Leitner-Poma of America has been selected to build the chairlifts at Wasatch Peaks Ranch, a private Utah ski community scheduled to open for the 2021-2022 season. The first two of nine planned lifts will service approximately 55 percent of the mountain’s 3,000-plus acres of terrain and are planned to feature both bubbles and heated seats. “We are honored to be working with the team at Wasatch Peaks Ranch to help make their vision come to life,” said Daren Cole, President of Leitner-Poma. “We developed a custom plan for the chairlifts to ensure the uphill amenities are in line with the elevated guest experience at this new community.”
Wasatch Peaks Ranch is located in Morgan County, 37 miles northeast of Salt Lake City on the backside of the Wasatch Range. The private mountain will offer one of the longest vertical drops in the west at 3,600 feet. Skiers and snowboarders will have access to pristine, groomed terrain along with natural, untracked peaks and chutes for an intermediate and advanced experience.
The initial two lifts Leitner-Poma is building in 2021 will provide access to 1,650 acres. The first lift is a high speed quad that will take skiers and snowboarders out of the base area and is more than 8,000 feet long, providing access to most of the ski mountain’s intermediate and advanced terrain. The second lift, also a high-speed quad, will provide access to expert open bowl terrain with ridge top views of the surrounding area.
“We selected LPOA to build our chairlifts not only because of their excellent track record and years of industry experience, but also because they were willing to work with us to design and customize a lift experience that mirrors the luxury guest experience that our members will have,” said Bob Wheaton, president and chief executive officer of Wasatch Peaks Ranch. “This included everything from technical specifications to thoughtful applications like selecting lifts to provide more space for our members as well as identifying comforts such as heated seats and bubbles.”
Approximately 80 percent of the components for the Wasatch Peaks Ranch lifts will be produced in the United States at LPOA’s Grand Junction, Colorado facility. Both phase one lifts are expected to be operational by December.
When asked about acquisitions on last night’s earnings call, Rob Katz said Vail is focused on positioning the company to be able to make the most of whatever opportunities may come over the next 12 months.
Vail is forced to cancel some guest reservations and black out employee skiing in Colorado this weekend due to limited snow and terrain.
Jackson Hole will soon be a three gondola valley with the addition of an enclosed lift on what locals affectionately call the Town Hill. Leitner-Poma will not only supply Snow King Mountain’s new 8 passenger gondola but also a Skytrac chairlift servicing new backside terrain. The projects were recently green lighted by both the Town of Jackson and United States Forest Service. The approval is still subject to a 45 day objection period, but the ski area wanted to get in line early with Leitner-Poma and Skytrac with the goal of completion for the 2021-22 season.
“We are extremely excited to take this leap forward for Snow King to ensure that the historic ski area can be economically viable and sustainable long into the future,” said Snow King Mountain President Ryan Stanley. “We have gone through a very extensive review process with both the Town of Jackson and USFS over the past five years and are now looking forward to making some exceptional improvements to the Town Hill that the community will be able to enjoy for decades to come.” The gondola will be the first detachable lift for 82 year old Snow King and will replace a 1981 CTEC double. To make room for the bottom gondola terminal, the Cougar triple‘s drive station will be moved 250 feet uphill.
A ride on the gondola will end at a new summit lodge featuring panoramic views of the Town of Jackson and Teton Range. The gondola will operate year round for skiers, sightseers and mountain bikers. In winter, a mountaintop learning area will feature three new surface lifts in a scenic setting. More advanced riders can look forward to new trails and glades on the southern flank of Snow King.
The two lift order is one of the first major projects announced for 2021, which could be a busy one for lift companies. More than a dozen North American 2020 projects were delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and hopefully will be completed next year.
The once sleepy ski area in Eden, Utah will grow dramatically this winter with the addition of a high speed lift and new terrain. Leitner-Poma of America will supply the yet-to-be-named six place chair, which will move 2,500 skiers per hour and service approximately 50 acres of terrain the first season. When completed, the expansion will more than triple skiable terrain with 300 new acres. “The pioneers who started Nordic Valley dreamed of sharing this amazing terrain,” said Brandon Fessler, Nordic Valley general manager. “Our team has worked hard to realize that dream, and we cannot wait to share it with our guests, our friends and our neighbors this winter.” The lift will rise 1,400 vertical feet in just 4.2 minutes with a slope length of 4,213 feet. It will become the first six passenger lift built by Leitner-Poma in Utah.
Fast-growing Mountain Capital Partners took over operations of Nordic Valley in 2018. This expansion project will be located entirely on private property, though more lifts could eventually be added on Forest Service land at higher elevation.
MCP is also partnering with Leitner-Poma to add a base-to-summit Telemix at Arizona Snowbowl this summer. The two projects combine to form the largest lift investment in North American skiing for the 2020/21 season. While some resort groups have paused expansion capital due to the pandemic, Mountain Capital Partners and select others continue to forge ahead.
Nordic Valley expects to open the new six passenger lift early this winter, increasing its vertical drop by 65 percent.
When Vail Resorts spelled out its suspension of operations in mid-March, the shutdown was hoped to last only a week. Fifty days later, all 37 resorts remain shuttered and the company has borrowed more than a billion dollars to weather a possible extended recession.
As the impacts from COVID-19 continue, it's becoming less clear when our business may reopen. Because of this and to ensure we navigate the financial challenges ahead, we have made some difficult decisions that affect our employees. More from our CEO: https://t.co/7EmbUl3v0cpic.twitter.com/CDcwtUYqQ7
Almost immediately, Vail Resorts postponed discretionary capital improvement projects including seven new chairlifts. Vail is just one of numerous operators of lifts facing epic challenges due to COVID-19. The impacts trickle down to suppliers, particularly global suppliers of large machinery like the Leitner Group and Doppelmayr. While the two major lift manufacturers are of similar size and structure, their customers are incredibly diverse, from mom and pop outfits to governments, NGOs and Fortune 100 companies.
As regular readers of this blog know, the lift business is not the same as the ski business. Leitner-Poma, Skytrac and Doppelmayr USA have all completed projects for non-ski venues recently such as theme parks, zoos, stadiums and cruise ports. Not only are these projects making up an increasing share of contracts, they tend to be large in scope and often include lucrative operation and maintenance deals. Some of these non-traditional customers are in even worse shape than the ski business, more dependent on high guest densities and air travel. Put another way, there is little chance the Walt Disney Company, Carnival Corporation or the Miami Dolphins would have signed to build their recent lift projects in today’s environment. So-called “point of interest” projects may disappear entirely for a few years.
Aerial view of likely all Disney Skyliner gondolas. Stored for an extended period at the Caribbean Beach station. All Walt Disney World parks and resorts are closed due to #COVID19pic.twitter.com/gqd924ANu9
One bright spot could be urban transport. The Portland Aerial Tram and Roosevelt Island Tramway have both remained operational throughout the pandemic, albeit at reduced capacity (the Portland Tram carries health care workers to three different hospitals and is about as essential as it gets.) Large aerial tramways have been ceding market share to monocable, 2S and 3S gondolas, a trend which will probably accelerate with new personal space concerns. With gondolas, each person or family can take their own cabin unlike on trains or buses. There are lots of great concepts for urban gondolas in North America and infrastructure spending programs could finally get one or two off the ground. Mexico already has a large urban gondola system in operation with two more under construction.
A modern Leitner-Poma gondola is coming to Nova Scotia’s beautiful Cape Breton Island. The new lift will become the centerpiece of a thousand foot mountain called Cape Smokey, which features views of the Atlantic Ocean. With summer visitation outpacing winter in this region, the gondola will provide year-round access to skiing, sightseeing, mountain biking and a new tree canopy walk.
Cape Smokey was recently rescued by a New York-based investor group after falling into disrepair as a nonprofit society. Developer Joseph Balaz purchased the mountain from the province of Nova Scotia for just CAD$370,000. The area’s 1995 Blue Mountain quad last operated in 2006, leaving only a Poma platter lift operable in recent seasons.
Removal of the mountain’s quad chair has already begun and the base-to-summit gondola is expected to open in July 2021.