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.

News Roundup: Exceptional Ride

On the Black Quad lift front, there always seems to be something. And, the engineering firm who designed the lift has come back with quite a few changes that need to be implemented by Pfister Mountain Services, including changing out some sheave assembly wheel combinations at a few towers and a major overhaul of tower 13 cross arm and uphill sheave assembly. None of this is a quick fix at this point in our construction phase and comes as unwelcome news. And, of course, tower 13 is in a very difficult spot to get to, especially for what equipment will be needed to execute the cross arm changes. No timetable or budget as been provided as of yet. We will continue to keep you posted as news warrants. Certainly frustrating after all this time as we’d like to see our money put to good use for you. All I can say is that the Quad will be a part of our future here at Magic so we can expand uphill capacity and lift redundancy as we grow.

News Roundup: Reports

News Roundup: Tough Choices

  • The Italian parent of Leitner and Poma reports record revenue of €1.06 billion, having completed 78 ropeway projects in 2019, though the company expects sales to fall 30 percent in 2020.
  • Public comments are now being solicited regarding Steamboat’s proposed Wild Blue Gondola, Sundown Express replacement and Priest Creek removal projects.
  • Vail Resorts suspends operations at two Australian resorts just three days into the season due to the evolving Coronavirus situation.
  • Even though American Dream and Big Snow in New Jersey are closed, a second American Dream location remains in development in Miami.
  • Vail Resorts-owned OnTheSnow.com and sister websites will shut down Monday due to the challenging financial landscape. A Vail-owned TV station is also closing.
  • Bloomberg speaks with the CEOs of both Alterra and Vail about next winter.
  • Today is the last day to comment on Little Cottonwood Canyon transportation alternatives, including a 3S gondola.
  • Walt Disney World won’t allow unrelated parties to ride together in gondola cabins when the Skyliner reopens.
  • Doppelmayr USA, Leitner-Poma of America, MND America, Skytrac and SkyTrans all received Paycheck Protection Program loans supporting more than 400 American jobs.
  • A key link located on a receding glacier, the Horstman T-Bar at Whistler Blackcomb is no more.
  • Design work continues for Aspen Mountain’s Lift One Telemix and related developments.

Searchmont to Install Two New Lifts

Ontario’s Searchmont Resort will add two Skytrac triple chairs this summer as part of a major modernization. US-based Wisconsin Resorts purchased Searchmont in 2018 from a public economic development agency and promised to make significant capital investments. The longer of the two lifts will replace the mountain’s original double chairlift, built in 1972. The double ran up the center of the mountain and was one of the last remaining Borvig lifts in Canada (only eight remain now.) Chairs from the lift are being sold tomorrow on a first come, first served basis for CA$200 apiece.

A second new triple chair will service a dedicated beginner area, which Searchmont lacks currently. This lift will be 2,000 feet long and open new terrain west of current trails. Combined, the lifts will cost US$2.6 million and will be installed by local contractors. An existing Doppelmayr quad chair and a Blue Mountain triple chair will remain in service as well.

Searchmont is one of four mid-sized ski areas in North America installing more than one new chairlift this summer. The others building two are Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, Gore Mountain, New York and Timberline Mountain, West Virginia.

Following Cancellations, How Will Lift Construction Recover?

When Vail Resorts spelled out its suspension of operations in mid-March, the shutdown was hoped to last only a week.  Fifty days later, all 37 resorts remain shuttered and the company has borrowed more than a billion dollars to weather a possible extended recession.

Almost immediately, Vail Resorts postponed discretionary capital improvement projects including seven new chairlifts.  Vail is just one of numerous operators of lifts facing epic challenges due to COVID-19.  The impacts trickle down to suppliers, particularly global suppliers of large machinery like the Leitner Group and Doppelmayr.  While the two major lift manufacturers are of similar size and structure, their customers are incredibly diverse, from mom and pop outfits to governments, NGOs and Fortune 100 companies.

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As regular readers of this blog know, the lift business is not the same as the ski business.  Leitner-Poma, Skytrac and Doppelmayr USA have all completed projects for non-ski venues recently such as theme parks, zoos, stadiums and cruise ports.  Not only are these projects making up an increasing share of contracts, they tend to be large in scope and often include lucrative operation and maintenance deals.  Some of these non-traditional customers are in even worse shape than the ski business, more dependent on high guest densities and air travel.  Put another way, there is little chance the Walt Disney Company, Carnival Corporation or the Miami Dolphins would have signed to build their recent lift projects in today’s environment.  So-called “point of interest” projects may disappear entirely for a few years.

One bright spot could be urban transport.  The Portland Aerial Tram and Roosevelt Island Tramway have both remained operational throughout the pandemic, albeit at reduced capacity (the Portland Tram carries health care workers to three different hospitals and is about as essential as it gets.)  Large aerial tramways have been ceding market share to monocable, 2S and 3S gondolas, a trend which will probably accelerate with new personal space concerns.  With gondolas, each person or family can take their own cabin unlike on trains or buses.  There are lots of great concepts for urban gondolas in North America and infrastructure spending programs could finally get one or two off the ground.  Mexico already has a large urban gondola system in operation with two more under construction.

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News Roundup: Alterra

  • Neighbors aren’t happy about light and noise from Woodward Park City, though the new area was able to turn down the start alarm on the Hot Laps chairlift.
  • Mt. Baldy in Thunder Bay, Ontario plans to buy a new quad chair for next season.
  • The City of Durango considers whether building a new chairlift at Chapman Hill makes sense at an increasingly marginal elevation for natural snow.
  • Spout Springs will remain closed this season and is still for sale.
  • Mexico City begins work on Cablebús Line 2, a Leitner system with 7 stations, 308 cabins and 59 towers.  (Line 1 is Doppelmayr and already under construction.)
  • Seven people are injured and a gas station destroyed when a gondola haul rope being installed in Medellín, Colombia lets loose.
  • Alterra closes on Sugarbush and Win Smith transitions from owner to employee.
  • A French paraglider is lucky to survive being caught in a platter lift‘s haul rope.
  • To address crowding concerns, Crystal Mountain eliminates walk up lift ticket sales on weekends and holidays, effective immediately.  The resort will also no longer offer group discounts, gift card ticket redemptions or rental/ticket packages on weekends and holidays.
  • New York State opens its newest gondola in Lake Placid, called the SkyRide.
  • Geyser Holdings offers $4 million for the Hermitage Club and Boyne Resorts separately bids $3.6 million for the Barnstormer lift.  An auction could be held next month.
  • Skytrac’s Hilltrac people movers now feature Sigma cabins.
  • Montana Snowbowl opens its Snow Park expansion for the first time.
  • The owners of Perfect North Slopes plan to build at least one new top-to-bottom lift at newly-acquired Timberline, West Virginia this summer.
  • The State of Maine postpones a decision on a loan guarantee related to the sale of Saddleback Mountain.
  • A creditor claiming to be owed $62 million files to foreclose on Granby Ranch.
  • Edmonton urban gondola backers release robust ridership projections.
  • A gondola from Boise to Bogus Basin would be too long and cost too much to be practical.

 

A Solid Year Caps a Decade of Construction Growth

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The mostly new Steamboat Gondola features 137 cabins travelling at a brisk six meters per second.

This year saw installation of 43 new and 7 used lifts across North America, numbers similar to the last two seasons.  43 may seem like a modest number for newly-manufactured lifts on an entire continent but that number is a 54 percent increase from the start of the decade and the highest single year total since 2004.  Only seven resorts opted to install used lifts, mostly late model fixed grip chairlifts but also a detachable quad and one T-Bar.

While 2018 saw a record number of gondolas, multiple bubble chairs and a Telemix, 2019’s projects trended smaller with 22 fixed grip chairlifts and five surface lifts.  That’s the most platters and T-Bars built in the last 15 years.  Two of them anchor terrain expansions while another two service youth racing programs.  Loading carpets were included on five new fixed quad lifts, allowing them to run at slightly faster speeds.

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The Yeti Cruiser at Sasquatch Mountain Resort was one of three new Leitner-Poma Alpha fixed grips constructed across Canada in 2019.

After two huge years, gondola construction fell to two new installations in Colorado, one in New Hampshire and pulse versions in New York and Florida.  Detachable chairlift construction was just above the decade average of ten per year.  Only one of this year’s high speed chairlifts included bubbles and another heated seats.

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Vail Resorts completed the largest-ever lift investment at Stevens Pass, purchasing two Doppelmayr quads to replace aging Riblet and Thiokol lifts.

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