News Roundup: Win-Win

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News Roundup: More Towers

  • MND Group subsidiary LST will build its third US ropeway this summer, a T-Bar replacing this Hall one in McCall, Idaho.
  • Copper confirms the new American Flyer will get more towers to “support and optimize” the lift.
  • This incredible timelapse of the longest lift in the world gets a lot of attention on Reddit.
  • US skiers and snowboarders came out 59.1 million times this season, a nearly 11 percent increase over 2017-18 and the fourth best participation ever.
  • The National Ski Areas Association launches a charitable foundation to grant money to resort employees to attend conferences such as LMS and RMLA.
  • West Virginia’s closed Timberline Four Seasons Resort files for bankruptcy.
  • A Vermont sheriff can no longer find Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes to serve him with legal papers related to the ski resort’s closure.
  • In Serbia, Poma will realize the longest gondola in the world at 5.6 miles in two sections.
  • The year round, high speed quad-served bike park experiment in New Zealand gets a $3.3 million government bailout to keep operating.
  • If you want a retired Steamboat Gondola cabin, Sunshine Polishing is acquiring 105 of them.
  • Bogus Basin’s old Riblet chairs are selling for an average price of $1,775 apiece.

News Roundup: 3S

News Roundup: Ten

  • Garaventa inks a $45 million deal for a 4x funifor, 1x aerial tramway megaproject in Switzerland.
  • Beartooth Basin attempts to crowdfund this spring’s operation, including $35,000 for a required gearbox replacement on Poma 1.
  • An ugly snowmobile-chairlift crash is caught on tape at Sunshine Village.
  • The City of Steamboat will overhaul the Howelsen Hill Poma this summer and plans to replace Barrows around 2021.
  • The Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco and associated aerial tram may reopen as early as June.
  • Disney Skyliner’s nearly 300 ten passenger cabins will come in ten different colors with 22 unique character wraps.
  • The Indy Pass is still adding mountains.
  • With Timberline Resort’s owners unable to find an attorney, a judge postpones a state receivership hearing until May 28th.
  • Leitner will show off updated six passenger chair and Diamond gondola designs at Interalpin.
  • Local businesses leaders are pushing for a high capacity 3S on Burnaby Mountain.
  • Steamboat plans to sell its now retired gondola cabins to other ski resorts around the world for parts.
  • The so-called Balsams bill passes the New Hampshire Senate and is expected to be signed by the governor.

News Roundup: Heating Up

Alterra to Build New High Speed Lifts at Alpine Meadows & Winter Park

Alterra Mountain Company will spend $181 million on capital improvements at its network of resorts this offseason, $32.3 million of which will go towards new lifts.  The announcement comes on the heels of competitor Vail Resorts’ proclamation that it will devote $139 to 143 million to capital projects in 2019, including new lifts for Crested Butte and Stevens Pass.

At Colorado’s Winter Park Resort, a new Leitner-Poma six-pack will replace the Sunnyside triple, increasing uphill capacity by 800 people per hour and reducing ride time from eight minutes to 3.8.  Sunnyside is a 1989 CTEC that provides egress from Parsenn Bowl and often experiences significant wait times.

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The Sunnyside triple is being retired but will likely find a new home due to its age.

In California, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will debut the first Leitner-Poma of America LPA detachable to feature an intermediate station.  The approximately 5,000 foot quad lift will follow the current Hot Wheels alignment with an offloading opportunity at the current top terminal site.  Chairs will continue one minute further to Sherwood Ridge for direct access to the backside of Alpine.  The first Leitner-Poma lift at Alpine Meadows will move a total of 2,400 skiers per hour between the three stations and cost approximately $10 million.  “The new lift will benefit the Alpine Meadows experience on many levels,” said Ron Cohen, president and chief operating officer at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “Terrain currently served by Hot Wheels is frequently used by learners and ski and ride school as the next progression after the beginner terrain in the base area. A detachable lift will make loading and unloading much easier for these groups, and the ride time will be more than cut in half. Alpine Meadows is a fantastic place to learn how to ski, and I am proud that we are continuing to foster that quality.”  Squaw is also adding new rope tow and carpet lifts in the High Camp area to further improve beginner options and skier circulation.

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This photo, taken from near the new Hot Wheels top terminal location, shows what will become the first stage of a two stage high speed quad.

As announced at the beginning of the winter, Doppelmayr will complete the Steamboat gondola rebuild this summer, adding new towers, all new cabins and more.  With a speed increase, this key out-of-base lift will feature an increased capacity of 3,600 skiers per hour.

Another significant lift-related investment is RFID access gates and ticketing infrastructure at Deer Valley Resort.  Other Alterra properties are getting snow cats, expanded snowmaking capabilities, restaurant remodels and new bike trails.  “Alterra Mountain Company’s unique year-round mountain destinations offer skiers, riders and summer visitors of all ages from all over the world special, memorable experiences, and each aspect of our business plays a part in bringing the guest back year after year and inspiring a lifelong love of the mountains,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of Alterra in a company-wide press release.  “We are committed to investing in everything from lifts to snowmaking to creative dining experiences, and technology that weaves it all together for a seamless visit.”  The privately-held firm has budgeted more than half a billion dollars for capital improvements through the 2022/2023 ski season.  All 13 Alterra destinations participate in the Ikon Pass, which starts at $649 and goes on sale tomorrow morning.

Steamboat to Build New, Faster Gondola

At a champagne toast tonight in Gondola Square, Steamboat President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Perlman announced the world’s first 8 passenger monocable gondola will be upgraded in time for the 2019/20 season.  The news comes as a bit of a surprise given last month’s approvals of other lift projects including a second gondola to Bashor Bowl and the Pioneer Ridge Expansion.  The current gondola received major upgrades just last year and phase two will include new cabins, towers, drives, top bullwheel and brakes.  “Everyone knows the gondola is the main lift out of the base area, and having a new, high speed, state of the art transportation system will be a noticeable improvement not only in the winter on Champagne Powder snow mornings, but also during the summer with our popular sunset happy hours,” said Perlman.

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The Silver Bullet opened in 1986 and was upgraded with new terminal equipment, grips and hangers in 2017 after more than 80,000 hours of operation.

The Doppelmayr machine will transport 38 percent more guests per hour with a ride time under 10 minutes.  Capacity will surge from 2,600 per hour to 3,600 with 137 cabins moving at six meters per second, up from five.  “From day one, Alterra Mountain Company has emphasized our commitment to enhancing the guest experience across our family of 14 North American destinations,” noted David Perry, CEO at Alterra.  “We are focused on improving every aspect of a guest’s visit, while preserving each destination’s unique character and traditions.  Steamboat’s new gondola fits seamlessly within our plans. We are excited to invest in infrastructure, and proud of the positive impact it will make on the community, our guests, and the future of Steamboat.”  Construction on the $15 million project is set to begin April 15th.  Alterra has pledged to spend more than $550 million at its resorts over five years and hopefully Steamboat’s gondola is the first of many new lifts for the company in 2019.

How Many Lifts Might Alterra Buy in 2019?

At just 15 months old, Alterra Mountain Company finds itself with over 200 chairlifts, gondolas and tramways in two countries.  The 13 Alterra mountains mirror the broader ski industry with places like Deer Valley and Crystal Mountain sporting many newer lifts while the average chairlift at June Mountain is 45 years old.

On a Monday last March, the fledgling company based in Denver simultaneously unveiled its very first lift investments at Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park along with other improvements like snowmaking at Snowshoe and a new restaurant at the base of Steamboat.  Importantly, Alterra committed to spending $555 million in total capital over five years.  That was before it bought Solitude and Crystal Mountain, which could mean even more money flowing over the next few construction seasons.  While last year’s budget only included three new lifts, could we see more in 2019?

Colorado

With the September approval of major projects by the Forest Service, Steamboat is poised for a comprehensive on-mountain transformation.  Although the timing is fluid, a new Rough Rider learning center at mid-mountain will eventually be serviced by a new gondola from the village.  Here, skiers and snowboarders will be able to choose from three new carpet lifts, a new and improved Bashor lift and a second fixed-grip chair replacing the Rough Rider surface tow.

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A second initiative Steamboat could undertake in 2019 is the Pioneer Ridge expansion, which includes a 7,000 foot detachable quad and a dozen new trails.  Other possible upgrades include adding chairs to Pony Express (currently at only 1,200 skiers per hour but designed for 2,400)  or new cabins for the Silver Bullet.  Wouldn’t it be cool for the new gondola and original one to have similar cabins?

The average lift at Alterra-operated Winter Park Resort is 27 years old.  Six are early model detachable quads coming up for replacement.  In the case of 32 year old Pioneer Express, an upgrade is overdue and I expect coming in 2019.  A new version could add a snowboarder friendly mid loading station above the last section of Big Valley.

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Pioneer is one of only four remaining Poma detachables in North America with separate Alpha drive units.

A second project I hope to see is a second stage of the new gondola from Sunspot to Lunch Rock, truly uniting Winter Park and Mary Jane.  Sunnyside should be a high speed quad or six pack.  A high speed replacement of Challenger would be a nice upgrade at Mary Jane.  Looking Glass is tied for the oldest operating chairlift in Colorado.  After Pioneer, High Lonesome is the next Poma detachable up for replacement if we go solely by age.

The above Intrawest era master plan earmarked Gemini Express to be converted into an eight passenger gondola with a new learning center surrounding its top station.  Endeavor could go detachable as part of this project and/or Discovery made into a fixed grip quad.  Finally, a lift is envisioned to expand Vasquez Ridge Territory with four new intermediate trails. With all of these ideas on the table, I expect Winter Park to get at least one lift in 2019 and hopefully two.

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News Roundup: Decisions, Decisions

  • With approvals inked, Steamboat considers whether to build a second gondola or the Pioneer Ridge expansion first.
  • The Kohlmaisbahn in Saalbach, Austria becomes the first gondola spotted with Omega V cabins.
  • The Hermitage may miss Christmas.
  • Catch a glimpse of the new Winter Park gondola cabinsKillington too!
  • The eight urban gondolas in La Paz transported a 318,532 riders last Wednesday – a crazy new single day record.
  • Thanks to community support, Antelope Butte is poised to reopen with two chairlifts.
  • After having its summer camp shut down by the state of New Hampshire, Granite Gorge likely won’t open for downhill skiing this winter.
  • The ex-Gore Mountain employee who claimed he was left on a lift overnight last winter is convicted of making a false statement to police and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
  • Mont Gleason, Quebec will build a fixed grip quad with loading carpet next summer.
  • The Iron Mountain Tramway in Glenwood Springs is carrying its final riders next Sunday as Leitner-Poma mobilizes to build an improved gondola this winter.
  • Thanks to Jared Emerson for taking me around the newest North American lift by LST Ropeways at Waterville Valley.  She’s a beauty!

News Roundup: More Cabins

  • A live streaming webcam shows New Hampshire’s largest and fastest gondola going in at Bretton Woods.  Some tidbits on the lift from the New Hampshire Tramway Board: line speed will be 6 m/s with 36 cabins and a design capacity of 2,600 using 62 cabins.  SkyTrans is taking the retired B double and the gondola’s load test is slated for December 20th.
  • Sunrise Park Resort abruptly ends all summer operations.
  • In Europe, some pulse gondolas are on the way out.
  • As it works to finalize its lease of Mt. Sunapee, Vail Resorts assures New Hampshire residents the company is in for the long haul and doesn’t plan any real estate development at the state-owned mountain.
  • A stack up of at least nine cabins on the White urban gondola line in La Paz last Monday is deemed the result of human error.  No passengers were on the lift at the time.
Photo credit: Página Siete