Cascade Mountain to Add New Quad

Popular Wisconsin destination Cascade Mountain will replace its Mogul Monster triple this summer with a brand new Leitner-Poma quad. The outgoing lift is a 1987 Borvig utilizing towers from the mountain’s original chairlift first opened 60 years ago today.

“This offseason, we’ll be replacing our current Mogul Monster triple passenger lift with a brand-new fixed grip quadruple passenger chairlift,” Cascade Mountain said in an anniversary announcement. “Looking a lot like our B-Dub lift, this quad will help us improve our uphill capacity and clear up a little more congestion in the base area compared to the current Mogul Monster Lift. We’d like to thank both our customer base and staff for your continued support over the last 60 years and to the next 60+ to come!”

Celebrating a Year of Resilience

Atlantic Canada’s first gondola debuted in the Fall to rave reviews.

As clocks roll over to 2022, 42 new lifts stand tall across North America. Lift manufacturer and resort employees accomplished a lot – operating through the pandemic and adding 13 more lifts than the year before despite supply chain bottlenecks and record low unemployment. Nearly all pandemic-postponed projects from 2020 were completed thanks to skiers, mountain bikers and sightseers flocking outside this year.

Holiday Valley debuted its fourth detachable quad this season.

The 2021 lift class ranges from used T-Bars to the East’s first eight place chairlift and three new gondolas. Vail Resorts purchased the most new lifts of any single customer with seven projects across five mountains. Okemo moved a bubble detachable quad from Jackson Gore to the summit and added a six pack in its place. At Beaver Creek, a high alpine expansion will soon debut with two new quad chairs. Just as Vail’s construction projects entered the home stretch in September, the company shocked the industry and announced 19 new lifts would be built across its network in 2022. That number grew even further this month with the addition of two more projects in Pennsylvania as part of the Epic Lift Upgrade.

Okemo’s new Quantum Six, a partnership between Leitner-Poma and Vail Resorts.

Boyne Resorts moved forward with two signature Doppelmayr D-Line lifts at Loon Mountain and Big Sky Resort. Boyne also worked to open a new peak at Sunday River dubbed Merrill Hill, serviced by a Sunday River Red triple chair. Seeing how smoothly its pandemic-postponed projects went, Boyne went ahead and announced three 2022 lifts early for Boyne Mountain, Loon Mountain and Sunday River.

Merrill Hill at Sunday River awaits its inaugural season.

No new lifts debuted at Alterra mountains this year but the growing company’s pause won’t last long. Leitner-Poma completed the towers and terminal foundations for the Base-to-Base Gondola, which will be one of the most unique lifts in America when complete next year at Palisades Tahoe. The project includes four stations, three haul ropes, more than 30 towers and a cabin storage facility. Alterra also has grand plans for new lifts at Steamboat including North America’s longest gondola.

The existing Steamboat Gondola received a new bottom terminal in 2021 to make room for a second, longer gondola to be built nearby in 2022.

This year’s projects were dispersed all across the US and Canada with particular strength in the traditional Rocky Mountain and Northeast markets.

While large ski areas went big on lifts, small ski areas invested too. This new Skytrac belongs to the Steamboat town hill.

2021 saw a roughly even split between fixed and detachable lifts with both increasing from last year. Gondolas took a slight pandemic pause again but will be back in a big way next year with Palisades Tahoe, Steamboat, Whistler all planning large installations. No resorts built aerial tramways in 2021 but two new surface lifts debuted.

Loon Mountain’s new flagship eight place bubble, dubbed Kancamagus 8.

Fifteen years ago, around half of new lifts were for expansions while the other half replaced older ropeways. The share of replacement equipment has only grown, making up nearly three quarters of all projects this year. We said goodbye to many lifts from defunct manufacturers in 2021 with 12 Halls, 6 Borvigs and 3 Heron-Pomas being retired this year.

The detachable business split right down the middle with Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr each completing eight lifts. Things will get interesting next year when MND Ropeways completes its first US detachable at Waterville Valley in partnership with Swiss manufacturer Bartholet. The last time three firms competed in the detachable space Amazon only sold books.

The fixed grip side of the business also split roughly evenly with Skytrac edging out Doppelmayr. Skytrac fabricated eight complete lifts plus two retrofit Monarch drive terminals, the most projects ever in one year for the company. Doppelmayr’s Alpenstar model continued to be popular with seven installations.

Snow King Mountain transformed this summer with a new gondola, backside expansion and summit learning center.

We saw the ski industry recover faster from the pandemic than other segments of the travel and tourism world. Only two installations were at places other than ski areas in 2020 and 2021, both gondolas at the Icy Strait Pont cruise port in Southeast Alaska.

The percentage of lifts installed used remained low this year with just seven reinstallations. Most customers opted for brand new machines from four different manufacturers.

Doppelmayr won the total project count with 18 installations while the Leitner-Poma/Skytrac duo installed 16. Partek completed a new quad chair at Trollhaugen, Wisconsin after a on-off year with no projects in 2020.

The new Cannon Valley Quad at Minnesota’s Welch Village.

Projects in 2021 were incredibly diverse, from the tiniest platter at a new Club Med in Quebec to Big Sky’s Swift Current 6, the longest D-Line chairlift in the world. The below chart shows Leitner-Poma and Skytrac roughly split their business of large lifts and small lifts while Doppelmayr covered the entire gamut of Vertical Transport Feet per Hour under one roof.

The lift companies enjoyed a great year and so did Lift Blog. A record 617,000 people visited this website in 2021 and viewed 3.6 million pages. Next year I should finally finish visiting every US ski area, a milestone I’ve been chasing since I was four years old. There’s so much to look forward to in the lift world in 2022 and I hope you follow along as I do my best to cover it all. Happy New Year!

News Roundup: Epic Lift Update

Leitner-Poma to Expand in Utah

Utah’s Office of Economic Opportunity will support Leitner-Poma of America as it establishes a new base in the Beehive State. Leitner-Poma plans to bring up to 118 jobs over the next 10 years in manufacturing, service, parts, sales and administration with an estimated $30 million capital investment. “Utah has a fantastic pro-business environment and the ropeway market in Utah is growing exponentially,” said Daren Cole, president of Leitner-Poma of America in a press release. “We’re excited to expand our operations to have a more permanent home in the state.”

Since 2016, LPOA has owned fixed-grip specialist Skytrac, operating out of a former Komatsu dealership in Salt Lake City. The balance of Leitner-Poma’s US manufacturing currently takes place in Grand Junction, Colorado, where the French company Poma established an outpost in 1981. Today, LPOA and Skytrac plus groomer manufacturer Prinoth and snowmaking supplier DemacLenko all operate under the High Technology Industries (HTI) umbrella. The new facility will house several HTI brands, providing customers with a wide range of services. The State of Utah will refund a portion of Leitner-Poma’s state taxes for the next decade if certain economic targets are met.

“We’re excited that a global company like Leitner-Poma is bringing the manufacturing and distribution of chairlifts and other transportation systems to the home of The Greatest Snow on Earth,” said Theresa Foxley, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “Like other companies in our Outdoor Products industry, they will find our state to have committed and talented workers.”

Current LPOA projects in the Utah market include a set of bubble chairs for Wasatch Peaks Ranch and a six place lift at Snowbasin Resort.

Arapahoe Basin to Build First Six Pack

Arapahoe Basin has reached a deal with its longtime lift supplier Leitner-Poma to replace the Lenawee Mountain triple next year. The mountain’s first six place chairlift will increase throughput from 1,800 skiers per hour to 2,400. “In addition to 6-packs being more stable in high winds, we felt this lift would do the best job of increasing capacity,” wrote Chief Operating Officer Al Henceroth on his always informative blog. “Through our planning we felt the need to upgrade the capacity of Lenawee from 1,800 people per hour (pph) to 2,400 pph. While this could technically be achieved with a quad chair, we felt that in actual use, the 6-pack would be far more effective achieving that goal of 2400 pph,” he continued.

Other new lifts planned for Colorado next year include the first section of Steamboat’s new Wild Blue Gondola, a Rip’s Ride replacement at Breckenridge, Bergman Bowl Express at Keystone and two new detachables at Vail. Copper Mountain, Loveland and Winter Park all have Forest Service approval to build lifts as well, though timelines have not been announced for those projects.

Grouse Mountain to Replace Blue Tram with a Gondola

Northland Properties has announced a CA$30+ million investment to transform the arrival experience at Grouse Mountain. If approved, a modern eight passenger gondola would replace the 1966 jig back affectionately known as the Blue Skyride. The state-of-the-art gondola will provide continuous loading and a more comfortable experience for up to 2,000 guests per hour (1,000 per direction). The lift is planned to cross under the Red Skyride, which today provides the only public access from the parking lot to the mountain. The 100 passenger Garaventa-built tramway will remain in service for additional capacity and redundancy.

Northland, which also owns Revelstoke Mountain Resort, has partnered with Leitner-Poma to supply the gondola. The 27 cabin, 13 tower machine would travel at 5.1 meters per second, achieving a ride time under six minutes. Gondola cabins would be parked when not in use beneath the upper terminal. The estimated CA$30-35 million project also includes a reconfigured drop off area and 193 new parking spaces. Visitors would see reduced wait times and Grouse would be able to operate year round with no maintenance closures.

“Grouse Mountain is proud to be an integral pillar of the North Vancouver community since 1926 and we look forward to upgrading our facilities leading up to our 100-year anniversary,” notes the project website. The public is invited to learn more about the plan via a virtual public meeting taking place now through September 27th. The District of North Vancouver welcomes public comments as it considers approval. If given the green light, construction on the gondola is expected to last 18 months with an opening targeted for December 2023.

News Roundup: Valleys

Another Six Pack for Snowbasin

Utah’s Snowbasin Resort has partnered with Leitner-Poma of America for its next big project, a six place chair in Middle Bowl. The lift will replace Snowbasin’s oldest fixed grip, a 1979 CTEC triple. Together with the recently-built Wildcat Express, the new six pack will offer an attractive alternate route up the mountain to the Needles Gondola. Middle Bowl Express will be the first Leitner-Poma lift for Sinclair Oil Corporation, the parent of Snowbasin and Sun Valley.

“Middle Bowl is a legendary lift that runs through the heart of Snowbasin,” said Davy Ratchford, General Manager of Snowbasin Resort. “We are committed to our guest experience and advanced lift infrastructure, so we’re thrilled to provide this upgrade to improve our guests’ access to upper mountain skiing.”

According to planning documents submitted to Weber County, the new Middle Bowl will load to the north of the current base station and terminate above Needles Lodge, allowing more room for egress. It will rise 1,190 vertical feet over 4,803 feet of slope length and 18 towers. Initial capacity is planned at 1,800 passengers per hour with 51 chairs on the line. In the future, 17 carriers could be added to reach 2,400 skiers per hour. A ride up Middle Bowl will last just 4.9 minutes compared with 9.2 minutes on the old lift at full speed.

Leitner-Poma is currently looking for employees to help build the six pack beginning in mid-July through November.

News Roundup: Watch Live

B2B Gondola to Unite Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will become one this summer with construction of an interconnect gondola to coincide with the renaming of the resort. The innovative three section gondola will follow in the footsteps of other great interconnect lifts: the Quicksilver Gondola unifying Park City and The Canyons, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola linking Whistler and Blackcomb and the Slide Brook Express connecting Mt. Ellen to Sugarbush. Leitner-Poma of America will build the 2.2 mile B2B (base to base) gondola, comprising of four stations, more than 30 towers and two drive systems.

The current Red Dog triple will be shortened to make way for the Olympic Valley station. Cabins departing this terminal will cross over the Exhibition and KT-22 lifts before arriving at the first angle station on Olympic Ridge. This section of the lift could operate independently without the other two segments in operation. At most times, cabins will continue to a middle segment. A second angle station will then redirect cabins toward Alpine Meadows without offering unloading for the general public. Alpine Meadows’ base station will sit near the new Treeline Cirque detachable quad, offering guests easy access to all of Alpine’s base area lifts. The system will transport 1,400 passengers per hour in each direction with a ride time of 16 minutes.

The $60 million project is part of Alterra’s $207 million capital plan announced today for 2021-22. The commitment includes $111 million in significant resort projects, $31 million for enterprise technology systems and $65 million worth of resort maintenance. “This past season has proven that our guests are loyal, passionate and looking forward to the many seasons ahead, and we plan to provide them with a premier guest experience as we focus on the long-term future of our mountain destinations,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra. “Alterra Mountain Company has exceeded our initial five-year goal to invest over half a billion dollars into our destinations, in just four years. We continue to be committed to infusing meaningful capital into on-mountain enhancements, base area development, and advanced technology that will elevate the mountain experience for all who visit.” In addition to the B2B Gondola, the company announced a transformation of Steamboat’s Gondola Square, which will include moving the Steamboat Gondola base terminal. The first section of the proposed Wild Blue Gondola is planned for installation next year, subject to Forest Service approval.