- Jackson Hole’s Tram Maintenance Manager explains why Big Red is closed this summer.
- Wildcat Mountain says scenic chairlift rides will resume on 7/31 following a lift upgrade project.
- A Salt Lake TV station devotes a half hour to exploring the gondola and bus options for Little Cottonwood Canyon.
- UDOT extends the public comment period for the LCC project to 70 days, ending September 3rd.
- The renaming of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is pushed back to early Fall.
- Okemo reports great progress on two new lifts.
- The Forest Service says at least two of Grand Targhee’s proposed expansion lifts will not be approved and a decision on others won’t come until late 2022.
- The new high speed quad on Peak 7 at Breckenridge will be called Freedom SuperChair.
- Four more mountains will join the Indy Pass next week.
- New Hampshire reports solid pandemic skier visits similar to pre-pandemic numbers.
- Local politicians oppose a direct route for the Burnaby Mountain Gondola.
- Pittsburgh considers an urban gondola to connect two downtown districts.
- Both Doppelmayr Canada and Leitner-Poma offer to finance the Cascade Skyline Gondola.
- Sun Peaks shutters mountain operations due to regional wildfires.
- Progress report from Leitner-Poma and Skytrac’s big project at Snow King Mountain:
- Blackcomb Glacier won’t host skiing this summer.
- Snow King Mountain sells $150,000 worth of retired chairs in one hour.
- Poma unveils the first 34 passenger cabin for the new urban 3S in Toulouse.
- Okemo’s new lifts will be called Evergreen Summit Express and Quantum Six.
- Former Ticketmaster chief Jared Smith is named President of Alterra overseeing mountain and hospitality divisions.
- The latest on the Stresa-Mottarone disaster:
- Numerous pictures surface showing brakes blocked with passengers aboard as far back as 2014.
- An employee says pre-operational checks were skipped entirely on the day of the crash.
- Two of the three men arrested are released.
- A lawyer for the manager still held alleges Leitner was slow to respond to service calls.
- Leitner was paid €127,000 ($155,000) per year to perform major maintenance on the tram under a long-term contract, though officials do not consider the company or any of its employees suspects.
- The owner of the operating company is also under investigation over two injury incidents on a Wiegand mountain coaster at the facility.
- Eitan, the little boy who survived, is released from intensive care.
- Cannon Mountain opens its tramway for the first time in 14 months.
- Europe’s largest ski operator plans to spend €200 million ($244 million) per year through 2025 to catch up on investments sidelined by the pandemic.
- The Pandora’s expansion on Aspen Mountain notches another approval.
- Anakeesta’s chondola lift breaks down for a bit.
- New Zealand’s first 8 passenger chairlift is complete and she’s a beauty.
- With 35 percent of jobs unfilled, Whitefish Mountain Resort cuts summer operating days.
- Schweitzer raises $80,000 for local charities through the sale of chairs from Snow Ghost.
- The Sea to Sky Gondola outlines some of its security plan.
- Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit (LAART) unveils more on its planned 3S: four stations, three towers, 44 cars and underground cabin storage at Dodger Stadium.
- Steamboat’s gondola building comes down after 35 years.
- Trollhaugen will sell chairs from Chair 1 next week.
- Quebec records 6.1 million skier days in 2020-21, slightly above average.
- The State of Texas commits $10 million towards a replacement Wyler Aerial Tramway in El Paso.
- After a successful winter, Monarch Mountain will think about building a lift in No Name Basin in the next few years.
- The Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola concept is back under discussion in the nation’s capital.
- Leitner-Poma seeks workers to help build the Squaw-Alpine base to base gondola this summer.
- Whistler Blackcomb will not attempt to reopen for spring skiing once British Columbia’s closure order ends.
- Revelstoke shuts down early due to a Covid-related staffing shortage.
- Big White fires employees for attending a party widely shown in local media and is also closing 6 days early.
- Ontario shuts down skiing again.
- Indy Pass will announce new pricing and resort additions on April 27th.
- Snow King’s expansion receives final permission and chairs are already off the Summit double.
- Magic Mountain says the Black Line Quad will be re-engineered and completed for the 2021/22 season.
- A New Zealand operator is ordered to pay $8.4 million for spreading a wildfire via a moving chairlift in 2017.
- Skeetawk celebrates a successful inaugural season but a second chairlift remains years away.
- Okemo’s new six pack won’t have bubbles and the Green Ridge triple will head to another Vail resort in Pennsylvania.
- A GoFundMe is started to benefit the victims of the recent Camelback lift accident.
Despite a 44 percent decline in earnings, Vail Resorts plans to invest in new lifts across five mountains in 2021. The seven projects at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone and Okemo were initially planned for 2020 but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts and creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests,” noted CEO Rob Katz. “We plan to maintain a disciplined approach to capital investments, keeping our core capital at reduced levels given the continued uncertainty due to COVID-19.” The company will announce its complete capital plan for calendar year 2021 in March.
At Beaver Creek, a new Doppelmayr detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone. “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company. A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry Park and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.
At Keystone, Leitner-Poma will replace the Peru Express with a six pack. The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve circulation. Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair. “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.
Crested Butte plans to replace the two-person Peachtree chairlift with a Skytrac triple servicing beginner terrain at the base of the resort. Grading around the new lift will create a more consistent experience for beginner and ski school guests.
Ski industry fallout from the global pandemic continues. Vail Resorts today announced the deferral of lift construction projects slated for Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Okemo due to a dramatic decline in revenue, which is expected to continue into fiscal year 2021. The suite of projects was first announced last December, the same month COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China. While the virus spread across Asia, lift manufacturers were gearing up to build lifts that now won’t happen this year. Beaver Creek had planned a major expansion into McCoy Park and Okemo earmarked a new bubble six pack for Jackson Gore. Both Breckenridge and Keystone planned new chairlifts to increase uphill capacity in high traffic areas.
Vail said weeks ago coronavirus will cost the company between $180 and 200 million in March and April alone. Eliminating lift construction, terrain expansions and discretionary base area improvements will save the publicly-traded company $80 to 85 million while allowing the vast majority of maintenance capital projects to proceed. “The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are unprecedented and the financial impact to our Company and the broader travel industry has been significant,” noted Rob Katz, Chief Executive Officer of Vail Resorts. “We are taking proactive steps to align our capital spending and return of capital approach to ensure that we remain positioned for long-term success.” Other steps revealed today include the furlough of nearly all year-round hourly employees, suspension of the company’s shareholder dividend, salary reductions for non-hourly employees and elimination of cash compensation for the CEO and board of directors.
The decision to postpone lifts is a blow to both major lift manufacturers but particularly Leitner-Poma, which like Vail itself, is Colorado-based. The firm had been awarded contracts to build three detachable chairlifts and move another this summer. Doppelmayr USA had planned to install the two machines at Beaver Creek.
As goes Vail, often go others. While I’m hopeful some lifts (and the jobs that come with them) are safe, more deferrals are possible. Rival Alterra Mountain Company planned to add only two lifts this year, both six place chairlifts at Mammoth Mountain. The privately-held group has not announced any changes to its capital plan thus far. In tough times, every company is understandably revisiting capital budgets and commitments, however.
The sudden onset of such deep uncertainty in this critical period of the lift production cycle is unprecedented. With the elimination of Vail Resorts projects for 2020, announced US and Canada complete new lifts stand at 24, fewer than Doppelmayr built by itself last year.
Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Okemo will all add new lifts next year in a mix of expansions and replacements. Parent company Vail Resorts made the project announcements alongside a quarterly earnings report this afternoon. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts, creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests and generating strong returns for our shareholders,” said Vail Chairman and CEO Rob Katz.
At Beaver Creek, a new detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone. “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company. A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.
At Keystone, the Peru Express will be replaced by a six pack subject to government approval. The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve overall circulation. Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair. “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.
- The 117 year old Poconos hotel which just announced plans to build a chairlift burned down last Friday.
- Yellowstone Club adds Silver Tip, its 18th major lift, giving YC the 13th highest lift count in the nation!
- More awesome podcasts: Jeremy Davis of the New England Lost Ski Areas Project, Rob Katz on snowmaking across Vail Resorts, Geoff Hathaway on rebuilding Magic Mountain and the staff of Eldora on what it takes to open weeks ahead of normal.
- Two new quads and a lift shortening are all now reflected on the Stevens Pass trail map.
- Vandals slash upholstered seats on an Austrian gondola, cause $28,000 in damage.
- Okemo receives a 24 month extension to its permit for building a beginner fixed grip quad at Jackson Gore.
- Loveland gains approval to replace Lift 6 with either a fixed grip triple or detachable quad in 2021.
- New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu tours the gorgeous new summit lodge and gondola at Bretton Woods.
- Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory joins Bloomberg TV and Yahoo Finance to chat about opportunities he sees in the ski business.
- The head of MND Group says financial struggles are history as the company ramps up to deliver $200 million worth of orders for lifts, Gazex and snowmaking.
- The Forest Service plans to approve two new fixed grip quad lifts at Lee Canyon.
- Big Sky looks for 30 more chairs for Six Shooter.
- A Wyoming ranch with snow cat skiing considers adding lift service.
- Chris Diamond’s new book, Ski Inc. 2020, was released last week and is a must read for those who follow North American skiing.
- Simon Fraser University includes a 3S gondola as a core component of its new campus master plan.
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 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.
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