- The man who died on a Vail chairlift two weeks ago did not fall through a flipped up seat as initially believed.
- A key parcel between Deer Valley’s Snow Park and Silver Lake villages won’t include a gondola.
- The multi-stage gondola taking shape near Puerto Vallarta will feature angle stations and very tall towers in a tropical paradise.
- A ski area on Prince Edward Island closes due to lift problems.
- The Ascutney Outdoors model proves promising where a for-profit, high speed quad model failed.
- Arizona Snowbowl inches closer to reopening its summit lift.
- Alaska’s new ski area trying to get off the ground needs more money.
- The chairlift at Great Bear derails and gets rope evacuated.
- There was an evac at Swiss Valley the same day.
- Here are details on the upcoming Hermitage auction including removal deadlines, the proposed asset purchase agreement with Boyne and the original lift quote.
- Sugarloaf’s General Manager and VP of Mountain Operations join WSKI TV to break down Sugarloaf 2030 and plans for a D-Line lift.
- The Payette Lakes Ski Club begins fundraising to replace a 50 year old T-Bar.
- Woodward Park City visitation has been about as expected during the inaugural season.
- A child is injured in a fall from Northstar’s Vista Express.
- The City of Steamboat plans to sign with Doppelmayr for the new Barrows quad at Howelsen Hill.
- Wisconsin’s Christie Mountain is for sale.
- Inc. profiles two entrepreneurial owners pressing on independently at Wyoming’s two largest ski resorts.
- The Forest Service releases its Draft Environmental Assessment for Mission Ridge’s proposed expansion, which would include two two new quad chairs and two pulse gondolas.
- Jägerndorfer’s 2020 collection features the largest number of lift models ever.
- A man is critically injured in a fall from the Purgatory Village Express.
- Testing and analysis continues at Mont-Sainte-Anne. One of those injured last week tells his story.
- Two new products join the Ikon Pass lineup for 20/21. Stratton and Sugarbush will go unlimited while Aspen and Jackson Hole will be more restricted.
- Attitash’s Summit triple is down indefinitely again, this time with a gearbox issue. Peak Resorts executives say even if they wanted to replace the lift with a detachable, there is about a two year wait with both lift companies.
- Northstar California partially evacuates the Promised Land Express by rope on a busy Sunday.
- The new master plan for Timberline Lodge prescribes replacing Pucci with a detachable quad and Bruno’s with a series of carpets.
- At Pajarito, Townsight will end up missing the entire season due to unspecified mechanical issues.
- Alyeska retires its last of seven Riblet double chairlifts, Tanaka.
- A six year old falls 29 feet from an Eldora chairlift after failing to load properly and a petition is asking for policy changes.
- The founder of The Hermitage Club is contesting a no trespass order.
- A child falls from Park City’s Silverlode Express.
- Architectural Digest profiles leading resort design firm SE Group.
- Leitner will build what is sure to become an iconic 3S gondola between Switzerland and Italy from 2021.
- 2019/20 Ikon Passes go on sale March 5th and are virtually unchanged from this season’s versions.
- Tuesday is also the day you should vote if you live in Aspen.
- Timberline, West Virginia throws in the towel and the local paper has an update on the the circumstances.
- A night evacuation takes place at Ski Vorlage.
- James Coleman’s brand new bike park is already a hit.
- Five teenagers perform a flawless catch of a Screaming Eagle lift dangler and earn free Grouse Mountain season passes.
- Somehow a sit skier and lift operator both fall 17 feet from Snowmass’ Elk Camp quad on Tuesday.
- Following a brutal 16 day road closure, Snow Valley eyes a Saturday reopening.
- Bloomberg Businessweek visits the Vail/Alterra HQs and catches up with partners like Boyne Resorts and Telluride.
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.
If you follow the ski industry, mark your calendar for four months from now, the week of December 4th. Very early one morning that week, the largest mountain resort operator in the world will release its fiscal 2018 first quarter results and, more importantly to this audience, outline capital expenditures for 2018. Last year, this is the moment Vail Resorts committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (the company later added a fourth detachable to this year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.) In December 2015, MTN announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six-pack at Vail. So, what might be on the likely $120+ million agenda for 2018?
- Game Creek Express #7 six-pack. The current 1985 version of Game Creek is the oldest operating lift on Vail Mountain and one of three remaining CLD-260 style Doppelmayr detachables there. It is likely to be replaced with a six-pack, increasing capacity by at least 25 percent in popular Game Creek Bowl. Of the recent six-pack upgrades at Vail, two were built by Doppelmayr (Avanti #2 and Mountaintop #4) and one by Leitner-Poma (Northwoods #11.)
- Orient Express #21 six-pack. Three years newer than Game Creek but still with DS grips, Orient Express serves some of the most popular terrain in Vail’s famous Back Bowls below the equally popular Two Elk Lodge. A six-pack upgrade would be the first such lift in the Back Bowls or Blue Sky Basin.
- Wildwood Express #3 six-pack. A 1995 CTEC, Wildwood is not as old as other detachables recently replaced at Vail, but it serves a high-traffic pod between Mid-Vail and its namesake Wildwood. Parts from this lift could be used as spares for Riva Bahn/Pride Express and Cinch, Bachelor, Grouse Mountain and Strawberry Park high-speed quads at Beaver Creek.
- Born Free Express #8 replacement. Born Free is the 1988 sister ship to Orient and runs parallel to the Eagle Bahn Gondola, built 1996. Vail could opt to address both lifts in the coming years with a gondola like Keystone’s or replace only Born Free with a new high-speed quad or six-pack.
- Golden Peak Race lift. In April, Vail submitted a master plan amendment to add a third lift on Golden Peak above the Riva Bahn mid-station. This short fixed-grip chairlift or surface lift would primarily serve an extended race course.
- Arrow Bahn Express replacement. Beaver Creek doesn’t see nearly the traffic that Vail does and has seen ten new lifts since 2000. However, Arrow Bahn Express is by far the oldest lift at Beaver Creek, built in 1988 to serve a separate Arrowhead ski area. A CLD-260 like Game Creek, Orient and Born Free but with lower hours for its age, Arrow Bahn might make it a bit longer.
- $150 million Raymond James settlement includes $762,503 for Burke Mountain’s new Leitner-Poma T-Bar.
- Power outage leads to rope evacuation of Loveland’s newest lift.
- Steamboat gondola refurbishing begins (I got to tour Northstar’s gondola this week which received a similar upgrade in 2015.)
- Orlando Sentinel confirms Walt Disney World is building three Doppelmayr 10-passenger gondolas with six stations.
- Crystal Mountain breaks away from Boyne Resorts, orders five additional gondola cabins and plans to build new Discovery and Gold Hills lifts in 2018.
- Eldora is selling Hall and Heron chairs as six-pack construction begins.
- Preview Oakland’s new $13 million restaurant accessible only by gondola.
- Sunday River’s new owner commits to replacing Spruce Peak.
- This week’s cities floating gondolas include Edmonton and Burlington, Vermont.
- Fatzer delivers four 153-ton track ropes to Germany’s Zugspitze using two trucks linked together for the entire journey.
Vail Resorts got welcome news yesterday that went largely unnoticed with the big Stowe buy. The Placer County Board of Supervisors finally and unanimously approved a new master plan for the 3,200-acre Northstar Resort on the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe. Booth Creek Ski Holdings started working on this plan way back in 1990 before eventually selling the mountain to Vail in October of 2010. Today’s approval includes seven new lifts: a gondola, two detachable chairlifts, one surface tow and three additional fixed-grip chairs. Two of those lifts would have mid-stations and three will serve an exciting 550-acre expansion called Sawtooth Ridge.
“The plan is designed to help lengthen current guest stays and solidify Northstar as a premiere destination resort,” Vail Resorts said in a statement. “It provides guests with a wider, more diverse array of terrain offerings and recreational activities, facilitating an improved and extended vacation experience for the destination and day-use guest.” Northstar’s current fleet stands at 14 lifts, nine of which are detachable. The proposed additions are:
- Castle Peak Gondola: A six-passenger gondola to Northstar Village that wouldn’t serve any ski trails but would reduce traffic on Northstar Drive by diverting more vehicles to the offsite Castle Peak parking lots. The gondola alignment would require two stages and an angle station to the east of Northstar Village. It would serve a similar function to the Vail-owned BreckConnect Gondola. Upon completion of Castle Peak, Northstar will operate a whopping four gondolas.
- Lift C: A fixed-grip or detachable chairlift east of the existing Vista Express serving three new intermediate trails above Sawmill Lake.
- Lift J (Lookout Mountain Access): A long new detachable quad or six-place chairlift starting near the bottom station of the Highlands pulse gondola and ending near the Lookout Vista surface lift providing increased out-of-base capacity. A mid-load station would serve new trails to the north of the Tahoe Zephyr Express pod.
- Lift V: A bottom drive fixed-grip lift starting near the Backside Express/Promised Land Express rising into the new Sawtooth Ridge expansion area.
- Lift W: A second fixed-grip chairlift serving Sawtooth Ridge. No trails would be cut in this pod; it would be dedicated to serving natural tree skiing.
- Lift Z: Surface tow similar to Lookout Vista providing access to “backcountry-style” terrain beyond lifts V and W.
- Lift Q: A second lift on Lookout Mountain to the west of the Martis Camp Express. This one would be fixed-grip and top drive.
Build out of the ambitious plan is expected to take two decades and Doppelmayr stands to gain, having built every lift at Northstar since 1985. I’m guessing we might see the Lookout Mountain access lift and Sawtooth Ridge lifts first.
It appears Northstar California replaced most of its Big Springs Gondola in just three months between the end of last winter and the start of this summer. The bottom terminal of this 1985 Doppelmayr 6-passenger gondola was previously relocated in 2004. From the below pictures on Instagram, it appears Doppelmayr installed brand new terminal equipment inside of the existing terminal buildings along with new Agamatic grips, hangars and line gear. The first-generation CWA cabins were previously refurbished in 2013. Maybe Vail Resorts got a ‘buy eight get two free’ deal on Uni-G terminals from Doppelmayr this summer.