News Roundup: Earth Week

News Roundup: Insights

News Roundup: Ramping Up

Vail Resorts to Debut Seven New Lifts in 2021

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.

img_3752
The Peru Express, dating to 1990, will be replaced with a higher capacity lift.

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.

Continue reading

Bergman Bowl Project Moves Forward at Keystone

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.

News Roundup: Adventure Assurance

  • 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.

Vail Resorts Cancels All 2020 Lift Construction

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.

BC_FCE_McCoyPark_Expansion_Map_NoCallouts
McCoy Park, Beaver Creek’s deferred terrain expansion, would include two new lifts and 15 trails.

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.

IMG_5526
The second largest Vail project this summer was to be replacement of Quantum Four at Okemo with a larger bubble lift.  The existing quad was slated to move over to Green Ridge.

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.

News Roundup: Big Game

Keystone Seeks to Build Bergman Bowl Lift

Layout 1

Fresh off announcing a plan to replace the Peru Express, Keystone Resort has submitted an application to the White River National Forest for construction of a new lift in Bergman Bowl.  As outlined in the resort’s 2009 master plan, the Bergman Bowl Express would rise approximately 1,000 vertical feet and service high alpine terrain above North Peak.  Topping out at an elevation of 12,200 feet, the lift would expand the resort’s lift-served vertical to nearly 3,000 feet.  The detachable quad would service 500-plus acres of terrain in both Bergman and Erickson Bowls, which are already within Keystone’s permit area.  The proposal also includes new snowmaking, below treeline trails, a warming hut and expansion of the existing Outpost restaurant.

keystonemdpmid
The Bergman lift alignment as envisioned in 2009.

“Keystone’s high alpine bowl skiing offers an exceptional variety of terrain which is currently only accessible via hiking or cat skiing,” said Jody Churich, vice president and general manager of Keystone Resort.  “This project would be transformational for Keystone, allowing guests to spread out across the resort and better utilize some of our existing above treeline terrain, as well as provide an open bowl skiing experience that appeals to a wide variety of ability levels from novice to expert.”

The project timeline and level of environmental review are up to the Forest Service.  More details should become public when the project hits the agency’s Schedule of Proposed Actions website.

Vail to Build New Lifts at Four Resorts in 2020

Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Okemo will all add new lifts next year in a mix of expansions and replacements.  Parent company Vail Resorts made the project announcements alongside a quarterly earnings report this afternoon.  “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts, creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests and generating strong returns for our shareholders,” said Vail Chairman and CEO Rob Katz.

At Beaver Creek, a new 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 and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.

img_3752
The Peru Express opened in 1990 and will be supplanted by a higher capacity lift.

At Keystone, the Peru Express will be replaced by a six pack subject to government approval.  The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve overall 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.

Continue reading