- Crystal Mountain reopens after being closed nearly a week. Mudslides along its access road cost the resort more than $1 million in business.
- Dave McCoy, the visionary founder of Mammoth Mountain, dies at 104.
- Great job Elk Mountain staff for this rescue of a dangling young skier.
- You can also watch a heroic Mt. Hood Meadows employee remove seven inches of ice from Vista Express towers this week.
- The Sea to Sky Gondola finally reopens, six months after a crime which cost nearly $4 million dollars in damage and lost revenue.
- Chair 5 at Greek Peak breaks down and gets rope evacuated.
- Highland Mountain Bike Park will add 40 chairs to its chairlift, increasing uphill capacity by 50 percent.
- Vail Mountain COO Beth Howard explains the circumstances behind last weekend’s epic lift lines.
- The Balsams may be closed but Les Otten opens the doors for himself and four others to cast first in the nation presidential votes.
- Swiss manufacturer Bartholet launches a fresh website.
- The Little Mountain that Could is a short film by L.L.Bean exploring the rebirth of Whaleback as a nonprofit.
- Locals frustrated with Whistler Blackcomb operations and staffing petition Vail Resorts to do better.
- One of those involved in the Stoos chair accident succumbs to his injuries. Two others have been released from the hospital.
- Stevens Pass reopens Seventh Heaven 11 days after this incident.
- A man dies in a terrible accident involving the Skyline Express at Vail. A preliminary investigation suggests he slipped through a chair’s seat, was caught by his jacket and asphyxiated.
- Former Vail Resorts mountain division head Chris Jarnot becomes a consultant for the upcoming Mayflower Mountain Resort in Park City.
- Sunday River President Dana Bullen talks about the Merrill Hill expansion, future lift projects and which lifts are staying put.
- Al Henceroth confirms the Pallavicini double will be replaced by a Leitner-Poma double this summer.
- Utah Business magazine makes the case for One Wasatch.
News Roundup: Answers
- Stevens Pass nears completion of its largest lift investment ever.
- Bretton Woods prepares to open New Hampshire’s first eight passenger gondola as soon as October.
- A nonprofit hopes a T-Bar will be the right lift for historically troubled Ascutney Mountain.
- The 17 former Peak resorts are now Vail resorts.
- Vail season pass sales are up double digit percentages from last year and the company expects to earn between $778 and $818 million in fiscal year 2020 with a net income of $293 to $353 million.
- Mt. Bachelor launches an all-new James Niehues-painted trail map with some surprise new lift names: Alpenglow, Early Riser and Little Pine.
- The Berry family and Arctaris Impact Investors issue dueling letters on why the Saddleback sale fell through.
- Here’s another construction update from Alaska’s brand new ski area.
- The Forest Service approves Mammoth Mountain’s Chair 16 replacement project.
- Stakeholders seek an extension as the Hermitage Club bankruptcy works its way through the courts.
- The ski resort portion of American Dream now won’t open until December 5th.
- Doppelmayr is out with a new issue of Wir Magazine which profiles Ramcharger 8 and Whistler Blackcomb’s three newest additions.
- Vail concludes that undetected ground movement caused July’s tower separation and evacuation of the Eagle Bahn Gondola.
How Many Lifts Might Alterra Buy in 2019?
At just 15 months old, Alterra Mountain Company finds itself with over 200 chairlifts, gondolas and tramways in two countries. The 13 Alterra mountains mirror the broader ski industry with places like Deer Valley and Crystal Mountain sporting many newer lifts while the average chairlift at June Mountain is 45 years old.
On a Monday last March, the fledgling company based in Denver simultaneously unveiled its very first lift investments at Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park along with other improvements like snowmaking at Snowshoe and a new restaurant at the base of Steamboat. Importantly, Alterra committed to spending $555 million in total capital over five years. That was before it bought Solitude and Crystal Mountain, which could mean even more money flowing over the next few construction seasons. While last year’s budget only included three new lifts, could we see more in 2019?
With the September approval of major projects by the Forest Service, Steamboat is poised for a comprehensive on-mountain transformation. Although the timing is fluid, a new Rough Rider learning center at mid-mountain will eventually be serviced by a new gondola from the village. Here, skiers and snowboarders will be able to choose from three new carpet lifts, a new and improved Bashor lift and a second fixed-grip chair replacing the Rough Rider surface tow.
A second initiative Steamboat could undertake in 2019 is the Pioneer Ridge expansion, which includes a 7,000 foot detachable quad and a dozen new trails. Other possible upgrades include adding chairs to Pony Express (currently at only 1,200 skiers per hour but designed for 2,400) or new cabins for the Silver Bullet. Wouldn’t it be cool for the new gondola and original one to have similar cabins?
The average lift at Alterra-operated Winter Park Resort is 27 years old. Six are early model detachable quads coming up for replacement. In the case of 32 year old Pioneer Express, an upgrade is overdue and I expect coming in 2019. A new version could add a snowboarder friendly mid loading station above the last section of Big Valley.
A second project I hope to see is a second stage of the new gondola from Sunspot to Lunch Rock, truly uniting Winter Park and Mary Jane. Sunnyside should be a high speed quad or six pack. A high speed replacement of Challenger would be a nice upgrade at Mary Jane. Looking Glass is tied for the oldest operating chairlift in Colorado. After Pioneer, High Lonesome is the next Poma detachable up for replacement if we go solely by age.
The above Intrawest era master plan earmarked Gemini Express to be converted into an eight passenger gondola with a new learning center surrounding its top station. Endeavor could go detachable as part of this project and/or Discovery made into a fixed grip quad. Finally, a lift is envisioned to expand Vasquez Ridge Territory with four new intermediate trails. With all of these ideas on the table, I expect Winter Park to get at least one lift in 2019 and hopefully two.
News Roundup: Change of Plans
- Mammoth seeks to replace the workhorse Canyon Express #16 with a detachable six place lift in a new alignment.
- Plans for Battle Mountain Resort that once featured ten chairlifts and two gondolas near Vail no longer do.
- Leitner-Poma’s self-driving mini aerial tramway in San Francisco will debut this summer.
- A Grafton, Illinois gondola project faces a key vote with groundbreaking possible later this summer.
- Partek will build a brand new quad chair this summer at West Mountain, New York.
- Ghost Town – the defunct chairlift-accessed amusement park in North Carolina – may reopen in 2019.
- A court rules in favor of plaintiffs in three Hermitage Club cases but is still considering next steps for the ski mountain foreclosure.
- The latest Aspen Lift One meetings go well.
- You probably heard Jerusalem in the news this week but not for the $56 million earmarked to build a four station gondola there.
- Like the first one, the second Disney Skyliner terminal to go airborne has two distinct turnarounds.
News Roundup: Never Ending
- Arizona Snowbowl files paperwork with the Coconino National Forest to replace the Agassiz lift with a combination Telemix/chondola as soon as this summer.
- Bromont in Quebec looks to build a Doppelmayr six place chair in place of its 1985 vintage detachable.
- It’s not every day you read about lifties being caught in an avalanche at the bottom of a high-speed quad. Thankfully no one was injured.
- I’m thinking President Trump’s 25 percent tariff on imported steel (and 10 percent for aluminum) will have negative implications for the ski lift business, though Mexico and Canada are exempted for now.
- Doppelmayr Canada seeks an experienced construction manager for its four lift megaproject at Whistler Blackcomb.
- Triple double Massachusetts mountain Bousquet is on the block.
- Tenney Mountain opened for skiing yesterday for the first time in eight years.
- When a T-Bar turns into a chairlift…
- Doppelmayr pitches a 3S gondola to connect Oakland with Alameda Island in San Francisco Bay.
- Antelope Butte’s two Riblets will see significant work this summer in advance of a possible reopening.
- Another viral video shows a child falling from a lift at Bear Mountain.
- Edmonton gondola idea wins a design competition, beating hundreds of other entries.
- New owner of Mt. Norquay eyes building a gondola from Banff for improved access.
- Vail Resorts posts strong second quarter results with net income up 58 percent and lift revenue up 6.6 percent despite skier visits dropping 4.9 percent. In addition, Vail is raising its corporate minimum wage to $12.25.
- Doppelmayr proclaims Big Sky’s upcoming 8-seater the most technologically advanced lift the company has ever delivered.
News Roundup: Snapped
- SkyTrans Manufacturing announces the passing of its founder and president, Jerry Pendleton, who began his career with O.D. Hopkins in 1960.
- John Dalton’s tale of how two brand new lifts survived the Category 5 hurricane in St. Maarten is a must read.
- A dangling Mammoth Mountain guest escapes a fall from a chair unharmed; lifty who caught her isn’t as lucky.
- Snowbird’s in-house magazine demystifies how detachable lifts work with a sweet diagram from Doppelmayr and copy from a guy you might have heard of.
- Hatcher Pass, Alaska moves toward building a SkyTrans triple chair ASAP.
- Video of a swinging Austrian bubble chair with two skiers struggling to hang on goes viral worldwide.
- The Hermitage Club comes within days of having its water and sewer services shut off and is still working through other payables.
- A gondola cabin blew off an outdoor parking rail at Sunday River during last week’s storm and a slew of other lifts suffered damage but are now back in action.
- 9-year old unharmed after falling 15 feet from a lift at Boyce Park, PA.
- A three-station gondola is one of ten finalists for a signature attraction in Edmonton, Alberta. You can vote for it in an online public advisory poll.
- Fernie’s White Pass lift will be closed for awhile while new bullwheel bearings are sourced and installed.
- Powerful storm snaps a 30 mm wire rope on Mont Blanc’s iconic panoramic cable car, which was not operating and typically only runs in the summer.
- Granite Gorge’s sole chairlift has yet to open this season, apparently due to gearbox issues.
Instagram Tuesday: Stealth
Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
Mapping Mammoth’s Next New Lifts
“One hundred million dollars” is how Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory responded when asked about capital improvements in the wake of the recent purchase of Mammoth Resorts by Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners this spring. While I can’t find a comprehensive online version of the 2007 Mammoth Master Plan prepared by Ecosign, the vision includes 17 lift additions and replacements including up to four new gondola stages. A vast majority of the changes are likely to be realignments and capacity upgrades of existing lifts rather than the opening of new terrain. Still, the possibilities are exciting at this already monster mountain.
Mammoth currently operates the
largest second largest lift fleet in the United States, with 27 machines averaging 27 years old. All 14 lifts built before 1995 are Yan, while the 13 added post-1996 are exclusively Doppelmayr. Remarkably, every lift Mammoth has built since 1998 has been detachable, 15 in a row with DT grips (the two Yan detachables got them in 1996.) At some point, Mammoth’s impressive fleet commonality will have to end, but the streak may not be over just yet.
Instagram Tuesday: Pulling
Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
If Aspen & KSL Go Lift Shopping, What Will They Buy?
It’s been two weeks since the bombshell news that Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners are joining forces to bring twelve ski resorts under a new entity rivaling Vail Resorts. While the deals won’t close for months, the new partners already say they plan to invest heavily in the guest experience. “We have earmarked a lot of capital for improvements to be able to continue to reinvest significantly in the communities and the mountains,” KSL CEO Eric Resnick told the Denver Post. “What’s exciting is being able to bring new opportunities with these communities and with these mountains to those customers who are already so passionate.” This could come in the form of new lifts ahead of the 2018-19 season and beyond. Below is a summary of announced plans and my speculation of what might be in store for KSL and Aspen’s upcoming resorts.
- Alpine Meadows, CA:
- Alpine Meadows applied for and received approval to replace the Hot Wheels chairlift in a new, longer alignment back in 2012. A mid-station offload would allow beginner and intermediate skiers to access the lower mountain while others could continue to an unload near the top of Sherwood, providing direct access to Sherwood and Lakeview. Approval for this lift likely expired in September 2015 but there’s no reason to believe Placer County would not approve it again.
- Speaking of Lakeview, it is arguably the largest remaining pod at Alpine Meadows without detachable access. This 1984 CTEC is older than Sherwood and with approximately the same vertical rise. A high-speed quad is likely to replace it eventually.
- Doppelmayr and CTEC have both built lifts at Alpine Meadows while Leitner-Poma has not. That could change with the unification of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
- I’ve written before about the Base-to-Base Gondola which is still on the table but still requires multiple government approvals. It would traverse the White Wolf property between Squaw and Alpine with two angle stations along the way.