As LiftDigital Spreads, Are We Viewing the Future?

Freddie Peyerl, Gerrit VandeKemp, and Jeff Connors are on a roll.  Their company, Alpine Media Technology, recently raised a million dollars to bring its digital guest engagement technology to ski resorts, including to chairlifts and gondolas.  I’ve been following this project (with a dose of skepticism) since it launched and got the chance to catch up with the founders as LiftDigital’s first winter season wraps up.

Peter: What are your backgrounds and how did you guys come up with the idea for digital screens on chairlifts?

Gerrit: Our backgrounds are in Pharmaceutical & Biotech Consulting (Peyerl), Financial Services (VandeKemp), and Aerospace Engineering (Connors). So, we are definitely newcomers to the ski industry. The three of us were on a ski trip together, and a simple discussion on the growing presence of gas station media systems led to a weekend long brainstorming session surrounding the idea that digital information systems on chairlifts could provide a great number of benefits to maximize guest experiences. Ironically, our idea was hatched while skiing the very same resort we are now wrapping up our beta test on – Winter Park.

Peter: Your trial included displays on some of the Super Gauge Express chairs.  How did it go this season?

Gerrit: Our beta test has surpassed all expectations, and a lot of the credit for this has to be given to the entire team at Winter Park. From Executive Management all the way to Lift Operations, we have benefited from an “all hands on deck” approach to making this season a success.

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Peter: What do ski area operators like about the technology?  What about the skiing public?

Freddie: For operators, it’s all about communication with resort guests. Our digital information system starts with LiftDigital, the restraint bar platform, and extends out onto indoor & outdoor kiosks around the mountain as well as a mobile app catered and branded specifically for each resort. These collective elements provide resort operators the opportunity to communicate real time information to guests including lift open/closed status, emergency notifications, lift line wait times, resort events and more. Our objective goes way beyond providing maps to guests – we want to help resorts provide their guests with as many resources as possible to maximize their time on the mountain. Consumer feedback from our beta test in Winter Park has supported our belief that we are accomplishing this, as resort guests have been very excited about the new access to information.

Peter: Your non-digital competitors are probably on less than 10 percent of American chairlifts.  Why do you think that is?

Gerrit: Plastic map systems on chairlifts were definitely a novel breakthrough when they came out, and useful at that. But, advances in digital trends over the last decade have shifted the approach & strategies of marketing teams, ad agencies, and brands to gravitate more towards digital connection with consumers. Map systems would have probably achieved significantly more than 10 percent market share with a better head start over digital advancement. This is where we feel our company is primed to sync with current trends and partner with a high volume of resorts going forward.

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News Roundup: Available

  • The latest Doppelmayr Wir highlights Yellowstone Club’s expansion and more.
  • The Gondola Project updates us on the Leitner-Poma tram project at San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower transit center.
  • Aspen Skiing Co. eyes opening the Pandora quad chairlift on Aspen Mountain in 2020.
  • Majella Group CEO Sebastian Monsour tells the Bangor Daily News his Australian company is still working to close on the purchase of Saddleback Mountain while a former employee is suing for unpaid wages.
  • A Montana community grapples with options for Teton Pass, a closed ski resort listed for $650,000 with one SLI double.
  • In advance of its new gondola, Silver Star’s 1970 Mueller is listed for sale on SAM.
  • CWA launches a slick new website and refreshed logo.
  • Val Neigette, Quebec will close for good on April 1st and its 1990 Doppelmayr quad is on the market.
  • An editorial in the Park Record floats the cool idea of a gondola from offsite parking at Kimball Junction to Park City’s Sun Peak zone with a possible mid-station at Utah Olympic Park.
  • Big White’s Powder Chair will soon be available for $150,000 CAD.
  • Alpine Media Technology raises $1 million to bring digital screens to more lifts including Winter Park’s new gondola.
  • SkyTrans hopes to build and operate a $2 million gondola at an Illinois winery.
  • A lawsuit against Sugar Mountain filed by the family of a child who jumped from a lift after closing has been settled.
  • Leitner’s fifth 3S gondola will be a spectacular one with Symphony cabins and a combination gondola/railway/transit station.
  • A Jacksonville, Florida developer proposes a river crossing gondola.
  • What appears to be Walt Disney World’s gondola cabin maintenance facility is taking shape.
  • Instagram suggests the Hermitage Club may have reached a deal to open this weekend following a state-ordered closure.

News Roundup: Lost

  • Tussey Mountain thinks weakened spring packs caused last weekend’s lift incident and plans to reopen Saturday.
  • As many speculated it would, Vail is taking a wait and see approach to capital improvements at Stowe.
  • A lawsuit is filed against Granby Ranch one year after a fatal lift accident there.
  • Billionaire philanthropist Barry Diller considers gifting a $30 million gondola to the people of Los Angeles, which would travel over 2.2 miles of parkland from the city’s zoo to the Hollywood sign.
  • One Hall double at the defunct Big Tupper ski area will reopen next winter, with another needing extensive work before it can spin.
  • A report suggests Sunrise Park mechanic Reggie Antonio lost his life when the lift he was working on moved while he was in a work chair but still attached to a tower.
  • Proposed urban gondolas find friends and foes in San Diego.
  • LiftDigital safety bar screens go live on five chairs at Winter Park.
  • Garaventa completes the world’s steepest funicular railway in Switzerland.
  • New owner of Mt. Whittier, NH weighs the future of a lost ski area with a 1963 Mueller gondola that still stands adjacent to a McDonald’s drive through.

News Roundup: Retirements

  • Telluride weighs building at least one big detachable next summer as the Forest Service tentatively approves replacements for Plunge, Sunshine Express and Village Express.
  • White Pass, WA retires its platter in favor of a 380’ carpet.
  • LiftDigital goes live for testing at Winter Park.
  • Taos says goodbye to two more chairlifts – that’s four in one summer!
  • Song Mountain, NY is replacing its 1965 Thunderbird T-Bar with a chairliftAnyone know where it’s from?
  • The Rainforest Adventures crew gets one Skytrac back in action and works to repair the other following Irma’s devastation of St. Maarten.
  • Scroll through these photos of a new high-speed quad in Switzerland with four stations, three sections, two haul ropes and only one drive!
  • Albany gondola group to be led by former chief executive of the New York State Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration Thomas Madison, Jr.
  • Authorities briefly seize Granby Ranch, site of last season’s fatal lift incident, over delinquent taxes.
  • Spout Springs in Oregon won’t open for a second year in a row and remains for sale.
  • Mi Teleférico’s Orange Line did 93,847 riders its first weekend.
  • Frank F. sent over these photos of the new Skytrac Buttercup Quad going in at Mt. Hood Meadows:

News Roundup: T-Bar Rebirth

  • Gould Academy is fundraising to put a T-Bar up Monday Mourning at Sunday River but hasn’t signed a contract yet, I’m told.  The race training lift could become New England’s sixth new T-Bar in three years.
  • Grouse Mountain sells to Chinese and Canadian investors, Blue Knob goes to a group of Pittsburgh skiers.
  • Waterville Valley’s new High Country T-Bar would follow an all-new alignment starting lower and ending higher than the current double.
  • LiftDigital safety bar displays to debut at Wachusett and on the Super Gauge Express at Winter Park.
  • Homeowners and insurers may sue the Christchurch Adventure Park in New Zealand over its decision to keep a brand new Doppelmayr high-speed quad running during a wildfire in an effort to save the haul rope.  A video allegedly shows burning chairs starting new fires along the 5,790-foot lift line. The haul rope was written off and the park remains closed five months later.
  • LST’s first detachable finally opens to the public in France.
  • Val Neigette, Quebec is closing and selling off equipment, including a 1990 Doppelmayr quad chair.
  • Developer floats building a gondola across Interstate 25 in Loveland, Colorado.
  • Aspen Snowmass COO David Perry leaves Skico to help launch new, still nameless company which will include Intrawest, KSL and Mammoth resorts.
  • Sunshine Village and Parks Canada fight hard to prevent a wildfire from crossing into the ski area.
  • Disney Skyliner’s first lift line is already cut.
  • Steamboat gondola reopening delayed a third time for more testing with the CPTSB.

News Roundup: Turnover

  • Squaw seeks extension for permit to replace Red Dog lift.
  • MND Group turnover increases 15.1 percent year-over-year.  The company aims to double sales by 2020 partially through LST Ropeways subsidiary.  Referencing the new Cannon Mountain T-Bar in the latest magazine, MND notes “success has enabled LST to penetrate the US market, paving the way for other promising opportunities.”
  • Doppelmayr will begin building its next tri-cable gondola in December.  Who would have guessed Kenya would get a 3S before the United States!
  • Forest Service gives final green light for Breckenridge and Keystone six-place upgrades.
  • A slow landslide continues to move tower 6 of the Barrows lift at Howelsen Hill.
  • SE Group will study placement of Aspen Mountain’s future Lift 1A.
  • Denver Post publishes two part interview with Larry Smith of the CPTSB re: Granby Ranch.
  • The LiftDigital safety bar display system with integrated Wi-Fi will launch in Colorado for 2017-18.
  • New PomaLink newsletter features the Grand Canyon Express and a six-station gondola at a zoo in China.
  • Poma’s 2016 Reference Book includes LPOA installations but not Skytrac ones.
  • Mountain Creek files for bankruptcy protection with debts totaling $40+ million including $500,000 balance on 2012 Partek chairlift loan.
  • One of Heavenly’s original 1962 tram cars is for sale.  Email me if you’re interested.
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  • Artur Doppelmayr died Friday at age 95.  May he rest in peace.