- Boyne Resorts acquires its tenth ski area: Shawnee Peak, Maine.
- A new trail map shows Loon Mountain’s gondola is now called the White Mountain Express.
- A Bloomberg profile notes visitation has grown 46 percent in five years at Big Sky with major development to continue.
- Snow Partners becomes the new corporate umbrella for Mountain Creek, Big Snow American Dream, Snow Operating and more.
- A new model of the Sigma Diamond EVO cabin will debut first at Austria’s Kaunertaler Gletscher.
- Whiteface proposes a high speed quad with angle station from Bear Den to the new Legacy Lodge and may replace Little Whiteface and Mountain Run with a quad in 2022.
- Boyne Mountain General Manager Ed Grice takes a deep dive on six future lift projects.
- The new Cape Smokey gondola is carrying thousands of riders on peak fall days.
- A conveyor project is delayed a year due to components being stuck on a ship near the Port of Houston.
- Welch Village also says it’s waiting for parts of its new chairlift.
- Le Massif adds a Doppelmayr platter to service the new Club Med Québec-Charlevoix.
- Crystal Mountain President Frank DeBerry says replacing Rainier Express is a top priority. Alterra also wants to swap the Mt. Rainier Gondola for a higher capacity machine and turn the existing gondola into a base area-Campbell Basin link. Bullion Basin Express, an East Peak lift, Kelly’s Gap Express and Northway detachable all remain under consideration.
- Reader Austin S. sent in the below photos from Mt. Shasta, purported to be clearing for a new lift on Gray Butte.
Vail Resorts today announced it will pump $320 million into its mountains coming out of the pandemic, building a whopping 19 new lifts next year. The company’s largest-ever annual investment will include a new gondola at Whistler Blackcomb, the firm’s first North American eight person chairlift at Park City and expansion into Bergman Bowl at Keystone. Vail properties across the Northeast and Midwest will also see new lifts. “Our mission at Vail Resorts is to provide an Experience of a Lifetime to anyone who visits our resorts – and delivering on that mission requires constant re-imagination and investment into the guest experience,” said Rob Katz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vail Resorts. “Our teams have been hard at work identifying significant opportunities to improve the guest experience and have produced an initial list of exciting lift upgrades, a restaurant expansion and projects that expand access to incredible terrain for next season, with more to be announced.”
Subject to government approvals, lift projects planned ahead of the 2022-23 season include:
British Columbia, Canada
- Whistler Blackcomb, Creekside Gondola: A new 8-person gondola, replacing the existing 6-person gondola, will significantly improve wait times and increase out-of-base uphill capacity by 35% in the Creekside area, especially on high-volume days.
- Whistler Blackcomb, Big Red Express: The replacement of the existing high-speed 4-person lift with a high-speed 6-person chair will increase uphill capacity by nearly 30% and enhance and modernize the guest experience mid-mountain out of the Creekside area.
- Keystone Resort, Bergman Bowl: Enhancements to Bergman Bowl will include a new high-speed 6-person chairlift, increasing lift-served terrain by 555 acres. Additional enhancements include 16 new trails, a ski patrol facility and snowmaking infrastructure. This project unlocks access for novice and intermediate guests and provides expanded entry to expert terrain in Independence and Erickson Bowls.
- Vail Mountain, Sun Down Lift: The installation of a new high-speed 4-person chair in the Sun Down Bowl from the base of Chair 5 (High Noon Express) to the Wildwood restaurant will materially reduce wait times on peak days at Chair 5 and create the opportunity for skiers and riders to much more conveniently access the trails in Sun Down Bowl.
- Vail Mountain, Game Creek Bowl: Skiers and riders will see improved reliability and capacity in this popular bowl with the replacement of the current 4-person chair with a new high-speed 6-person lift, increasing capacity by nearly 50%.
- Breckenridge Ski Resort, Rip’s Ride Lift: The beginner/ski and ride school experience will be enhanced at the highly utilized Peak 8 base area by replacing the current fixed-grip double with a high-speed 4-person chair, increasing uphill capacity by nearly 70% and improving out-of-base circulation.
- Park City Mountain, Eagle Lift: A high-speed 6-person chair with a new mid-station will replace the existing Eagle lift, significantly reducing crowding and wait times, and improving the guest experience, especially for beginner skiers and ski and ride school guests.
- Park City Mountain, Silverlode 8-Person Lift: Vail Resorts’ first-ever high-speed 8-person chair, replacing an existing 6-person chair, will increase uphill capacity by 20% and reduce wait times at a critical spot to circulate guests on mountain.
Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada
- Northstar California, Comstock Lift: A new high-speed 6-person chair will replace the existing mid-mountain 4-person chair and is designed to reduce wait times at one of the mountain’s most popular lifts and increase uphill capacity by nearly 50%.
- Heavenly Ski Resort, North Bowl Lift: The replacement of an existing fixed-grip triple with a high-speed 4-person chair will increase uphill capacity by more than 40% and reduce the combined ride time of the Boulder and North Bowl lifts, which is expected to reduce wait times at the Stagecoach and Olympic lifts.
Vermont & New Hampshire
- Stowe Mountain Resort, Mountain Lift: The replacement and extension of the existing fixed-grip triple to a high-speed 6-person lift will increase uphill capacity by 100%, eliminate the steep hike to the base of the lift, improve reliability on windy days and offer beginner and intermediate guests with better access to lower-level terrain choices.
- Mount Snow, Sundance/Tumbleweed Lift: The replacement of the Sundance and Tumbleweed triples with one high-speed 6-person lift will improve access to underutilized terrain and alleviate pressure on other lifts in the main base area, increasing uphill capacity by nearly 70%.
- Mount Snow, Sunbrook Lift: A new high-speed 4-person chair to replace the existing fixed-grip quad will significantly decrease the current 14-minute ride time by approximately 30% and result in better utilization of the Sunbrook terrain.
- Attitash Mountain Resort: The replacement of the East and West Double-Double chairs with one fixed-grip 4-person chair will improve reliability and enhance the overall guest experience.
Pennsylvania & Ohio
- Jack Frost/Big Boulder: The replacement and consolidation of multiple lifts at both resorts will improve reliability and enhance the overall guest experience. Jack Frost will receive two new fixed-grip 4-person chairs (one to replace the B & C lifts and the other to replace the E & F lifts) and Big Boulder will receive a new fixed-grip 4-person chair to replace the Edelweiss Triple.
- Boston Mills/Brandywine: At Boston Mills, the resort will get a new fixed-grip 4-person chair replacing the Lift 5 double. At Brandywine, a new fixed-grip 4-person chair will replace the Lift 3 triple.
Including this latest capital plan dubbed the Epic Lift Upgrade, Vail Resorts’ total investment is expected to reach approximately $2.2 billion over 15 years. The move comes as Vail enjoys brisk season pass sales. Epic Pass adoption through September 17, 2021 for the upcoming 2021/2022 North American winter season increased approximately 42 percent in units and approximately 17 percent in sales dollars as compared to the same period in the prior year. Compared with pre-pandemic 2019, Epic Pass sales increased an incredible 67 percent in units and 45 percent in sales dollars.
Although no manufacturers were identified for the 19 new lifts, an initiative of this size is likely to include multiple suppliers.
- Mexico’s Grupo Vidanta will build a second SkyDream gondola system, this time at Vidanta Riviera Maya.
- Sundance auctions chairs from the former Arrowhead triple.
- The team at Craigleith, Ontario wins the inaugural Ski Area Management/Leitner-Poma Rise Up Challenge.
- Four Japanese resorts sign on to the Indy Pass.
- Arizona Snowbowl’s new gondola has been down for two weeks and the ski area moves its entire summer operation to a different base area and the Grand Canyon Express.
- Beaver Creek’s two new quads will be named McCoy Park Express and Reunion.
- The sale price for Blue Mountain, PA is revealed as $31.9 million.
- MND reports annual results with ropeway sales up 32 percent and a firm order backlog of €91.7 million.
- A group continues to push for a West Seattle gondola as a planned rail project gets delayed.
- Squaw Alpine and Leitner-Poma make great progress on the base to base gondola, though they aren’t publicly committing to a completion timeline.
- Citing staffing and fire danger, Mt. Shasta ends its summer season early.
- After missing a year, Searchmont plans to reopen this season with two new triple chairs.
- Manitoba’s Holiday Mountain announces it won’t open in 2021-22.
- Vail Resorts unveils a succession plan with CEO Rob Katz moving to an Executive Chairperson role and Chief Marketing Officer Kirsten Lynch becoming CEO November 1.
- Icy Strait Point and Norwegian Cruise Line cut the ribbon on the Transporter gondola with another 8 passenger system set to open later this summer.
- Jay Peak’s former President and CEO will plead guilty to a single charge of providing false statements and other charges are expected to be dropped.
- Keystone posts a big update on the Peru Express replacement project.
- Aspen Snowmass introduces a new brand and logo which is already on some gondola cabins.
- Snowbasin’s Middle Bowl replacement project gets off to the races.
- As new cabins arrive in Canada, operators of the Sea to Sky Gondola say it will be the most protected lift system on the planet when it reopens this summer.
- Sundance’s Ray’s quad is listed for sale, though it will continue to operate until October 10th.
- The Finance Authority of Maine approves $135 million in funding for the rebirth of Big Squaw as Moosehead Mountain with high speed quad installation as soon as this summer.
- Owners of West Mountain discuss replacing an entire ski area worth of infrastructure and plans for future development.
- An Ober Gatlinburg tram rebuild update.
- Steamboat and Doppelmayr begin moving the village gondola station.
- Mexico City’s next urban gondolas will go out to bid late this year or in early 2022.
- Keystone to auction Argentine chairs for charity.
- In an interview, the head of MND says he hopes to build more lifts in the USA.
- After a strong spring in Colorado and Utah, Vail Resorts upgrades its revenue guidance.
- Al Roker and Bill Nye ride the Roosevelt Island Tram to talk green transportation on Earth Day.
- There was a minor collision in the Hollywood Studios Skyliner station last night which broke a cabin window.
- Squaw Alpine posts a pre-construction update on the Base-to-Base project.
- A tram in Butte, Montana?
- The Utah Department of Transportation hosts a podcast all about the proposed Little Cottonwood Gondola.
- Saddleback passes its skier visit goal for the season, secures $1.5 million in new financing and orders another new lift to run up the Cupsuptic line.
- Pat Campbell steps down as President of Vail Resorts’ mountain division.
- The group proposing a West Seattle SkyLink embarks on a public education campaign.
- Keystone says goodbye to both Argentine and Peru Express.
- 461 US ski areas operated in 2020-21, down by 9 from 2019-20.
- Doppelmayr USA is hiring for lots of positions right now.
- Bartholet to build its first gondola in Austria.
- Bloomberg interviews Vail CEO Rob Katz.
- Doppelmayr will host a virtual event featuring product news and more on May 5th.
- Publicly-owned Spirit Mountain reports a 17 percent increase in revenue.
- Due to an electrical issue, the Sugarloaf SuperQuad will operate on a diesel engine for the rest of the season.
- The Forest Service green lights Arapahoe Basin’s Lenawee lift replacement project.
- This cool video explores how one Swiss T-Bar is able to turn sharply both left and right.
- Northeast gems Saddleback and Waterville Valley join the Indy Pass coalition, effective immediately.
- Winter Park Resort looks for the Forest Service’s blessing to replace multiple lifts.
- The Forest Service fully approves Keystone’s Bergman Bowl project.
- Welch Village voluntarily withdraws the East Quad from service following an unspecified incident (now back open).
- Guests of Mission Ridge love the Wenatchee Express and here’s the final episode of On the Way Up.
- Spirit Mountain lends a hand to repair the chairlift at nearby Chester Bowl.
- A girl is okay after falling from a Mohawk Mountain chairlift.
- A child also falls from a lift at Saddleback.
- Skyline at Pebble Creek is partially rope evacuated.
- Lookout Pass eyes 2022 for new lifts servicing Eagle Peak.
- More reports of stellar seasons from Iowa, New York and Pennsylvania.
- Cabins return to the Sea to Sky Gondola with more on the way.
- Mt. Bohemia considers building a lift in the Haunted Valley.
- Timberline Lodge closes for three days following a messy ice storm.
- Once a cartel hub, Medellín is a city transformed in part by a modern gondola network.
- Waterville Valley President and General Manager Tim Smith discusses a future gondola, bubble six pack and other lift changes.
- A rider who fell into a net along with another passenger and lift operator sues Snow King Mountain.
- Murray Ridge secures a six figure grant to rehabilitate one of the world’s longest T-Bars.
- MND reports revenue fell 5 percent in the second half of 2020 ($20.7 million in sales came from snowmaking and lifts.)
- Aspen will delay the Silver Queen Gondola‘s summer opening to complete big ticket maintenance items.
- Doppelmayr’s latest Wir magazine explores the Eiger Express.
- Saddleback closes for a day to shorten the haul rope on the new Rangeley quad.
- Poma will build an eight station urban gondola system in Madagascar with 274 cabins.
- Parent company Dream Unlimited says Arapahoe Basin is on track for its second best financial year ever despite opening four weeks late.
- Just two weeks to go until old lifts start coming down to make way for new ones.
- Squaw will experiment metering skiers at gates to avoid long lift lines at Silverado.
- The world’s largest urban gondola network might add four more lines.
- Big Squaw reopens tomorrow, two weeks after this deropement.
- A gondola is no longer a core component of the Oakland Athletics’ planned new stadium.
- There’s talk of building a 7,000 vertical foot gondola on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Despite a 44 percent decline in earnings, Vail Resorts plans to invest in new lifts across five mountains in 2021. The seven projects at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone and Okemo were initially planned for 2020 but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts and creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests,” noted CEO Rob Katz. “We plan to maintain a disciplined approach to capital investments, keeping our core capital at reduced levels given the continued uncertainty due to COVID-19.” The company will announce its complete capital plan for calendar year 2021 in March.
At Beaver Creek, a new Doppelmayr detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone. “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company. A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry Park and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.
At Keystone, Leitner-Poma will replace the Peru Express with a six pack. The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve circulation. Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair. “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.
Crested Butte plans to replace the two-person Peachtree chairlift with a Skytrac triple servicing beginner terrain at the base of the resort. Grading around the new lift will create a more consistent experience for beginner and ski school guests.
Being the first Front Range mountain to open wasn’t the only great news for Keystone Resort this morning. The White River National Forest also released a Draft Decision Notice paving the way for construction of the mountain’s seventh high speed chairlift. The lift will service 555 acres of alpine terrain in Bergman and Erickson bowls, delivering up to 2,400 skiers per hour to an altitude of 12,300 feet. The project also includes 20 acres of new snowmaking, expansion of the Outpost restaurant and a ski patrol station atop Bergman Bowl.
The White River hosts the most skiing of any National Forest and staff worked closely with Keystone to minimize environmental impacts. The lift’s bottom terminal, towers and access roads were shifted from initial locations to reduce impacts on wetlands. Required glading was also reduced by 19 acres and tree clearing by 10 acres to lessen pressure on Canada lynx.
Project approval is subject to a 45 day objection period. Assuming everything is still a go, Vail Resorts could opt to start building as soon as next summer. Keystone’s parent company had planned to replace the Peru Express this year, a project awarded to Leitner-Poma but delayed by the coronavirus. Vail also postponed construction of new lifts at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Crested Butte. If the ski season now underway is successful, the Bergman Bowl Express could be one of a bunch of new lifts in Colorado over the next few years.
- Highland readies for mountain bike season with new chairs acquired from Nashoba Valley.
- Alterra makes modest changes to Ikon in light of recent events: delaying price increases by a month and increasing renewal discounts. Late today, the company added Adventure Assurance, permitting purchasers to defer their 2020-21 Ikon value to a 2021-22 pass if desired.
- The Forest Service expects to have a decision on Keystone’s Bergman Bowl expansion by December.
- Residents in opposition to Mexico City’s Cablebús Line 1 win an injunction stopping some construction.
- The Colorado Sun goes inside the decision to close Colorado’s ski industry five Saturdays ago.
- Saddleback decides to decommission Sandy alongside Rangeley and Cupsuptic. Old chairs are for sale at $2,000 apiece.
- A class action lawsuit is filed against Vail Resorts alleging fraud, misrepresentation and false advertising for this spring’s early closures.
- Sinclair Oil Company may be exploring a sale although the firm’s two ski resorts (Snowbasin and Sun Valley) would not be included.
- Doppelmayr may build a unique triangle shaped gondola in Australia.
Ski industry fallout from the global pandemic continues. Vail Resorts today announced the deferral of lift construction projects slated for Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Okemo due to a dramatic decline in revenue, which is expected to continue into fiscal year 2021. The suite of projects was first announced last December, the same month COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China. While the virus spread across Asia, lift manufacturers were gearing up to build lifts that now won’t happen this year. Beaver Creek had planned a major expansion into McCoy Park and Okemo earmarked a new bubble six pack for Jackson Gore. Both Breckenridge and Keystone planned new chairlifts to increase uphill capacity in high traffic areas.
Vail said weeks ago coronavirus will cost the company between $180 and 200 million in March and April alone. Eliminating lift construction, terrain expansions and discretionary base area improvements will save the publicly-traded company $80 to 85 million while allowing the vast majority of maintenance capital projects to proceed. “The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are unprecedented and the financial impact to our Company and the broader travel industry has been significant,” noted Rob Katz, Chief Executive Officer of Vail Resorts. “We are taking proactive steps to align our capital spending and return of capital approach to ensure that we remain positioned for long-term success.” Other steps revealed today include the furlough of nearly all year-round hourly employees, suspension of the company’s shareholder dividend, salary reductions for non-hourly employees and elimination of cash compensation for the CEO and board of directors.
The decision to postpone lifts is a blow to both major lift manufacturers but particularly Leitner-Poma, which like Vail itself, is Colorado-based. The firm had been awarded contracts to build three detachable chairlifts and move another this summer. Doppelmayr USA had planned to install the two machines at Beaver Creek.
As goes Vail, often go others. While I’m hopeful some lifts (and the jobs that come with them) are safe, more deferrals are possible. Rival Alterra Mountain Company planned to add only two lifts this year, both six place chairlifts at Mammoth Mountain. The privately-held group has not announced any changes to its capital plan thus far. In tough times, every company is understandably revisiting capital budgets and commitments, however.
The sudden onset of such deep uncertainty in this critical period of the lift production cycle is unprecedented. With the elimination of Vail Resorts projects for 2020, announced US and Canada complete new lifts stand at 24, fewer than Doppelmayr built by itself last year.