As snow falls across the Rockies, resorts closer to the Pacific continue to deal with drought conditions and wildland fires. Most immediately threatened is California’s China Peak from the 153,000 acre Creek Fire. “We are aware that the fire has reached our mountain and a strike team is working hard to manage the flames and protect structures on the base area,” said a statement from the resort last night. “Employee housing has been damaged, but we have no other information at this time.” China Peak operates a total of six fixed grip chairlifts.
Eight different National Forests in California shut down to the public effective 5:00 pm on Labor Day due to extreme fire danger. Mammoth Mountain and Snow Summit are among those temporarily suspending mountain operations in partnership with the Forest Service.
In Oregon, a fire ignited within the Mt. Hood Meadows boundary on Monday. Meadows fired up the Stadium Express for firefighters, who were able to contain the blaze to a few acres without damage to lifts or facilities.
The Mt. Hood National Forest is now closed to the public. Timberline Lodge has suspended outdoor operations until further notice (skiing on Palmer Glacier ended August 30th this year.)
Navajo Nation leadership soundly rejects Grand Canyon Escalade gondola in 16-2 vote.
SkiCo and the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club plan to build a platter surface lift on the skier’s right side of Golden Horn at Aspen Highlands next summer.
There’s an unconfirmed rumor that the Cyclone at Sunrise Park, AZ won’t operate this winter. The 1983 Yan is North America’s longest triple chair at 7,982′ with 32 towers and 352 chairs. I’ve reached out to Sunrise for comment and will update if I hear anything.
Many resorts are adding bigger chairlifts this season but Mt. Hood Meadows’ new beginner lift is notable for a couple reasons. The quad follows an all-new route from the double it replaces, opening up more teaching terrain in the base area. Second, it appears to feature Skytrac’s first height-adjustable terminal at its return station. The drive and tensioning systems will now be located at the top. The new Buttecup is 30 percent longer than the Yan version and will move 70 percent more people. It will also spin 30 percent faster thanks to a loading carpet, which is also height adjustable.
When I stopped by Meadows this weekend, Mt. Hood had received nearly six inches of rain on top of early snow in classic Pacific Northwest fashion. Timberline is already open for the season while lift construction continues next door. Concrete work for the new lift is almost finished and the weather looks much better this week as Meadows prepares for its 50th season.
Wolf Ridge, NC closes for the season following lightning damage to 1988 Doppelmayr quad. The place has an interesting past; a 2006 Doppelmayr CTEC quad and 1980 Borvig were both abandoned after a 2014 fire and only two lifts remain.
For the first time, Skytrac has posted lift projects in advance of construction on its “A Skytrac Near You” page, revealing two older fixed-grip lifts in the Pacific Northwest will be replaced this off season.
At Mt. Baker, Washington, the Chair 7 fixed-grip quad will be removed and swapped with a modern, galvanized 250-horsepower Skytrac quad. Seven is 2,349′ long and rises 579′ out of the White Salmon base area. Although only middle-aged by North American standards, the 1990 quad chair is a so-called “orphaned lift” as a late-model Riblet. Keep an eye out for its sister ship, Chair 8, to also be up for replacement in the next few years. Mt. Baker’s four newer Doppelmayr CTEC fixed-grip models should be safe for years to come, as long as the ski area holds out on building a detachable. Keep in mind, any lift decision at Baker weighs the fact that lifts run on diesel fuel full time. The new seven will be Skytrac’s third project in Washington, following on the heels of a new Chair 6 at Crystal Mountain and Rampart at The Summit at Snoqualmie.
Five volcanoes to the south, Skytrac apparently also won the bidding to swap the Buttercup beginner double chair with a 100-horsepower Monarch fixed-grip quad at Mt. Hood Meadows. Yan built the existing double chair in 1979, making it Meadows’ fourth oldest lift. Buttercup is only 920’x 122′ and has height adjustable terminals at both ends. The new lift will be Skytrac’s first in Oregon.
Skytrac Lifts, acquired by Leitner-Poma in April, specializes in building sub-500 horsepower fixed-grip chairlifts at its facility in Salt Lake City. These two new quad chairs will be the company’s 27th and 28th complete lifts, following its best year ever supplying eight lifts in 2016. We’ll likely see more additions to the Skytrac project page as the spring progresses and you can keep up on all of North America’s new lift projects for 2017 here. Notably absent from Skytrac’s list is Bridger Bowl’s Virginia City replacement project.
Teams from Mt. Hood Meadows have repaired and re-opened the Shooting Star Express that was damaged by falling trees over Thanksgiving. Now the storm recovery turns to the Mt. Hood Express, which received ten feet of snow in one week.
White Pass has more snow than it did at anytime last winter but no one can get there. Crews have been working around the clock to repair washouts that cut off the resort from both sides of the Cascades Dec. 9th. The ski area will re-open Wednesday.
The Berry family says it’s close to a deal to sell Saddleback to a new owner that hopes to open by late January. Passholders can get a refund or gift card now.
Aspen’s 1971 SLI double on Shadow Mountain will be replaced with a detachable quad or gondola in 2016 or ’17. The top terminal will move 200 feet to the southwest resulting in a slope length of 3,600′ with 1,390′ vertical and a capacity of 1,200 skiers per hour.
Park City and Canyons are now one thanks to the Quicksilver Gondola but judging by snow conditions it’s going to be awhile before you can ski between the two.