If Aspen & KSL Go Lift Shopping, What Will They Buy?

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Although both KSL and Aspen have bought lots of new lifts lately, aging machines at many of their new and existing properties could be replaced over the next few years, including this 1989 Poma at Squaw Valley.

It’s been two weeks since the bombshell news that Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners are joining forces to bring twelve ski resorts under a new entity rivaling Vail Resorts.  While the deals won’t close for months, the new partners already say they plan to invest heavily in the guest experience.  “We have earmarked a lot of capital for improvements to be able to continue to reinvest significantly in the communities and the mountains,” KSL CEO Eric Resnick told the Denver Post.  “What’s exciting is being able to bring new opportunities with these communities and with these mountains to those customers who are already so passionate.”  This could come in the form of new lifts ahead of the 2018-19 season and beyond.  Below is a summary of announced plans and my speculation of what might be in store for KSL and Aspen’s upcoming resorts.

  • Alpine Meadows, CA:
    • Alpine Meadows applied for and received approval to replace the Hot Wheels chairlift in a new, longer alignment back in 2012.  A mid-station offload would allow beginner and intermediate skiers to access the lower mountain while others could continue to an unload near the top of Sherwood, providing direct access to Sherwood and Lakeview.  Approval for this lift likely expired in September 2015 but there’s no reason to believe Placer County would not approve it again.

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      The top station of Hot Wheels at Alpine could one day be home to a mid-station with a new high-speed quad continuing to Sherwood Ridge, where this photo was taken from.
    • Speaking of Lakeview, it is arguably the largest remaining pod at Alpine Meadows without detachable access.  This 1984 CTEC is older than Sherwood and with approximately the same vertical rise.  A high-speed quad is likely to replace it eventually.
    • Doppelmayr and CTEC have both built lifts at Alpine Meadows while Leitner-Poma has not.  That could change with the unification of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
    • I’ve written before about the Base-to-Base Gondola which is still on the table but still requires multiple government approvals.  It would traverse the White Wolf property between Squaw and Alpine with two angle stations along the way.

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      Uncompleted lift towers on Troy Caldwell’s White Wolf property between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows could become home to a public gondola between the two mountains.

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News Roundup: Confirmed

  • $150 million Raymond James settlement includes $762,503 for Burke Mountain’s new Leitner-Poma T-Bar.
  • Power outage leads to rope evacuation of Loveland’s newest lift.
  • Steamboat gondola refurbishing begins  (I got to tour Northstar’s gondola this week which received a similar upgrade in 2015.)
  • Orlando Sentinel confirms Walt Disney World is building three Doppelmayr 10-passenger gondolas with six stations.
  • Crystal Mountain breaks away from Boyne Resorts, orders five additional gondola cabins and plans to build new Discovery and Gold Hills lifts in 2018.
  • Eldora is selling Hall and Heron chairs as six-pack construction begins.
  • Preview Oakland’s new $13 million restaurant accessible only by gondola.
  • Sunday River’s new owner commits to replacing Spruce Peak.
  • This week’s cities floating gondolas include Edmonton and Burlington, Vermont.
  • Fatzer delivers four 153-ton track ropes to Germany’s Zugspitze using two trucks linked together for the entire journey.

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.

Steamboat Commits to Major Gondola Upgrades

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The Steamboat Gondola rises more than 2,000 vertical feet to the heart of Mt. Werner.

Fresh off a 30th birthday, Intrawest and Steamboat said yesterday they will make a major investment in the Steamboat Gondola this spring, pushing back the start of summer operations. The world’s first 8-passenger monocable gondola, once called the Silver Bullet, opened in 1986 and has amassed 80,000 hours operating day and night, year-round.  Changes include:

  • Replacement of grips, likely with Agamatic 108s, the larger version of the new Elkhead Express grips.
  • New hangers.  The 128 first-generation Omega cabins will remain.
  • Completely new terminal rail systems and tire banks.
  • Reconfiguration of cargo loading areas at both stations.
  • New electronic control system.

“Steamboat is fortunate to have some of the best mechanics and electricians in the business looking after our gondola,” said Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations. “These upgrades give us time to look at the big picture for the base area, while also enhancing our current uphill transportation system.”  Doppelmayr will assist with the work, which will begin April 16th and require complete removal of the gondola’s nearly 18,000 foot haul rope.  Doppelmayr did an almost identical upgrade to the 1985 6-passenger gondola at Northstar California Resort in 2015, with new terminals, hangers and grips.  Leitner-Poma also recently completed major refits of the Whistler Village and Aspen Silver Queen gondolas that included new cabins.  Telluride is also grappling with a similar need for upgrades or replacement.

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Chain-driven systems will be replaced with tires.

In its press release, Steamboat acknowledged the gondola as the main access to the mountain and that acting now preserves future reliable transportation.  Doppelmayr plans to be finished with the work by June 30th for the mountain’s summer season.

New Roundup: French

Instagram Tuesday: Stacked

Every Tuesday, we pick our favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

She's waiting. (📷 by @ozskier)

A post shared by Snowbird (@snowbird) on

6-CLD-Brembergkopf #garagiert #doppelmayr #6CLD #Winterberg @seilbahnblog.com1 @seilbahntechnik

A post shared by Skigebietstechnik (@skigebietstechnik) on

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Instagram Tuesday: Final Push

Every Tuesday, we pick our favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

Load testing the new Elkhead high-speed quad today. It's almost time! Opening Day is scheduled for Nov. 23. #SteamboatResort

A post shared by Steamboat Resort (@steamboatresort) on

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News Roundup: Transactions

Elkhead Express Construction Update from Steamboat

This week’s construction update comes from northern Colorado where Steamboat Resort is in the midst of replacing a fixed-grip quad with a UNI-G detachable.  The Elkhead Express will be Steamboat’s first Doppelmayr lift built since 1997 after three new Leitner-Pomas in a row. Nearby Vail went the other way this year, switching from Doppelmayr back to L-P.  Elkhead Express is the third lift in its location following a 1972 Heron-Poma double and later a Lift Engineering quad.  The not-that-old Yan has been carefully disassembled and will undoubtedly find a new home somewhere down the road.

The new Elkhead will only have around ten towers; the old lift had 13.  The Doppelmayr crew has finished concrete and set the big steel with a crane at both terminals.  Tower footings are ready to go but I couldn’t find any of the towers laying around yet.  The stations will be blue and white with red stripes and are sure to look sharp.  Compared with the UNI-G terminals going up in Jackson and Big Sky, Elkhead’s stations are noticeably smaller.  Like all of Steamboat’s detachables, Elkhead Express will have a deluxe indoor maintenance bay attached to the bottom terminal.  Steamboat’s eighth detachable lift will be ready to go by Thanksgiving.

News Roundup: Commonwealth