Lutsen Looks to Public Land for a Bright Future

lutsengondola
Photo credit: Lutsen Mountains

The list of new lifts built in the Midwest since I started this website in 2015 is short.  In Minnesota, a total of three – two quads at Giants Ridge and an $8 million gondola at Lutsen Mountains.  Unlike both of its state-owned regional neighbors, Lutsen is a family business that also happens to be the largest ski resort for 2,000 miles between the Rockies and the Adirondacks.  I’ve never been to this corner of Minnesota but it looks totally beautiful, surrounded by National Forest on three sides and Lake Superior on the fourth.

page_177_trail-map2
Lutsen Mountains currently includes seven lifts on Moose, Mystery, Ullr and Eagle Mountains. Two are brand new and three older chairs were recently retired.

The popular new Doppelmayr gondola is like nothing else in the region and it came just two years after Lutsen owners Charles Skinner and Tom Rider launched a Leitner-Poma six place chairlift on Moose Mountain.  With two key lifts upgraded, the brothers-in-law are looking to the future and more lifts servicing the types of terrain discerning skiers seek.  Lutsen Mountains is a true destination resort and its competitors aren’t as much Afton Alps and Spirit Mountain as Breckenridge and Steamboat.  For many, the Lutsen case is compelling – a couple hour drive, alluring scenery and plentiful natural snow at a reasonable price.  “We’re a Midwest destination for families; not everybody can afford the airfare and the travel to go out west,” Mr. Skinner told the Cook County Board of Commissioners in a presentation last week.  “We just need to be strong enough and appealing enough with enough terrain to go forward with the next generation.”

page_274_lutsen-mountains-expanded-ski-area-master-plan

The co-owners are on a public outreach tour as they embark on a rigorous approval process with the United States Forest Service.  If granted a special use permit for new ski terrain in the Superior National Forest, it would be the first brand new permit for a U.S. ski resort in decades.  “The only available land for us to have more runs is federal land,” Skinner pointed out along with the fact that 90 percent of Cook County is publicly-owned.  The expansion plan would first add 100 acres of much-needed beginner terrain with skier services on Eagle Mountain serviced by a new chairlift.  Depending on the cost of a new lift, Lutsen may use one of a few retired lifts it has in storage.  The next phases would add 400 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain on two sides of Moose Mountain including glades and up to six new lifts.  “As the ski industry moves forward, we need to be larger in order to survive,” said Skinner, noting the eventual goal of doubling skier visits.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Instagram Tuesday: Alpha

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

That escalated quickly #SmokyMountains #Gatlinburg #SkyLift #SkiLift #Tennessee

A post shared by Robert Taylor (@robert_w_taylor) on

Continue reading

News Roundup: Base-to-Base

  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows CEO Andy Wirth and landowner Troy Caldwell held a Base-to-Base Gondola open house and Q&A last week presenting lots of new details. The Red Dog replacement project won’t happen until the gondola alignment is finalized.
  • The Balsams files site plans for construction of a gondola and more beginning as soon as this fall.
  • Subaru Skyride debuts at the Indiana State Fair.  Can anyone identify the manufacturer?
  • Owners of Lutsen say $40 million expansion will compel more skiers to stay in the Midwest instead of trekking to Colorado.
  • Still no sign of lift construction at Saddleback.
  • Two people apparently were injured riding a lift at Montage Mountain last weekend.
  • Following the successful launch of a Poma gondola to the Kuelap fortress, Peru’s government to study building a cable car to Machu Picchu.
  • Snowbasin is adding a tower to the currently towerless Allen Peak Tram to increase clearance and reduce closures during storm cycles.
  • Keystone drops Making Montezuma episode 2.
  • Disney Skyliner gondola construction prep continues.
  • Sunshine Village reopens its gondola tomorrow after an 11-day fire closure.
  • First pictures emerge of Steamboat’s gondola rebuild.  Notice downloading capacity is now only six per cabin.
  • The City of Elko will take over Elko Snobowl.
  • Steamboat City Council reviews vision for Howelsen Hill which includes $1.54 million for a new, realigned Barrows chairlift.
  • An Eldo Express update from Eldora.
  • Ditto from Stoneham.

News Roundup: Pass Wars

  • The latest Wir highlights Doppelmayr Connect, various drive concepts and the Sweetwater Gondola.
  • U.S. skier visits climbed 3.7 percent last season to 54.7 million.  479 ski areas operated in 2016-17, up from 464.
  • Silverton Mountain is not a fan of the Epic Pass.
  • Royal Gorge Bridge & Park considers chairlift down to the Arkansas River.
  • Intrawest re-invested 8 percent of revenues at its resorts between 2013 and 2017 (compared with 11 percent across Vail Resorts.)  The company had 173 interested buyers, 16 of which were ski industry players.
  • Early summer update from the Magic Mountain rebirth and Green Chair project.
  • Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group buys Frey AG Stans, a leading global provider of ropeway control systems.
  • Lifts from the defunct Talisman Mountain Resort have been sold; one is headed to Sunridge, Alberta.
  • Granby Ranch investigation update.
  • LA mayor suggests gondola to the Hollywood sign from Universal Studios.
  • Ghost Town in Maggie Valley, NC goes up for sale, including Carlevaro-Savio chairlift that last operated in 2012.
  • Nonprofit nearing purchase of Frost Fire, ND, hopes to repair two chairlifts and reopen skiing next winter.
  • Government considers building world’s longest gondola into the world’s largest cave in Vietnam.
  • Here’s a recap of what we missed at Interalpin.
  • Lutsen Mountains’ six-lift expansion plan moves forward.
  • The Denver Post reports a joint Aspen/Intrawest/KSL/Mammoth pass is in the works for 2018-19, meaning the Mountain Collective could lose seven members and 43 percent of its lifts.  The MAX Pass might fare better, losing the six Intrawest resorts and 85 lifts (20 percent.)  I chart one scenario below.

Continue reading

Instagram Tuesday: Summer Nights

Every Tuesday, we pick our favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

Continue reading

Instagram Tuesday: Fireworks

Happy New Year, Sugarloafers! #theloaf #happynewyear #fireworks #skitheeast

A post shared by Sugarloaf (@sugarloafmountain) on

Continue reading

News Roundup: Peak Buys Another

  • The first non-prototype photos of Doppelmayr’s new detachable terminal that will replace the Uni-G model over the next few years.  It’s certainly different; note the huge windows, Frey controls and stairs instead of ladders on the Kirchenkarbahn’s terminals.  Thanks for the head’s up, snowtirol.
  • Maine’s chief tramway inspector releases his report with pictures on the King Pine rollback and Sugarloaf’s GM responds.  Eight months after the incident, the replacement drive terminal is nearly finished.
  • Doppelmayr Garaventa Group revenue was down 7.5% to $841 million in fiscal 2015 while the company’s global employee headcount rose to 2,546.
  • Still more bad press surrounding Saddleback and the resort’s asking price is down to $9.5 million for 2,000 acres.  Meanwhile Boyne offers passholders in the lurch last spring’s rates on New England Passes.
  • Peak Resorts, the fourth largest operator of lifts in North America, buys Hunter Mountain for $36.8 million.  After the deal closes the publicly-traded company will operate 14 ski resorts with 153 lifts in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri.
  • Two different models of LPOA chairs going up at Okemo and Purgatory.
  • West Mountain demonstrates an old lift can be new again with help from Leitner-Poma, SkyTrac, Green Mountain Control Systems and Alpine Engineering.
  • They call it ‘The Beast’ for a reason.  Killington opened for skiing on October 19th and is running 240 snow guns nightly, all while flying concrete and adding a mid-station to their Snowdon triple.  The 1973 Heron-Poma is evidently going to stick around for awhile.  Fun fact: Snowdon had a mid-station in nearly the same spot which was removed in 1990.
  • Lutsen’s recently retired Hall Skycruiser gondola cabins sold out in 4 minutes on Cyber Monday for $1200 each.  A new gondy opens to passengers December 11th after a brief delay.  If you missed out on the $1200 gondola cabins, you can still get someone a $150 double chair this holiday season.

News Roundup: First Chairs

  • Hanging carriers at PowderhornSnowmass, Sipapu and Lutsen.
  • Leitner-Poma Alpha motor room arrives at Okemo.
  • No lift inspections, no updates and no comment from Maine’s third largest ski resort. The last post on their Facebook page was Oct. 17th.
  • The Balsams will not break ground this year as originally planned but still hopes for a 2016-17 opening with a mix of new and existing lifts.
  • Leitner-Poma would supply a gondola proposed to run from Queenstown to The Remarkables on the South Island of New Zealand.  L-P built The Remarkables’ flagship six-pack “Curvy Basin Express” in 2014.  The new gondola system would span 6.1 miles in two sections and take 27 minutes to ride with a potential opening in 2018.  It would feature an impressive 4,200 foot vertical rise and 140 8-passenger cabins from Sigma.
  • Sunshine Village cuts the ribbon on Canada’s first new bubble chair since 1999.  Tee Pee Town LX (Luxury eXpress) also has the first seat heating in Canada.  Congratulations to Sunshine on completing one of the most modern lift fleets on the continent while others curate lift museums.

News Roundup: Panoramabahn

  • I passed a Doppelmayr drive terminal on I-80 last week.  Now I know where it was going: Sugarloaf.
  • More pictures from Lutsen Mountains of their new gondola.  The old Hall Skycruiser is still standing parallel to her replacement.
  • Haul rope and commline go up at Okemo.
  • North Korea’s Masik Pass ski resort looks to have gotten a base-to-summit gondola this summer based on recent satellite imagery.  Perhaps another counterfeit Doppelmayr?
Creeping on North Korea’s ski lift construction in Google Earth yields a new building at the summit of Masik Pass.  It looks to house a detachable lift terminal with a lift line stretching all the way to the base area with towers and gondola cabins also visible.   The existing summit double is on the lower right.
  • In British Columbia, first Crystal Mountain and now Mt. Baldy will not open this season. Baldy has a T-Bar, Mueller double, and 2007 Leitner-Poma quad that last operated in 2013.
  • SkyTrac load tests at Pomerelle.  One more to go at Arizona Snowbowl.

News Roundup: Finishing Up

  • Take a photo tour of Doppelmayr’s new six pack and new-used double chair at Sugar Mountain, North Carolina.  Looks like it will have 90-degree loading and unloading.
  • Views from the air of Snowmass’ new High Alpine detachable quad and Arizona Snowbowl’s new SkyTrac.
  • The Gondola Project has a new interactive map showing the world’s urban ropeway systems.
  • Speaking of urban gondolas, Poma won a $70 million contract for a 10-passenger gondola in Santo Domingo, the capitol of the Dominican Republic.  Looks like this one will be built in Europe even though it’s not that far from Miami (where coincidentally Leitner-Poma is currently building an airport people mover.)
  • The last rides on Lutsen Mountains’ Hall Skycruiser gondola will be this Sunday, October 18th.  The gondola is coming down this fall along with the Bull and Eagle double chairs.