As Pandemic Persists, Doppelmayr Lays Off 190 Workers

Facing a significant drop in orders, the Doppelmayr Garaventa Group has made the difficult decision to cut about six percent of its global workforce. Out of the nearly 200 positions eliminated, 95 are at the firm’s Austrian headquarters. Prior to the layoffs, Doppelmayr employed approximately 3,400 people at sites circling the globe, including at North American bases in Salt Lake City, Utah and Saint-Jérôme, Quebec.

Globally, around 50 percent of Doppelmayr’s business happens at ski resorts. When other leisure and tourism segments are included, that number grows to 80 percent. In the last complete year before Covid shutdowns, North American lift installations included places hit hard in the pandemic economy: theme parks, cruise ports and sports stadiums. Even urban gondolas, which offer the promise of socially-distanced transportation, depend on municipal and regional tax revenues to be built.

“Despite a few attractive individual projects, the order situation has decreased significantly in recent months, and an uncertain winter with few or postponed investments in cable cars is approaching us,” said Thomas Pichler, Managing Director of Doppelmayr Holding SE. “We now have to adapt our workforce to the changed order situation.”

In North America, the company saw all its orders from Alterra Mountain Company, Boyne Resorts and Vail Resorts postponed earlier this year. While the upcoming 2020-21 winter will hopefully be successful for many ski areas, Doppelmayr’s customers again face immense uncertainty at a time when 2021 capital projects need to be planned and financed. Doppelmayr is optimistic that a headcount reduction now will enable it to survive and thrive as travel recovers. “We assume that with this new workforce we will have a stable number of employees for the next few years,” noted Pichler.

News Roundup: Going Virtual

News Roundup: Vail Numbers

  • Vail Resorts has sold 850,000 season passes as of September 18th, an 18 percent increase compared to last year at this time.
  • CEO Rob Katz assures skiers reservations should be widely available for most resorts on most days.
  • Vail lost $153.6 million in the quarter ended July 31st compared with an $89.5 million loss in the same period last year.
  • For the full fiscal year 2020, Vail reported a net income of $98.8 million, a decrease of 67.2 percent.
  • The company also recently cut 410 jobs.
  • Regarding capital projects and the seven lift projects Vail postponed this year, Katz said on the conference call:

“We are of course going to be monitoring the season closely before we come out with any plan for calendar year 2021. We’ll make sure we’re incorporating what happened this year. We will likely still be in a conservative approach though hopefully not as conservative as last year because the environment around Covid and travel has all improved. We will definitely be prioritizing projects that we think will have a significant impact on the guest experience and certainly some of the projects that we deferred from last year will be top of the list.”

Sea to Sky Gondola Deliberately Severed Again

The Sea to Sky Gondola‘s haul rope was cut again this morning in an intentional act of destruction. The horrible news comes just 13 months after the first such crime occurred the morning of August 10th, 2019. “At 04:00 hours the Squamish RCMP was contacted by the security team at the Sea to Sky Gondola stating that the line to the gondola had been cut and had crashed into the mountain,” read an early morning statement from police. “Squamish RCMP members attended immediately and began to assess information and contain the area.” The lift was not operating at that hour and there are no known injuries.

The criminal(s) responsible for the original downing were never apprehended and the gondola reopened six months later with enhanced security including 24 hour remote monitoring. Squamish RCMP is working alongside partner agencies including the West Vancouver Police Department and more will be arriving as the day goes on.  There is an extensive amount of resources in the area and law enforcement is asking the public to stay out of the vicinity.

“We are in shock,” General Manager Kirby Brown told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “This is a repeat incident of what happened last year.” He said the attraction plans to rebuild again, just as it did last fall. That included millions of dollars of work including new cabins from CWA, a replacement 55 millimeter haul rope from Fatzer and new security infrastructure.

The Sea to Sky Gondola employs 120 people and hosted 400,000 visitors per year before the recent setbacks. Anyone with information on either crime is asked to contact the Squamish Royal Canadian Mounted Police at 604-892-6100 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Update: According to Brown, the cable was cut in a similar manner to last time with a skilled individual quickly climbing a tower and cutting the rope. The person was captured on surveillance footage which shows clearly what happened. There were 39 cabins on the gondola this time, six of which were in stations and undamaged. A rope specialist is en route to determine whether a new haul rope section can be spliced in or if an entirely new rope is needed. The gondola was insured and the company is already in the process of ordering what is needed to rebuild again.

Lake Louise Set to Open West Bowl

Work is underway to add 480 acres of new high alpine, advanced terrain at Lake Louise for next winter. West Bowl will be accessed by a Doppelmayr fixed grip quad replacing the old Summit Platter. This expansion will feature natural, side country-style terrain with gladed trees. The only groomed portion will be a new ski-out trail to the front side of the mountain.

The new Summit quad will be Lake Louise’s first Doppelmayr chairlift. It will run in a new alignment from Top of the World to Mt. Whitehorn. That means a lap will in West Bowl will require three lift rides: Glacier Express or Grizzly Express, Top of the World and Summit. Eventually, a new Upper Juniper lift will eliminate the need for West Bowl skiers to transit the base area and ride three lifts.

Lake Louise plans to replace and make more lift additions in future years as part of its new Long Range Plan in partnership with Parks Canada.

News Roundup: Suits

News Roundup: Tough Choices

  • The Italian parent of Leitner and Poma reports record revenue of €1.06 billion, having completed 78 ropeway projects in 2019, though the company expects sales to fall 30 percent in 2020.
  • Public comments are now being solicited regarding Steamboat’s proposed Wild Blue Gondola, Sundown Express replacement and Priest Creek removal projects.
  • Vail Resorts suspends operations at two Australian resorts just three days into the season due to the evolving Coronavirus situation.
  • Even though American Dream and Big Snow in New Jersey are closed, a second American Dream location remains in development in Miami.
  • Vail Resorts-owned OnTheSnow.com and sister websites will shut down Monday due to the challenging financial landscape. A Vail-owned TV station is also closing.
  • Bloomberg speaks with the CEOs of both Alterra and Vail about next winter.
  • Today is the last day to comment on Little Cottonwood Canyon transportation alternatives, including a 3S gondola.
  • Walt Disney World won’t allow unrelated parties to ride together in gondola cabins when the Skyliner reopens.
  • Doppelmayr USA, Leitner-Poma of America, MND America, Skytrac and SkyTrans all received Paycheck Protection Program loans supporting more than 400 American jobs.
  • A key link located on a receding glacier, the Horstman T-Bar at Whistler Blackcomb is no more.
  • Design work continues for Aspen Mountain’s Lift One Telemix and related developments.

Landowner Proposes Alternate Little Cottonwood Gondola

When the Utah Department of Transportation unveiled three Little Cottonwood Canyon mobility alternatives, many Utahns were pleased to see a gondola included. However, two criticisms emerged: a lack of on-site parking at the bottom terminal and a low hourly capacity of 1,050 passengers per direction. A new proposal by a private landowner and developer seeks to address both of those issues by requesting UDOT amend the location of the bottom terminal to a 37.5 acre site adjacent to Highway 210. The alternative base station would be located near the LaCaille estate, seven tenths of a mile from the mouth of the canyon. The requested amendment to the current gondola plan would provide enough room for a public parking garage as well as transit center for bus riders to transfer directly to the ropeway.

Chris McCandless is the former Sandy City Councilman behind the proposal along with Wayne Niederhauser, a former Utah State Senator. Their company, CW Management, owns the site and plans to develop it but is willing to preserve the land needed for use as a gondola station if UDOT approves of this new option. If the gondola loads there, a non-loading angle station would be required in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon to avoid the alignment passing over designated wilderness. A second angle station at Tanners Flat, like in UDOT’s alternative, would also be included. Cabins would slow down just enough to make turns at these stations and gondola doors would stay closed.

CW Management consulted with Salt Lake-based Doppelmayr USA, which confirmed such a gondola is feasible. McCandless envisions an up to 4,000 passenger per hour 3S travelling at a speed of 8.5 meters a second. The Department of Transportation planned cabins arriving only once every two minutes, diverting only 30 percent of skiers out of private cars. Under the LaCaille vision, cabins would arrive every 30 seconds and divert up to 10,000 people off the highway during a peak three hour period. Ride time would be 27 minutes to the Snowbird Center with no need to ride a shuttle bus. The four 3S segments would range in length from 6,700 feet to 17,550 feet with cabins transferring seamlessly between multiple haul rope loops. As an alternative to the larger 3S gondola travelling to Alta, a second gondola, probably a monocable or 2S design, could connect Snowbird to Alta.

Some big players have already expressed support for a Little Cottonwood gondola and further study of the alternate CW Management proposal, including Alta Ski Area, Snowbird Resort and Doppelmayr. Snowbird notes that if a gondola is successfully designed and implemented, the company would consider placing additional private land it owns in the canyon under permanent conservation.

If you have opinions regarding one or both of the gondola/bus options, UDOT would like to hear from you. The agency continues to accept public comments through July 10th.

News Roundup: Graduation Season

 

News Roundup: More Skiing?

  • Mt. Baldy runs out of snow, ending North American lift served skiing for now.
  • Aspen Skiing Company expresses frustration with the Colorado governor’s order for ski resorts to remain closed until at least May 23rd.
  • Arapahoe Basin still wants to reopen.
  • Oregon may beat Colorado to the punch.
  • Eaglecrest, Alaska joins the Powder Alliance.
  • Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory says his company is well-capitalized and delayed projects should be completed next year (plus he’s still looking to buy more resorts!)
  • Skeetawk completes its chairlift, becoming the first new ski area in Alaska since 1983.
  • Mountain planner Paul Mathews of Ecosign talks about the development of Sun Peaks and future plans in the West Bowl and the Gil’s areas.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line reiterates its commitment to Alaska including the funding of two gondolas currently under construction in Hoonah.
  • As part of a land swap, the Yellowstone Club seeks to gain 500 acres of expert terrain.
  • Cuchara remains on track to reopen next year with one lift.
  • The Utah Department of Transportation will evaluate gondolas from the Salt Lake Valley and Park City as two possible options to improve mobility in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
  • Doppelmayr’s first Wir magazine of 2020 highlights new installations from around the world.