- With energy at a premium in Europe, Leitner showcases technology which regulates the speed of a ropeway based on rider demand.
- The nonprofit which has been running Big Squaw says the sale to Big Moose Development still hasn’t been completed and this season will continue as normal.
- Sugarbush confirms a Heaven’s Gate replacement is in the works but it won’t happen in 2023 as lift prices surge and lead times increase.
- Ropeway pioneer Willy Garaventa dies at the age of 88.
- Los Angeles releases the Environmental Impact Statement for the Dodger Stadium gondola project.
- Names for the five new Skytracs at Jack Frost Big Boulder are: Blue Heron, Harmony, Paradise, Pocono and Tobyhanna.
- Groupe Le Massif remains interested in acquiring Mont-Sainte-Anne from Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and would also be open to acquiring Stoneham as part of a deal.
- After multiple years of construction, Ontario’s Mt. Baldy finally has a new chairlift.
- Mount Snow will sell more double, triple and quad chairs for charity.
- New York’s Attorney General sues the owners of Labrador Mountain and Song Mountain, alleging their purchase and closure of nearby Toggenburg was anti-competitive. Former Toggenburg/current Greek Peak owner John Meier agreed to pay the State $195,000 and will cooperate in the case against Labrador and Song’s parent company.
- The Governor of Utah throws his support behind the Little Cottonwood gondola project.
- A new document shows where Mammoth’s relocated Panorama Gondola and new Big Bend chairlift would run as part of the Evolving Main project.
- The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania again seeks an operator to revive the Denton Hill Ski Area.
New Snowbird Tram Cabin Damaged During Installation
One of the new cabins being installed on Snowbird’s Aerial Tram fell Saturday during installation, causing significant damage. Thankfully the incident occurred in a closed construction area at the base of the mountain and no one was injured. Snowbird said the root cause was some sort of equipment malfunction. “An investigation is under way to determine where the malfunction occurred,” the resort said in a statement. Upgrades to the tram are being carried out by Doppelmayr/Garaventa, the original manufacturer of the tram. The project includes new cabins with rooftop viewing decks, new controls, bullwheels and other upgrades.
The modern red and blue cabins were manufactured in Switzerland by CWA Constructions and had just arrived in Utah. Snowbird said Doppelmayr and CWA will work to replace the likely damaged beyond repair red cabin in time for the 2022-23 winter season. Snowbird and Doppelmayr are also also working on a plan to have at least partial tram service for this summer. The tram was originally scheduled to re-open with new cabins in late June.
Aerial tram cabins are custom built with long manufacturing lead times. In 2012, an Alyeska tram car was destroyed after hitting a tower in high winds. Service resumed about six weeks later with one cabin and a second car was installed and operational about five months after the incident. In September 2018, a brand new tram cabin in Germany was written off following a training accident. That tramway reopened just over three months later with a newly-manufactured cabin from CWA.
New Tram Cabins Coming to Snowbird
The iconic red and blue tram cars which first came to Little Cottonwood Canyon in 1971 are being replaced. “After 50 years of a job well done, it’s finally time for the original Tram cabins to become literal snowbirds and enjoy some much-deserved retirement,” Snowbird announced today. It is estimated the original cabins have traveled 794,994 miles, or the equivalent of traveling to the moon and back over one and a half times.
Manufactured by CWA in Switzerland, the new cabins will feature floor-to-ceiling windows and a modern design. During the summer months, the tram will sport three 3-foot by 3-foot glass floor panels and an open air rooftop balcony for up to 15 people. “The new Tram cabins pay homage to the original Red and Blue Trams while incorporating a fresh, sleek design and a few extra bells and whistles,” said Snowbird.
The last day to ride the current tram cabins will be April 3rd. The new cabins are already complete and currently being shipped to Utah. Upon arrival in April, the cabins will be installed and tested with re-opening of the tram planned for late June.
Big Sky to Transform Base-to-Summit Lift Experience
The final chapter of Big Sky 2025 will be the largest yet, with a new gondola and tram connecting Big Sky Resort’s Mountain Village to Lone Peak. This multi-year project will cement Big Sky as a leader in lift technology among North American resorts.
Big Sky embarked on the 2025 initiative six years ago to enhance the mountain experience with a focus on lifts and dining. Boyne Resorts partnered with Doppelmayr to bring North America’s first eight place and fastest six place chairlifts to Big Sky in 2018 and 2021 and now the companies will build two more signature lifts leading up to 2025.
A new Explorer Gondola will load at the north end of the village and replace Big Sky’s last remaining original Heron-Poma lift which turns 50 next year. Together with Ramcharger 8 and Swift Current 6, three high capacity D-Line lifts will all load in the village. An intermediate gondola station will house a new ski school center and underground parking for cabins. This station will also include a direct drive powering both gondola haul ropes via a double-grooved bullwheel. Cabins will turn 22 degrees before ascending to a second new lodge near the top of Big Sky’s original Gondola One. Unlike Boyne Resorts’ five other D-Line lifts, the Explorer Gondola will feature squared glass enclosures, matching the style of the new tram stations and Bowl restaurant. The architecture alone will be unlike anything else in North American skiing.
Garaventa will build the reconfigured Lone Peak Tram, which will start at the new mid-mountain hub and operate year round. Large cabins will pass one tower before arriving at a glass-enclosed terminal at 11,166 feet. The new tram will be nearly twice as long as the current one but also faster and more capable.
“The new lift system from the base area to the summit of Lone Peak will revolutionize the way we access ‘America’s Matterhorn’ in both winter and summer,” said Big Sky Resort president and COO Taylor Middleton. “In creating this must-do experience accessible to all, we will offer the premier high-alpine experience on Montana’s highest scenic overlook.” Although tram cabins will be able to accommodate more passengers at once than the current 15 person tram, Big Sky plans to carefully manage throughput depending on conditions and season.
“We couldn’t think of a more significant and emblematic series of initiatives to close out the transformation we’re accomplishing with the Big Sky 2025 vision,” noted Stephen Kircher, CEO and president of Boyne Resorts. “Coupling a truly world-class tram experience with the most architecturally thoughtful on-mountain food and beverage and Mountain Sports facilities will set a new standard for mountain communities in North America. This innovative project will kick off an exciting new chapter in transforming the future of tourism in Big Sky and across southwest Montana, and sets the stage for planning Big Sky’s next steps.”
Construction will begin this summer although a project of this size will take multiple construction seasons to complete. The current Lone Peak Tram and Explorer lifts will remain in service throughout the process with the new tram set for completion in Fall 2023.
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.
Chairlift-Winch Cat Accident Injures Four in Switzerland
Four people were injured when their chair fell approximately 30 feet from the upper section of the Stoos-Fronalpstock chairlift in central Switzerland last night. It is believed the chair came in contact with a snow cat’s winch cable before falling. Such cables are commonly used to assist with grooming steep slopes. The lift involved is a Garaventa detachable quad with bubbles.
The accident occurred around 10:00 pm when employees of the Lindt chocolate company were descending from an evening private event. Two of the four victims sustained life-threatening injuries. “We are in close contact with the medical team and family members and wish our employees to heal as quickly as possible,” said a spokesperson for the chocolatier. Six people in two other chairs were rescued uninjured. The lift will remain closed while an investigation and repairs are completed.
Cabin Falls From a Gondola in Switzerland
No one was injured when a downbound cabin detached from a haul rope near the Swiss town of Schwyz this morning. The empty gondola fell some 60 feet into a pasture and was heavily damaged. Approximately 50 people in other carriers were brought into stations normally and the gondola was closed. It appears the incident happened at or near one of the lift’s 16 towers.
The gondola is a 2014 Garaventa model with CWA Omega cabins and torsion grips. An investigation will be undertaken by the Swiss Transportation Safety Board. The company which operates the lift, Rotenfluebahn Mythenregion AG, says it will not reopen the system until it is cleared to do so and the rope is inspected for damage.
Update 10/21: The operator issued a statement blaming the accident on high wind. The affected cabin collided with the tower before falling. The installation was already in the process of being cleared of riders when the incident occurred, a process which takes 20 minutes. The gondola remains temporarily closed.
News Roundup: Auction
- Sun Peaks applies for a permit to replace Crystal with a Doppelmayr fixed grip quad in a new alignment. The mountain is also getting its fifth James Niehues trail map.
- Ski Santa Fe and Sugar Mountain are getting new Niehues maps as well.
- Windham’s retired Wonderama triple is up for grabs.
- Granite Gorge, New Hampshire is listed for sale at a public auction July 8th but the ski area says it won’t happen.
- Hermitage Club President Harper Sibley resigns, citing an “unworkable” reopening plan. The bankruptcy case will proceed in a Vermont court.
- 85 year old Willy Garaventa recalls how the Squaw Valley tram project propelled his family’s company to eventually become the world leader in aerial tramways.
- A Montana community considers a co-op model for its shuttered ski area.
- Timberline, West Virginia’s owner may liquidate the ski assets.
- Bretton Woods’ gondola cabins are now hanging.
- Because 27 lifts isn’t enough, Big Sky is working on two more in Moonlight Basin and on Flatiron Mountain.
News Roundup: Ten
- Garaventa inks a $45 million deal for a 4x funifor, 1x aerial tramway megaproject in Switzerland.
- Beartooth Basin attempts to crowdfund this spring’s operation, including $35,000 for a required gearbox replacement on Poma 1.
- An ugly snowmobile-chairlift crash is caught on tape at Sunshine Village.
- The City of Steamboat will overhaul the Howelsen Hill Poma this summer and plans to replace Barrows around 2021.
- The Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco and associated aerial tram may reopen as early as June.
- Disney Skyliner’s nearly 300 ten passenger cabins will come in ten different colors with 22 unique character wraps.
- The Indy Pass is still adding mountains.
- With Timberline Resort’s owners unable to find an attorney, a judge postpones a state receivership hearing until May 28th.
- Leitner will show off updated six passenger chair and Diamond gondola designs at Interalpin.
- Local businesses leaders are pushing for a high capacity 3S on Burnaby Mountain.
- Steamboat plans to sell its now retired gondola cabins to other ski resorts around the world for parts.
- The so-called Balsams bill passes the New Hampshire Senate and is expected to be signed by the governor.
Runaway Equipment Damages the Zugspitze Cable Car
This is not a good week for tramways in Europe. An incident last night on the highest mountain in Germany severely damaged one of two Eibsee Cable Car cabins during a practice exercise. Apparently a rescue carrier broke loose due to a broken chain hoist and crashed into the 120 passenger tramway cabin below at high speed. Like with the fire at a French tram on Tuesday, the lift was free of passengers and luckily no one was injured. A Zugspitze spokesperson says the Garaventa-built tram will be out of service until further notice.
The lift became the pinnacle of ropeway technology when it opened last December, breaking world records for the tallest lattice tower (416 feet), longest ropeway span (10,541 feet) and highest vertical rise (6,381 feet), making this a truly stunning setback. When a cabin on the Alyeska, Alaska tram hit a tower in 2013, technicians were able to replace it with a counterweight in just a few weeks until a new cabin could be manufactured. We’ll have to wait and see whether CWA can repair the Zugspitze cabin or must fabricate a whole new one.