tiempo de viaje: 20 minutos (aproximadamente) Longitud de la línea: 4,9 kilómetros Número de cabinas: 208

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Construction commenced on Línea Azul in late May 2015 with cable pulling (by drone!) wrapping in September 2016.  The first cabin launched later that month with Bolivian President Evo Morales taking the inaugural ride in November.  After three more months of terminal buildout and system testing, the Blue line’s five stations are ready for show time.  Línea Azul is La Paz’s longest to date, with 208 CWA Omega IV-10-LWI cabins that will cover an impressive 32,700 feet per revolution beginning March 3rd, just 645 days after groundbreaking.

Like the Red, Yellow and Green lines, the Blue line is actually two lifts with two separate haul ropes and two drive systems with cabins transferring between them.  Nearly all of the Mi Teleférico network will be built this way, with multiple haul rope loops forming single “lines” with two to five stations each (most have either three or four.)  Multi-stage gondolas operating with this principle in North America include Whistler Village and Excalibur at Whistler Blackcomb, Panorama at Mammoth and Revelation at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

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Steamboat Commits to Major Gondola Upgrades

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The Steamboat Gondola rises more than 2,000 vertical feet to the heart of Mt. Werner.

Fresh off a 30th birthday, Intrawest and Steamboat said yesterday they will make a major investment in the Steamboat Gondola this spring, pushing back the start of summer operations. The world’s first 8-passenger monocable gondola, once called the Silver Bullet, opened in 1986 and has amassed 80,000 hours operating day and night, year-round.  Changes include:

  • Replacement of grips, likely with Agamatic 108s, the larger version of the new Elkhead Express grips.
  • New hangers.  The 128 first-generation Omega cabins will remain.
  • Completely new terminal rail systems and tire banks.
  • Reconfiguration of cargo loading areas at both stations.
  • New electronic control system.

“Steamboat is fortunate to have some of the best mechanics and electricians in the business looking after our gondola,” said Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations. “These upgrades give us time to look at the big picture for the base area, while also enhancing our current uphill transportation system.”  Doppelmayr will assist with the work, which will begin April 16th and require complete removal of the gondola’s nearly 18,000 foot haul rope.  Doppelmayr did an almost identical upgrade to the 1985 6-passenger gondola at Northstar California Resort in 2015, with new terminals, hangers and grips.  Leitner-Poma also recently completed major refits of the Whistler Village and Aspen Silver Queen gondolas that included new cabins.  Telluride is also grappling with a similar need for upgrades or replacement.

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Chain-driven systems will be replaced with tires.

In its press release, Steamboat acknowledged the gondola as the main access to the mountain and that acting now preserves future reliable transportation.  Doppelmayr plans to be finished with the work by June 30th for the mountain’s summer season.

News Roundup: Behind the Scenes

Beaver Creek Announces Red Buffalo Express to Replace Drink of Water

Adding to the big December announcement of new six-packs at Vail, Breckenridge and Keystone, Vail Resorts today revealed another high-speed lift will replace Drink of Water at Beaver Creek.   The new 4,300′ high-speed quad will reduce the ride time from 8.6 to 4.3 minutes and nearly double capacity.  “Upgrading this essential beginner lift will provide high-speed lift access to the amazing beginner and intermediate terrain at the top of Beaver Creek, increasing capacity and making for a seamless lift experience for our guests on the hill,” said Beth Howard, chief operating officer. “We expect this improvement to take significant volume off Cinch Express, Beaver Creek’s second most-popular lift, and it really is an improvement befitting of Beaver Creek’s luxury, family experience, as it enhances a key beginner and family area of our mountain.”   The Drink of Water double is the last remaining lift at Beaver Creek from the resort’s inaugural season in 1980.

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Drink of Water will be retired in April. Next season, Beaver Creek will only have two fixed-grip lifts remaining – Highlands and Elkhorn.

The Red Buffalo Express will almost certainly be built by Doppelmayr USA, as Beaver Creek operates an all Doppelmayr/CTEC fleet of 16 lifts.  The four new detachable lifts in Colorado are part of Vail Resorts’ $100 million capital plan this year and we learned this week the six-packs at Vail, Breck and Keystone will be installed by Leitner-Poma.    Eldora, Wolf Creek and Aspen are also likely to build new lifts for 2017-2018.

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Who Will Buy America’s First Eight Passenger Chairlift?

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Eight new eight-passenger chairlifts debuted this ski season, the highest number in history. Twenty years since the technology debuted, Doppelmayr, Garaventa, Leitner and Poma have now built a combined 78 of these mega chairlifts on three continents and in eleven countries.  With 2016 seeing the greatest number of eight-passenger chairlifts constructed, a question on everybody’s mind should be: when will the world’s second largest ski market finally build one?

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Doppelmayr debuted eight-passenger chair technology in 1997 (in Norway of all places) and continues to be the market leader, having built two-thirds of those operating today.  But for the first time ever the Leitner-Poma Group installed more than Doppelmayr and Garaventa combined last year.  In 2006, Leitner built the first combined installation with eight-passenger chairs and 10-passenger gondola cabins and there are now seven of these across Europe.  Bubble chairs and seat heating came along in 2000 and nearly every new eight-passenger lift features both these days.  In total, 60 percent of eight seaters globally have bubbles and half sport heated seats.

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Austria is home to over 60 percent of the world’s eight-passenger chairlifts and exactly five have ever made it out of Europe.  Australia and Asia each got their first in 2003 but several leading ski markets have never gone there – among them Japan, Canada, China and the United States.

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