Record Fifth Urban Gondola Opens in La Paz

There’s quite a party in the urban gondola capital of the world tonight as Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car) opens the Bolivian capital’s fifth urban gondola line.  The Línea Naranja (Orange Line) carried its first public passengers just after 6:00 pm and will serve some 30,000 La Paz commuters daily.  Joining the Red, Yellow, Green and Blue lines already in service, the new 10-passenger Doppelmayr system features the world’s first underground gondola station and amenities such as free Wi-Fi, video monitoring and cabin lighting.  As La Paz builds out its eleven-line subway in the sky, the Orange Line forms an impressive continuous gondola route 6.1 miles long with the Blue and Red lines.

Así luce la estación Villarroel de Mi Teleférico, ÚNICA ESTACIÓN SUBTERRÁNEA DE TELEFÉRICOS EN EL MUNDO. La Paz – Bolivia

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Like its predecessors, the newest line is technically two gondolas with four stations, a combined 26 towers and 127 cabins representing a $66 million investment.  One way ride time is 9.5 minutes with a capacity of 3,000 passengers per hour, per direction.  The project uses a mix of UNI-G and tunnel-style terminals built into modern station buildings.

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Town of Breckenridge Considers Gondola Transit

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The Vail Resorts-owned and operated BreckConnect Gondola could be complemented by a second public system, a study funded by the Town of Breckenridge has concluded.

Could a north-south gondola effectively move people through the town of Breckenridge much like Telluride and Mountain Village pioneered twenty years ago?  A team from SE Group presented Phase 1 of its Gondola Transit Study (pages 28-47) to the Breckenridge Town Council on July 11th.  The document looks at siting, capacity and cost for a system that could include up to seven stations with the goal of creating a system which reduces traffic congestion, improves connectivity between Breckenridge Ski Resort and the town and enhances the experience of riding transit.

The study’s first siting principle was to serve core destinations from peripheral parking areas to get people out of cars. Another principle placed stations no more than 2,400 feet apart with the assumption that skiers would not willingly walk more than 1,200 feet in winter.  The shortest and simplest option would begin at the Satellite North Parking (Station 1) and end at the BreckConnect Gondola (Station 5) with three mid-stations.  This option would span 7,530 feet and utilize 84 gondola cabins.  The second option (Stations 1-7) would follow the same route but add two more stations at Riverwalk Center (Station 6) and F-Lot parking (Station 7).  This one would be 10,395 feet with 116 cabins.  The most ambitious alternative, dubbed 1-7b would include the same first five stations but diverge at Gondola Center to the ice rink.  This would stretch 12,630 feet with 140 cabins and seven stations.  All routes contemplate utilizing separate haul rope loops so that only certain stages could be operated during off-peak times and seasons.

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The report notes the first two alternatives could be built easily, as “[they] present few physical barriers; alignments easily pass between existing buildings, transect relatively few private parcels, and appear to have a clear corridor.”  The third alternative with stations 6b and 7b reaches more people but a high cost.  While the 40-foot corridor for Stations 1-7 encompasses land owned by the Town, CDOT, Vail Resorts, the Summit School District and one private landowner, the alignment for stations 6b and 7b adds four more private parcels and significant complexity.

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News Roundup: Pulse

  • New owners of Alpine Mountain, PA say they can only afford to keep one chairlift and plan to sell two others.
  • Mi Teleférico’s upcoming Purple and Orange UNI-G stations look super cool.
  • Dismantled skyride at Western Fair in London, Ontario may go to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
  • Ski Blandford is insolvent and may close.
  • Doppelmayr USA is hiring construction laborers for Beaver CreekCopper and Snowbasin projects; Leitner-Poma of America needs help at Breck, Keystone and Vail.
  • A mile-long gondola will connect Jerusalem’s New and Old cities beginning in 2021. The Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy site attracts 130,000 visitors every week.
  • Poma lands $100 million design-build-operate-maintain contract for phase one of urban gondola system in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
  • Sunday River’s stricken Spruce triple went to Lost Valley.
  • Stoneham’s Chinook T-Bar is going to Troll, BC.
  • A new double chair will replace Pallavicini soon at Arapahoe Basin.
  • Facing another six-figure landslide repair, Howelsen Hill looks toward new chairlift.

News Roundup: Interalpin

  • Revelstoke homeowners aren’t happy lift development has stalled for almost ten years now.  The resort’s response identifies master plan lifts 1 and 11 as the highest priorities but notes construction of them is subject to market demand.
  • In an interview, new Crystal Mountain owner John Kircher says he wants to build a second gondola to Campbell Basin.
  • NY State Fair gondola continues to be targeted as an example of government waste.
  • Whaleback’s T-Bar project is a go.  The lift came from Plattekill, NY and will be installed by SkyTrans.
  • New Gatlinburg Sky Lift looks to be almost finished.
  • Poma reaches agreement to build new gondolas in Vietnam with the first next-generation Sigma Diamond EVO cabins introduced yesterday at Interalpin.  The new cabins offer more natural light and feature doors that slide rather than opening out.
  • Move over D-Line: the new Leitner Station is here.
  • LST gets another detachable contract.
  • Leitner launches urban gondola in Berlin.
  • Skier visits at Vail Resorts were down 2.8 percent this season but lift ticket revenue increased 7.4 percent.
  • Mi Teleférico opens $1.5 million Operations Control Center with 22 people monitoring 1,300 surveillance cameras on 66 screens and lightning detection system for four gondola lines.
  • Purgatory will add a mid-station to its Needles triple this summer.

News Roundup: Confirmed

  • $150 million Raymond James settlement includes $762,503 for Burke Mountain’s new Leitner-Poma T-Bar.
  • Power outage leads to rope evacuation of Loveland’s newest lift.
  • Steamboat gondola refurbishing begins  (I got to tour Northstar’s gondola this week which received a similar upgrade in 2015.)
  • Orlando Sentinel confirms Walt Disney World is building three Doppelmayr 10-passenger gondolas with six stations.
  • Crystal Mountain breaks away from Boyne Resorts, orders five additional gondola cabins and plans to build new Discovery and Gold Hills lifts in 2018.
  • Eldora is selling Hall and Heron chairs as six-pack construction begins.
  • Preview Oakland’s new $13 million restaurant accessible only by gondola.
  • Sunday River’s new owner commits to replacing Spruce Peak.
  • This week’s cities floating gondolas include Edmonton and Burlington, Vermont.
  • Fatzer delivers four 153-ton track ropes to Germany’s Zugspitze using two trucks linked together for the entire journey.

News Roundup: Investments

  • MND Group’s LST Ropeways subsidiary invested $4.3 million and hired 25 people to develop detachable product that is now available worldwide.
  • Cleveland Planning Commission considers nine-station gondola network.
  • Arizona Republic takes a deep dive into Grand Canyon Escalade cultural and natural resource issues.
  • Big investments are likely coming to Steamboat, Winter Park and the rest of the resorts KSL and Aspen acquired this week.
  • Leitner has a new iPhone-like control system called LeitControl.
  • Are there too many urban gondola ideas?
  • Revelstoke will add 24 cabins to the Revelation Gondola this summer along with 21 chairs to The Stoke to address sometimes epic lift lines.
  • Mechanics in New Zealand work to repair the fire-damaged lift at Christchurch Adventure Park.
  • New York State Fair Gondola funding slammed by politicians and citizens alike.
  • Vail Mountain proposes 1,870 foot fixed-grip lift above the Riva Bahn mid-station on Golden Peak.vailgoldenpeakexpansion

News Roundup: Colorado

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Likely new lifts for 2017 are pacing 39 percent ahead of last year, when 28 new lifts had been announced on this date.  I’ve identified 39 lift projects for 2017 and if last year’s pattern holds, lift manufacturers will build approximately 57 new ropeways in N. America in 2017, the most since 2004.  We’ll know by about July 1.

Going Blue: Fourth Gondola Line to Launch Friday in La Paz

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The world’s largest urban gondola network leaps forward this week with the addition of the Línea Azul (Blue Line) in the Bolivian twin cities of La Paz and El Alto. Since debuting with just one line in May 2014, the state-owned Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car) system has now transported more than 75 million passengers on its Green, Yellow, and Red gondolas.  In 2015, My Cable Car committed $450 million to build six additional lines through 2020, and it ordered two more last year.  Mi Teleférico has quickly become one of Doppelmayr’s largest customers, exclusively utilizing the Austrian company’s ten-passenger monocable detachable gondola technology.

Los trabajos de pruebas se realizan para cumplir con normas internacionales que serán completadas el año entrante y antes de que la #LíneaAzul comience a brindar servicio a la población en 2017. Resaltar que el objetivo de #MiTeleférico es ofrecer una óptima #seguridad de operación y calidad de servicio a los usuarios. La línea Azul inicia en inmediaciones de la Estación Jach´a Qhathu de la línea Roja (16 de Julio – El Alto) y se extenderá en dirección a la Plaza Libertad, continuando por la avenida La Paz, pasando por la UPEA y arribando a la estación de servicio en el cruce de Río Seco. *Características: Tiempo de viaje: 20 minutos (aproximadamente) Longitud de la línea: 4,9 kilómetros Número de cabinas: 208

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Construction commenced on Línea Azul in late May 2015 with cable pulling (by drone!) wrapping in September 2016.  The first cabin launched later that month with Bolivian President Evo Morales taking the inaugural ride in November.  After three more months of terminal buildout and system testing, the Blue line’s five stations are ready for show time.  Línea Azul is La Paz’s longest to date, with 208 CWA Omega IV-10-LWI cabins that will cover an impressive 32,700 feet per revolution beginning March 3rd, just 645 days after groundbreaking.

Like the Red, Yellow and Green lines, the Blue line is actually two lifts with two separate haul ropes and two drive systems with cabins transferring between them.  Nearly all of the Mi Teleférico network will be built this way, with multiple haul rope loops forming single “lines” with two to five stations each (most have either three or four.)  Multi-stage gondolas operating with this principle in North America include Whistler Village and Excalibur at Whistler Blackcomb, Panorama at Mammoth and Revelation at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

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New York Governor Announces Gondola & Skyride at State Fair

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A not-so-accurate rendering of a proposed gondola at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY.

A $15 million gondola system will connect the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse to a nearby amphitheater, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this morning.  “This is very, very exciting and it brings the energy of both facilities together for a synergy between the two,” Cuomo noted, calling the planned gondola “world class.”  The lift’s 38 cabins will cross Interstate 690 along a 3,700′ route.  The project still requires federal approval but is scheduled for completion in June 2018.

The gondola will link more than 15,000 parking spaces at the fair to the 17,500-seat Lakeview Amphitheater, which will host major acts such as Zac Brown Band and Third Eye Blind this summer.  The amphitheater gondola station will also serve Onondaga Lake Park and its network of popular trails.  The state- and county-owned facilities are currently connected by shuttle buses operating on a circuitous route during major events.  Capacity of the eight-passenger lift will be 1,200 passengers per hour.  An expansion to 75 cabins would achieve an ultimate capacity of 2,400 per hour.  A manufacturer has not yet been selected and the state will hold a competitive bid process in the coming months.

A separate, privately-funded and operated skyride lift will also be built this spring, traveling 1,500 feet over the fairgrounds with between 100 and 120 double chairs.  Dozens of fairs across the country operate either chairlifts or gondolas for fair-goers, among them a new Skytrac ride at Cal Expo, a Partek chairlift at the North Carolina State Fair and the Texas Skyway gondola built at the Texas State Fair in 2007.

Governor Cuomo also announced $20 million in improvements at the state-owned Belleayre, Gore Mountain and Whiteface ski resorts today, including a new enclosed upper terminal building for Gore’s Northwoods Gondola and a new lift connecting Whiteface’s learning center to mid-station.  New York State owns more lifts than any other state – 27 in total – including the Roosevelt Island Tramway.  The government has been a frequent customer of both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma over the years.

News Roundup: Building

  • talk six-packs with the Vail Daily.
  • Heavenly’s Comet Express remains closed following a Jan. 1st rope evacuation, apparently due to a gearbox issue.  This is one of the reasons Vail Resorts is replacing its fleet of 1980s-vintage detachable quads.
  • Doppelmayr and the United Nations are hosting a week-long urban mobility ropeway class in April.
  • The New York Times tells the tale of Big Sky Resort.
  • Ski patroller severely injured in fall from chair at Terry Peak.
  • Gondola proposed to serve airport in Vietnam’s congested largest city.
  • BC Parks considers a gondola to Mt. Seymour to alleviate parking and traffic problems.
  • Ski Area Management‘s lift construction survey dropped this week.  Highlights from its outlook for 2017:
    • “We’re off to a strong year for ’17, there are lots of people asking about lifts…It’s very positive compared to the previous two years.” – Jon Mauch, Senior Sales Manager at Leitner-Poma
    • “There’s a lot of enthusiasm about what could happen under a Trump administration.  People expect deregulation and a more business-friendly climate.” – Mark Bee, President at Doppelmayr USA
    • “We’re seeing lots of requests quotes, lots of major modifications and retrofits…It’s all being driven by the age of the existing lift infrastructure.” – Carl Skylling, General Manager at Skytrac
    • I’ve already identified 29 new lifts likely to be built in 2017, pacing well above the last few years for mid-January.
  • Slovakian manufacturer Tatralift debuts its third detachable lift using a Wopfner grip.  That makes seven companies capable of building a detachable lift globally – BartholetBMHRI (China), Doppelmayr/Garaventa (Austria), LeitnerPoma (Italy), LST (France), STM (Turkey) and Tatralift (Slovakia.)

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