News Roundup: That Was Fast

  • After just three weeks being open, the Disney Skyliner flies its one millionth guest.
  • The new Park City trail map shows exactly where Over and Out goes.
  • Poma inaugurates a lift full of superlatives in South Korea: the longest span between towers (4,000 feet) and tallest concrete tower (492 feet) for a monocable gondola.
  • The Boston Seaport Gondola project is officially dead.
  • Timberline Four Seasons Resort is scheduled to be auctioned November 19th.
  • Aspen Skiing Company will try again for approval of the Ajax Pandora expansion.
  • With an expansion coming, a dispute arises between Idaho and Montana over how much of Lookout Pass Ski Area each can lay claim to.
  • The Forest Service approves Timberline Lodge’s request to replace Pucci with a high speed quad.
  • In what could be a preview of an eventual lift sale, Alterra, Vail Resorts and Seven Springs all bid to buy the Hermitage Club’s snowmaking guns (Vail won.)
  • The latest Pomalink newsletter previews Téléo, the first 3S urban gondola in France.
  • Tampa Bay will study gondola transportation.
  • Park City elected leaders discuss the same topic.
  • Grafton SkyTour is now open.
  • Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers visits Granite Peak to see how lifts are inspected and learn about a proposed expansion.
  • The Sea to Sky Gondola replacement haul rope is spliced.
  • A guy BASE jumps off a tram tower in Germany.
  • The urban gondola promoter in Edmonton unveils its first proposed station location.
  • The new Gould Academy T-Bar at Sunday River will be open to the public whenever four or more major chairlifts go on hold.
  • The name of Manning Park Resort’s new Doppelmayr quad is Bear.
  • Steamboat’s new gondola completes acceptance tests.
  • The Swiss gondola which lost a cabin on October 20th reopens.
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News Roundup: Tallying

  • Just in time for summer, the Sea to Sky Gondola welcomes ten more cabins to the line, increasing capacity by 50 percent.
  • The Idaho Springs, Colorado city council may vote Monday on rezoning for a proposed 17 tower, 27 cabin gondola lift.
  • Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes explains his reorganization plan but for now, a receiver remains in place.
  • Snowshoe is purportedly planning to replace Powder Monkey with a fixed grip quad next summer.
  • Although it doesn’t build lifts in the United States, Bartholet has built some very slick machines lately.
  • The Indy Pass grows to 28 resorts.
  • A rocket from Syria damages a ski lift at Israel’s Mt. Hermon, where a Leitner gondola is also currently under construction.
  • Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz launches a podcast with a great first episode about the Park City acquisition.
  • The City of Steamboat is still weighing options for bringing in a private operator and/or replacing Barrows at Howelsen Hill.
  • California Express notches another approval but litigation could be coming.
  • Vail Resorts reports a great quarter: skier visits up 14.3 percent and lift revenue up 16.4 percent with season pass sales for next year trending up 9 percent and 13 percent in units and dollars.  “We are still absolutely aggressive on looking for additional resorts that we think add to our network and make the experience that we provide our guests better,” says Rob Katz on the quarterly conference call.
  • Quebec tallied 4.6 million skier visits last winter, a ten year high for a province with three new chairlifts already under construction for next year.
  • New Hampshire resorts logged 100,000 more skier days than 2017-18.
  • Colorado is king with 13.1 million estimated skier visits, a new record.
  • This was supposed to be the summer the town of Grafton, Illinois celebrated a new gondola.  Instead, 2019 will be remembered for the flooding that has thrown a wrench in its construction.
  • Teo II is approved but has no timeline for construction yet.

Park City Announces 37th Aerial Lift

Vail Resorts will continue its commitment to new infrastructure at Park City Mountain this off-season with the installation of a new fixed-grip quad, the company revealed today.  Dubbed “Over and Out,” the lift will connect a spot near the bottom of the Tombstone six pack with the top of the Sunrise double, giving skiers and snowboarders a much-needed egress route from the heart of the mountain and the popular Quicksilver Gondola.  Ride time will be approximately five minutes.
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This will be the fifth new lift for Vail since buying Park City five years ago.  “Since combining Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort in 2015, our focus has been on enhancing the guest experience,” said Bill Rock, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Park City Mountain in a statement.  “We continue to evolve as a resort and prioritize our capital improvements based on guest feedback.  We know that time is particularly valuable to our guests and the new lift will offer a faster and more convenient route to return to Canyons Village.”  Construction is expected be complete by December, pending permitting.

The latest project news comes a few months after Vail’s commitments to build new lifts at Crested Butte and Stevens Pass for next winter along with a planned T-Bar on Vail Mountain.  Park City’s lift manufacturer was not revealed and it’s possible Over and Out will be a re-engineered High Meadow.  That 1997 CTEC Sprint model quad was removed a year ago to make way for the High Meadow Express.

Update 5/24: I’ve confirmed with Park City that Over and Out will be a brand new Skytrac Monarch.

News Roundup: Four Too Many

News Roundup: Only in Utah

Three New Quads Debut in Utah

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The brand new Homestake Express seen on opening day at Deer Valley.

Utah ski resorts are proving this season that lifts need not be giant to positively impact guest experiences.  I got to visit the state’s three newest chairlifts this week, which are all short but sweet with beginner skiers in mind.

High Meadow Express – Park City Mountain

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The High Meadow Express is the centerpiece of re-imagined teaching terrain above Park City’s Canyons Village.  With mellow loading and unloading speeds, a quick ride time and an improved alignment, the high speed quad marks a significant step up from the fixed quad it replaces.  High Meadow Park is now wide open with perfectly pitched beginner trails.  Expanded snowmaking rounds out the freshened up beginner zone.

Homestake Express – Deer Valley Resort

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Homestake Express launched this morning at Alterra-owned Deer Valley, becoming the resort’s 13th detachable quad.  Ride time is now under two minutes between Silver Lake Lodge and Bald Eagle Mountain.  There are only eight towers now, down from 12, freeing up space on the busy Silver Link ski run.  The new Homestake also features slatted backrests for wind resistance.

Snowpine – Alta Ski Area

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In Little Cottonwood Canyon, the new Snowpine Quad carried its first skiers yesterday.  The Skytrac Monarch was manufactured just 30 miles away in Salt Lake.  While it only has two towers and a dozen chairs, the new lift serves dual functions.  It will provide ski-in, ski-out access to the new Snowpine Lodge, which opens January 30th.  Alta’s first fixed grip quad also provides a beginner-friendly alternative to the surface tow it replaces.  The return terminal is height adjustable for the big snow years.

 

How Many Lifts Could Vail Resorts Announce Next Month?

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.

Colorado

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.

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Vail’s lift 7 is the only chair in Game Creek Bowl and could use more capacity.

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.

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6 Chair at Breckenridge is wildly popular despite being fixed grip and 40 years old.

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 WaybackPeru 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.

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I don’t mind Wayback at Keystone but I also rarely ski in Colorado on weekends or holidays.

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.

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Three New Lifts Rise Across the Wasatch

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Vail Resorts is enhancing the beginner experience at Park City Mountain with a new High Meadow teaching zone above Canyons Village, one of three lift projects in the Beehive State.

Utah ski resorts will debut three new chairlifts for the 2018-19 season and although none of them service new terrain, each will make lives better for skiers and snowboarders.  One of my stops this weekend was Park City Mountain, where Vail Resorts announced the creation of a reimagined High Meadow Family Fun Zone back in December.  A new Doppelmayr detachable quad, opened up runs, upgraded snowmaking and candy cabin are coming together above the Red Pine Gondola.  The new lift will have 8 towers, down from 11 on the old CTEC quad, which is sitting under the Cabriolet for now.

Across old town Park City at Deer Valley, another Doppelmayr detachable quad is replacing another CTEC fixed-grip quad.  Highlander Lift Services & Construction is assembling Homestake Express in the existing alignment but again with fewer towers.  I think the new number is eight, down from a dozen in this high traffic area above Silver Lake Lodge.  For its second winter under Alterra, Deer Valley will operate an impressive 13 high speed quads this season.  The 1999 version of Homestake is bound for Utah Olympic Park.

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News Roundup: Timelines

  • The Staten Island Economic Development Corporation secures $212,000 to study the feasibility of a gondola connection to Bayonne, New Jersey.
  • The Forest Service green lights Alta’s big plans for a new Baldy tram, Flora lift, Wildcat detachable and replacement for Sunnyside.
  • The Colony’s master plan now includes two new lifts along Pinecone Ridge at the center of Park City Mountain.
  • Copper is selling parts from the Flyer and the Eagle detachables.  Must act fast!
  • Crested Butte says the three lift Teo 2 expansion, if approved, would likely be built over approximately five years.
  • Snow King’s gondola and terrain expansion public process moves along at a glacial pace.
  • Mountain Capital Partners, the company behind Arizona Snowbowl, Hesperus Pajarito, Purgatory and Sipapu, will operate Nordic Valley and add it to the Power Pass.
  • Doppelmayr breaks ground for its eleventh cable-propelled automated people mover, set to open in 2021.
  • Spokane’s paper traces the history of three lifts that have graced Riverfront Park, including a new gondola.
  • The Forest Service seeks feedback on Arizona Snowbowl’s chondola proposal.
  • An ice storm apparently causes a track rope to jump out of a saddle at Jay Peak, closing the tram and nearby lifts indefinitely.
  • As legal wrangling continues, nothing seems out of the ordinary this week at the Hermitage Club except for notices on the clubhouse doors.

News Roundup: Paving the Way

  • Crystal Mountain owner John Kircher revives the idea of a second gondola to Campbell Basin, which would be around 7,800′ long and closely follow the one time path of an SLI double chair.
  • Vermont shuts down the Hermitage Club for a third time as more lawsuits are filed against the business and its founder.  One by a food service company argues, “The dire financial circumstances facing the defendants compel the plaintiff to press forward with alacrity…the collectible assets of the defendants appear to be dwindling.”
  • The New York City Economic Development Corporation is again studying a gondola to connect Lower Manhattan with a redeveloped Governors Island.
  • With 2,400 cabins headed out the door this year alone, CWA is expanding its production capabilities in Switzerland.  Photos from the factory floor show new cabins bound for Montana, Hawaii and more.
  • Park City’s NPR station reports a chair slid into another chair on the Jupiter lift in January, resulting in an injury, three day closure and now litigation.
  • Approval of Woodward Park City is upheld, paving the way for construction of a fixed-grip quad.
  • The Forest Service tentatively approves Purgatory’s proposed Gelande high-speed lift.
  • A real estate development now under construction includes money for reopening New York’s Big Tupper with up to five lifts.
  • New owners at Owl’s Head, Quebec may spend up to $150 million on new lifts and other improvements.  The mountain currently includes three 1980s-era detachables including the world’s first high-speed quad from Breckenridge.
  • Lift construction season is here!  Thanks to Carleton G. for these photos of Waterville Valley’s new LST T-Bar.