Middlebury Snowbowl to Replace Sheehan Lift

The ski area owned and operated by Vermont’s Middlebury College today announced the purchase of a Skytrac quad chair to replace its aging Sheehan lift. The existing Poma double dates back to 1984 and rises 415 vertical feet. The new lift will follow the same alignment and service beginner and low intermediate terrain.

This is the first new lift project announced in Vermont for the 2023 construction season and the sixth project confirmed to be built by Skytrac in the United States this year. Middlebury will commence construction this spring as soon as state permits are received.

Perfect North to Replace Red Triple

Indiana’s largest ski area will make a major lift investment next year, replacing one of its five Riblet chairlifts with a modern Skytrac quad. The new Red chair will feature a loading conveyor and increase uphill capacity over an existing 1987 triple. The project is the fifth publicly-confirmed Skytrac project for next year. Other mountains adding new Skytrac lifts this offseason include Gore Mountain, New York; Nub’s Nob, Michigan; Stevens Pass, Washington; and Wild Mountain, Minnesota.

Mount Bohemia to Replace Frontside Lift

Skytrac will build the first truly new lift at Mount Bohemia over the next three years, replacing a used Riblet triple built in 2000. Bohemia announced a new drive terminal will be installed next summer, a top return terminal in 2024 and new towers and triple chairs will follow in 2025. The phased lift replacement will spread the capital cost of the project out over multiple seasons and bring Bohemia into the era of modern lifts.

“These build outs have been done by Skytrac all over the country,” said Mount Bohemia, using the above example of a Skytrac Monarch drive terminal retrofitted on a 1961 Riblet double at Mt. Spokane, Washington. “In a very short time Bohemia will have a completely brand new triple chairlift that will increase uphill capacity by roughly 50 percent. It will reduce our maintenance season on the new lift to four weeks allowing us to run the new chairlift for scenic lift rides all summer and fall.”

Nub’s Nob Announces New Quad for 2023

Michigan ski areas continue to invest in new lift technology as Nub’s Nob today became the latest to announce a project for 2023. Skytrac will build the new Green chair, a fixed grip quad replacing a 1978 Riblet. The existing lift serves as the main out-of-base people mover at Nub’s Nob.

In a video message announcing the project, General Manager Ben Doornbos identified three reasons Nub’s Nob chose a fixed grip quad over a detachable. “High speed chairlifts at Nub’s Nob just don’t make sense,” he said, noting the high cost and other drawbacks. A detach would only shave two minutes off the current five minute ride and would cause congestion as skiers favored the lift over nearby fixed grip chairs. “We want to stay future focused and continue to invest in the downhill experience,” he continued. “The only thing we’re ever going to care about at Nub’s Nob is making this place the home for the best Midwestern ski experience possible.”

Elsewhere in Michigan, The Highlands, Mt. Holly and Snowriver also plan to debut new lifts for 2023-24. The four projects announced already come on top of big investments by Michigan ski resorts this season including new lifts at Bittersweet, Boyne Mountain and Caberfae Peaks. That’s seven new lifts in two years for the Great Lakes State.

News Roundup: Gunstock & More

Wild Mountain to Add First New Chairlift in 40 Years

Skytrac will construct a fixed grip quad at Wild Mountain, Minnesota next summer replacing a nearly 50 year old lift. The new quad will run parallel with the current Chair 2 and replace Chair 3, a Borvig center pole quad dating back to 1972-73. “The new chairlift will become the primary chairlift used for access from the base lodge, but Chair 2 will remain in use for summer operations and high visitation days during the winter,” said Wild Mountain.

Tree clearing has already begun and the lift will be manufactured over the winter. The new Chair 3 is expected to be complete by the start of the 2023-24 ski season. Once the Skytrac is installed, Wild Mountain will remove Chair 3, freeing the South Wild trail from from tower obstructions. Chairs from the old lift will be sold to the public next summer.

Wild Mountain’s announcement follows the recent trend of lifts being ordered well in advance of installation. High demand for new equipment and supply chain delays are driving longer manufacturer lead times. North American resorts have already announced an impressive 42 new installations for next year.

News Roundup: Ramping Up

Powder Ridge, Minnesota to Build New Chairlift

A second quad chair will debut at Minnesota’s Powder Ridge next winter. The ski area today announced the Powder Puff double, originally built by Miner-Denver, will be retired at the end of the season and replaced with a modern Skytrac quad. It will be the mountain’s first new lift since 1992.

This is the first lift project announced in Minnesota for the 2022 construction season. Lift installations across North America are pacing about 50 percent higher than last year with 50 different projects already announced.

Celebrating a Year of Resilience

Atlantic Canada’s first gondola debuted in the Fall to rave reviews.

As clocks roll over to 2022, 42 new lifts stand tall across North America. Lift manufacturer and resort employees accomplished a lot – operating through the pandemic and adding 13 more lifts than the year before despite supply chain bottlenecks and record low unemployment. Nearly all pandemic-postponed projects from 2020 were completed thanks to skiers, mountain bikers and sightseers flocking outside this year.

Holiday Valley debuted its fourth detachable quad this season.

The 2021 lift class ranges from used T-Bars to the East’s first eight place chairlift and three new gondolas. Vail Resorts purchased the most new lifts of any single customer with seven projects across five mountains. Okemo moved a bubble detachable quad from Jackson Gore to the summit and added a six pack in its place. At Beaver Creek, a high alpine expansion will soon debut with two new quad chairs. Just as Vail’s construction projects entered the home stretch in September, the company shocked the industry and announced 19 new lifts would be built across its network in 2022. That number grew even further this month with the addition of two more projects in Pennsylvania as part of the Epic Lift Upgrade.

Okemo’s new Quantum Six, a partnership between Leitner-Poma and Vail Resorts.

Boyne Resorts moved forward with two signature Doppelmayr D-Line lifts at Loon Mountain and Big Sky Resort. Boyne also worked to open a new peak at Sunday River dubbed Merrill Hill, serviced by a Sunday River Red triple chair. Seeing how smoothly its pandemic-postponed projects went, Boyne went ahead and announced three 2022 lifts early for Boyne Mountain, Loon Mountain and Sunday River.

Merrill Hill at Sunday River awaits its inaugural season.

No new lifts debuted at Alterra mountains this year but the growing company’s pause won’t last long. Leitner-Poma completed the towers and terminal foundations for the Base-to-Base Gondola, which will be one of the most unique lifts in America when complete next year at Palisades Tahoe. The project includes four stations, three haul ropes, more than 30 towers and a cabin storage facility. Alterra also has grand plans for new lifts at Steamboat including North America’s longest gondola.

The existing Steamboat Gondola received a new bottom terminal in 2021 to make room for a second, longer gondola to be built nearby in 2022.

This year’s projects were dispersed all across the US and Canada with particular strength in the traditional Rocky Mountain and Northeast markets.

While large ski areas went big on lifts, small ski areas invested too. This new Skytrac belongs to the Steamboat town hill.

2021 saw a roughly even split between fixed and detachable lifts with both increasing from last year. Gondolas took a slight pandemic pause again but will be back in a big way next year with Palisades Tahoe, Steamboat, Whistler all planning large installations. No resorts built aerial tramways in 2021 but two new surface lifts debuted.

Loon Mountain’s new flagship eight place bubble, dubbed Kancamagus 8.

Fifteen years ago, around half of new lifts were for expansions while the other half replaced older ropeways. The share of replacement equipment has only grown, making up nearly three quarters of all projects this year. We said goodbye to many lifts from defunct manufacturers in 2021 with 12 Halls, 6 Borvigs and 3 Heron-Pomas being retired this year.

The detachable business split right down the middle with Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr each completing eight lifts. Things will get interesting next year when MND Ropeways completes its first US detachable at Waterville Valley in partnership with Swiss manufacturer Bartholet. The last time three firms competed in the detachable space Amazon only sold books.

The fixed grip side of the business also split roughly evenly with Skytrac edging out Doppelmayr. Skytrac fabricated eight complete lifts plus two retrofit Monarch drive terminals, the most projects ever in one year for the company. Doppelmayr’s Alpenstar model continued to be popular with seven installations.

Snow King Mountain transformed this summer with a new gondola, backside expansion and summit learning center.

We saw the ski industry recover faster from the pandemic than other segments of the travel and tourism world. Only two installations were at places other than ski areas in 2020 and 2021, both gondolas at the Icy Strait Pont cruise port in Southeast Alaska.

The percentage of lifts installed used remained low this year with just seven reinstallations. Most customers opted for brand new machines from four different manufacturers.

Doppelmayr won the total project count with 18 installations while the Leitner-Poma/Skytrac duo installed 16. Partek completed a new quad chair at Trollhaugen, Wisconsin after a on-off year with no projects in 2020.

The new Cannon Valley Quad at Minnesota’s Welch Village.

Projects in 2021 were incredibly diverse, from the tiniest platter at a new Club Med in Quebec to Big Sky’s Swift Current 6, the longest D-Line chairlift in the world. The below chart shows Leitner-Poma and Skytrac roughly split their business of large lifts and small lifts while Doppelmayr covered the entire gamut of Vertical Transport Feet per Hour under one roof.

The lift companies enjoyed a great year and so did Lift Blog. A record 617,000 people visited this website in 2021 and viewed 3.6 million pages. Next year I should finally finish visiting every US ski area, a milestone I’ve been chasing since I was four years old. There’s so much to look forward to in the lift world in 2022 and I hope you follow along as I do my best to cover it all. Happy New Year!

Leitner-Poma to Expand in Utah

Utah’s Office of Economic Opportunity will support Leitner-Poma of America as it establishes a new base in the Beehive State. Leitner-Poma plans to bring up to 118 jobs over the next 10 years in manufacturing, service, parts, sales and administration with an estimated $30 million capital investment. “Utah has a fantastic pro-business environment and the ropeway market in Utah is growing exponentially,” said Daren Cole, president of Leitner-Poma of America in a press release. “We’re excited to expand our operations to have a more permanent home in the state.”

Since 2016, LPOA has owned fixed-grip specialist Skytrac, operating out of a former Komatsu dealership in Salt Lake City. The balance of Leitner-Poma’s US manufacturing currently takes place in Grand Junction, Colorado, where the French company Poma established an outpost in 1981. Today, LPOA and Skytrac plus groomer manufacturer Prinoth and snowmaking supplier DemacLenko all operate under the High Technology Industries (HTI) umbrella. The new facility will house several HTI brands, providing customers with a wide range of services. The State of Utah will refund a portion of Leitner-Poma’s state taxes for the next decade if certain economic targets are met.

“We’re excited that a global company like Leitner-Poma is bringing the manufacturing and distribution of chairlifts and other transportation systems to the home of The Greatest Snow on Earth,” said Theresa Foxley, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “Like other companies in our Outdoor Products industry, they will find our state to have committed and talented workers.”

Current LPOA projects in the Utah market include a set of bubble chairs for Wasatch Peaks Ranch and a six place lift at Snowbasin Resort.