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.

Telluride Outlines Four Planned Lift Projects

Telluride Ski & Golf owners Chuck and Chad Horning hosted a community meeting tonight, outlining a nine figure capital plan for the next five to ten years. While no lift contracts have been signed, Telski officials revealed they are close to a deal with Doppelmayr for a new detachable quad and are working on three additional projects to be built in seasons to come. Telluride also outlined new employee housing and hotel initiatives which are key to supporting future growth.

The first new chairlift in 14 years will likely be a detachable quad replacing Plunge, Lift 9. The triple chair’s ride time exceeds 13 minutes and the $8 million quad would carry 1,800 skiers per hour, up from 1,200. The Hornings said they would like to ink a deal with Doppelmayr in the next few weeks but that plan may depend on community support for tourism in two November 2nd ballot questions regarding short term rentals.

The second project Telski officials discussed was an up-gauge of the Village Express to a six place. This out-of-base workhorse would likely feature wider chair spacing than the current detachable quad, allowing for fewer stops and more efficient loading. Also on the roadmap for replacement is Sunshine Express, once the longest high speed quad in the world. A modernized chairlift would run $9 or 10 million but the resort is considering building an even more costly multi-stage gondola. Like many of its competitors, Telluride wants to shift ski school operations to the upper mountain, which would require a beginner-friendly gondola. If built as a gondola, Lift 10 would likely include an intermediate station at The Market and Mountain Village parking garage. The lower section of the gondola could run independently in the summer to complement the existing three section gondola operated by the town of Mountain Village. Discussions are ongoing about that project and the future of the aging Telluride-Mountain Village gondola system in general. Finally, Lift 7 is on the radar to be replaced with a higher capacity fixed grip lift at a cost of around $3 million.

All told, the Hornings are looking at spending $35 million on lifts. Ownership said Telluride will remain a Doppelmayr mountain with fixed grip, UNI-G and D-Line options all under consideration. They noted global steel and copper demands are impacting lift prices but both parties are eager to make a deal.

Boyne Mountain to Launch Midwest’s First Eight Seat Chairlift

Boyne Resorts’ commitment to modernizing lift infrastructure across its properties will continue in 2022. The company today announced construction of Disciples 8, an eight place chairlift replacing Disciples Ridge and Disciples II at Boyne Mountain. The Doppelmayr D-Line system will feature a direct drive, auto locking safety bars and a loading conveyor, though no bubbles due to its 3.2 minute ride time. D8 will be Boyne Resorts’ third eight passenger chairlift following installations at Big Sky Resort in 2018 and Loon Mountain this year.

Boyne Mountain has been a center of lift innovation ever since it opened with the Midwest’s first chairlift in 1948.  From there, Boyne introduced the world’s first quad in 1964 and installed America’s first high-speed six person chairlift in 1992. “Boyne Mountain started our company’s 75 year journey in the ski and resort business, and we are excited to again build on its incredible foundation of innovative industry firsts with the next generation of attractions and our heritage of elevating the Midwest resort experience,” said Stephen Kircher, CEO and president of Boyne Resorts. More information on other improvements announced today can be found here.

Future lift upgrades are planned for Meadows, Super Bowl, Victor, Boyneland and the Mountain Express, which will create the Midwest’s most advanced lift system.

Doppelmayr Posts Pandemic Sales Decline

We now know how much the first 12 months of the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the tourism-reliant Doppelmayr Garaventa Group. Revenue declined 12.5 percent to €763 million ($891 million) for the 2020/21 fiscal year, which began concurrently with pandemic lockdowns and ran through March of this year. “Tourism in particular took a major global hit,” said Thomas Pichler, managing director of Doppelmayr Holding SE in the company’s annual report. “The uncertainties our customers were confronted with led to a slump in contracts and the postponement of calls to tender and orders throughout the ropeway industry. The repercussions will continue to make themselves felt in the next few years.”

Doppelmayr Garaventa downsized its global workforce by about 200 employees during the fiscal year. “In spite of all our efforts to absorb the financial fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to adjust personnel levels in line with the changed circumstances last fall,” said Pichler. “That was a painful but unfortunately necessary step. We are well equipped for the next few years with a committed team who stand by our customers with a solution-focused mindset.”

Even though sales reached the lowest level in nine years, the firm celebrated some major successes. For the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, its teams built nine installations in the new ski resort of Yanqing. A gondola in Zermatt became the first autonomous ropeway in Switzerland and the trailblazing Eiger Express 3S opened last December. A large urban D-Line system was also completed in Mexico City.

In United States and Canada, Doppelmayr completed 10 ropeways in calendar year 2020, down from 25 the year before. The two countries accounted for 13 percent of global revenue, a decrease from 17 percent in 2019/20. As readers of this blog know, the three largest North American resort operators postponed all their lift projects while many independent operators continued forward with theirs. This year most of Alterra, Vail and Boyne’s postponed projects are being completed and Doppelmayr’s US/Canada project count will reach at least 17 for 2021.

Despite setbacks, Doppelmayr sees reason for optimism with particular strength emerging in two markets. “Our customers in Asia and North America are investing and setting course for a successful future with cutting-edge ropeway infrastructure from Doppelmayr,” notes the report. “We are therefore looking to the future with confidence and continuing to pursue our goal of working with our customers to build the best ropeways in the world. Global tourism will recover and people will once again experience unforgettable moments in the mountains and other special places.”

Five Mountains Readying Terrain Expansions for 2021-22

Despite an 18 month pandemic, supply chain challenges and continued uncertainty, a handful of US and Canadian ski resorts are putting finishing touches on expansion projects set to debut this winter. Two of these were delayed in 2020 and resumed construction this year while others were actually accelerated during Covid. Many of this year’s projects focus on learning terrain enhancements following the pandemic winter when new and lapsed skiers gravitated toward the mountains.

McCoy Park – Beaver Creek Mountain, Colorado

The lone expansion this year featuring two new chairlifts is Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park, encompassing 250 acres of new high alpine terrain. This beginner zone follows in the footsteps of Haymeadow Park and Red Buffalo Park, which both offer dedicated terrain for new skiers and snowboarders with detachable lifts. The new McCoy Park Express will service 17 trails and the Reunion Quad will provide easy exit from McCoy Park to the Upper Beaver Creek Mountain and Strawberry Park Express lifts.

Lower Juniper – Lake Louise, Alberta

Another beginner-focused expansion featuring a detachable quad is underway at Lake Louise. The new Lower Juniper Express is the second new chairlift here in two years. It will access four new low intermediate trails and provide an alternate out-of-base option to access the upper mountain.

Sunny Side – Snow King Mountain, Wyoming

Shadowed somewhat by construction of a new 8 passenger gondola on the front side of the mountain, Sunny Side at Snow King Mountain will also open this winter. This new backside bowl features extensive snowmaking and a Skytrac fixed grip quad.

Buzzsaw – Searchmont, Ontario

Searchmont hasn’t hosted a single day of skiing since March 2020, which makes its terrain expansion even more remarkable. New owner Wisconsin Resorts took delivery of two Skytrac triples last year, one of which replaced an existing Borvig double. The second lift sat in storage last winter and is now being installed to service two brand new beginner trails.

Merrill Hill – Sunday River, Maine

2021’s only New England expansion is a ninth peak at Sunday River. Merrill Hill features four ski trails and 23 new home sites near the South Ridge base area. This low angle zone will be serviced by a new Doppelmayr fixed grip triple, the mountain’s 15th chairlift.

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.

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Mont Orford to Build New Quad Chair

One of Canada’s oldest chairlifts has spun its final laps and will be replaced this upcoming season with a fixed grip quad. Mont Orford’s Alfred-Desrochers double dates back to 1965 and was built by Samson. Doppelmayr will construct its replacement, which will increase capacity by 60 percent. The project represents a CA$4.5 million investment.

“We are very happy to be able to complete this major change that is long awaited by our customers, which is part of several improvements that we wish to carry out in the coming years,” said the ski area. “In addition to being faster and more efficient, the ascent will feature an easy-to-use boarding conveyor.” Unlike its predecessor, the new lift will operate seven days a week, enhancing access to beginner and intermediate trails.