Lift Makers Show Off New Products at Interalpin

The biennial Interalpin conference kicked off today in Innsbruck, Austria with alpine technology brands showcasing their latest and greatest to customers.  I am just following from afar but this year’s show is already proving to be monumental with major new products and initiatives being unveiled.

Leitner launched a redefined 2S gondola which is being positioned as an economical middle ground between a monocable lift and a 3S.  The reimagined bicable gondola utilizes standard monocable drive components, tensioning systems and cabins but with a single track rope added.  This allows lifts to traverse much longer spans with more cabins than a standard gondola system.

The terminals are of modular design with the exterior designed by Pininfarina.  A new carriage utilizes synthetic rollers and takes cues from the popular LPA grip.  On the lattice-style towers, sheaves are isolated for vibration dampening and track ropes rest on synthetic profiles.  Leitner has also developed a new system for track rope slipping which it calls “simple, safe and time saving.”  I find this product exciting as 3S gondolas are simply too expensive for many operators, as evidenced by their complete lack of adoption in the United States.

Leitner also showed off its next generation premium chair called Evo.  It comes with three bubble color options, three bar styles and two different kinds of upholstered seats.

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News Roundup: 3S

News Roundup: Atria

Snoqualmie Announces Holiday Quad Project

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This 1975 double at Summit Central is being retired in favor of a modern quad chair.

The Summit at Snoqualmie, operated by Boyne Resorts, is getting in on the new lift action.  One of eleven Riblets still operating at Washington’s most-visited resort will be replaced with a fixed grip quad over the summer.  The Holiday Quad will feature a height adjustable loading carpet and more than double hourly capacity on this section of Summit Central, which caters to beginners.  The 1,380 foot lift will rise 260 feet at a maximum speed of 450 feet per minute.  The most recent Summit master plan contemplated removing the Gallery lift alongside this project.

Trail Map inside

Notably, of the more than 35 chairlifts built at Snoqualmie over the decades, Holiday will be the first supplied by Doppelmayr.  “Going from a two-person to four-person chair and adding the easy loading conveyor will be a true game changer for Summit Central, particularly for our first-timers and kids,” stated Guy Lawrence, President & General Manager at The Summit in an online announcement.  Construction will begin in June and wrap up prior to the 2019-20 season.

Sugar Mountain’s Second Detachable to Enhance Beginner Experience

Fifty years after its trusty beginner chairlift opened, Sugar Mountain says the Brown Hall double has carried its last skiers and snowboarders.  Next winter, a Doppelmayr detachable quad chair will run up the Easy Street slope, more than doubling uphill capacity to 2,400 people per hour.  The new lift, tentatively dubbed the Silver Bullet, will also improve ride time from more than six minutes to two and a half while making loading and unloading more comfortable.

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“Replacing the original Easy Street lift is not just an upgrade, it is example of the continued commitment to offering our guests an exceptional mountain experience,” said Sugar Mountain Resort owner Gunther Jochl in a statement.  “The majority of our guests are beginners who go on to develop skiing and snowboarding as a life-long, family activity.  Generation after generation lays roots right here on our beginner terrain.  This hasn’t changed in Sugar’s fifty year history.”  Sugar Mountain launched its first high speed lift, the Summit Express six pack, in 2015.

Disney Skyliner Proving Runs Underway

The first of Walt Disney World’s three Skyliner lines is looking a lot like a gondola these days with cabins moving along at a brisk clip during test runs.  Line speed appears to be at least 5 m/s with cabin interval around 10 seconds, translating to a 3,600 per hour capacity.  We’ll have to wait and see what the final spacing and speeds are but it’s clear these gondolas are going to move a ton of people.

One of the many cabins now flying between Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Hollywood Studios was recently uncovered, providing some clues to how the system will look when completed.  The landing below the cabin doors is wider and squarer than normal for easy loading and unloading.  There are three windows that open out on the front of the cabin, one on the tower side and two at the rear.  Additional vents at the bottom ensure there will be plenty of air flow.  While gondola number 251 is a simple yellow with glazed windows, many other cabins will feature Disney character graphics.

The Epcot line, which stretches some 8,200 linear feet with two angle changes, is not far behind on its way to completion.

At the first angle station, landscaping is underway and stairs are being erected for worker access to the terminal.

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News Roundup: Slow Boat

  • After years of gondola negotiations with the Town of Jackson, a frustrated Snow King Mountain presses pause while it waits for the U.S. Forest Service to weigh in.
  • Doppelmayr completes the final link in the world’s largest gondola chain.  The stats: 10 lines, 21 miles, 34 stations and 1,324 cabins carrying 300,000 daily passengers.
  • Crested Butte’s longest lift goes down for more than four days due to communication line damage.
  • The announced sale of Montana’s Great Divide won’t happen.
  • Peak Resorts posts a solid financial quarter with organic growth in revenue and earnings.
  • The Whistler paper highlights what happens when the big Blackcomb Gondola goes down.
  • SkyTrans Manufacturing says it’s not to blame for the Ohio State Fair’s delay in replacing potentially corroded chairs on its skyride.  As a result of the chairlift situation, Ohio will require all ride operators to forward manufacturer directives to state inspectors going forward.
  • After tons of hard work by its lift mechanics and contractors, Attitash concedes it won’t be able to fix Summit‘s gearbox this season.  “We’ve heard your calls for a new lift to replace the Summit Triple, and while we appreciate all your feedback, this is not a project our parent company, Peak Resorts, is looking to do in the near future,” says GM John Lowell.
  • Leaders of AltaAspen Snowmass, Big Sky and Jackson Hole all pen letters addressing the chorus of Ikon Pass crowding criticism.
  • The Glenwood Caverns gondola takes flight tomorrow with 17 Sigma cabins.  27 more are on a delayed boat from France and will be put on line when they arrive.

Bogus Basin to Add Fourth High Speed Quad

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Opened in 1965 and converted to a triple in 1999, the Morning Star lift acts as a major out-of-base people mover at Bogus Basin and will be replaced this summer.

Make it an even six new lifts slated for construction across the great state of Idaho this year.  Bogus Basin announced today it will replace the Morning Star triple with a 3,100 foot detachable quad chair from Doppelmayr USA in time for next winter.  Capacity will increase and ride time will quicken dramatically to just over three minutes.  The Morning Star Express will rise approximately 625 vertical feet and service a variety of tails from beginner to expert.

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Nearly all of Bogus Basin’s terrain will be serviced by high speed lifts beginning next winter.

“We are really excited about an improvement that will have a tremendous impact on the flow of guests throughout the area in winter and summer,” said Kevin Settles, Bogus Basin board chairman in a press release. “The community has been incredibly supportive of the changes that have happened at Bogus Basin over the past three years, all of which are part of a comprehensive master plan.”  Bogus is the largest 501(c)3 nonprofit ski area in the country and operates a fleet of seven chairlifts on 2,600 acres.  Expect the $5 million lift to open some time in December.

 

Owl’s Head to Replace Lake Lift

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The world’s first high speed quad is finally headed for retirement after 38 winter seasons in two countries.  Owl’s Head in Quebec will dismantle the Lake quad this spring, a machine which originally entered service at Breckenridge as Quicksilver in 1981.  The Doppelmayr detachable moved to Quebec in 1999 but has been out of service of late due to mechanical problems.

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The soon-to-be-gone Lake lift utilizes chain conveyors and a remote tension bullwheel unlike modern detachable lifts.  Photo credit: rodo_af, remontees-mecaniques.net.

The replacement will be a $2.6 million Doppelmayr Alpen-Star fixed-grip quad with loading carpet that will open in time for next season.  The new lift will move up to 2,200 skiers per hour.  This is the first major investment by a new ownership group at an area with seriously aging infrastructure.  “We were more than due to upgrade this lift,” said Destination Owl’s Head CEO Pierre Bourdages.  “The loading carpet will be a huge improvement, especially for young and new skiers.”

Miami Dolphins to Build Gondola at Hard Rock Stadium

When Super Bowl LIV kicks off in Miami a year from now, a Doppelmayr gondola could offer fans a bird’s eye view just outside the stadium.  VenuesNow reports Miami Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel has been working on the idea for a sky ride over the past year and the team is now ready to spend $3 million on the gondola.  The 1,800 foot lift will travel near the courts used for the Miami Open tennis tournament.  “It’s less of a transportation thing and more of a novelty to be up above the tennis and the crowd. We’ll have it in place for Super Bowl next year,” he says.  The big game is set for February 2, 2020.

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A sample photo of a CWA Omega safari style cabin provided by the Miami Dolphins.

A ride on the new gondola will take approximately ten minutes, though the operating schedule and pricing have not yet been determined.  Doppelmayr USA is also poised to build a new gondola this year at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid, New York and another at Steamboat, Colorado.  Also in Florida, the company is nearly finished constructing three innovative gondolas at Walt Disney World, which will go into operation sometime this fall.