Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
If you follow the ski industry, mark your calendar for four months from now, the week of December 4th. Very early one morning that week, the largest mountain resort operator in the world will release its fiscal 2018 first quarter results and, more importantly to this audience, outline capital expenditures for 2018. Last year, this is the moment Vail Resorts committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (the company later added a fourth detachable to this year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.) In December 2015, MTN announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six-pack at Vail. So, what might be on the likely $120+ million agenda for 2018?
- Game Creek Express #7 six-pack. The current 1985 version of Game Creek is the oldest operating lift on Vail Mountain and one of three remaining CLD-260 style Doppelmayr detachables there. It is likely to be replaced with a six-pack, increasing capacity by at least 25 percent in popular Game Creek Bowl. Of the recent six-pack upgrades at Vail, two were built by Doppelmayr (Avanti #2 and Mountaintop #4) and one by Leitner-Poma (Northwoods #11.)
- Orient Express #21 six-pack. Three years newer than Game Creek but still with DS grips, Orient Express serves some of the most popular terrain in Vail’s famous Back Bowls below the equally popular Two Elk Lodge. A six-pack upgrade would be the first such lift in the Back Bowls or Blue Sky Basin.
- Wildwood Express #3 six-pack. A 1995 CTEC, Wildwood is not as old as other detachables recently replaced at Vail, but it serves a high-traffic pod between Mid-Vail and its namesake Wildwood. Parts from this lift could be used as spares for Riva Bahn/Pride Express and Cinch, Bachelor, Grouse Mountain and Strawberry Park high-speed quads at Beaver Creek.
- Born Free Express #8 replacement. Born Free is the 1988 sister ship to Orient and runs parallel to the Eagle Bahn Gondola, built 1996. Vail could opt to address both lifts in the coming years with a gondola like Keystone’s or replace only Born Free with a new high-speed quad or six-pack.
- Golden Peak Race lift. In April, Vail submitted a master plan amendment to add a third lift on Golden Peak above the Riva Bahn mid-station. This short fixed-grip chairlift or surface lift would primarily serve an extended race course.
- Arrow Bahn Express replacement. Beaver Creek doesn’t see nearly the traffic that Vail does and has seen ten new lifts since 2000. However, Arrow Bahn Express is by far the oldest lift at Beaver Creek, built in 1988 to serve a separate Arrowhead ski area. A CLD-260 like Game Creek, Orient and Born Free but with lower hours for its age, Arrow Bahn might make it a bit longer.
- Bridger Bowl is sending Virginia City up to Teton Pass.
- Oakland Zoo’s California Trail gondola
opened Mondaywill open soon.
- China Peak will replace Chair 2 with a Yan quad from Steamboat this summer.
- The Subway in the Sky celebrates three years.
- Alyeska is removing its oldest, longest and tallest lift with no replacement immediately planned.
- Eldora’s new six-place has a name: Eldo Express.
- Cranmore is moving the bottom terminal of the South Quad to make room for a real estate project.
- Intrawest shareholder sues to stop Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL purchase.
- Vail-Stowe deal closes.
- Vail Resorts says in its third quarter results that Epic Pass sales are up 10 percent over last year. The company typically announces new capital projects just after Epic Pass sales conclude in late November.
- The Indiana State Fair is getting a chairlift.
- Beartooth Basin’s two platters open for summer turns for the first time since 2014.
- Urban gondolas are changing the world.
- Leitner Ropeways finishes its newest urban gondola in Mexico.
- Oakland Zoo’s California Trail gets North America’s first safari-style Omega cabins.
- Vail purchase could mean replacements for Toll House, Lookout and Mountain at Stowe.
- Denver station reports new complaint filed against Ski Granby Ranch last week, though details are sparse.
- Hesperus Ski Area voluntarily closes, possibly for the season following unannounced visit by Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board inspectors. Hesperus similarly closed for a season in the mid-1990s after being found to be running the same lift without an operator.
- Cherry Peak finally opens Sundays, still has not completed promised Summit lift.
- Setbacks pile up for the Grand Canyon Escalade.
- Emirates Air Line ranked highest in customer satisfaction among Transport for London modes and is the only one to turn a profit.
- Sweden once had a material cableway that stretched 26 miles.
- Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, taking a beating on social media, explains why the Headwall lift has been closed all but 16 days so far this year.
- Mexican city of Zacatecas seeks to re-hang its old tramway cabins, further delay execution of its contract with Poma for a new gondola system.
- Urban gondola story makes the front page of the Seattle Times.
- The new urban aerial tram in Brest, France is a hit, seeing 6,000 rider days.
- Whistler Blackcomb’s Master Development Agreements renewed and Master Plan approved.
- Suit seeks at least $75,000 from Sugar Mountain, where a teenager apparently went around a bullwheel at closing time, became stranded and jumped from a chair overnight last season. edit: Resort says rescuers were close by when teen jumped.
- The Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola idea lives to fight another day.
- Outside profiles James Coleman and his commitment to improving the ski experience at five Southwestern resorts.
- Snow King Mountain abandons plans for East side lift, will try for backside lift instead.
In a move that should surprise no one, this morning Vail Resorts officially went east, agreeing to buy the mountain operations of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont for $50 million from a subsidiary of insurance giant AIG. The move had been rumored for months and was signed on Friday. Stowe will join Vail Resorts’ hugely popular Epic Pass next season and will become the second mountain newly-acquired by Vail to abandon the Mountain Collective following Whistler-Blackcomb. Like Whistler, Stowe will probably also abandon its SKIDATA RFID lift access technology in favor of the proprietary Epic system.
“We’re thrilled to add Stowe Mountain Resort to our family of world-class mountain resorts. With the investments in both mountain infrastructure and base area facilities that AIG has made over the years, Stowe Mountain Resort has become the premier, high-end resort for East Coast skiers and snowboarders. We look forward to working with AIG to continue enhancing the guest experience and to ensure the resort’s long-term success,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.
Like the flagship Vail Mountain, Stowe has invested heavily in new lifts from both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma in recent years, adding six new lifts since 2004. Four of those additions are located on the redeveloped Spruce Peak at Stowe. The addition of Stowe’s eight chairlifts and two gondolas brings Vail Resorts to operate more than 260 lifts across 13 mountain resorts. Vail has already announced four new high-speed lifts (three Leitner-Poma, one Doppelmayr) to be built at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail for next winter. The purchase of Stowe is expected to close sometime this spring.
- If anyone’s curious what the pilot who flies your lift towers does in the winter, here’s your answer.
- Austrian skier falls from lift, through car windshield.
- Anakeesta will open the world’s first fixed-grip chondola this summer.
- The Wintry Mix Podcast‘s two latest episodes are worthy listens.
- Skytrac introduces phased lift replacement program.
- Doppelmayr stops work on urban gondola in Venezuela, inks more orders from China and Bolivia.
- Vail-Stowe rumors fly. The Street says no deal, yet.
- Child falls from lift at Ski Sundown. Another drops 26 feet from the Purgatory Village Express.
- CNBC profiles North Korea’s Masikryong ski resort, which has five lifts but apparently no snowplows.
- Gondola eyed to link downtown Boulder with the University Hill neighborhood.
- Ford’s 90-second Super Bowl commercial features a (broken) Hall double.
- Group seeks investors to fund ambitious reopening and expansion of Fortress Mountain, AB with multiple detachable quads.
- Another lift to be replaced with a carpet.
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.
- Cabriolet – Mont Tremblant, QC – 1994 Doppelmayr detachable 6-passenger cabriolet
Slope length: 1,100 feet, ride time 1.4 minutes.
- Easy Rider Express – Sierra-at-Tahoe, CA – 1996 Doppelmayr detachable quad
Slope length: 1,165 feet, ride time 1.3 minutes
- Chair 3 – Horseshoe Resort, ON – 1989 Doppelmayr detachable quad
Slope length: 1,400 feet, ride time 1.6 minutes
- Super Glide – Alpine Valley Resort, WI – 2011 Leitner-Poma detachable quad
Slope length: 1,421 feet, ride time 1.4 minutes
- Valley Flyer – Alpine Valley Resort, WI – 1999 Poma detachable quad
Slope length: 1,426 feet, ride time 1.6 minutes