News Roundup: Wrapping Up

  • Winter Park’s Gondola becomes the third direct drive lift to open in as many weeks in the United States.  As of October, there were zero!
  • Pico is added to Ikon, bringing the pass to 40 mountains with a combined 474 lifts in the the US and Canada.
  • The Hermitage Club won’t reopen until January at the earliest.
  • The last of British Columbia’s seven new lifts debuts at Sun Peaks.
  • I did a double take on this lift: a D-Line gondola with Carvatech cabins.
  • The new American Flyer is very close to becoming the world’s longest bubble chair.
  • Stratton’s new high speed quad is now set to open early in the new year.
  • Skeetawk remains on track to become Alaska’s eleventh lift-served ski area next winter with a SkyTrans triple chair.
  • An 8 year-old boy sustains only minor injuries falling 33 feet off a lift at Nordic Valley.
  • The Colombian capital of Bogotá launches a $73 million urban gondola called TransMiCable.
  • Frost Fire says it cannot open yet due to “contractual obligations with our chairlift,” a brand new Skytrac quad.
  • Big Sky brings high speed access to the southern flank of Lone Peak with Shedhorn 4.

Burst Snowmaking Pipe Sends Gondolas Swinging at Stratton

A large pipe broke on Christmas Eve at Stratton Mountain Resort, sending a gush of water into the path of the mountain’s gondola.  Videos circulating on social media show a few cabins bearing the brunt of the geyser and Stratton Mountain Resort released the following statement via yesterday’s snow report:

“At about 3:30 pm Christmas Eve, a break in a snowmaking pipe on Lower Standard sent water at a 45 degree angle toward the gondola.  Snowmaking computers showed a drop in pressure and operators immediately began the process of shutting down the system. The operations team simultaneously stopped the lift, restarting it slowly to reposition the cabins. Approximately seven minutes later, the gondola made its way to the summit where guests disembarked. We are pleased to report that no one was injured in what was a scary episode for seven skiers and riders in two gondola cabins. The gondola is running as usual today and snowmaking operations continue using alternate pipes in the network.”

The Poma-built Stratton Mountain Gondola opened in 1988 and received 58 new Sigma Diamond cabins in 2014.  I’m thankful the water line broke near the gondola and not under an open chairlift.  Great job Stratton crews moving cabins out of harm’s way and getting the water stopped so quickly.

News Roundup: Only in Utah

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: Bahn

  • Bretton Woods’ upcoming gondola gets a great name: Presidential Bahn.
  • Copper updates the public on its big new American Eagle and American Flyer lifts.
  • For the third time in six years, Soldier Mountain, Idaho hits the market.  “The current owners have experienced the typical start up challenges that come with operating a ski area that has been under capitalized, under managed and under marketed for many years,” writes Mike Krongel of Mirus Resort Advisors.
  • The BC Supreme Court orders the province to reconsider its 2015 decision to pull  Jumbo Glacier Resort’s construction permit over lack of progress.
  • Mont Cascades scores a $1.2 million grant from the Government of Quebec to help build the resort’s longest chairlift yet.
  • The criminal case of a former employee who may or may not have been stuck on a Gore Mountain chairlift overnight last winter heads to trial.
  • Snow King’s possible gondola gains two new alignment options.  GM Ryan Stanley tells the Jackson Hole community “After struggling for so many years to keep the lifts spinning, it is sad to see the negativity associated with proposed improvements to the mountain.”
  • The 380 acre Cold Springs Canyon expansion and detachable quad are officially a go for next summer at Sun Valley.
  • Doppelmayr nears commissioning of a very cool gondola with spherical cabins, loopy towers and whimsical stations in Moscow.
  • Stratton says goodbye to the SMS Poma, leaving just seven detachable surface lifts in the country by my count.
  • 36 days before opening, go inside the eye-catching Matterhorn 3S gondola by Leitner Ropeways.
  • Thanks to Everett and Will for these shots of Big Sky’s trailblazing Ramcharger 8 project.

 

Two New Lifts Are Coming to Magic Mountain

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 ExpressThe 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.

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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 Building New Lifts at Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park

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.

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Goodbye massive lines at Zephyr, hello gondola.

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.

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Winter Park’s first true gondola will sport Sigma Diamond 10 cabins.

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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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Instagram Tuesday: Alpenglow

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News Roundup: Opponents