Wildfires Impact Ski Areas Across the West

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.)

In Washington, Crystal Mountain remains largely inaccessible due to fire-related road closures.

On the good news front, the Medio Fire near New Mexico’s Ski Santa Fe is 90 percent contained and the Bridger Foothills Fire threatening Montana’s Bridger Bowl has been slowed by wet weather.

Please keep firefighters and resort employees working to protect ski areas in your thoughts during this challenging time.

News Roundup: Millions

News Roundup: A Long Time Coming

News Roundup: Urban Momentum

News Roundup: Following

  • Mt. Hood Meadows, Skytrac and Timberline Helicopters fly Buttercup towers in just 45 minutes.
  • Vail Resorts schedules annual meeting for Wednesday, December 6th, where multiple new lift projects are likely to be revealed.
  • Aspen Skiing Company, the City of Aspen, private landowners and the public collaborate towards building a long-sought detachable Lift 1.
  • Latest LST detach update: chairs are back at the factory being reworked and the Envers lift is expected to be up and running around Christmas.
  • Revelstoke adds 24 new gondola cabins, Crystal Mountain gets five more.
  • 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.
  • Montana Snowbowl’s TV Mountain expansion won’t open this season.
  • After building three new lifts in a row, the Hermitage Club finds itself in a cash flow crunch.

Buttercup Update from Mt. Hood Meadows

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.


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‚Äô carpet.
  • LiftDigital goes live for testing at Winter Park.
  • Taos says goodbye to two more chairlifts – that‚Äôs four in one summer!
  • Song Mountain, NY is replacing its 1965 Thunderbird T-Bar with a chairlift.¬† Anyone 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 Telef√©rico‚Äôs 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: Colorado

Likely new lifts for 2017 are pacing 39 percent ahead of last year, when 28 new lifts had been announced on this date.  I’ve identified 39 lift projects for 2017 and if last year’s pattern holds, lift manufacturers will build approximately 57 new ropeways in N. America in 2017, the most since 2004.  We’ll know by about July 1.

Skytrac to Replace Aging Chairlifts at Mt. Baker and Mt. Hood Meadows

Chair 7 at Mt. Baker is 27 years old and slated to be replaced with a Skytrac quad chair this summer.

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.

The short Buttercup double at Mt. Hood Meadows will also be replaced with a fixed-grip quad chair.

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.

News Roundup: Washout

  • 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.

Sugarloaf and Doppelmayr load test King Pine on Dec. 19, 2015.

  • James Coleman opens¬†new¬†quad chairs¬†at Purgatory (Leitner-Poma) and Arizona Snowbowl (SkyTrac)¬†with more new lifts on the way.
  • Doppelmayr secures $27 million European government loan for research and development in Austria.
  • Cherry Peak Resort¬†opens today! ¬†It’s the first all-new ski facility in North America since Tamarack debuted back in 2004.