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.

Major Lift Realignment Underway at Michigan’s Bittersweet

Bittersweet in Michigan is making way for a second detachable chairlift in 2022. The mountain’s current high speed quad, the Sweet Express, will move northwest to replace the Poison Ivy triple this season. That late model Hall has been moved the other direction to replace the Chickory double. Along the way, Chickory will be upgraded with a brand new Skytrac drive terminal.

The lift shuffle come as Bittersweet owner Wisconsin Resorts expands to include six mountains in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario. Throughout its history, the company has invested heavily in both lift and snowmaking infrastructure.

The new Sweet Express is the third lift announced for the state of Michigan in 2022. On Wednesday, Boyne Mountain unveiled plans for the region’s first eight passenger chairlift. Caberfae Peaks also plans to add a new lift next year.

Five Mountains Readying Terrain Expansions for 2021-22

Despite an 18 month pandemic, supply chain challenges and continued uncertainty, a handful of US and Canadian ski resorts are putting finishing touches on expansion projects set to debut this winter. Two of these were delayed in 2020 and resumed construction this year while others were actually accelerated during Covid. Many of this year’s projects focus on learning terrain enhancements following the pandemic winter when new and lapsed skiers gravitated toward the mountains.

McCoy Park – Beaver Creek Mountain, Colorado

The lone expansion this year featuring two new chairlifts is Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park, encompassing 250 acres of new high alpine terrain. This beginner zone follows in the footsteps of Haymeadow Park and Red Buffalo Park, which both offer dedicated terrain for new skiers and snowboarders with detachable lifts. The new McCoy Park Express will service 17 trails and the Reunion Quad will provide easy exit from McCoy Park to the Upper Beaver Creek Mountain and Strawberry Park Express lifts.

Lower Juniper – Lake Louise, Alberta

Another beginner-focused expansion featuring a detachable quad is underway at Lake Louise. The new Lower Juniper Express is the second new chairlift here in two years. It will access four new low intermediate trails and provide an alternate out-of-base option to access the upper mountain.

Sunny Side – Snow King Mountain, Wyoming

Shadowed somewhat by construction of a new 8 passenger gondola on the front side of the mountain, Sunny Side at Snow King Mountain will also open this winter. This new backside bowl features extensive snowmaking and a Skytrac fixed grip quad.

Buzzsaw – Searchmont, Ontario

Searchmont hasn’t hosted a single day of skiing since March 2020, which makes its terrain expansion even more remarkable. New owner Wisconsin Resorts took delivery of two Skytrac triples last year, one of which replaced an existing Borvig double. The second lift sat in storage last winter and is now being installed to service two brand new beginner trails.

Merrill Hill – Sunday River, Maine

2021’s only New England expansion is a ninth peak at Sunday River. Merrill Hill features four ski trails and 23 new home sites near the South Ridge base area. This low angle zone will be serviced by a new Doppelmayr fixed grip triple, the mountain’s 15th chairlift.

News Roundup: Skytrac Upgrades

  • New Zealand and Victoria, Australia resorts reopen after extended Covid closures (New South Wales remains locked down.)
  • Mt. Spokane will replace the drive terminal of Chair 2 with a new one from Skytrac.
  • Skytrac is completing similar mods to Tumbelina at Monarch Mountain.
  • The fate of the Pandora’s expansion on Aspen Mountain will be decided October 13th.
  • Sierra at Tahoe still doesn’t know the full extent of lift damage from the Caldor Fire but remains optimistic.
  • Users get stuck on one of Mexico City’s new gondola lines following an earthquake.
  • The Holding family agrees to sell most of Sinclair Oil Corporation’s assets, though Sun Valley and Snowbasin aren’t included.
  • The Forest Service issues a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Lutsen Mountains’ proposed expansion with public comments being solicited through October 25th. A new alternative would see the addition of five new chairlifts on Moose and Eagle Mountains rather than the initially planned seven.
  • The only lift in Oklahoma won’t open for the second year in a row and is in danger of removal.
  • Schweitzer adds 14 chairs to Stella.
  • A quick update from Snow King Mountain:

News Roundup: A Landslide

News Roundup: Watch Live

New Lift Coming to Kelly Canyon

For the first time in decades, Kelly Canyon is getting a new chairlift. The fixed grip triple chair is the first new lift announced in the state of Idaho for 2021. The lift will service new terrain above the current lift-served summit with an exact location to be announced later.

With six complete lift projects and multiple retrofits already confirmed, Salt Lake City-based Skytrac is gearing up for one of its busiest construction seasons ever.

Kelly Canyon will run a contest on social media to name the new lift.