News Roundup: Vail Numbers

  • Vail Resorts has sold 850,000 season passes as of September 18th, an 18 percent increase compared to last year at this time.
  • CEO Rob Katz assures skiers reservations should be widely available for most resorts on most days.
  • Vail lost $153.6 million in the quarter ended July 31st compared with an $89.5 million loss in the same period last year.
  • For the full fiscal year 2020, Vail reported a net income of $98.8 million, a decrease of 67.2 percent.
  • The company also recently cut 410 jobs.
  • Regarding capital projects and the seven lift projects Vail postponed this year, Katz said on the conference call:

“We are of course going to be monitoring the season closely before we come out with any plan for calendar year 2021. We’ll make sure we’re incorporating what happened this year. We will likely still be in a conservative approach though hopefully not as conservative as last year because the environment around Covid and travel has all improved. We will definitely be prioritizing projects that we think will have a significant impact on the guest experience and certainly some of the projects that we deferred from last year will be top of the list.”

News Roundup: California Dreaming

  • The Town of Jackson, Wyoming inches closer to approving the Snow King Gondola five years after it was first proposed.
  • Aspen Skiing Company eliminates nearly 50 positions citing the “ever shifting Covid landscape.”
  • The Miami Dolphins won’t operate their SkyView stadium gondola this NFL season.
  • In New Zealand, ski resorts say they are not the mask police.
  • Alps resorts prepare to reopen this month.
  • The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board grants a variance for a new Telemix on Aspen Mountain.
  • Ikon Pass holders will need a reservation to visit certain resorts this season while other mountains will not require reservations and more are still deciding.
  • Big Sky’s Lone Peak Tram will be open this winter but guests may be allowed to boot pack to the summit as an alternative.
  • A second indoor ski resort for the United States moves ahead near DC.
  • Aspen Snowmass and other creditors will appeal a judge’s decision to keep Liftopia out of bankruptcy.
  • Some Canadians aren’t happy with Vail’s pandemic-era customer service.
  • Magic Mountain, Idaho is threatened by a wildfire.
  • A study finds the proposed Oakland Athletics gondola would carry a million riders a year and generate $685 million in economic activity.
  • This summer’s construction projects are just the beginning for the new Saddleback Mountain.
  • A planned urban gondola in Los Angeles get a fresh name and website as it prepares for environmental review.
  • Leitner Ropeways will build New Zealand’s first eight passenger chairlift.
  • The Utah Department of Transportation continues to refine alternatives for Little Cottonwood Canyon and will release a report this fall.
  • Great Bear solicits bids for a new chairlift.

News Roundup: Suits

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: Preparing

Landowner Proposes Alternate Little Cottonwood Gondola

When the Utah Department of Transportation unveiled three Little Cottonwood Canyon mobility alternatives, many Utahns were pleased to see a gondola included. However, two criticisms emerged: a lack of on-site parking at the bottom terminal and a low hourly capacity of 1,050 passengers per direction. A new proposal by a private landowner and developer seeks to address both of those issues by requesting UDOT amend the location of the bottom terminal to a 37.5 acre site adjacent to Highway 210. The alternative base station would be located near the LaCaille estate, seven tenths of a mile from the mouth of the canyon. The requested amendment to the current gondola plan would provide enough room for a public parking garage as well as transit center for bus riders to transfer directly to the ropeway.

Chris McCandless is the former Sandy City Councilman behind the proposal along with Wayne Niederhauser, a former Utah State Senator. Their company, CW Management, owns the site and plans to develop it but is willing to preserve the land needed for use as a gondola station if UDOT approves of this new option. If the gondola loads there, a non-loading angle station would be required in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon to avoid the alignment passing over designated wilderness. A second angle station at Tanners Flat, like in UDOT’s alternative, would also be included. Cabins would slow down just enough to make turns at these stations and gondola doors would stay closed.

CW Management consulted with Salt Lake-based Doppelmayr USA, which confirmed such a gondola is feasible. McCandless envisions an up to 4,000 passenger per hour 3S travelling at a speed of 8.5 meters a second. The Department of Transportation planned cabins arriving only once every two minutes, diverting only 30 percent of skiers out of private cars. Under the LaCaille vision, cabins would arrive every 30 seconds and divert up to 10,000 people off the highway during a peak three hour period. Ride time would be 27 minutes to the Snowbird Center with no need to ride a shuttle bus. The four 3S segments would range in length from 6,700 feet to 17,550 feet with cabins transferring seamlessly between multiple haul rope loops. As an alternative to the larger 3S gondola travelling to Alta, a second gondola, probably a monocable or 2S design, could connect Snowbird to Alta.

Some big players have already expressed support for a Little Cottonwood gondola and further study of the alternate CW Management proposal, including Alta Ski Area, Snowbird Resort and Doppelmayr. Snowbird notes that if a gondola is successfully designed and implemented, the company would consider placing additional private land it owns in the canyon under permanent conservation.

If you have opinions regarding one or both of the gondola/bus options, UDOT would like to hear from you. The agency continues to accept public comments through July 10th.

Could a Gondola Solve Little Cottonwood Canyon’s Woes?

Between crush loads of cars, large avalanches and frequent collisions, Utah State Route 210 can be a nightmare in winter. The 13.5 mile road connects the Salt Lake Valley to Little Cottonwood Canyon’s legendary Alta and Snowbird resorts. Utah’s Department of Transportation is currently studying ways to improve mobility in and out of the canyon with a focus on peak winter demand. Starting with 105 possibilities, the DOT last week narrowed its focus to three options: enhanced bus service, bus service combined with road widening and a hybrid bus/gondola option.

Stretching more than eight miles, the gondola would be among the longest in the world with more stations than any 3S system built to date. A tricable design was chosen for its ideal balance of speed, capacity and tower spacing. The lift would begin at the bottom of LCC, pass through an angle station at Tanners Flat and arrive at Snowbird 24 minutes later. Another 10 minute hop would link the eastern terminus at Alta Ski Area. The premise of the gondola is not to replace the road but rather divert a portion of trips to the air. This would be the second lowest capacity 3S ever built with thirty 30 passenger cabins arriving at stations every two minutes. A modest capacity would help manage costs and allow for towers spaced thousands of feet apart.

The Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola could operate in winds up to 68 miles per hour and strategically placed towers could keep it running when snow slides and crashes close the road. Guests and employees would enjoy an aerial journey through the canyon unlike anything in the United States. The system would cost $393 million, $77 million less than road widening but $110 million more than an enhanced bus solution. The gondola itself would run $240 million while the other $153 million is associated infrastructure such as parking and tolling. The aerial option would cost the least to operate, just $4.5 million per year versus $6.2-9 million annually for the bus options.

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News Roundup: Switzerland to Italy