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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Sasquatch Mountain used to be known as Hemlock Valley Resort and is operated by the Berezan Hospitality Group.
Just months after launching two of the largestlifts in the country by vertical transport feet per hour, Copper Mountain today announced its seventh new lift in nine years will bring chairlift service to Tucker Mountain in time for the 2019-20 ski season. The Leitner-Poma triple will load at the bottom of Blackjack and terminate at over 12,200 feet atop The Taco. Copper Mountain skiers and snowboarders will gain quick repeat access to 273 acres of expert chutes and faces. Capacity of the bottom drive, bottom tension lift will be 1,200 per hour.
Coming in 2019-20: the new Tucker Mountain chairlift.
The move, approved by the White River National Forest last April, is part of a $100 million push by Powdr Co. to transform the Copper experience. “I’m thrilled to announce Copper’s newest Tucker Mountain chairlift allowing more skiers and riders to access Copper’s unique high alpine terrain.,” said Dustin Lyman, president and general manager of Copper Mountain Resort in a news release. “With all of the exciting development at Copper, now, more than ever, is a great time for the next generation of skiers, snowboarders and families to call Copper Mountain Colorado their home mountain,” he continued.
Copper’s parent company is also adding a quad chairlift at its upcoming Woodward Park City action park in Utah this summer. Killington may also see a new North Ridge Quad in time for next season.
Alterra Mountain Company will spend $181 million on capital improvements at its network of resorts this offseason, $32.3 million of which will go towards new lifts. The announcement comes on the heels of competitor Vail Resorts’ proclamation that it will devote $139 to 143 million to capital projects in 2019, including new lifts for Crested Butte and Stevens Pass.
It's official, after serving the Mary Jane for nearly 30 yrs, Sunnyside has announced retirement… We will replace the iconic lift with a new high-speed, 6-passenger lift as part of $16M investment for nxt season. The new lift will reduce the ride time from 8min to 3.8 min! pic.twitter.com/aaTEEtL92X
At Colorado’s Winter Park Resort, a new Leitner-Poma six-pack will replace the Sunnyside triple, increasing uphill capacity by 800 people per hour and reducing ride time from eight minutes to 3.8. Sunnyside is a 1989 CTEC that provides egress from Parsenn Bowl and often experiences significant wait times.
In California, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will debut the first Leitner-Poma of America LPA detachable to feature an intermediate station. The approximately 5,000 foot quad lift will follow the current Hot Wheels alignment with an offloading opportunity at the current top terminal site. Chairs will continue one minute further to Sherwood Ridge for direct access to the backside of Alpine. The first Leitner-Poma lift at Alpine Meadows will move a total of 2,400 skiers per hour between the three stations and cost approximately $10 million. “The new lift will benefit the Alpine Meadows experience on many levels,” said Ron Cohen, president and chief operating officer at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “Terrain currently served by Hot Wheels is frequently used by learners and ski and ride school as the next progression after the beginner terrain in the base area. A detachable lift will make loading and unloading much easier for these groups, and the ride time will be more than cut in half. Alpine Meadows is a fantastic place to learn how to ski, and I am proud that we are continuing to foster that quality.” Squaw is also adding new rope tow and carpet lifts in the High Camp area to further improve beginner options and skier circulation.
As announced at the beginning of the winter, Doppelmayr will complete the Steamboat gondola rebuild this summer, adding new towers, all new cabins and more. With a speed increase, this key out-of-base lift will feature an increased capacity of 3,600 skiers per hour.
Another significant lift-related investment is RFID access gates and ticketing infrastructure at Deer Valley Resort. Other Alterra properties are getting snow cats, expanded snowmaking capabilities, restaurant remodels and new bike trails. “Alterra Mountain Company’s unique year-round mountain destinations offer skiers, riders and summer visitors of all ages from all over the world special, memorable experiences, and each aspect of our business plays a part in bringing the guest back year after year and inspiring a lifelong love of the mountains,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of Alterra in a company-wide press release. “We are committed to investing in everything from lifts to snowmaking to creative dining experiences, and technology that weaves it all together for a seamless visit.” The privately-held firm has budgeted more than half a billion dollars for capital improvements through the 2022/2023 ski season. All 13 Alterra destinations participate in the Ikon Pass, which starts at $649 and goes on sale tomorrow morning.