News Roundup: New York

  • Colorado posts its second best season with nearly 12 million skier days. Vermont was up 21 percent year-over-year and New Hampshire went +30 percent.
  • Valemount opening pushes back to 2019-2020.
  • Rumors swirl of possible lift surveys at Saddleback.
  • Doppelmayr Cable Car and Transport for London extend operations & maintenance contract for the Emirates Air Line for another five years.
  • The government of Venezuela owes Garaventa $14.5 million!
  • Belleayre’s Catskill Thunder Gondola will be a Doppelmayr opening this December.
  • Partek’s only 2017 project is underway at Mt. Peter.
  • Peak Resorts plans to spend $9 million to expand Hunter Mountain and add a new high-speed chairlift in 2018.
  • Arapahoe Basin and Sugarloaf prove even relatively small lift projects make for interesting off-season reading.
  • Vermont’s defunct Maple Valley is for sale along with three Hall lifts for $950,000.
  • Val Gardena, Italy is the launch customer for Sigma’s innovative Symphony 10 gondola cabin and the new Leitner station.
  • Could North Korea’s ski resort with counterfeit and relocated Doppelmayr lifts host Olympic skiing?
  • Doppelmayr removes Wildcat at Snowbasin to make way for Utah’s first six-pack outside of Park City.  Thanks @ozskier for the photos!
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News Roundup: $4.6 Billion

Snowbasin Announces Wildcat Six-Pack

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The Wildcat triple at Snowbasin will be retired this spring and replaced with the resort’s fifth detachable.
New lift week continues!  Snowbasin’s oldest lift, Wildcat, will be replaced with a Doppelmayr six-place chairlift for next season.  The resort’s first six-pack will rise 1,290 feet in just five minutes in place of the 1973 Thiokol and its ten minute ride.  The new lift will have 17 towers and a capacity of 2,400 passengers per hour.  9-second chair spacing will make the lift more beginner-friendly than a high-speed quad.

“Snowbasin Resort is very excited to announce several improvements to the Wildcat area of the mountain that should greatly enhance the guest’s experience,” said John Loomis, General Manager at Snowbasin. “With the addition of a new Doppelmayr 6 passenger high speed chair lift, we will be able to better utilize this area of the Resort that was the original heart of the ski area. The new lift will service beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain and include new snowmaking on Wildcat Bowl, Blue Grouse, Herberts, Eas-A-Long, Wildcat Traverse and Stein’s. These improvements will improve access to this wonderful terrain with earlier access and better conditions when Mother Nature is not as cooperative as we would like.”

Snowbasin, owned by Sinclair Oil Corporation along with Sun Valley, will have just three fixed-grip chairlifts remaining next season.  The Forest Service also recently approved a high-speed-quad for Strawberry Bowl that will be able to run in higher winds than the Strawberry Express Gondola.  Snowbasin will hold a Wildcat last chair party and final ride at 4:00pm April 15th.

News Roundup: Colorado

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Likely new lifts for 2017 are pacing 39 percent ahead of last year, when 28 new lifts had been announced on this date.  I’ve identified 39 lift projects for 2017 and if last year’s pattern holds, lift manufacturers will build approximately 57 new ropeways in N. America in 2017, the most since 2004.  We’ll know by about July 1.

Instagram Tuesday: Six Continents

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

What this cable car ride needs is a rotating floor! #tablemountain #cablecar

A post shared by Anna Swindell (@number__43) on

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News Roundup: Hauling

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Caberfae Peaks staff bring tower tubes to the summit of North Peak for a new triple chair.  Thanks to Lawrence W. for the photo.

News Roundup: Now That’s a Model

  • Snowbasin will test solar-powered USB charging bars in five of its gondola cabins in partnership with Goal Zero.
  • Mt. Waterman in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Mountains reopens this weekend with 3 Riblet doubles operating for the first time in five years.  The mountain will honor all tickets and passes sold since 2011!
  • Two years after his 6-year old daughter fell from a chair, a New Jersey man sues Campgaw Mountain and the town/county it’s located in for “careless and reckless” operation of a ski lift.
  • Sugarloaf just can’t catch a break.  A power failure shut down most of its lifts for hours on their first Saturday with snow.
  • Did you know Doppelmayr operates a zoo with more than 400 animals at its headquarters in Wolfurt?
  • Speaking of Doppelmayr, their interactive installation map now displays 24 world record-breaking ropeways (click the red button on the bottom left.)
  • Somebody had to do it.  Spirit Mountain, Minnesota becomes the first to offer lift-served, downhill fat biking starting Sunday.
  • Whistler Village Gondola cabin #84 returns to its roots in the Alps as The Coffee Gondola.
  • What appears to be a Doppelmayr quad chair rolls back in China, screaming ensues.

Top Ten Lifts with the Most Chairs

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The average detachable chairlift has 108 carriers while the average fixed grip lift has 103.  Most people would assume the longest lifts have the most carriers but that’s usually not the case.  One of the reasons is longer spacing on detachable chairlifts and gondolas.  Also many long fixed-grip lifts get designed with lower hourly capacities and bigger spacing to save money.  In fact, only one of the top ten lifts with the most chairs is also among the ten longest. Each of the lifts below has more than 200 chairs and, not surprisingly, all but two are fixed-grips.

  1. Cyclone – Sunrise Park Resort, AZ – 352 Yan triple chairs
  2. West Mountain – Sugarloaf, ME – 280 Borvig double chairs
  3. edited to add later: Town – Park City, UT – 264 CTEC triple chairs
  4. Alpine – Copper Mountain, CA – 218 Yan double chairs
  5. Porcupine – Snowbasin, UT – 212 Stadeli triple chairs
  6. Summit – Attitash, NH – 207 CTEC triple chairs
  7. C-Chair – Breckenridge, CO – 206 Riblet triple chairs
  8. A-Chair – Breckenridge, CO – 206 Riblet triple chairs
  9. Snowflake – Breckenridge, CO – 205 Poma double chairs
  10. Northwest Express – Mt. Bachelor, OR – 204 Doppelmayr quad chairs
  11. American Flyer – Copper Mountain, CO – 203 Poma quad chairs

What about gondolas?  There are a bunch of them that stretch two-plus miles.  Even so, no gondolas come close to making this list.  The Sunshine Village Gondola has the most cabins in North America with approximately 175 CWA Omegas and the Whistler Village Gondola comes in at number two with 160 Sigma Diamond cabins.  The average North American gondola has just 74 cabins.

Now, who can guess which lift has the most towers?

The Ten Shortest Detachable Lifts in North America

I”ve written a few times about the longest lifts of different types but what about the shortest? The considerable expense of a detachable lift is usually justified for long profiles where speed makes sense.  The average detachable lift in this part of the world is over 5,200 feet long while the average fixed grip lift is under 2,800 feet.  However, the slow loading speed of a high-speed lift also make sense for beginners and foot passengers regardless of the length of the line.  Hence there are plenty of very short detachable lifts that cost millions and take less than two minutes to ride.  Below are the ten shortest ones in the US and Canada.

Beaver Creek's Buckaroo Gondola is among the shortest detachable lifts but makes for a perfect beginner lift.
Beaver Creek’s Buckaroo Gondola is among the shortest detachable lifts but makes for a perfect beginner lift.
  1. Cabriolet – Mont Tremblant, QC – 1994 Doppelmayr detachable 6-passenger cabriolet

Slope length: 1,100 feet, ride time 1.4 minutes.

  1. Easy Rider Express – Sierra-at-Tahoe, CA – 1996 Doppelmayr detachable quad

Slope length: 1,165 feet, ride time 1.3 minutes

  1. Chair 3 – Horseshoe Resort, ON – 1989 Doppelmayr detachable quad

Slope length: 1,400 feet, ride time 1.6 minutes

  1. Super Glide – Alpine Valley Resort, WI – 2011 Leitner-Poma detachable quad

Slope length: 1,421 feet, ride time 1.4 minutes

  1. Valley Flyer – Alpine Valley Resort, WI – 1999 Poma detachable quad

Slope length: 1,426 feet, ride time 1.6 minutes

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Top Ten Steepest Lifts in North America

Below is a list of the top ten steepest lifts in the US and Canada.  I calculated these using a ratio of slope length to vertical rise using data from the manufacturers. To give you some perspective, Snowbasin’s tram has the lowest ratio at 1.11 while Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak has the highest ratio at 120.  The average lift is 4.65, meaning 4.65 feet of length to rise one vertical foot, on average.  Only three of the top ten are chairlifts and only five serve ski-able terrain.

Snowbasin's Mt. Allen Tram, built for the 2002 Olympics, is the steepest lift in North America.
Snowbasin’s Mt. Allen Tram, built for the 2002 Olympics, is the steepest lift in North America.

1. Mt. Allen Tram, Snowbasin, Utah – 1998 Doppelmayr 15-passenger tramway

1,165′ slope length x 1,047′ vertical rise = 1.11 length to vertical ratio

edit: Ski Area Management’s lift construction survey had the incorrect vertical for this lift.  It is actually 510′ making the Mt. Allen Tram about half as steep as posted above.

2. Mt. Roberts Tram, Juneau, Alaska – 1996 Poma 60-passenger tramway

3,098′ slope length x 1,746′ vertical rise = 1.77 length to vertical ratio

3. Lone Peak Tram, Big Sky Resort, Montana – 1995 Doppelmayr 15-passenger tramway

2,828′ slope length x 1,450′ vertical rise = 1.95 length to vertical ratio

4. Sulphur Mountain Gondola, Banff, Alberta – 1959 Bell 4-passenger bi-cable gondola

4,498′ slope length x 2,292′ vertical rise = 1.96 length to vertical ratio

5. Honeycomb Return, Solitude Mountain Resort, Utah – 2002 Doppelmayr CTEC quad

1,300′ slope length x 655′ vertical rise = 1.98 length to vertical ratio

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