News Roundup: Setbacks

Snow King’s latest master plan concept abandons a lift east of Rafferty in favor of a south-facing lift.  The Summit double would be replaced with an 8-passenger gondola.

Snow King Outlines Gondola & More

There aren’t many ski resorts that lose $200,000 in a good winter. That’s the loss Snow King Mountain projects for the next four months as it struggles to find a sustainable operating model in downtown Jackson, Wyoming.  The ski area opened in 1939, decades before its more famous neighbors even existed.  Snow King’s alpine slide, opened in 1978, sees many times more riders in the summer than the entire mountain attracts each winter.  Beginner and intermediate destination visitors simply don’t choose to ski the rugged, north-facing mountain with a 12-minute double chair ride to the top.

Snow King managing partner Max Chapman, Jr. outlines his group’s investments to date and vision for the future at a community open house December 11, 2015.

Last year, an investment banker with local ties named Max Chapman, Jr. led a group of investors in purchasing Snow King Holdings from the ownership group that struggled with the ski area since 1992.  This past summer, Chapman and company spent a crazy $14 million to build an alpine coaster, base lodge, retail store, ski school building, quad chair and fully-automated TechnoAlpin snowmaking system.  General Manager Ryan Stanley overhauled ticketing systems, bought new uniforms and even commissioned a brand new trail map and website.  This week, the King held a community open house at Snow King Hotel to outline a vision for phase 2 expansion and begin a multi-year public process in hopes of pushing Snow King to consistent profitability.  SKMR operates on a mix of private, federal and town land so Chapman knows he needs the community’s support.

The Panorama House will be re-imagined with a modern facility and integrated gondola (apparently with 1960s Riblet towers!)

The anchor of the project is a base-to-summit gondola to an all-new complex that will serve a variety of visitors year-round.  The facility up top would include a movie theatre, planetarium, cafeteria and fine dining overlooking the town of Jackson and Teton Range.  As of now the building would also include gondola cabin storage/maintenance and takeoff for a quad zipline plunging into town below at speeds up to 75 mph.  Chapman noted, “we want everything we build to be the best.”

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News Roundup: Fire Season

The Pine Fire near Wrightwood, CA narrowly missed Mountain High Resort earlier this week.
The Pine Fire near Wrightwood, California skirted Mountain High Resort earlier this week.  Photo credit: Stuart Palley.
  • The North Resort at Mountain High narrowly escapes one of California’s many wildfires burning out of control.
  • Leitner-Poma is about to start 3 1/2 months of construction at Sipapu, New Mexico.
  • Next season will not happen at Saddleback, Maine unless the resort can secure $3 million for a new quad lift in the next two weeks.  Or so they say.
  • In central New Hampshire, Waterville Valley continues clearing for the Green Peak expansion while Tenney Mountain prepares to reopen after a decade being closed.
  • Sugarloaf launches their lift safety website that appears it took an intern half an hour to make.
  • Leitner gets into the surfing business with DirectDrive.
  • Poma’s 2014 Reference Book is now online.  Better late than never!
  • Snow King Mountain’s very wealthy investors announce phase 2 expansion with a base-to-summit gondola and major skiing expansion.
Snow King's Rafferty lift opened on July 12th.
Snow King’s new Rafferty lift and alpine slide finally opened on July 12th, about a month behind schedule.

Snow King’s New Lift Opens This Weekend

Snow King Mountain is a busy place.
Snow King Mountain is a busy place with crews simultaneously building a chairlift, mountain coaster, base lodge and alpine slide.

Snow King Mountain and Doppelmayr load tested the new Rafferty quad chairlift last week.  It will open along with a revamped alpine slide this weekend.  The opening is about 15 days behind schedule – not bad considering the scope of Snow King’s transformation.  This marks the debut of Doppelmayr’s new Alpin-Star drive-tension terminal and their new, simplified control system.  The lift has mid-station unloading and will operate year-round.  A mountain coaster and treetop adventure park will follow in August with a new base lodge debuting this winter.  Meanwhile, the Doppelmayr crew has moved across the valley to build the new Teton Lift.

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Snow King Transformation

Little Snow King Mountain in downtown Jackson, Wyoming is in the midst of an $8 million transformation.  They are simultaneously building a new Doppelmayr quad, Wiegand alpine coaster, zip-line adventure course and brand new base lodge.  The lift is nearly complete and expected to open shortly along with Snow King’s famous alpine slide.  The goal was June 15th but I think it will probably be a week or so later.  The alpine coaster is well on its way and planned to open in August.  With a $4 million base-to-summit TechnoAlpin snowmaking system installed last summer, the future is looking good for this community ski area.  The only thing they need now is a detachable summit lift and restaurant overlooking the Town of Jackson with the Tetons in the background.  Willamette Pass’ six pack with gondola conversion would be perfect.

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Instagram Tuesday: Going Up & Coming Down

Top of the new Rafferty lift is looking good!

A post shared by Snow King Mountain (@snowkingmountain) on

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Snow King Rafferty Construction

Dopperlmayr's new
Dopperlmayr’s new “Alpin-Star” terminal.

I got to check out the Rafferty lift construction at Snow King Mountain this weekend.  This project is on track to be Doppelmayr USA’s fastest lift installation ever. Snow King actually sells more alpine slide rides in the summer than they do ski tickets in the winter so the lift needed to be completed quickly in between seasons.  Construction began in April and will be done by June 15th.  Snow King is also building a Wiegand Alpine Coaster that will open in August.

New and old Rafferty lift lines.
New and old Rafferty lift lines.

The old Rafferty was a Hall double installed in 1978.  It will find new life at the Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams, Arizona.  The new Rafferty quad goes 400 vertical feet higher than the old one but the load- and mid-stations are pretty much in the same spots.  The bottom drive-tension terminal is a brand new design from Doppelmayr called the Alpin-Star.  It is a single-mast terminal that looks a lot like SkyTrac’s Monarch design to me.  Check out more pictures below of this $8 million project.

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