News Roundup: Ripple Effect

  • Saddleback demolishes the Rangeley double to make room for its upcoming high speed quad.
  • Debt-laden Ski Granby Ranch lays off all its employees and won’t issue refunds to guests with canceled vacations.
  • The $2.2 trillion phase three stimulus package passed by Congress doesn’t include assistance specifically for ski areas but there is hope phase four might.
  • Vail Resorts borrows more than $500 million from existing lines of credit in order to increase its cash position and maintain financial flexibility during the outbreak.
  • While many Leitner-Poma staffers work from home, a skeleton crew continues production.
  • Even in hard-hit Italy, one major lift customer plans to commence construction as soon as the immediate health danger has passed.
  • Many Doppelmayr employees are also working from home and production continues in Wolfurt.
  • Aspen Snowmass intends to complete all capital projects as planned this summer including the $10.8 million Big Burn chairlift.
  • Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz personally donates $2.5 million to mountain community charities and an employee assistance fund.
  • Yet another lift project cancelled by Vail Resorts: replacement of Peachtree at Crested Butte this summer.
  • NSAA estimates costs from early closings and lost pass sales will exceed $2 billion in the United States and forecasts capital spending will plunge 50 percent this year.
  • Magic Mountain’s Geoff Hatheway offers a small ski area perspective on COVID-19.
  • Coronavirus may impact the review timeline for Snow King Mountain’s proposed expansion and other projects on Forest Service lands.
  • Katharina Schmitz officially takes the reigns of Doppelmayr USA from Mark Bee, who retired on March 31st.
  • Boyne Resorts estimates $22 million in lost revenue as a result of this winter’s abrupt end.
  • The Vietnamese developer behind both the world’s longest and tallest 3S gondolas plans another island-hopping 3S in the country’s north.

News Roundup: Down But Not Out

  • The last North American ski area still operating, Lookout Pass, closes for the season.
  • Leitner-Poma is hiring installers for projects at Arapahoe Basin, Arizona Snowbowl, Aspen Snowmass, Breckenridge, Keystone and Okemo.
  • A group of 150 former members buys the Hermitage Club and its five chairlifts for the bargain price of $8.06 million.
  • Arapahoe Basin lays off 430 seasonal employees and cuts the hours of year round staff.
  • Children of the man who died on a Vail chairlift earlier this season retain a Denver law firm for possible litigation.
  • In addition to virtually all ski resorts worldwide, coronavirus shuts down urban gondolas including La Paz’s Mi Teleférico, Medellín’s Metrocable, Santo Domingo’s Teleférico and London’s Emirates Air Line.
  • New owners take over Great Divide and will reevaluate proposed lift additions through a master planning process.
  • The newest gondola operation in Australia becomes insolvent and enters administration, partly a result of COVID-19.
  • SAM gathers leaders from Alterra, Boyne, Vail and more to talk about the crisis.  A common theme: capital budgets being reexamined.
  • A Vancouver developer thinks about a gondola as part of a hillside housing development near Cypress Mountain.
  • Lift construction grinds to a halt in New Zealand but carries on in Alaska.
  • Ski Inc. and Ski Inc. 2020 author Chris Diamond shares an optimistic view of the crisis under the assumption it won’t last into next winter.

Arizona Snowbowl to Install Combination Lift

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Arizona Snowbowl’s fourth new lift in six years will be the largest yet –  a chair/gondola combo lift rising almost 2,000 vertical feet.  The new base-to-summit workhorse will operate year round for skiers, snowboarders and sightseers beginning next winter.  “Since its inception, Agassiz has been the beating heart of Snowbowl,” notes the resort.  “With the replacement of the lift, we’re ushering in a new era.  More than an upgrade, the new Agassiz lift completely redefines the Snowbowl experience.”

Unlike most combination lifts, Agassiz will feature eight passenger gondolas between every two chairs (usually the ratio is more like one in four or five.)  Agassiz reaches an elevation of 11,500 feet and enclosed cabins will offer guests a comfortable option in inclement weather.  The gondolas will also provide improved access for guests with disabilities and ride time will decrease from 15 minutes to seven.  Capacity will remain a modest 1,200 skiers per hour so as not to overwhelm expert trails off the summit.

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In addition to summer and winter, Agassiz operates all fall for scenic rides.

The Leitner-Poma Telemix will be the third lift in the Agassiz alignment over six decades of history.  The existing Agassiz triple opened in 1986 and is currently inoperable due to a mechanical issue.  The CTEC is expected to be repaired this week and will finish out the remainder of the season.  Once removed, it will be stored for eventual re-installation at a location to be determined.

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Mountain Capital Partners has invested heavily in Arizona Snowbowl since purchasing the resort back in 2014.  Improvements to date include a new lodge, two different fixed-grip quads and a six place called the Grand Canyon Express.  2020’s project will be the largest in resort history and one of the most significant lift additions in North America this year.

A Solid Year Caps a Decade of Construction Growth

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The mostly new Steamboat Gondola features 137 cabins travelling at a brisk six meters per second.

This year saw installation of 43 new and 7 used lifts across North America, numbers similar to the last two seasons.  43 may seem like a modest number for newly-manufactured lifts on an entire continent but that number is a 54 percent increase from the start of the decade and the highest single year total since 2004.  Only seven resorts opted to install used lifts, mostly late model fixed grip chairlifts but also a detachable quad and one T-Bar.

While 2018 saw a record number of gondolas, multiple bubble chairs and a Telemix, 2019’s projects trended smaller with 22 fixed grip chairlifts and five surface lifts.  That’s the most platters and T-Bars built in the last 15 years.  Two of them anchor terrain expansions while another two service youth racing programs.  Loading carpets were included on five new fixed quad lifts, allowing them to run at slightly faster speeds.

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The Yeti Cruiser at Sasquatch Mountain Resort was one of three new Leitner-Poma Alpha fixed grips constructed across Canada in 2019.

After two huge years, gondola construction fell to two new installations in Colorado, one in New Hampshire and pulse versions in New York and Florida.  Detachable chairlift construction was just above the decade average of ten per year.  Only one of this year’s high speed chairlifts included bubbles and another heated seats.

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Vail Resorts completed the largest-ever lift investment at Stevens Pass, purchasing two Doppelmayr quads to replace aging Riblet and Thiokol lifts.

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Gondola to Anchor Redeveloped Site Along Colorado’s Interstate 70

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Photo credit: Andy Colwell via The Colorado Sun

Halfway between Denver and Summit County’s ski resorts, 22 million vehicles a year transit I-70 in the town of Idaho Springs.  Local businesswoman Mary Jane Loevlie sees an opportunity for 400,000 of them to stop and take a gondola ride from the historic Argo Mill and Tunnel to a new summit plaza.  The Colorado Sun reports a group of investors led by Loevlie has partnered with Leitner-Poma to build The Mighty Argo Cable Car, an eight passenger gondola system in what was once a mining boom town.  “We are marrying outdoor recreation and heritage tourism at a reclaimed EPA Superfund site,” said Loevlie at a community gathering yesterday.  “You know what, we are putting the fun in Superfund.”

The concept resembles Silver Mountain, Idaho, a successful public-private partnership that saw construction of a 3.1 mile gondola adjacent to Interstate 90 atop of one of the nation’s largest EPA cleanup sites.  The Colorado project initially focused on constructing a hotel, conference center and stores but morphed to begin with the gondola due to revenue potential.  The 10 minute lift ride would ascend 1,300 vertical feet to a restaurant and park.  Capacity would be 600 visitors per hour, modest by ski lift standards.  Bike carriers would be included for adventurous guests seeking to take advantage of nearby trails.

Local approval for the project is still pending but it’s possible the gondola could launch as soon as next summer.  The Mighty Argo Cable Car would join an elite group of scenic tramways and gondolas across Colorado: the Estes Park Tramway, Glenwood Gondola, Monarch Crest Scenic Tram and Royal Gorge Gondola, all of which were constructed by Leitner-Poma and its predecessor companies.

News Roundup: Convoy

News Roundup: Stay Tuned

A Dozen Years In, Revelstoke Reassesses

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Revelstoke Mountain Resort currently operates four Leitner-Poma Omega detachable lifts built in 2007 and 2008.

More than $200 million was invested to create Revelstoke Mountain Resort, an Ikon Pass destination in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia.  While the skiing is undeniably fantastic, the resort’s timing was poor, launching on the cusp of the global financial crisis in December 2007.  Acquired by Northland Properties from an American developer just a year into operation, Revelstoke has slowly grown to 3,100 acres, two gondola sections and two quad chairlifts with a third set to open this year.

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Last month, Revelstoke Mountain Resort filed a new master plan with the province.  This map shows the current buildout and phase 2.

Revelstoke features a continent-leading vertical rise 5,620 feet and the longest run goes on for nearly ten miles.  The lower village lies along the Columbia River at 1,680 feet.  Despite the addition of snowmaking in 2011, the entire lower mountain is sometimes closed due to lack of snow.  The resort’s new master plan focuses on higher alpine terrain where snowfall is plentiful and reliable.  The lift currently under construction, originally called Cupcake but now known as Stellar, will service a teaching zone at 5,600 feet near the summit of the Revelation Gondola.

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In addition to the new Leitner-Poma quad, all four existing lifts will be brought up to their maximum capacities of 2,600 to 2,800 passengers per hour this summer through carrier additions.  That means 22 new gondola cabins, 21 chairs for The Stoke and 42 more for The Ripper.

After this summer, Northland plans to shift back to adding alpine terrain Revelstoke is famous for.  A high speed lift in the North Bowl of Mt. Mackenzie will provide access above The Ripper with a vertical rise of 1,970 feet.  The new South Bowl quad will add 395 acres at even higher elevation with panoramic views of the Columbia.  Phase 2c envisions a lift duo backing up the Revelation Gondola and a new intermediate quad known as Lift 15.  “The focus of Phase 2 will be on increasing uphill lift capacity to accommodate increased visitation, as well as terrain development at higher elevations in more snow-reliable areas within the resort’s current boundary,” notes the approved plan.

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Daren Cole Takes the Helm at Leitner-Poma of America

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After more than 40 years at Leitner-Poma of America, Rick Spear is stepping away from his role as president.  Daren Cole, a 25 year ski industry veteran, will lead the company’s next phase of growth.  Over his decades with the company, Spear was integral in transferring ownership and moving the North American headquarters from Vermont to Grand Junction, Colorado.  “It is time to move over and let younger minds and bodies take over,” said Spear.  “In total agreement with ownership I am scaling back and will be actively involved in strategic aspects of the company as a member of the board of directors with a focus on urban ropeway opportunities.  I know that I am leaving LPOA in good hands. Daren has shown a level of dedication and leadership to the company that will successfully transition into the future.”

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Cole joined Leitner-Poma in 2014 in business development and quickly added strategic planning to his roster.  He has been responsible for sales strategy and process that has led to an increase in sales.  Daren started his career at Purgatory as national sales manager and then was promoted to director of sales.  He spent more than a decade with Vail Resorts in several sales and marketing positions.  As vice president of sales and marketing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Cole increased skier visits by 10 percent, and both resort revenue and net promoter scores had double-digit increases.  He then went on to lead Powderhorn Mountain Resort as general manager in charge of all resort operations.  While running Powderhorn, he championed several key initiatives to impact the resort’s bottom line including a new point of sale system, a guest service training program as well as a new website and focus on social media.

“I am honored to take the helm and serve our customers and our employees at Leitner-Poma,” said Cole.  “The right equipment for the right job is the exact solution we provide.  Our experienced and knowledgeable staff is unrivaled in the industry and I look forward to working with them to continue to move our company forward.”

Leitner-Poma of America is the North American subsidiary of Poma S.A. of Voreppe, France and a sister company of Leitner AG with headquarters in Sterzing, Italy.  Last year was one of the firm’s strongest ever in North America and included the debut of three groundbreaking DirectDrive lifts at Copper Mountain and Winter Park Resort.  Leitner-Poma is already off to another packed summer building new lifts across the United States and Canada.

On a personal note, Daren was an early and ardent supporter of mine as I grew this website and I am grateful for his help.  I wish Daren and the entire LPOA team success as they enter this new chapter.

Leitner-Poma to Build New Quad at Sasquatch Mountain

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North America will be down to 56 operating Mueller lifts after this double chair is no more.

The original chairlift from Sasquatch Mountain Resort’s inaugural 1969-70 season will be replaced this summer with a Leitner-Poma fixed grip quad chair.  The new 4,000 foot lift will supplant a classic Mueller center pole double called Skyline, which rises just over 1,000 vertical feet.

Sasquatch, situated along a gravel road north of the fast growing city of Chilliwack, British Columbia, also features a Doppelmayr triple chair and newer Mueller beginner lift.  Back in December 2017, the resort announced a used Doppelmayr detachable quad chair would replace Skyline, a project which did not end up happening.

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Sasquatch Mountain used to be known as Hemlock Valley Resort and is operated by the Berezan Hospitality Group.