- Telluride opens the 6,000 foot long, 2,000′ vertical Plunge Express.
- Palisades Tahoe seeks approval for a second Base to Base Gondola cabin parking facility in Olympic Valley.
- Greek Peak rope evacuates Chair 2.
- Silverton Mountain plans to install a second used chairlift as soon as this summer.
- Whitefish reopens the Snow Ghost Express after additional mechanic training.
- New Hampshire’s Governor suggests Cannon Mountain consider a gondola rather than an expensive new tram.
- Arapahoe Basin explains why it switched from Epic to Ikon.
- A new Doppelmayr fixed grip quad will debut at Tremblant next year as part of a real estate development.
- Bretton Woods closes the Zephyr Express until further notice due to a mechanical problem.
- Aspen Skiing Company launches a Snowmass master plan website.
- Clearwater, British Columbia won’t open this season due to lack of snow.
- This profile offers a behind the scenes look at lift operations at Sunshine Village.
- I snapped a few photos of Mayflower construction progress today.
Alterra Capital Plan Includes New Lifts and Expansions for 2020-21
North America’s second largest resort operator today announced the purchase of two lifts for Mammoth Mountain, new terrain at Steamboat Resort and a two year project to build new trails and lifts at Tremblant. Alterra Mountain Company will complete $223 million worth of capital improvements in total for next season, up from $181 million in 2019-20 and $130 million the year before. Rival Vail Resorts announced back in December spending of $210 to $215 million across 37 mountain resorts, including construction of six new lifts in 2020.
At Mammoth, one of the most utilized lifts in the Alterra system, Broadway Express, will be replaced with a high-speed six place detachable, increasing uphill capacity by 42 percent to 3,200 skiers per hour. Sister lift Canyon Express will be replaced with a 3,000 people per hour six pack, increasing uphill capacity out of Canyon Lodge by 66 percent. Both of these lifts are likely to be supplied by Doppelmayr.
In Colorado, Steamboat Resort will expand onto 355 acres of Pioneer Ridge, providing skiers and riders with more terrain to explore. Pioneer Ridge will feature 1,800 vertical feet of advanced and expert gladed terrain accessible via the Pony Express lift. Twenty five new chairs will be added to the Garaventa CTEC high speed quad, increasing capacity from 1,200 people per hour to 1,800. The Steamboat master plan calls for Pioneer Ridge to eventually feature its own detachable chairlift.
This summer, Tremblant will begin a two-year expansion project called Timber. Quebec’s most popular mountain will open a new beginner zone with a magic carpet on Versant Soleil for 2020-21 to enhance the learning experience for new skiers and riders. In late 2021, the Timber summit will open with a new high speed quad and eight trails leading to Versant Soleil and the North side. “This project, which aims at diversifying the ski area, is part of the continued development of Versant Soleil and reaffirms Tremblant’s leader position as the #1 ski resort in Eastern North America,” said the resort.
“Three years ago, when we formed Alterra Mountain Company, an initial priority was to commit to investing a half a billion dollars by 2023 across our family of North American destinations,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra Mountain Company. “To date, we have invested more than $350 million and are committed to exceeding our original plan, spending $575 million by 2020 on lifts and gondolas, snowmaking, summer activities, real estate development, hospitality and technology, all in the name of creating memories for our guests through an elevated mountain experience.” Privately-held Alterra owns 14 resorts, having recently completed its acquisition of Sugarbush.
News Roundup: Sunshine
- The Summit at Snoqualmie shuts Hidden Valley for the season due to an “unusual mechanical problem.”
- Sugarloaf closes King Pine due to a sheave assembly issue.
- Dave Brownlie, former head of Whistler Blackcomb and current Revelstoke President, weighs in on the state of the British Columbia ski industry and his company’s plans for Grouse Mountain.
- The Colorado Sun interviews three Colorado resort pioneers about industry trends and challenges.
- As the gondola at Mont-Sainte-Anne reopens, the resort says an external power issue caused last month’s sudden stop. A lawsuit has been filed and the power company denies responsibility.
- Just the Leitner portion of Mexico City’s new urban gondola network will feature seven stations and 300 cabins.
- Experienced resort executives Andy and Jace Wirth may take over operations at Granby Ranch.
- Limited Ikon/Mountain Collective visits to Arapahoe Basin are 69 percent lower than unlimited Epic visits last year and the “experience is way up,” says Al Henceroth.
- Another informative podcast from Stuart Winchester features an executive from Mountain Creek and Big Snow talking about the next new lift and a possible Big Snow Miami.
- Smugglers’ Notch has no intentions of losing its independence or ditching its fleet of fixed grip double chairs.
- Whitefish will begin work in Hellroaring Basin this summer and move the current Hellroaring triple to a new alignment in 2021.
- Jay Peak expects multiple parties to submit offers in a second round of bidding this spring.
- The Epic Pass franchise keeps growing with added Northeast options and a new rewards program.
- Wyoming’s Sleeping Giant changes its mind on closing after this season, citing an outpouring of community support.
- Whaleback is closing early due to a lift problem.
- Gatlinburg, Tennessee already has five scenic lift rides but an outfit called Pigeon Forge Snow plans to build a sixth.
- A U.S. Department of Labor inspector finds 14 and 15 year old ski instructors riding chairlifts and lowering restraint bars constitutes “operating heavy machinery.”
- Tremblant will announce its next major investments on March 10th, a day we may hear from other Alterra resorts as well.
- Guests are responding well to a slate of recent improvements at Catamount.
- Cuchara is on track to reopen one of three remaining chairlifts next winter.
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?
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.
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.
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.
News Roundup: Fighting
- The first of many Omega 10 passenger gondola cabins is spotted at Walt Disney World.
- Saddleback Mountain Foundation plans to make a second offer for Maine’s third largest ski area, which has been closed for nearly three years.
- Santiago, Chile awards the contract for an $80 million, four station urban gondola to Doppelmayr.
- The first indoor ski area in the Western Hemisphere plans to open March 1, 2019 with a Doppelmayr CTEC quad chair and platter that were installed back in 2008.
- A gondola is one option being considered to improve mobility in Little Cottonwood Canyon, home to Alta, Snowbird and lots of traffic.
- A Basin’s Al Henceroth updates us on Norway’s removal and hints more lift changes may be in store for Lenawee Mountain.
- Members of Congress from four states pen a letter to the Forest Service asking for Arizona Snowbowl to be reopened or further explanation given as to why its extended closure is necessary.
- Doppelmayr scores another project in Canada – a $1.8 million fixed-grip quad with loading carpet at Sugarloaf, New Brunswick.
- Rope evacuating 20-25 mountain bikers turns into a four hour affair at Marquette Mountain.
- Ikon Pass destination number 27 is Thredbo, Australia.
- Jumbo Glacier Resort is fighting to reinstate its construction permit.
- A spokesman for the new owners of Maple Valley, Vermont says reopening for skiing is a long term goal that could take many years to accomplish.
- Loveland seeks a good name for the new Lift 1.
- Loon Mountain is buying brand new CWA Omega cabins for its gondola this fall.
- Tremblant says goodbye to the Lowell Thomas triple, making way for a detachable quad.
- The first Hermitage Club property auction yields a $1.2 million winning bid. “There will be more of these coming up,” says the Windham County Sheriff.
- A breakdown at the Jasper SkyTram leads to an 18 hour helicopter evacuation of 160 guests.
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.
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.
Instagram Tuesday: Wintry
Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
Instagram Tuesday: Breakover
Every Tuesday, we feature our favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.
The Ten Shortest Detachable Lifts in North America
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