Vail Resorts recently submitted an updated improvement plan for Mt. Sunapee to the State of New Hampshire which includes construction of five new chairlifts and two surface lifts. Most transformative would be the West Bowl expansion, including a mile long high speed quad and 1,082 feet of vertical. This would be Mt. Sunapee’s second longest lift, servicing five new trails. West Bowl would also feature a new beginner conveyor, parking and guest services building.
Vail also plans to upgrade the Sunapee Express to a six pack or combination lift with gondola cabins capable of moving 3,000 guests per hour. The existing high speed quad opened in 1998 and is undersized for the amount of terrain it services.
As planned by Triple Peaks before the 2018 Vail purchase, the North Peak triple would be replaced by a fixed grip quad. The nearby Spruce triple is also slated to be upgraded to a fixed quad, compensating for Vail’s recent removal of the Duckling double. It’s possible one of these two lifts would utilize equipment from the former Sunbowl quad, which remains in storage on site.
A new triple chair would be be built to connect the bottom of Sunbowl to North Peak. Known as Cataract, this lift would service a modest amount of new terrain and improve skier circulation. Rather than purchasing new, Vail may opt to re-use equipment from the North Peak and/or Spruce triples for Cataract.
A rope tow is proposed to link Parking Lot 2 and Spruce Lodge, reducing the resort’s reliance on shuttle buses. Finally, Vail seeks to add a grip maintenance building and carrier storage for the Sunbowl Express.
The plan would increase Mt. Sunapee’s comfortable carrying capacity by 40 percent to 6,850 skiers. Most of the proposed projects were previously approved during Triple Peaks ownership, though a few are new. A public meeting will be held Thursday evening to solicit comments or you can submit them to MountSunapeeComments@dncr.nh.gov. The deadline to weigh in is November 12th.
With four recent additions, Vail Resorts Inc. now operates just over 10 percent of American and Canadian lifts, more than any other company. Vail prides itself on investing heavily in its mountains and the average lift at an Epic resort is three years newer than the rest of the industry. The company’s lifts now number 305 in the United States, Canada and Australia with an average age of 24.6 years. If we assume the average lift lasts 35 years, Vail would now need to replace an average of about nine lifts per year just to turn over its fleet.
A little less than a year ago, a smaller VR unveiled plans for seven new lifts as part of a $150 million annual capital plan, the largest in the company’s history. Back in 2016, Vail committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (VR later added a fourth detachable to that year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.) In December 2015, the Broomfield-based company announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, it was $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six pack at Vail. Over the last five years, more resorts have consistently led to more revenue and more capital investments. The company said it will invest $35 million at the four new mountains in the next two years, making it possible this December’s announcement will be the most valuable ever.
Going resort by resort, the most obvious projects are ones already in the pipeline, namely the Game Creek Express #7 replacement and Golden Peak race lift at Vail. But VR could go bigger like it did this summer at Whistler Blackcomb, spending $52 million to package four lift replacements together. On Vail Mountain, additional aging lifts likely to be up-gauged to six-packs eventually are Orient Express #21, Born Free Express #8 and Wildwood Express #3. The mothership mountain has the third largest and third newest lift fleet in the company and I expect investment to continue at Vail following this year’s pause.
On average, the newest lifts within Vail Resorts are at Beaver Creek, which opened decades later than its peers. A major expansion was approved in September – McCoy Park – which may be implemented in 2020. In advance of those two new lifts, the Strawberry Park Express could be updated in 2019 to a higher capacity gondola. The oldest lift at Beaver Creek is the 1988 Arrow Bahn Express, which eventually will be replaced by a newer detachable. Probably not this year though.
Sticking in Colorado, Breckenridge is usually the first or second most visited resort in America and did not see a new lift in 2018. I say a Riblet gets replaced here in 2019 and my vote would be 6-Chair with a high speed quad. My second guess would be C-Chair followed by 5, A, E and Rip’s Ride. If Vail decides to continue replacing older high speed quads instead, Beaver Run SuperChair is the logical candidate.
Keystone has both expansion possibilities and lifts that could be upgraded. The project everyone’s been clamoring for is a detachable lift from The Outback to replace Wayback. Peru Express is the oldest high speed lift at Keystone and a core workhorse, making it likely to be replaced with a six pack soon. Outback Express is one year newer and in a similar situation. Another possible replacement is Argentine, a 1977 Lift Engineering double that the 2009 Keystone Master Development Plan proposed replacing with a two stage detachable. The new lift would load near Peru, have an angle station above Lower Schoolmarm and continue all the way to the ridge of Dercum Mountain. The Keystone MDP also outlines major expansions that I expect we will hear more about over the next decade. They include a Ski Tip gondola, Bergman Bowl lift, Independence Bowl lift, Windows lift and Outback surface lift. Whatever Vail chooses, I am hopeful for a new lift or two at Keystone in 2019.
Crested Butte is the new kid on the block and Vail may wait a year or more to do anything lift wise. The mountain’s Teocalli II expansion is still moving through the Forest Service NEPA process. The Mueller family invested heavily in the Triple Peaks resorts over the years and I don’t see a whole lot needed near-term at CBMR. Replacing original Teocalli with a high speed quad would be a nice way to burn some of the promised $35 million.
The only aerial tramway in Texas closes after nearly six decades. “Replacement of the Wyler Aerial Tramway is estimated to cost millions of dollars. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does not have the financial resources to execute a capital construction project of this size at this time.”
Michael Doppelmayr is profiled for his 60th birthday. Some interesting facts: his company’s gross margin was 12.1 percent last year and his father Artur vehemently opposed Doppelmayr’s merger with Garaventa.
New York’s high court clears the way for Belleayre to expand into the former Highmount Ski Center.
Bretton Woods and Doppelmayr make great progress on New Hampshire’s first 8 passenger gondola.
The leaders of North and South Korea ride a pulse gondola during their three day summit.
The State of New Hampshire will hold a public meeting about transferring the Mt. Sunapee lease to Vail Resorts on September 26th.
A live streaming webcam shows New Hampshire’s largest and fastest gondola going in at Bretton Woods. Some tidbits on the lift from the New Hampshire Tramway Board: line speed will be 6 m/s with 36 cabins and a design capacity of 2,600 using 62 cabins. SkyTrans is taking the retired B double and the gondola’s load test is slated for December 20th.
As it works to finalize its lease of Mt. Sunapee, Vail Resorts assures New Hampshire residents the company is in for the long haul and doesn’t plan any real estate development at the state-owned mountain.
A stack up of at least nine cabins on the White urban gondola line in La Paz last Monday is deemed the result of human error. No passengers were on the lift at the time.
The widow of Loveland mechanic Adam Lee, who died underneath a carpet lift last winter, goes on CBS This Morning to talk about his workers compensation claim being reduced due to a positive marijuana test.
The second Doppelmayr Wir magazine of 2018 highlights the company’s quickest ever gondola construction project in the United States, Big Sky’s upcoming D-Line eight seater and a 2,800 pph gondola that requires no operators at all.
Purgatory furloughs employees, reduces hours and eliminates some positions entirely as it remains closed due to the 416 Fire.
Sebastian Monsour, the Australian developer who flew to Maine to announce his purchase of Saddleback, is arrested in Brisbane, accused of misusing $3.4 million in investor funds.
Parts are everywhere at Wolf Creek for the upcoming Meadow detachable quad.
The largest publicly-traded ski resort company in the world today simultaneously unveiled two major transactions to buy ski resorts in four different states for more than $300 million. Vail Resorts will acquire Triple Peaks, LLC for $82 million and Stevens Pass, Washington for $67 million, subject to regulatory approval. The former, founded and owned by Tim and Dianne Mueller, operates Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado and Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire, hence the name Triple Peaks. Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail will buy out the three resorts’ long term leases from Oz Real Estate upon closing for an additional $155 million. Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and Crested Butte signed onto the industry-pioneering Epic Pass back in March and will now offer unlimited, unrestricted access for Epic passholders.
Another Oz-owned resort, Stevens Pass, will be sold to Vail for $67 million in a separate deal subject to regulatory approval. Stevens Pass is currently operated by Karl Kapuscinski along with Mountain High, California. The SoCal resort is not included in Vail’s purchase. Stevens Pass will join the Epic Pass for the first time, making it an even more compelling product for Pacific Northwest skiers who frequent Whistler Blackcomb. Stevens will also be included in the Edge Card, a product that predated Vail and is offered exclusively to residents of British Columbia and Washington. Notably, Stevens Pass has major lift expansions on both flanks of the current trail system in its approved master plan.
With today’s news and other deals including the sale of six resorts to Boyne Resorts, the Oz Real Estate Ski Resort Holdings portfolio now includes just Jiminy Peak and Sierra at Tahoe, down from 15 resorts at its peak under CNL Lifestyle Properties. Northstar California, Mountain High and Bretton Woods were also sold off over the last few years.