Lee Canyon Inches Closer to New Lifts

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Well over two million people in the Las Vegas region have just one ski resort within day trip reach, a unique situation among western US metros.  The mountain is Lee Canyon, which operates three fixed-grip chairlifts on 785 acres flanking Charleston Peak.  On Wednesday, the Forest Service published a 219 page Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a major expansion and upgrade plan developed by longtime owner Powdr Co.  Two alternatives would each add a pair of fixed grip quads and two new carpets lifts while a no action option would see the resort remain within the operating footprint it has since 1967.

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The first alternative would see two new trail pods, expanded snowmaking and a few new buildings.

Goals of the expansion are to update and renovate ski area infrastructure, balance lift and trail capacity, meet growing demand from Las Vegas and the surrounding area and expand year-round recreational opportunities.  The proposed Chair 5 pod would become the next step up from the Rabbit Peak bunny hill, providing beginners and low intermediate skiers the opportunity to transition to a chairlift and ski a variety of longer green runs. Chair 5 would be an 1,800 person-per-hour fixed-grip quad chairlift with a loading conveyor. The lift would be 1,400 feet long, with a vertical rise of 310 feet. It would be a top drive lift with approximately 7 towers.  In order to access the Chair 5 bottom terminal, a new 500 foot conveyor, Lift 6, would be installed from near the bottom terminal of Chair 3 to near the bottom terminal of Chair 5.

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The second alternative would truncate Lift 8 and associated trails to avoid crossing the popular Bristlecone Trail.  Chair 5 would still be included but is not shown on this map as it would be the same as in alternative 1.

Similar to the existing Chair 2, Chair 8 would be a step up in difficulty from Chair 5, accessing mostly intermediate runs with some easier and some more difficult terrain within that category. It would be a fixed-grip quad chairlift with a capacity of 1,800 pph, 2,200 feet long, with a vertical rise of 650 feet. It would be a bottom drive lift with approximately 16 towers.  With alternative 2, the lift would be shortened to load higher up.  Other proposed improvements in both alternatives are new biking and hiking trails, a new skier services building, another parking lot, expanded snowmaking, a zip tour and mountain coaster.

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Copper Mountain to Build a Chondola & Bubble Six-Pack

Just four days after its bombshell announcement of $16 million worth of new lifts for Killington, Powdr Co. today unveiled an even bigger project planned for Copper Mountain in 2018.  The American Eagle high-speed quad will be replaced with a combination lift featuring six passenger chairs and eight passenger gondola cabins while the American Flyer is going to become a six-place bubble chair.  The two Poma detachables being replaced were built in 1989 and 1986, respectively, and out-of-Village capacity will increase by 35 percent.

I will miss the Flyer’s old school charm but it has reached the end of its design life.

“Replacing our most popular mountain-access lifts will significantly improve how our guests experience some of the best skiing and riding on Copper Mountain,” said Gary Rodgers, president and general manager of Copper Mountain Resort in a press release. “More guests will be able to get up the mountain quicker to enjoy a variety of easy, intermediate and advanced terrain.” The Denver Post reports the new lifts will cost a staggering $20 million.

The outgoing American Eagle lift featured a Poma terminal design found on only a few lifts in North America.

Copper Mountain operates a mixed fleet of Doppelmayr and Poma lifts and no manufacturer was identified.  Most recently, Doppelmayr built the Kokomo Express, two surface lifts in 2013 and the Union Creek Express in 2011.  Pending Forest Service approval, the two monster new additions will open in time for the 2018-19 season.

Update: According to V3 in the comments, these lifts could be built by Leitner-Poma with the first DirectDrives in the United States.  This would be great news if true amid a flurry of gearbox-related problems in North American ski country recently.

Killington to Add Bubble Six-Pack, South Ridge Quad & New K-1 Cabins

Powdr Co. will invest a whopping $16 million on lift improvements at Killington Resort this summer, adding two new chairlifts and upgrading the cabins on the K-1 Express Gondola.  The Snowdon Quad will be replaced with Vermont’s fourth six-place bubble chair, turning the current 10-12 minute jog into a four-and-a-half minute minute blip.  This new flagship lift will move 3,000 guests per hour and feature bubble chairs along with indoor parking.  “While we are committed to staying core to our beastly advanced terrain, we are also putting the focus on our blue family-friendly terrain.” says Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington Resort in a release. “The investments we’re making will re-shape the guest experience for years to come. Uphill capacity will increase to 48,000 per hour and the downhill enhancements will create more diverse terrain for all levels of skiers and riders.”  Built by built by Leitner-Poma of America, the new Snowdon lift will be similar to the bubble sixers at Mt. Snow and Okemo.

The old Snowdon quad, which used a mix of new and used Poma parts when it was built in 1987, will move to South Ridge.  A triangle-shaped Yan there stopped carrying skiers in 2011 and the terrain hasn’t been directly serviced since.  The new quad will follow the downhill alignment of the old triple and feature new hangers, grips and electrical controls.

K-1 will see all new Sigma Diamond 8 cabins to replace the CWA Omegas from 1997 along with a new haul rope.  Stratton’s gondola received the same cabins in 2014 and Killington will keep K-1s cabins as spares for Skyeship 1+2.  Powdr will also finally complete the gondola’s cabin parking facility so the shiny new cabins can be stored inside.

The new lift and two relocations will cost $7.8 million with the gondola upgrades totaling $2.2 million.  If all that wasn’t enough, the Beast of the East is also going to add Axess RFID ticketing for 2018-19, relocate the Snowdon Poma (built in 1958!) to Ramshead and make significant trail improvements.  These moves represent the largest capital program at Killington in more than 20 years – since the American Skiing Company days.  Welcome to lift announcement March!

News Roundup: On the Block

  • Alterra’s David Perry says significant capital is likely be spent at Steamboat in 2018 and 2019 with phase two of the gondola rebuild and other big projects on the table.
  • A Denver TV reporter heads to Texas for a two-part interview with the husband of Kelly Huber, the woman killed during a lift malfunction last year at Granby Ranch.
  • Two loaded chairs collide at Owl’s Head, Quebec after the Green Chair was pressed into rare operation amid downtime on a neighboring high-speed quad.  The 1972 Heron-Poma is the former Big Hitch lift from Stagecoach, Colorado.
  • China Peak’s owner wishes he still had the $900,000 he spent to build a new lift last summer that can’t open with no snow.
  • The new Peak triple was rope evac’d at Pats Peak last Monday, apparently due to a gearbox issue.
  • Poma dedicates its newest factory in France.
  • Disney Skyliner’s first tower is up and it’s tapered in the cool Wolfurt style.
  • Ian Cumming, founder of Powdr and majority owner of Snowbird, dies at age 77.
  • Granite Gorge’s chairlift opens for the season after a gearbox issue and other problems.
  • Ariel Quiros officially settles with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $82 million, paving the way for the sale of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain.
  • The world’s longest lift is open!
  • Killington formally applies to replace the South Ridge triple with a quad chair, manufacturer unknown. The sample profile confusingly shows a Poma Alpha drive and Doppelmayr Eclipse return terminal.
  • Teton Pass, Montana won’t reopen under current ownership and is up for sale.
  • Skier visits have declined 30 percent in South Korea over the last five years and there are several lost ski resorts in the Olympic region.
  • The Sawtooth National Forest tentatively approves Sun Valley’s project to replace the Cold Springs lift with a longer high-speed quad as soon as this summer.
  • A chairlift will be studied studied for one of Alabama’s most popular state parks.
  • Alterra names Mammoth veteran Rusty Gregory as the company’s first CEO.

Game-Changing Ikon Pass to Launch with 23 Mountain Resorts

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Alterra Mountain Company dropped a bomb at the Outdoor Retailer/SIA show this morning, announcing the forthcoming Ikon Pass will bring together its dozen North American resorts along with eleven other major mountains.  Aspen Skiing Company, Boyne Resorts, Powdr Co. and more have partnered with Alterra to add destinations such as Aspen Snowmass, Alta, Snowbird, Big Sky, Killington and Jackson Hole.  “The Ikon Pass is a collaboration of like-minded mountain destinations across North America where incredible terrain, unique character and local traditions are celebrated,” said Erik Forsell, Chief Marketing Officer for Alterra Mountain Company. “We’ve curated a community of iconic destinations. We believe this new pass offers tremendous opportunity and appeal to mountain enthusiasts who have a passion for outdoor adventure.”

Pass options will range from a set number of days at varying destinations to an ultimate, unlimited season pass.  I can’t stress enough how much this changes big mountain skiing in North America.  For years now, Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass has been the largest and most successful season pass product in the world, now offering access to 272 lifts and 44,000 acres at 15 mountains in North America and Australia to some 750,000 passholders.  Ikon will one-up Vail’s terrain offering with access to 23 top-tier North American resorts, a ridiculous 363 lifts and 48,840 acres (for both passes, I am counting gondolas, chairlifts and surface lifts with towers.  If carpets and rope tows are included, the Epic Pass offers 340 lifts while Ikon has 434.)

Ikon Pass resorts for 2018-19 will be:

  • Alta, Utah
  • Alpine Meadows, California
  • Aspen Highlands, Colorado
  • Aspen Mountain, Colorado
  • Bear Mountain, California
  • Blue Mountain, Ontario
  • Big Sky, Montana
  • Buttermilk, Colorado
  • Copper Mountain, Colorado
  • Deer Valley, Utah
  • Eldora, Colorado
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • June Mountain, California
  • Killington, Vermont
  • Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
  • Mammoth Mountain, California
  • Snowbird, Utah
  • Snowmass, Colorado
  • Snowshoe, West Virginia
  • Snow Summit, California
  • Squaw Valley, California
  • Steamboat, Colorado
  • Stratton, Vermont
  • Sugarloaf, Maine
  • Sunday River, Maine
  • Tremblant, Quebec
  • Winter Park, Colorado

Ikon passholders will also receive discounts and special offers at CMH heli-skiing in British Columbia.  Epic holders already enjoy limited access to 30 European resorts. The Liftopia-powered Mountain Collective Pass, which allows destination skiers to sample many large resorts, will remain an option in its current form and also go on sale in March.  The M.A.X. Pass, founded by Intrawest, Powdr and Boyne, will sunset.  Specific Ikon tiers and prices will be released in the coming weeks.

As an employee of one of the independent resorts on the MCP and now Ikon Pass, I watched first hand the worry of consolidation last spring turn to optimism in the fall.  Now I know why.

Chairlift Coming to New Woodward Park City

Many people don’t realize Powdr Co., the privately-held firm behind Copper, Killington and Mt. Bachelor, still owns the Gorgoza Park tubing area along I-80 despite losing nearby Park City Mountain Resort to Vail in 2014.  With unanimous approval Tuesday by the local planning commission, Powdr plans to break ground this summer on its sixth Woodward action sports park on the tubing site and build a chairlift in Park City for the first time since 3 Kings went up seven years ago.

This land hosted as a ski resort twice in the past.  A 2,070′ Hall double stood from 1978 through the early 1980s before being removed.  An even earlier iteration on Parley’s Summit featured a T-Bar and possibly another chairlift.  Powdr acquired the property and built the current tube park in 2000.

WWPC-Overview-SketchA 400′ vertical fixed-grip quad along with a new and existing carpet lift will provide uplift for skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking.  “Woodward provides aspiring athletes a place to safely progress their skills,” said John Cumming, Founder and CEO of Powdr in a press release announcing construction. “Having a Woodward in a venue that has hosted Olympic-level action sports competition, will, I believe, help to further inspire kids and enable them to develop. Park City is our home and we are extremely proud to be in a position to bring Woodward to our community and realize our initial vision for Gorgoza Park.”  A plan before Powdr Co.’s legal spat with Vail Resorts would have placed the new Woodward in town at the base of the First Time lift.

The company’s Woodward brand also has outposts at Boreal and Copper Mountain along with non-ski ones in Southern California, Pennsylvania and Mexico.  The Park City location will be the first with a dedicated chairlift and will open by the summer of 2019.  While the manufacturer of the new quad is not yet known, Powdr has also announced a new fixed-grip lift for Killington next summer which could be lumped into a single contract.

Killington Adding South Ridge Quad in 2018

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A new South Ridge quad chair will debut at Killington Resort for 2018-19 in the path of an old chairlift retired in 2011.

Killington Resort and a local developer will invest $110 million to revitalize Bear Mountain over the next few years, including the addition of a fixed-grip quad chair at South Ridge next summer.  Most of the plans involve base infrastructure and real estate but the lift news is exciting given the South Ridge area has been without direct service since its triple chair was removed in 2011.  The $3 million quad chair will be the first new lift at the East’s most visited resort since the addition of the Skye Peak Express in 2008.  “This Bear Mountain Revitalization Plan is especially exciting for me because I know that our core group of season pass holders has wanted a new South Ridge lift since the day we removed the old one,” says Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington Resort. “With the trail work our team has planned, this layout should greatly enhance the Killington experience by improving connectivity between the north and south sides of the resort.”  The Bear Mountain Quad, a 1979 Yan will remain for now but is likely to be upgraded in the future with new development at its base.

Lift Engineering built the old South Ridge lift in the shape of a triangle, a wacky setup that will not be repeated.  The new version will follow the path of the old light side from the bottom of Roundabout to an unload near the summit of Killington Peak.  “From the top of the Bear Mountain Quad, the long-awaited replacement of the South Ridge lift will give skiers and snowboarders easy access the resort’s north side terrain including the Canyon and Snowdon areas, or easy access to the many trails in the sunny South Ridge area,” says Jeff Temple, director of mountain operations.  Leitner-Poma is likely to build the fixed-grip quad as a longstanding supplier to Killington, but there’s also a chance it could go to Doppelmayr with Powdr Co.’s recent history.  In further good news, The Beast also announced an agreement yesterday to host World Cup ski racing in both 2017 and 2018.

News Roundup: Vail Effect