They call it “the road less traveled,” a classic Vermont mountain situated about half way between Stratton and Okemo. Now in its second year of new ownership, Magic Mountain has carved a successful niche offering top quality, affordable skiing despite a competitive landscape. Ski Magic LLC added a new carpet lift and restarted work on a new double chair to service intermediate terrain soon after taking over operations in late 2016. Fresh off a successful 2017-18 season with increased skier visits, investors plan to spend an impressive $1.6 million on key infrastructure this summer including two important new chairlifts.
In addition to completing the Green Chair project by early summer, Magic announced today that a Poma quad chair will replace the Black lift, which dates back to the middle of last century. The 1962 Pohlig double was once converted to a triple with Yan chairs before being turned back into a double in recent years. Today it sports towers from Pohlig, Hall and possibly Poma and the time has finally come to retire it.
The new Black Line quad is a 1986 Poma Alpha model which is being removed from Stratton this month to make way for the Snow Bowl Express. The predecessor will find a new home less than 15 miles away, becoming the workhorse base-to-summit machine at Magic. The incoming Green Chair is also from Stratton, a Borvig removed in 1995 called Betwixed. “When we heard Stratton was replacing their Snow Bowl lift with a new high-speed detachable, four-passenger lift, our investor group jumped on the opportunity to try and purchase their Poma fixed-grip quad”, said Geoff Hatheway, President of Ski Magic. “For our ski community, this lift is a huge upgrade that meets and manages our current and future growth expectations, better fulfills customer desires for quality, reliable lift service at Magic, and sustains our reputation as an area with both minimal lift lines and low on-slope skier density.” He went on to thank Stratton President and COO Bill Nupp for his help securing the lift’s future in Southern Vermont.
Black Line capacity will more than triple from 620 skiers per hour to 2,000 with the new lift unloading slightly higher to service all of Magic’s trails. The 148 chair lift will be over 5,000 feet long with approximately 1,500 feet of vertical rise. Magic’s 1971 Heron-Poma double will stay in the rotation and operate at peak times, meaning the Black quad, Red double, and Green double are all slated for service in the 2018/19 season. With Magic’s plans, at least seven new lifts will debut in Vermont next season, the most since 1995.
Alterra Mountain Co., the new operator of eleven leading North American mountain resorts, today announced a transformational capital investment of $130 million to be followed by hundreds of millions more over the next five years. New lifts will debut at Winter Park Resort in Colorado, Mont Tremblant in Quebec and Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont in time for next winter. Competitor Vail Resorts revealed a similar $150 million plan for 2018-19 with six new lifts across its resorts last December.
The largest single project for Alterra is a 10-passenger Zephyr Gondola at Winter Park replacing the current 1990 high-speed quad, the key people mover out of The Village at Winter Park. The new $16 million Leitner-Poma lift will be capable of moving 3,600 guests per hour to Sunspot, up from 2,600, and is the first new lift at the resort since 2007. It will feature Leitner-Poma’s DirectDrive technology, reducing energy consumption and the number of moving parts that can lead to down time. The new lift may also get a new name. “Zephyr is certainly on the table but nothing’s been decided yet,” said Steve Hurlbert, a spokesman for the resort.
It’s been two weeks since the bombshellnews 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.
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.