News Roundup: Playing Field

  • 14-cabin 3S proposed to cross Lake Zurich in Switzerland.
  • The second tallest building west of the Mississippi will include an aerial tram-like system built by Leitner-Poma.
  • BMF will build its first gondola in France and seventh gondola overall this summer near Alp d’Huez.
  • Mi Teleférico breaks ground today for its 13th and 14th gondolas. The four station, 159 cabin Sky Blue line will join the Red, Yellow, Green and Blue lines already operating and the Orange, White and Purple lines under construction.
  • North Korea is building a second ski resort.
  • Liberty Mountain delays J-Bar replacement project, saying in a statement, “We had hoped to put the triple chair in this summer but unfortunately it will not be happening…We are still planning on making this change in the future.” Liberty acquired one of Ascutney’s CTEC triples in 2013.
  • Aspen Mountain turns back toward a longer and lower 1A detachable.
  • As state-owned Belleayre becomes the smallest North American ski resort ever to build a gondola, New York Ski Blog calls for low-interest infrastructure financing for 45 privately-owned mountains in the Empire State.
  • The Jay Peak Tram is back with many upgraded components after a spring full of hard work.  Interestingly, new controls are from Doppelmayr rather than Frey.
  • Black Hawk flies old Montezuma towers off Dercum Mountain at Keystone.
  • Marshall Mountain, MT can be yours for $2.95 million, including a 1972 Thiokol triple and an uninstalled 1969 Hall double from Grand Targhee.
  • Snow King gondola plan advances.
  • No visible work at Saddleback yet.
  • Nonprofit contracts SE Group to study the feasibility of reopening an alpine ski area on the site of the former Colby College ski area in Maine.  Here’s how it looked in 2012:

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News Roundup: Progress

News Roundup: Opponents

News Roundup: Climbing

  • Suicide Six debuts new Leitner-Poma quad chair, Red River opens its new Doppelmayr quad.
  • Sundance employees rush a ladder to a chair, climb up and pull a hanging child back up in just minutes.  A man at Seven Springs fares worse.
  • Two of Canada’s richest families still plan to build $3.5 billion ski resort near Squamish.
  • Telluride Mountain Village Gondola turns 20.
  • Jay Peak’s tram is back in action.
  • The AP runs a story on future urban gondolas in the United States.
  • Cannon Mountain’s new LST T-Bar goes down ahead of dedication.
  • If you enjoy this blog, Ski Inc. is a must read.

News Roundup: Oregon

News Roundup: Multiplying

News Roundup: Six-Pack

News Roundup: Losses

  • Wire Austin gets some attention from folks who matter – the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.
  • Peak Resorts loses $7.9 million in the first quarter (it owns Alpine Valley, Attitash, Big Boulder, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Crotched Mountain, Hidden Valley, Hunter Mountain, Jack Frost, Mad River Mountain, Mt. Snow, Paoli Peaks, Snow Creek and Wildcat.)
  • The deropement and evacuation of the pulse gondola between the Aiguille du Midi and Pointe Helbronner makes CNN.
  • Austria’s Foreign Minister meets with former London Mayor Boris Johnson to talk Brexit.  The mayor says the Doppelmayr cowbell that came with the Emirates Air Line is one of his most prized possessions.
  • Federal receiver hopes to sell Jay Peak in the spring, says resort President Bill Stenger was duped.
  • Laurel Mountain’s new Skytrac is complete.
  • Maine’s Attorney General sues the owner of Big Squaw Mountain for not operating the ski area as promised.
  • Tamarack Homeowners meet to discuss the future of Idaho’s newest ski resort ahead of an October lift auction. Owner Credit Suisse and its operator Replay Resorts appear to be on the way out.
  • The owner of Montana Snowbowl tells the Missoulian he started construction on a new TV Mountain lift a few weeks ago and there’s a chance it will be completed in time for the coming winter season.
  • Preservation group calls abandoned mines in American Fork Canyon a “ticking time bomb,” calls on Snowbird to turn private land over to the Forest Service where the resort plans to build two new lifts.

Will North America Build a New Tram Ever Again?

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Car 1 of the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram approaches its dock at 10,450′ in June 2016.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort stunned the ski world June 24, 2005 announcing the iconic aerial tramway up Rendezvous Mountain would carry its final riders in 2006. The Kemmerer Family, owners of the resort since 1992, decided to retire the 40-year old jig-back at the first concerns about safety.  “This decision has been extremely difficult and quite honestly a very sad one,” Jay Kemmerer lamented at the announcement.  “We know this may impact our business, business to Jackson Hole and the State, but we must move on.”

JHMR did move on but not in the way many feared.  After two years of study, the Kemmerers opted to build a new 100-passenger Garaventa tramway at a cost of $31 million.  A bi-cable gondola was cheaper and seriously considered but failed to uphold the tradition set by the original tram in 1966.  National Ski Areas Association President Michael Berry said of the 2006 deal with Garaventa, “This huge investment by JHMR ownership to build a new tram stands alone in our industry.  The tram at Jackson Hole is recognized around the world as a lift that access some of the most spectacular terrain in North America.”  Big Red, as it quickly became known, was the first new tramway built at a U.S. or Canadian ski resort since the Alyeska Tramway in 1992.  The next newest tram was Cannon Mountain’s, dating back to 1979. Almost a decade later, only Jackson Hole and Alyeska have built large new aerial tramways in the last 37 years (for this post I’m talking about multi-cable tramways carrying 25+ passengers.  Arguably the “beer can” trams at Big Sky and Snowbasin are really reversible gondolas.)

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Poma of America built the Mt. Roberts Tramway in 1996 not for skiers, but for cruise ship passengers.

Switzerland is home to 97 large aerial tramways.  Italy has 59, Austria 40, France 35 and Germany 18 for a total of 249 in the Alps.  Compare that with 21 tramways operating in all of North America: 14 in the United States, 4 in Canada and 3 in Mexico.  Only a third of those are directly used for skiing with the rest dedicated to sightseeing or public transportation. More than half the trams operating in North America were built in the 1960s and 1970s with varying degrees of upgrades along the way.  As the chart below shows, the aerial tramway staged a slight comeback in the last decade but aside from Jackson Hole and Alyeska, the trend has nothing to do with skiing.

NA Tram Timeline
Aerial Tram openings in North America over the last 50 years.

The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in Colorado hinted at the future of tramways in 2013 when it lost its tram to a wildfire.  Instead of rebuilding, the park contracted with Leitner-Poma to build a reversible gondola at a fraction of the cost of a new aerial tramway.  Even with just six 8-passenger gondola cabins, the new system can move more passengers than the old tram.

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News Roundup: South America

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