Gearbox Failure Cripples Kimberley, BC

Kimberley Alpine Resort will operate differently for awhile without its key out-of-base lift. This afternoon, staff noticed unusual noise coming from the Northstar Express and cleared the line of skiers. Upon inspection, they found a bearing had failed in the gearbox. It will likely be a week or more before the lift can be repaired and reopened.

Northstar is a bit of a rarity – one of only nine high speed quads Leitner built in Italy and shipped to North America. “We have our team on this and industry experts are inbound to help us, but unfortunately we will not be able to run the Northstar Quad until it gets fixed,” read a statement from the resort. “Our current best estimate is that this may take a week or more to get repaired. We understand this will be very challenging for many people living in and visiting the community, but please know we are already doing our best to get it up running safely as soon as possible.”

The Northstar Express is Kimberley’s only out-of-base lift which provides access to the rest of the mountain. Three parallel reliever lifts were removed in 2001, 2003 and 2006, leaving no redundancy. Kimberley is making the most of the situation, however. First, the ski area will keep its backside Tamarack and Easter chairlifts running through at least tomorrow for those willing make the 1,000 foot gradual uphill trek to access them. Skinning and hiking aren’t for everyone, so parent company Resorts of the Canadian Rockies will allow passholders to visit sister resorts Fernie, Kicking Horse and Nakiska throughout the closure.

Readers of this blog will note gearbox failures occur occasionally at resorts of all sizes. Kimberley said Northstar’s gearbox was fully rebuilt less than two years ago. A handful of newer lifts in North America feature direct drive motors which remove the gearbox and some possible points of failure from the equation.

News Roundup: Tough Choices

  • The Italian parent of Leitner and Poma reports record revenue of €1.06 billion, having completed 78 ropeway projects in 2019, though the company expects sales to fall 30 percent in 2020.
  • Public comments are now being solicited regarding Steamboat’s proposed Wild Blue Gondola, Sundown Express replacement and Priest Creek removal projects.
  • Vail Resorts suspends operations at two Australian resorts just three days into the season due to the evolving Coronavirus situation.
  • Even though American Dream and Big Snow in New Jersey are closed, a second American Dream location remains in development in Miami.
  • Vail Resorts-owned OnTheSnow.com and sister websites will shut down Monday due to the challenging financial landscape. A Vail-owned TV station is also closing.
  • Bloomberg speaks with the CEOs of both Alterra and Vail about next winter.
  • Today is the last day to comment on Little Cottonwood Canyon transportation alternatives, including a 3S gondola.
  • Walt Disney World won’t allow unrelated parties to ride together in gondola cabins when the Skyliner reopens.
  • Doppelmayr USA, Leitner-Poma of America, MND America, Skytrac and SkyTrans all received Paycheck Protection Program loans supporting more than 400 American jobs.
  • A key link located on a receding glacier, the Horstman T-Bar at Whistler Blackcomb is no more.
  • Design work continues for Aspen Mountain’s Lift One Telemix and related developments.

News Roundup: Workers

News Roundup: Big Game

News Roundup: Seven Meters

  • Val Saint-Côme, Quebec looks to build its first six place detachable lift.
  • The opening of the first lift at Skeetawk is pushed back to midwinter due to delays with SkyTrans’ other project in Illinois.
  • Maine’s Eaton Mountain will not operate this season.
  • Leitner and Kitzbühel partner to build Austria’s fastest monocable ropeway which will travel 7 m/s at a cost of $30 million.
  • Mt. St. Louis Moonstone’s new six pack will be named Josl Huter Express in memory of the mountain’s founder.
  • Aspen Highlands’ Goldenhorn surface lift is on track to be built next summer.
  • Just 75 days after the Sea to Sky Gondola haul rope was severed, a new one arrives in Squamish.
  • Another great podcast episode features the owners of Plattekill Mountain discussing competition from the State of New York, Vail’s purchase of a competitor and the decision not to join the Indy Pass.
  • The Forest Service says yes to Breckenridge’s Peak 7 Infill high speed quad project.

News Roundup: Master Plans

Lift Makers Show Off New Products at Interalpin

The biennial Interalpin conference kicked off today in Innsbruck, Austria with alpine technology brands showcasing their latest and greatest to customers.  I am just following from afar but this year’s show is already proving to be monumental with major new products and initiatives being unveiled.

Leitner launched a redefined 2S gondola which is being positioned as an economical middle ground between a monocable lift and a 3S.  The reimagined bicable gondola utilizes standard monocable drive components, tensioning systems and cabins but with a single track rope added.  This allows lifts to traverse much longer spans with more cabins than a standard gondola system.

The terminals are of modular design with the exterior designed by Pininfarina.  A new carriage utilizes synthetic rollers and takes cues from the popular LPA grip.  On the lattice-style towers, sheaves are isolated for vibration dampening and track ropes rest on synthetic profiles.  Leitner has also developed a new system for track rope slipping which it calls “simple, safe and time saving.”  I find this product exciting as 3S gondolas are simply too expensive for many operators, as evidenced by their complete lack of adoption in the United States.

Leitner also showed off its next generation premium chair called Evo.  It comes with three bubble color options, three bar styles and two different kinds of upholstered seats.

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News Roundup: Ten

  • Garaventa inks a $45 million deal for a 4x funifor, 1x aerial tramway megaproject in Switzerland.
  • Beartooth Basin attempts to crowdfund this spring’s operation, including $35,000 for a required gearbox replacement on Poma 1.
  • An ugly snowmobile-chairlift crash is caught on tape at Sunshine Village.
  • The City of Steamboat will overhaul the Howelsen Hill Poma this summer and plans to replace Barrows around 2021.
  • The Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco and associated aerial tram may reopen as early as June.
  • Disney Skyliner’s nearly 300 ten passenger cabins will come in ten different colors with 22 unique character wraps.
  • The Indy Pass is still adding mountains.
  • With Timberline Resort’s owners unable to find an attorney, a judge postpones a state receivership hearing until May 28th.
  • Leitner will show off updated six passenger chair and Diamond gondola designs at Interalpin.
  • Local businesses leaders are pushing for a high capacity 3S on Burnaby Mountain.
  • Steamboat plans to sell its now retired gondola cabins to other ski resorts around the world for parts.
  • The so-called Balsams bill passes the New Hampshire Senate and is expected to be signed by the governor.

News Roundup: Four Too Many

News Roundup: Bahn

  • Bretton Woods’ upcoming gondola gets a great name: Presidential Bahn.
  • Copper updates the public on its big new American Eagle and American Flyer lifts.
  • For the third time in six years, Soldier Mountain, Idaho hits the market.  “The current owners have experienced the typical start up challenges that come with operating a ski area that has been under capitalized, under managed and under marketed for many years,” writes Mike Krongel of Mirus Resort Advisors.
  • The BC Supreme Court orders the province to reconsider its 2015 decision to pull  Jumbo Glacier Resort’s construction permit over lack of progress.
  • Mont Cascades scores a $1.2 million grant from the Government of Quebec to help build the resort’s longest chairlift yet.
  • The criminal case of a former employee who may or may not have been stuck on a Gore Mountain chairlift overnight last winter heads to trial.
  • Snow King’s possible gondola gains two new alignment options.  GM Ryan Stanley tells the Jackson Hole community “After struggling for so many years to keep the lifts spinning, it is sad to see the negativity associated with proposed improvements to the mountain.”
  • The 380 acre Cold Springs Canyon expansion and detachable quad are officially a go for next summer at Sun Valley.
  • Doppelmayr nears commissioning of a very cool gondola with spherical cabins, loopy towers and whimsical stations in Moscow.
  • Stratton says goodbye to the SMS Poma, leaving just seven detachable surface lifts in the country by my count.
  • 36 days before opening, go inside the eye-catching Matterhorn 3S gondola by Leitner Ropeways.
  • Thanks to Everett and Will for these shots of Big Sky’s trailblazing Ramcharger 8 project.