Smokey Mountain to Replace Entire Lift Fleet

One of Atlantic Canada’s best kept secrets is Smokey Mountain, which will soon sport three new lifts.

A community ski area surrounded by iron ore mines near the Quebec-Labrador border will build as many new lifts as Whistler Blackcomb this summer, though they will be of quite a different variety.  Smokey Mountain Ski Club is set to debut Canada’s first Skytrac, a quad chair where a 1972 Poma double with a floating bullwheel stands today.  The mountain’s Blue lift, a detachable Poma in operation since the 1960s, will be swapped for a brand new Leitner-Poma version.  Another new LPOA platter lift will serve an area known as coaches’ corner and supplement a carpet lift built last year.  Smokey has also retired its Red and Green Poma lifts meaning the entire lift fleet will be renewed by next winter.


This revitalization has been in the works since at least 2016 but was put on hold due to a downturn in the iron ore market.  The Iron Ore Company of Canada will fund the not-for-profit ski club’s modern and more reliable lift system as part of mitigation for a new site nearby.  Below are some photos from Smokey’s website to memorialize the truly classic Poma lifts which will be missed.

This ambitious project brings the North America new lift count to a potential 48 for 2018.  That number includes at least five Skytrac Monarchs, a dozen Leitner-Poma installations and 21 Doppelmayr machines.


Alterra Building New Lifts at Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park

Alterra Mountain Co., the new operator of eleven leading North American mountain resorts, today announced a transformational capital investment of $130 million to be followed by hundreds of millions more over the next five years.  New lifts will debut at Winter Park Resort in Colorado, Mont Tremblant in Quebec and Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont in time for next winter.  Competitor Vail Resorts revealed a similar $150 million plan for 2018-19 with six new lifts across its resorts last December.

Goodbye massive lines at Zephyr, hello gondola.

The largest single project for Alterra is a 10-passenger Zephyr Gondola at Winter Park replacing the current 1990 high-speed quad, the key people mover out of The Village at Winter Park.  The new $16 million Leitner-Poma lift will be capable of moving 3,600 guests per hour to Sunspot, up from 2,600, and is the first new lift at the resort since 2007.  It will feature Leitner-Poma’s DirectDrive technology, reducing energy consumption and the number of moving parts that can lead to down time.  The new lift may also get a new name.  “Zephyr is certainly on the table but nothing’s been decided yet,” said Steve Hurlbert, a spokesman for the resort.

Winter Park’s first true gondola will sport Sigma Diamond 10 cabins.

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Big White Upgrading Powder Chair to a Leitner-Poma Quad

British Columbia’s third largest ski resort will retire its oldest lift this summer, a Mueller which dates back to 1979 called Powder.  A new $3.1 million Leitner-Poma Canada Alpha quad chair will be capable of moving 1,900 skiers per hour versus the current 1,710.  Big White calls the outgoing lift one of Canada’s oldest and most popular triple chairs with more than 15 million rides logged to date.  “I’m proud to be leading the third generation of our family owned business, which was established in the summer of 1985,” said Peter Plimmer, president and CEO of Big White Ski Resort Ltd. in a press release announcing multiple summer projects worth $10 million CAD.  “My grandfather, Desmond Schumann, would be proud of what we’re doing here at the resort.”

Big White’s Powder chair on a snowy Saturday last month.

Next season Big White will operate a fleet of a dozen Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma lifts including a six-pack and gondola.  The new Powder Chair is the second announced Leitner-Poma fixed-grip project for 2018 after Arapahoe Basin’s Beavers installation.  Last year, most of the Leitner-Poma Group’s fixed-grip orders went to Skytrac, though that division has yet to build a lift in Canada.  New lifts are also coming to Blackcomb, Whistler, SilverStar and likely Sun Peaks in BC next winter.

Boston Gondola Would Link South Station with Seaport District
A gondola in Boston, Massachusetts could connect America’s sixth busiest train station with a growing waterfront neighborhood and convention center.  Photo credit: Handel Architects

Two private development firms are moving forward with plans for a $100 million gondola in South Boston, which would feature three stations in its first phase.  Millennium Partners and Cargo Ventures are building a 2.7 million square foot mixed-use development at the eastern edge of the Seaport District, a part of the city historically under served by public transit.  The current Silver Line bus rapid transit lines here have been criticized since their inception as slow, overcrowded and inconvenient while a gondola would create a quick and efficient path to the new complex and beyond.

Photo credit: Handel Architects

Millennium is working with Handel Architects and Leitner-Poma on a design which it presented to the Boston Planning and Development Agency in January.  The latest route avoids cabins flying past rooms at the new $550 million Omni Hotel, a source of criticism for an earlier route proposal, which is somewhat ironic considering Omni’s hopes to build its own gondola at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire.  The Boston gondola would travel over Summer Street for its entire 4,650′ alignment with stations adjacent to the South Station transit hub, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and Marine Park.
The lift would travel down Summer street at varying heights to avoid getting too close to buildings.  Photo credit: Handel Architects

The lift would feature 13 towers, 70 10-passenger cabins and a capacity of 4,000 passengers per hour, per direction (nine second spacing!)  A ride between South Station and Marine Park would take just 7.3 minutes.  A second phase could service the South Boston neighborhood with the Marine Park terminal becoming a sharp angle station.  Cabin parking and maintenance would also be housed at Marine Park.

Photo credit: Handel Architects

This proposal is one of many urban gondolas envisioned for North American cities including Albany, Vancouver and Washington, DC.  It will be interesting to see which one will be the first to actually break ground.

Killington to Add Bubble Six-Pack, South Ridge Quad & New K-1 Cabins

Powdr Co. will invest a whopping $16 million on lift improvements at Killington Resort this summer, adding two new chairlifts and upgrading the cabins on the K-1 Express Gondola.  The Snowdon Quad will be replaced with Vermont’s fourth six-place bubble chair, turning the current 10-12 minute jog into a four-and-a-half minute minute blip.  This new flagship lift will move 3,000 guests per hour and feature bubble chairs along with indoor parking.  “While we are committed to staying core to our beastly advanced terrain, we are also putting the focus on our blue family-friendly terrain.” says Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington Resort in a release. “The investments we’re making will re-shape the guest experience for years to come. Uphill capacity will increase to 48,000 per hour and the downhill enhancements will create more diverse terrain for all levels of skiers and riders.”  Built by built by Leitner-Poma of America, the new Snowdon lift will be similar to the bubble sixers at Mt. Snow and Okemo.

The old Snowdon quad, which used a mix of new and used Poma parts when it was built in 1987, will move to South Ridge.  A triangle-shaped Yan there stopped carrying skiers in 2011 and the terrain hasn’t been directly serviced since.  The new quad will follow the downhill alignment of the old triple and feature new hangers, grips and electrical controls.

K-1 will see all new Sigma Diamond 8 cabins to replace the CWA Omegas from 1997 along with a new haul rope.  Stratton’s gondola received the same cabins in 2014 and Killington will keep K-1s cabins as spares for Skyeship 1+2.  Powdr will also finally complete the gondola’s cabin parking facility so the shiny new cabins can be stored inside.

The new lift and two relocations will cost $7.8 million with the gondola upgrades totaling $2.2 million.  If all that wasn’t enough, the Beast of the East is also going to add Axess RFID ticketing for 2018-19, relocate the Snowdon Poma (built in 1958!) to Ramshead and make significant trail improvements.  These moves represent the largest capital program at Killington in more than 20 years – since the American Skiing Company days.  Welcome to lift announcement March!

Glenwood Caverns Gondola to Go Detachable in 2019

The Iron Mountain Tramway provides the only guest access to a popular adventure park called Glenwood Caverns along Interstate 70.

Colorado’s growing Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will make a major lift upgrade in 2019, swapping its pulse gondola system for a detachable oneThe Iron Mountain Tramway is a 2002 Poma Alpha model with 16 6-passenger Omega cabins that currently moves up to 300 guests per hour.  From early 2019, a new Leitner-Poma detachable gondola is planned to more than triple capacity to 1,000 per hour with 44 six passenger cabins.  Ride time will plunge from 12-15 minutes down to just seven.  “This will help us enhance our guests’ experience by reducing wait times to board the tram and reducing the frequency of weather-related tram closures,” noted the park’s general manager, Nancy Heard in a press release.  “It will be more stable in high-wind conditions, and will eliminate 80 percent of the shutdowns caused by wind and lightning.”

This terminal will be replaced with a new LPA one along with new cabins and a new haul rope.

Sixteen years after Steve and Jeanne Beckley opened the adventure park in Glenwood, it now averages 205,000 visitors annually and the tramway sometimes experiences 60 to 90 minute wait times.  New tropical model Sigma Diamond cabins will feature additional ventilation and lightning arresters will be added to the towers in hopes of achieving more up time.  Pending local approval, construction will begin November 1st and continue for four months, during which the park will be closed.  Existing towers will be reused while the terminals will be completely replaced (the new drive system will shift to the top terminal.)  The unique tower-mounted utility lines that have been in service since opening day will also be buried and a new two-story administration building constructed in time for the park’s 17th season.

Six Big Lifts Launch in Colorado

This new high-speed chairlift on Beaver Creek Mountain is one of six new lifts on Colorado slopes this season, representing the most new additions in a single year since 2013.

With over 100 detachable chairlifts, 22 gondolas and some 150 fixed-grip lifts, the Colorado lift fleet represents a total investment somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 million.  The Centennial State has more ski lifts than any other state or province and on each visit I’m amazed by the caliber of ski infrastructure here.  More than half of Colorado’s lifts are detachable models, a feat which no other North American region comes close to achieving.  This winter, six more high-speed chairlifts came on scene, and while none open up new terrain, each one serves an important purpose.  I was lucky enough to ride the new machines at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper, Eldora, Keystone and Vail over three days this week, testament to the remarkable amount of skiing available within a few hours’ drive here.  This year’s class includes two Doppelmayr high-speed quads, a Doppelmayr six-pack and three Leitner-Poma six-place chairs representing half of all new detachable chairlifts built in North America for 2017-18.

Red Buffalo Express – Beaver Creek Mountain


The last lift from Beaver Creek’s 1980 inaugural season, Drink of Water, was replaced with a new lift with a new name over the summer.  The quad’s namesake, Red Buffalo Park, is now a dedicated learning zone with awe-inspring views of the Gore Range from 11,400 feet.  While lift 5’s terminals, hangers, grips and operator houses are new, most of the tower components and chairs are from the former Montezuma lift at Keystone.  Like its sister Vail, Beaver Creek now has just one fixed-grip lift of appreciable length remaining alongside an amazing 14 detachable chairlifts and gondolas.

Falcon SuperChair – Breckenridge


Breckenridge debuted its third next-gen Leitner-Poma LPA six-pack on December 28th.  The new Falcon SuperChair replaces a Poma high-speed quad that opened along with Peak 10 itself in 1985.  The new ride lifts capacity by 25 percent to 3,000 guests per hour in this popular advanced-intermediate pod.  The Falcon has the same sweet plush chairs as the new Colorado and Kensho SuperChairs.

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Behold The Bend, Alta’s Latest Lift Creation

The new Supreme lift at Alta, Utah turns 8.1 degrees in a totally unique arrangement engineered by Leitner-Poma.

Jagged ridgelines spread in seemingly endless directions at Alta Ski Area, serviced by relatively few lifts in just the right places to make skiing there a blast.  Alta has collaborated with various lift manufacturers over its 80 year history to create unique contraptions such as the Transfer Tow, a Yan rope tow mechanically more similar to a chairlift and one of the world’s only high-speed triple chairs, called Sunnyside.  In 2004, Alta and Doppelmayr CTEC dreamed up Collins, two Stealth high-speed quads joined together at a 29-degree angle with loading but no unloading at the mid-station.  “Don’t text and bend,” a sign at the Wildcat base warns riders destined for the full trip.

This season, the new Supreme detachable quad goes where no bend has ever gone before, replacing both the Cecret double and Supreme triple but without an angle station.  Prior to 2017, there were a handful of lifts that turn a few degrees using canted sheaves, particularly in Utah, where the mining scene created an enduring checkerboard of public and private lands.  Snowbird, Park City, Deer Valley and Moonlight Basin in Montana all sport lifts that bend a few degrees for one reason or another.

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Construction Rises Significantly to 51 Lifts in 2017

The Doppelmayr-built Wildcat Express comes together at Snowbasin, one of seven new six-place chairlifts built throughout the western US this year.  More six-packs were added in 2017 than any other year except 2000.

With commissioning wrapping on eleven more lifts than last year at this time, 2017 represents an impressive ten-year high for North American lift building.  Six-passenger chairlifts, T-Bars and urban gondolas in Mexico and the Caribbean drove much of the growth in a year that saw continued changes in the manufacturer landscape.  Compared with 2016, more of this year’s chairlifts were expensive detachable models (12) compared with 17 fixed-grips (in 2016, the split was 7 detachable, 23 fixed.)  A total of nine new gondolas and three T-Bars went up in 2017, both increases from the year before.  Ten additional lifts were relocated and re-purposed, a three-year high with lifts originally built by Blue Mountain, CTEC, Doppelmayr, Riblet, Roebling, Stadeli and Yan finding new homes.  Combined, this year’s new lift class represents a solid 27 percent increase from 2016.

Consistent with last year, about two thirds of the projects in 2017 represented one-for-one replacements in existing alignments.  Interestingly, at least six resorts removed older lifts outright without replacing them.  At many mountains, the era of building and maintaining extra chairlifts that rarely run is over.

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News Roundup: Economies of Scale

  • Poma wins monster $47.1 million contract for five lifts from the company that operates Val d’Isère, Tignes, Meribel, La Plagne and Les Arcs in France.  Last year’s three-lift, $29.4 million contract from the same group went to Doppelmayr.
  • An Australian teenager is lucky to be alive after doing pull ups on a moving chairlift cable.
  • The inaugural gondola featuring Sigma’s Symphony 10 cabins debuts in Italy.
  • Canton, Ohio looks at gondolas, calling them “transportainment.”
  • Props to Bear Valley for frequent Moke Express updates.
  • A judge sides with Monarch in lift unloading injury lawsuit.
  • Following a workplace death and news that a major lift is out of service, confusion surrounds Sunrise Park Resort’s season, though new management and lifts could be on the way.
  • Record-shattering aerial tramway with 6,381 feet of vertical and a 10,541′ free span opens in Germany a week from today.
  • Connecticut’s Woodbury Ski Area might be gone for good.
  • George Kruger of Ski Lifts Unlimited, instrumental in rebuilding lifts at Magic Mountain and beyond, passes away.
  • Leitner-Poma is completing final assembly of a cool 25-passenger tramway at the upcoming Salesforce Tower in San Francisco.