Pacific Northwest favorite Schweitzer Mountain Resort will replace one long double with two new chairlifts in 2019, says CEO Tom Chasse. The first lift will service the lower two thirds of the current Snow Ghost double, a 1971 Riblet with a 13-minute ride time. The second one will replace Snow Ghost’s upper segment, servicing the Lakeside Chutes in a new alignment topping out near the new Sky House restaurant. “We don’t have enough lift capacity right now,” Chasse told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “We think it’s going to be a draw and will bring in more people.” The Bonner County Dailyreported Schweitzer wanted to replace the nearly 2,000′ vertical lift a year ago but the $6-8 million project depended on financing becoming available. Schweitzer completed a project very similar to this one in 2007, replacing the lower section of Chair 1 with a high-speed quad and the upper section with a realigned Doppelmayr CTEC triple.
Outback Bowl has a cool lift history. The current Snow Ghost lift used to be called Chair 6 and went from the very bottom of the bowl to the Siberia Runout. You can still see the old lift line in person and on the trail map. In 1987, the entire machine was moved to start and end higher with a mid-station added, leaving the lower part of Outback serviced only by Chair 5. That lift was replaced by a uniquely-themed six-pack called Stella in 2000. Schweitzer skiers can enjoy another season and a half of Snow Ghost but 2019 can’t come soon enough! No word yet on specific models or a manufacturer for the new lifts.
Vail Resorts will re-use chairs and towers from Keystone’s Montezuma Express in building the new Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.
Saddleback Mountain Foundation needs $11.2 million to purchase Maine’s third largest ski area, including $3.2 million to replace the Rangeley lift with a fixed-grip quad. So far, the group has only raised a fraction of that amount.
Sunday River’s new Spruce Peak triple will be a Doppelmayr Tristar, Boyne Resorts’ fourth.
Twenty years ago this spring, 15 resorts faced near-disaster when the high-speed lifts they spent more than $50 million to build proved to be of faulty design and had to be retrofitted or replaced just a few years later. Lift Engineering, the company founded in 1965 by Yanek Kunczynski and more commonly called Yan, entered the detachable lift market in 1986 at June Mountain, CA reportedly after just one year of development. Yan built a total of 31 detachable quads in the US and Canada between 1986 and 1994. The majority of Yan’s customers were repeat clients such as Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation, which bought three high speed quads and the Sun Valley Company, which purchased seven. Whistler’s general manager would later write to Lift Engineering describing his team as the “unwitting recipients of a research and development project.”
Three incidents in two years sealed the fate of Yan detachables and eventually forced Lift Engineering to liquidate. On April 4, 1993, a 9-year old boy was killed and another child injured when loose bolts and a subsequent derailment caused two chairs to stack up on Sierra Ski Ranch’s Slingshot lift. The same lift had sent an empty chair to the ground two months prior when a grip failed. Lift Engineering settled a wrongful-death suit after the accident for $1.9 million. Sierra Ski Ranch’s marketing director would later state, “we found they just didn’t withstand the test of time” when the company committed $6 million to replace its three Yan detachables in 1996.
On December 23rd, 1995, a routine emergency stop on the Quicksilver high speed quad at Whistler Mountain initiated a chain reaction crash of four down-bound chairs, plunging skiers 75 feet onto the Dave Murray Downhill course below. 25-year old Trevor MacDonald died at the scene, nine people were seriously injured, 200 had to be evacuated and a second guest died 12 days later. The coroner’s investigation revealed Yan’s design failed to maintain the required 15-degree lateral swing clearance over towers, causing damage to grips over time. The type-11 grips could not maintain adequate clamping force for the maximum 38-degree rope angle on Quicksilver between towers 20-21 (Quicksilver was the only lift built with Yan’s type-11 grip owing to its heavier chairs with bubbles, the rest had the type-7 grip.) On two prior occasions, empty chairs had fallen from Quicksilver’s line, including one time three weeks prior to the deadly accident and in the same location. Leading up to December 23rd, mechanics were getting grip force faults 20+ times a day and had reportedly stuffed paper into the corresponding alarm. At the time, detachable lifts were relatively new and not required to stop automatically as a result of a grip force fault.