News Roundup: Dire

  • Hemlock Mountain, BC re-brands as Sasquatch Mountain and eyes a high-speed quad to replace Skyline.
  • Vail Resorts’ fiscal 2017 net income rose 40.6 percent and skier visits 20.1 percent over 2016 with Epic Pass pass sales trending 17 percent higher for 2017-18.
  • Och-Ziff sells Mountain High back to previous ownership group.
  • Frost Fire, ND won’t open this winter, citing the “dire” condition of its triple chairlift.  The nonprofit mountain estimates $1.35 million is needed to buy a replacement.  The statement makes no mention of the mountain’s other lift, a double chair with Poma components.
  • Sugarloaf’s five year plan would turn the SuperQuad into a SuperSix in 2019, move the CTEC Stealth to Timberline and add a T-Bar to Brackett Basin in 2021.
  • Kevin Mastin paints a new trail map for Whiteface.
  • Belleayre’s gondola will feature a new rack design for snowboards and skis of different sizes.
  • Steamboat Resort won’t operate Howelsen Hill.
  • Resorts grapple with whether service dogs should ride chairlifts.
  • Allen Peak Tram’s new tower is in at Snowbasin.
  • Doppelmayr’s latest Wir magazine features Oakland’s new gondola and more.
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Record Fifth Urban Gondola Opens in La Paz

There’s quite a party in the urban gondola capital of the world tonight as Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car) opens the Bolivian capital’s fifth urban gondola line.  The Línea Naranja (Orange Line) carried its first public passengers just after 6:00 pm and will serve some 30,000 La Paz commuters daily.  Joining the Red, Yellow, Green and Blue lines already in service, the new 10-passenger Doppelmayr system features the world’s first underground gondola station and amenities such as free Wi-Fi, video monitoring and cabin lighting.  As La Paz builds out its eleven-line subway in the sky, the Orange Line forms an impressive continuous gondola route 6.1 miles long with the Blue and Red lines.

Así luce la estación Villarroel de Mi Teleférico, ÚNICA ESTACIÓN SUBTERRÁNEA DE TELEFÉRICOS EN EL MUNDO. La Paz – Bolivia

A post shared by Cesar Dockweiler Suarez (@cesardockweilers) on

Like its predecessors, the newest line is technically two gondolas with four stations, a combined 26 towers and 127 cabins representing a $66 million investment.  One way ride time is 9.5 minutes with a capacity of 3,000 passengers per hour, per direction.  The project uses a mix of UNI-G and tunnel-style terminals built into modern station buildings.

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Snowbasin’s First Six-Pack Rises

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The bottom terminal for Snowbasin Resort’s new Wildcat six-pack sits just below the Becker load station and will improve access to intermediate terrain on the lower mountain.

Revealed in a surprise March announcement, Snowbasin Resort will debut its fifth detachable lift this winter on a slope rich with history.  As chronicled in an awesome blog post, the upcoming Wildcat Express replaces a 1973 Thiokol, which itself replaced parallel Constam single and American Cableways double chairs.  When the Holding family invested massively to build a new base area, two gondolas, a high-speed quad and aerial tramway in the 1998 run up to the Olympics, all of Snowbasin’s old lifts were left in place.  Ten years later, Littlecat was swapped for a Doppelmayr detachable quad and now it’s Wildcat’s turn.

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1983 Snowbasin trail map shows two Wildcat lifts above from what used to be the base area.  Technically the new Doppelmayr is Wildcat IV!

Like the Littlecat Express next door, Wildcat Express will be a green and white Doppelmayr Uni-G with torsion grips.  The six-place chairs will feature slats rather than backrests for wind resistance along the relatively exposed profile.  The new haul rope is manufactured by Redaelli and the lift will whisk 2,400 skiers an hour to Middle Bowl in just six minutes.  Most components have arrived at Snowbasin and the Doppelmayr crew is working six days a week towards completion.

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News Roundup: Fly Day

  • Firm pitches gondola to link South Station to the Seaport district in Boston.
  • The United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Doppelmayr publish a 12-page summary of their first Academy of Sustainable Urban Mobility conference held in Austria last April.
  • LST Ropeways will build its second North American lift at Waterville Valley, though Skytrac will no longer provide controls, operator houses and installation for the French company.
  • A new Doppelmayr gondola, bubble high speed quad and triple chair will debut in December on Eglise Mountain at the Yellowstone Club, by far the biggest lift project in North American skiing for 2017.  Thanks to Everett K. for these cool photos of the progress.
  • Y.C. has also listed for sale the 160-acre Cedar View Ranch, offering someone the opportunity to build a private lift to the bottom of the Lake lift.
  • Anakeesta opens tomorrow.
  • Eldora flies towers and ditches the announced Eldo Express name in favor of Alpenglow.  Photos credit Michael Weise.

News Roundup: Recycling

  • The Wallowa Lake Tramway makes the New York Times Daily 360 Postcard.
  • Doppelmayr’s new headquarters building is super cool.
  • You can follow along as Garaventa enters the home stretch building the record-breaking Eibsee Cable Car 2.0 in Germany.
  • There’s also a construction blog for Leitner’s 3S project in Zermatt.
  • Steamboat finally opened its gondola Monday, lamenting “we made a mistake by trying to set an opening date” and thanking guests for weeks of patience.
  • Sunshine Village reopened the same day following fire scare.
  • Bidding opens for construction of a four-stage, 10-passenger urban gondola in Santiago, Chile – a contract estimated to be worth $78 million.  When complete, Latin America will sport urban gondolas in Mexico City, Mexico (Leitner); Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Poma); Medellín, Colombia (Poma); Caracas, Venezuela (Doppelmayr); Lima, Peru (Poma); Quito, Ecuador (Poma); La Paz, Bolivia (Doppelmayr); Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Doppelmayr and Poma) and Santiago, Chile (TBD.) Impressive.
  • The Roosevelt Island Tramway is going to one-car service for an extended platform replacement project.
  • This week’s Disney Skyliner construction update comes from the Kingdom Insider.
  • Beaver Creek recycles Drink of Water, reuses from Montezuma.
  • The Leitner-Poma Group’s striking new Symphony 10 gondola cabin has been spotted in the wild.  More photos are here (sign up required.)
  • A-Basin posts cool photos from a bullwheel bearing replacement project.
  • Troy Caldwell still wants to build a private ski area between Squaw and Alpine but as of this spring, he has a long way to go.

Disney Unveils Bold Skyliner Gondola Plan

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A six-station Disney Skyliner gondola network will connect two parks with four vacation resorts at Walt Disney World, the company announced yesterday.

It’s official: North America’s largest-ever gondola network is coming to Walt Disney World in Orlando.  Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced the project in a Steve Jobs-esque keynote at a Disney fan convention in Anaheim yesterday. The name for the new system will be Disney Skyliner in a nod to the Skyway VonRoll gondolas which operated at three Disney Parks from the 1950s until 1990s.  “I’m proud to announce that we’re building a whole new transportation system,” Chapek said onstage to wild applause.  “The Disney Skyliner will soon give our guests a bird’s eye view of Walt Disney World.  Many of these gondolas will feature your favorite Disney characters and what a better way to get around the resort than with your pals in the sky.”  A simultaneous post on the Disney Parks Blog noted, “[This] new transportation system will add even more magic to your future vacation experiences.”

As rumored since February, there will be five stages connecting Disney’s Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach Resort, and new Riviera Resort to Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at EPCOT.  Whistler Blackcomb currently operates the most gondola sections in North America – six – but they are not contiguous and utilize varying technologies. The longest of three individual lines at Walt Disney World will have two angle stations, one of which will serve the all-new Disney Riviera Resort opening in 2019.  All three lines will meet at a hub on the south side of Caribbean Beach Resort, where guest can change cabins based on destination.  Renderings confirm Doppelmayr and CWA ropeway technology and this is probably Doppelmayr USA’s largest lift contract ever (excluding DCC rail-based systems like the Oakland Airport Connector.)  Air conditioning does not appear to be included but the Omega cabins will include more open windows than normal like those on the recently completed Arthurs Seat Eagle in Australia and California Trail at the Oakland Zoo Singapore Cable Car.

Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek shows off Skyliner’s five stages and six stations at the D23 convention yesterday.  Photo credit: Inside the Magic.

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News Roundup: Skyride

  • MND Group secures $6.7 million private investment to support future growth.
  • Whitewater’s new Leitner-Poma quad chair project update.
  • Sunday River blasts some rock to make way for Spruce Peak 2.0.
  • Timberline Helicopters, the company that flies the majority of lift towers in the West, plans to build a new $3 million home on 93 acres in Northern Idaho.
  • SeaWorld San Diego commemorates 50 years of operation of its VonRoll Skyride, one of only 11 remaining in the U.S.
  • Tragedy in Gulmarg, India as seven die following tree strike on the world’s second highest gondola.  The accident was blamed on an ‘act of god’ and the gondola deemed mechanically fine.  More trees will be cut before reopening.
  • Human error caused 14-year old girl’s fall from a chairlift at Six Flags Great Escape.  After video gets millions of views, editorial in the local paper calls for locking restraint bars.
  • Colorado tram board votes against disciplinary action in Granby Ranch case.
  • A Walt Disney World gondola update.
  • Much-maligned New York State Fair gondola project is dead.
  • Anakeesta load tests new Chondola.
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Wood-paneled terminal sections arrive at Breckenridge from Leitner-Poma for the new Falcon SuperChair. Photo credit: Benjamin Bartz

Saddleback is Back and Getting Two New Lifts

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The 4,550′ Rangeley double serves most of Saddleback’s terrain and will be replaced with a new Doppelmayr quad chair following the sale of the mountain to an Australian businessman.

The Majella Group of Australia has agreed to purchase Maine’s Saddleback, among the largest American resorts ever to go dark, and plans to build two new lifts as soon as possible.  Doppelmayr will install the lifts – a 1,500 pph Tristar fixed-grip quad to replace Rangeley, and a 1,200 pph T-Bar in place of Cupsuptic – a 1960 Hall. “The Rangeley Lift and T-Bar replacements have been carefully selected after a thorough analysis of the mountain operations,” Majella said in a press release. “We understand the importance of maintaining the serene trail experience and supreme trail conditions for which Saddleback is well known.”  Both lifts are being designed to be as wind-resistant as possible.

It’s been two years since the Berry family announced the possible closure of Saddleback if they could not secure financing for a new Rangeley lift.  The family spent some $40 million to upgrade the Kennebago and South Branch lifts to quad chairs and build a new base lodge between 2004 and 2008, but the business kept losing money with 80,000-100,000 annual skier visits.  By 2012, the Berrys put the mountain up for sale, asking $12 million.  With no takers, a Kennebago loan fell through in 2015 and the Berrys decided not to open again without a new lift serving the heart of the mountain.

Since 2015, sale rumors abounded and the nonprofit Saddleback Mountain Foundation attempted a crowdfunding campaign to buy the operation.  The group raised less than half of the $9 million needed for the mountain and a fixed-grip quad and confirmed last night they were not the buyer.  In the end, a more traditional investor emerged with plans restore Saddleback to its place as Maine’s third largest mountain with the goal of creating a premier four-season resort.  “We believe Saddleback requires a plan to create more lodging, more restaurants, and additional on-mountain opportunities,” Majella CEO Sebastian Monsour said today at the mountain’s base lodge, surrounded by locals and dignitaries from across Maine.

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News Roundup: High Country

  • Watch LST Ropeways build its first detachable lift in three minutes.
  • A Swedish company has developed a new, more comfortable T-Bar carrier called Boardie.
  • Doppelmayr moves into new $62 million Wolfurt headquarters.
  • Grand TargheeJackson Hole, BrundageSun ValleyMt. Hood Meadows and Tamarack are operating a total of 13 lifts on August 21st for the first total solar eclipse visible from the United States since 1979.
  • Sunlight’s end-of-season survey includes some insightful tidbits:
    • “Sunlight is evaluating the addition of a high-speed detachable lift.”
    • “Understanding that lift ticket and season pass prices would likely increase with the addition of a high-speed lift, please rank how favorable this would be.”
  • Vail and Replay Resorts break ground on LIFT development set to anchor future detachable Sunrise lift at Park City’s Canyons Village.
  • Preliminary gondola tree cutting and construction work spotted at Walt Disney World.
  • Waterville Valley secures $7.5 million for future projects including multiple unspecified lift upgrades.  “To answer one burning question, we do have multiple options in development regarding the High Country lift,” the resort says on Facebook.
  • Utah sets another all-time record for skier visits.
  • Two new Skytracs in St. Maarten won’t open until late summer but are already getting rave reviews.

Silver Star Announces New Gondola for 2018

Silver Star Mountain Resort in Vernon, British Columbia will build a Summit Gondola next year, ending a three-year drought for new lifts in the region.  The 8-passenger Doppelmayr will replace the Summit double, a 4,000′ Mueller built in 1970.  The lift will open in July 2018 and serve summer guests before opening to skiers and snowboarders for 2018-19. After the upgrade, Silver Star will operate one of the most modern lift fleets in Western Canada with seven Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr lifts built since 2002.

A new gondola at Silver Star will complement the Comet Express six-pack with a 4.5 minute ride for both summer and winter visitors in the approximate location of the existing Summit double.

An initial fleet of 21 Omega IV LWI cabins in the five colors of the Silver Star logo will provide an uphill capacity of 1,200 passengers per hour, with the ability to add 22 more to meet future needs.  “These new cabins will whisk guests from the bottom to the top of the summit in a third of the time of the existing double chair,” says Silver Star Director of Operations and Maintenance Brad Baker. “The ride will now take four and a half minutes from village to summit traveling at five meters per second.”  Slope length will be 3,487′ and vertical rise 961′.  In a unique move, all foundations and the top terminal will be completed this fall with the remainder of the lift going in next spring in time to celebrate the resort’s 60th anniversary.  The addition of a gondola is a huge milestone for any resort and Silver Star will be no exception.