News Roundup: Gondolas on Gondolas

“Ever since the company went public in 2014 it has taken advantage of its improved access to capital to finance large infrastructure projects that may have led to growth in visitation and revenues, but haven’t resulted in better earnings or cash flows.”

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Timberline Purchases Summit Ski Area

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The Homestead lift replaced a T-Bar at Summit in 1980 and will now be operated by nearby Timberline Lodge.

The Pacific Northwest’s oldest ski resort has a new owner from just up the road – Timberline Lodge.  With its purchase of Summit Ski Area, Timberline parent RLK and Company brings together two of the five ski resorts that surround Oregon’s Mt. Hood.  Family-owned Mt. Hood Meadows bought Cooper Spur Mountain Resort back in 2001 and Mt. Hood Ski Bowl is operated by a third local entity.  Situated in Government Camp directly below Timberline’s Jeff Flood Express, Summit operates a 1980 Riblet double chair and sells lift tickets for just $35.  “We are very pleased with the acquisition and plan to operate Summit Ski Area as a family oriented, affordable, friendly mountain resort,” noted Jeff Kohnstamm, President of Timberline in an afternoon press release.

The long term possibilities of two ski resorts in such close proximity are intriguing.  From bullwheel to bullwheel is just under a mile and there is already an unofficial ski trail between the two areas.  Total vertical could theoretically reach 4,540 feet – far and away the longest in the Pacific Northwest.  But even if the ski resorts never link by ski runs, they could by gondola.  Timberline’s news release notes, “With Portland’s population growing rapidly and more people visiting Mt. Hood, Timberline also views Summit Ski Area as an opportunity to help address public transportation and parking needs while having a greater connectivity to Government Camp.”  A gondola from Government Camp to Timberline would make a lot of sense because of challenges maintaining a road and parking lots above treeline.  There was a gondola lift of sorts way back in the 1950s and RLK has in the past proposed a two stage version along a similar route.

“We look forward to an open-minded approach and discussing opportunities with the community,” says Kohnstamm.  “It will be exciting to see what the future holds for Summit, Timberline, Government Camp and all who visit.”

News Roundup: Intentions

  • Poma breaks ground on Medellín’s sixth urban gondola line as Doppelmayr prepares to open La Paz’s sixth on March 24th.
  • Gearbox issue strikes Camp Fortune, Quebec and 130 guests are roped off a Blue Mountain quad chair.
  • As Beantown weighs a gondola, Boston Globe staff travel to experience Leitner’s Mexicable.
  • Boyne Resorts acquires six mountain resorts plus the Gatlinburg Sky Lift it leased from CNL Lifestyle Properties and later Och-Ziff Capital Management.  “This opportunity will enable us to accelerate and fine tune the execution of our reinvestment plans for these spectacular properties, which will boost our competitive advantages and support our focus on continuous enhancement of the guest experience,” says Boyne President Stephen Kircher.
  • Don’t let this go unpunished at your resort.
  • The Australian man who was supposed to buy Maine’s third largest ski resort is caught on tape saying, “We’re not going to deliver on Saddleback,”  “Opening the mountain is not a primary concern for us,” and  “We’re not going to lose any sleep with regards to it,” acknowledging it was mostly about cashing in on the EB-5 immigrant investor program.
  • Triple Peaks’ Okemo, Crested Butte and Mt. Sunapee join the Epic Pass through a long-term alliance with Vail Resorts.
  • Anti Edmonton gondola editorial argues “challenges to a gondola could include its operational reliability in a harsh winter climate.”  Guess again.

News Roundup: Gravity

  • Pebble Creek joins the growing list of ski areas spinning extra lifts for the Great American Eclipse but there’s one problem: lifts weren’t designed for downloading so guests must walk down!
  • The Weather Channel and the BBC will broadcast live from the top of the Jackson Hole Tram on eclipse day.
  • Disney and Doppelmayr are building a gondola station in the middle of a lake.
  • Mayor of Rossford, Ohio wants to build a gondola across the Maumee River to Toledo.
  • Albany gondola idea moves along.
  • Metal fatigue eyed in horrific ride incident at the Ohio State Fair (additional photos of the break are here.) The Fair’s SkyGlider chairlift was not involved but temporarily shut down as a precaution.
  • Leitner-Poma will build two new lifts at Arapahoe Basin over the next two years.  A 400′ Telecorde surface lift called Lazy J Tow will go in this summer to access Montezuma Bowl while the Beavers fixed-grip quad will follow next year.
  • Sunshine Village closes again as fire rebounds.
  • Intrawest, Mammoth Resorts and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows are now one company owned by KSL, the Crown Family of Aspen Skiing Co. and Rusty Gregory. Currently known as Hawk Holding Company, LLC, a new name and brand will be introduced this fall.
  • Rescuers in boats and ladder trucks assist with dramatic evacuation of a bi-cable gondola over the The Rhine in Cologne, Germany.
  • Bill Brett, retired GM of Timberline writes about rime and how Palmer almost became Riblet’s first detachable.
  • Snowbasin gets an A+ for its latest lift construction update.
  • Arizona Snowbowl begins work on its third new lift in three years.
  • Gravity is a crazy way to remove an old haul rope.
  • Skytrac takes the Instagram plunge.
  • Pair of investors nears deal to reopen Cockaigne, NY in 2018-19, a mountain with four Hall lifts that closed in 2011.
  • Leitner Ropeways to build a unique two-section gondola in Austria with a single direct drive powering two separately-tensioned haul rope loops.
  • Grand Canyon Escalade bill to finally go before the Navajo Nation Council this fall.
  • Gulmarg Gondola reopens 39 days after fatal tree accident.
  • Doppelmayr inaugurates the first 3S gondola in China with another on the way.

The Case for a 3S Gondola to Timberline

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Timberline Lodge & Ski Area is perhaps America’s most unique snowsports destination with year-round skiing on one of the Lower 48’s largest volcanoes. Operated for the last fifty years by RLK & Company on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service, Timberline offers lift-served skiing twelve months a year on 1,400 acres of Mt. Hood.  Two million people visit the Lodge and ski area annually which are under 60 miles from Portland, the tenth fastest-growing city in America.  Timberline’s ski operation expanded in 2007 to accommodate growing numbers of visitors by adding the Jeff Flood Express in Still Creek Basin.  The ski area now has seven lifts with a vertical rise of 3,690 feet, the largest in the Pacific Northwest.

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On the left of Timberline’s trail map you can see the old Skyway lift line headed towards Government Camp.

Timberline is also unique in that much of its terrain lies below the Lodge and access road. Visitors drive halfway up the mountain just to leave their car and ski below. Although the mountain offers more alternative transportation options than ever, Timberline’s two-lane access road and relatively small parking lots remain woefully inadequate.  Building more parking at 6,000 feet within a National Historic Landmark is not consistent with RLK’s sustainability goals nor those of the Oregon Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service to minimize development around the historic lodge.

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Chair Falls from Timberline’s Magic Mile

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Photo credit: Oregonlive.com

Timberline Lodge & Ski Area on Mt. Hood posted the following statement on Facebook Thursday afternoon after an empty chair fell from one of its high speed quads.

At approximately 1:45pm today there was a mechanical malfunction on the Magic Mile chair lift. A chair detached from the cable on the downhill side of the lift. The chair lift was not occupied. No customers or staff were involved in the incident. All guests were offloaded in a timely manner. The Magic Mile will be closed until further notice, pending a thorough investigation involving the lift manufacturer and a 3rd party lift engineer. Timberline Lodge thanks all guests on the lift for their patience and apologizes the inconvenience. We are compiling all details of the incident, which will be posted as soon as possible.

Poma built the Magic Mile in 1992 to replace a Riblet double.  The lift is 5,472′ long, rises 1,089′ and has Poma’s TB-41 grips. Much of this lift operates above tree line, so both its terminals are housed inside buildings that can be buttoned up during storms.  Magic Mile also has indoor parking for all its chairs and grip maintenance bays at the bottom terminal.

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The Magic Mile operates year-round serving Timberline’s summer ski operation.

Almost exactly a year ago, an empty chair fell from a Doppelmayr detachable quad at Mt. Bachelor in a similar incident which was later blamed on component failure.

Update 4/2/16: Magic Mile has re-opened and Timberline posted the following update this afternoon.

This is a communications update regarding the Magic Mile chairlift malfunction, which we reported on March 31. The lift has been inspected by an independent chairlift engineer along with representatives from the US Forest Service. It was determined that failure of a key component of a carrier grip occurred, resulting in the detachment of an empty chair on the downhill side of the lift.

RLK and Company chairlift technicians followed the recommendations of the chairlift engineer and performed comprehensive inspections and testing on the entire chairlift. It has been determined that the chairlift conforms to industry standards, and is now operating.

Update 5/1/16: We’ve learned Magic Mile’s safety systems worked as designed and this incident was a combination of component failure and operator error.