- Doppelmayr USA’s Katharina Schmitz joins the Ski Utah podcast to talk lift technology, next year’s projects and more.
- According to Forest Service documents, Alta plans to replace Sunnyside and Albion this summer with a single six place chairlift.
- Sierra at Tahoe President John Rice takes SAM podcast listeners through the harrowing Caldor Fire disaster and recovery effort.
- White Pine, Wyoming is sold to new owners.
- Kimberley announces the Northstar Express will be inoperable for the entire season following last month’s fire.
- Vail Resorts says Stevens Pass faces its most acute staffing problems, replaces the General Manager the same day as a Seattle Times front page story comes out.
- Nine people successfully catch a child who fell from a chair at Mt. Washington.
- Big White seeks more parking at the Black Forest base in advance of two planned lift installations.
- Steamboat repairs the Sunshine Express; Storm Peak Express lives up to its name.
- Mt. Bachelor will be without the Skyliner Express for an indefinite period.
- Keystone closes the River Run Gondola for three days of maintenance (now back open).
- Redevelopment of the Meadows parking lot at Steamboat could include replacing the Wildhorse Gondola with a higher capacity detachable.
- BigRock Mountain’s quad chair fundraising gets off to a strong start.
- Vail Resorts and Park City ski patrollers reach a tentative contract agreement, likely avoiding a strike.
- Despite the headlines, Vail Resorts’ skier visits are actually down from the last two seasons as of January 2nd. Ski school, dining and retail/rental revenue are all up from last year but still down significantly from pre-Covid 2019-20.
Last month’s fire which destroyed a lift operator house at Kimberley Alpine Resort was no accident, police revealed today. The blaze torched key electrical components of the Northstar Express the morning of December 18th, rendering the lift inoperable on just the second day of the season. “Further investigation that included scene examination has led investigators to believe this fire is arson and was deliberately set,” said Kimberley Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detachment Commander Sgt. Steve Woodcox.
The fire has limited operations across Kimberley Alpine Resort, which relies on Northstar for out-of-base capacity. Faced without its key chairlift, the ski area has been utilizing a passenger snowcat from sister resort Kicking Horse, another on loan from Revelstoke Mountain Resort and third from a local logging company to move guests to two backside chairlifts. Another option for skiers is to hike 20-40 minutes to the base of the Tamarack double. The resort has also set up temporary food and beverage operations and warming tents on the backside of the mountain for guests while the frontside remains inaccessible. Tourism Kimberley estimates that despites these efforts, there has been a roughly 40 to 50 percent decline in bookings due to the situation with the quad chair.
“Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and Kimberley Alpine Resort’s maintenance experts have been in constant contact with the lift manufacturer, and they are putting a plan together to get the Quad Chair up and operating as soon as possible,” said General Manager Ted Funston in a late December update. “The fire completely demolished the lift control building, along with all the specialized electronic equipment that runs the lift, and so the difficult reality is that it is going to take some time to get the lift operating again, most likely measured in months rather than weeks,” he continued. The Kimberley RCMP requests anyone with information that could assist in their arson investigation to call (250) 427-4811.
- Mad River Glen introduces a new James Niehues trail map.
- White Pass shareholders vote to sell Washington’s fifth largest ski area.
- Sun Peaks expects business to decline 50 percent this season due to extended road closures.
- Sierra at Tahoe tracks toward a limited reopening in Spring 2022.
- Magic Mountain apologizes to customers for not having a summit lift operational.
- Searchmont, Ontario reopens with a new chairlift after a 645 day Covid closure.
- It may be months before Kimberley’s main lift is operational; Revelstoke and Kicking Horse provide people-moving snowcats.
- Stevens Pass apologizes for severe staffing shortages resulting in only five open lifts.
- Deer Valley rope evacuates 167 people from the Carpenter Express.
For the second time in less than a year, the community of Kimberley, British Columbia faces weeks without a lifeline ski lift. A fire ignited at the Northstar Express early Saturday morning, burning the top operator hut. While outbuildings next to lifts are usually small, they typically contain electrical components critical to operation. Thankfully, the lift was not operating at the time and no one was injured.
The resort’s website shows the last image from the lift shack taken at 1:20 am, just before the fire was reported. While fires have occurred by accident at chairlifts in the past, police are investigating to determine the cause of the blaze. The town of Kimberley was already on edge due to another early morning fire which destroyed the Kimberley Gymnastics Club on December 14th and was deemed suspicious in origin. Police have yet to make any public statements about the cause of the Northstar Express fire.
The timing of ignition the morning after opening day and just before the key Christmas period is incredibly unfortunate if not suspicious. “Our hearts also go out to everyone in Kimberley who makes a living dependent on tourism and the operation of the ski resort, including the owners of many of the businesses in town, and the great staff who work for them,” the resort said in a statement. “Please know that our main focus right now is continuing to give locals and visitors access to the great skiing and riding, and to make visiting the resort as fun and enjoyable as we can.”
The Northstar Express is the only lift servicing the front side of the mountain and providing access to backside lifts. At one point, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) operated four different parallel lifts on this part of the hill including a triple chair, double and T-Bar. All but the quad were removed in the early 2000s to save labor and maintenance costs associated with lifts deemed redundant. A string of setbacks now again leave the resort with two functioning chairlifts on the back of the mountain with no easy access.
There is precedent for the workhorse Northstar being out of service. On January 2nd last year, the Leitner-built quad was rendered inoperable by a gearbox failure. Kimberley lift maintenance and Leitner-Poma worked on repairs, which were completed in just over two weeks. In the meantime, the resort stayed open with uphill hiking allowed to access the backside Easter and Tamarack lifts. A similar operation is planned this time around with the addition of ski/snowboard transportation for those hiking. “Our main focus of course is getting the Quad chair up running again as soon as we possibly can,” said Kimberley. “We are working hard to source any parts we can from around the world to try to replace what was lost.” In the meantime, season passholders are invited to ski at other RCR mountains including Kicking Horse and Fernie.
The Kimberley RCMP is requesting anyone with any information that could assist the investigation to please contact them at (250) 427-4811.
- I managed to completely miss an installation from last year – a used Doppelmayr quad at a publicly-owned hill in Lévis, Quebec.
- Bousquet acknowledges engineering issues with its chairlift project and offers passholders privileges at nearby ski areas until its new triple is complete.
- Ontario extends the closure of ski resorts another 28 days, forcing business like Mt. St. Louis Moonstone to make more difficult decisions.
- France’s 250+ ski resorts may not open at all this season.
- Austrian resorts expect business to plunge 75 percent this year, calling operating “philanthropic” rather than profitable.
- One of British Columbia’s largest resorts provides a sobering look at business: lodging occupancy down 87.5 percent, midweek skier visits down 84 percent and ski school down 96 percent.
- Here’s another 1A update from Aspen.
- As it negotiates with Vail Resorts, the Park City ski patrol union weighs attempting to unionize other work groups such as lift operators.
- Skeetawk remains closed for a second week following a lift malfunction.
- Kimberley reopens the Northstar Express after a successful multi-continent repair effort.
- Utah’s new Governor expresses support for a gondola in Little Cottonwood.
- A new lift garners rave reviews at Lake Louise.
- There’s tons of cool lift history in this feature on the legendary Lone Peak Tram.
- Doppelmayr and the Government of Bolivia settle a multi-million dollar dispute over payment for urban gondola lines already completed.
- A small child falls from a lift at Ski Sundown.
- The world’s longest multi-section gondola opens in Serbia.
- Les Otten’s company takes 100 percent ownership of The Balsams.
- Brundage Mountain temporarily closes a lift due to Covid-related staffing issues.
- A shutdown of skiing has cost 9,000 jobs and CA$90 million in Ontario.
- The Wenatchee Express won’t open January 15th and a new date is TBD.
- Laurel Mountain closes for a week due to lift issues but will reopen today.
- French ski resorts remain closed through at least next week.
- Bartholet opens a new production site and teases an autonomous ropeway solution coming soon.
- The Sea to Sky Gondola sues insurance brokers over business interruption coverage and claims. The company has also ordered a fourth batch of cabins from CWA and intends to reopen late spring or early summer.
- Vail Resorts acknowledges a rough start to the season with skier visits down 16.6 percent, lift ticket revenue down 20.9 percent, retail/rental down 39.2 percent, ski school down 52.6 percent and dining down 66.2 percent through January 3rd.
- Cuchara gets close to reopening with one of four chairlifts.
- A Colorado appeals court upholds that waivers broadly protect ski resorts from chairlift-related injury claims.
- The Province of British Columbia and Big White will host a virtual public meeting regarding the resort’s ambitious master plan on January 26th.
- Spirit Mountain remains at a financial crossroads.
- Gunstock President Tom Day discusses what lift projects he’d like to see in the future and much more.
- With a part fast-tracked from Italy, Kimberley’s lone detachable chairlift could reopen as early as Sunday.
- A New York ski club fundraises for a new T-Bar cable.
- Parts are already arriving for Catamount’s new Glade triple.
- At Mont Sutton, an empty chair falls from one lift while the mountain’s lone detachable quad remains out of service due to a technical issue.
- A Victoria, BC suburb considers building a transport gondola.
- Purgatory loses its workhorse six pack over the busy holiday (now back open).
- Ontario ski resorts, many of which are family businesses, try to stay optimistic during the provincial shutdown.
- Royal Mountain, New York changes hands.
- Italy postpones reopening ski resorts until January 18th.
- Jay Peak and Burke Mountain are set to receive $5.2 million under a settlement between a law firm and investors.
- Kimberley continues to spin two upper mountain lifts for hikers and skinners while repair work continues on the Northstar Express.
- Wolf Creek has a new James Niehues trail map.
- Open only one day before the pandemic, the SkyView gondola at Hard Rock Stadium gets set to reopen March 22nd.
- The new T-Bar at Sugarbush is named KBRA (Kelly Brush Race Arena).
- A fall and catch are caught on camera at Bristol Mountain.
- A newspaper profiles how lift maintenance and operations teams work together at Snowmass.
- Winter Park safely evacuates 143 people from the Pioneer Express. Public records show a component in the return terminal failed due to fatigue.
- Testing finds further work is needed to make the Mont-Sainte-Anne gondola safe. It may not open for four to eight weeks and season passholders are being offered refunds.
- Porkies, Michigan shuts down to complete a required chairlift inspection.
- Bousquet Mountain will open tomorrow under new ownership with a new lift.
- Hunter Mountain reopens today after a three day Covid-related closure.
Kimberley Alpine Resort will operate differently for awhile without its key out-of-base lift. This afternoon, staff noticed unusual noise coming from the Northstar Express and cleared the line of skiers. Upon inspection, they found a bearing had failed in the gearbox. It will likely be a week or more before the lift can be repaired and reopened.
Northstar is a bit of a rarity – one of only nine high speed quads Leitner built in Italy and shipped to North America. “We have our team on this and industry experts are inbound to help us, but unfortunately we will not be able to run the Northstar Quad until it gets fixed,” read a statement from the resort. “Our current best estimate is that this may take a week or more to get repaired. We understand this will be very challenging for many people living in and visiting the community, but please know we are already doing our best to get it up running safely as soon as possible.”
The Northstar Express is Kimberley’s only out-of-base lift which provides access to the rest of the mountain. Three parallel reliever lifts were removed in 2001, 2003 and 2006, leaving no redundancy. Kimberley is making the most of the situation, however. First, the ski area will keep its backside Tamarack and Easter chairlifts running through at least tomorrow for those willing make the 1,000 foot gradual uphill trek to access them. Skinning and hiking aren’t for everyone, so parent company Resorts of the Canadian Rockies will allow passholders to visit sister resorts Fernie, Kicking Horse and Nakiska throughout the closure.
Readers of this blog will note gearbox failures occur occasionally at resorts of all sizes. Kimberley said Northstar’s gearbox was fully rebuilt less than two years ago. A handful of newer lifts in North America feature direct drive motors which remove the gearbox and some possible points of failure from the equation.