News Roundup: Lots of Euros

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News Roundup: Heating Up

News Roundup: Passcape

  • LST Ropeways’ prototype detachable chairlift in France is once again open.
  • Despite a wild winter in Colorado, the shiny new Glenwood Gondola is tracking towards a March 16th launch.
  • Mt. Spokane’s first new lift in four-plus decades has been spinning since December but the mountain’s nonprofit operator is still seeking donations to help pay for it.
  • Epic Passes go on sale and a new Epic Day Pass offers Vail Resorts skiers the option to pre-buy a flexible number of days at a big discount.
  • The Mountain Collective Pass is back for 2019-20 and, as expected, no longer includes Sun Valley or Snowbasin.
  • Following the collective model, an Indy Pass is brewing with eleven regional resorts already signed on.
  • Court documents suggest the Hermitage Club may file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
  • The highly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Walt Disney World Resort August 29th, which would be a great date for the Skyliner to start carrying guests to it.
  • Aspen voters approve the Lift 1 corridor project by 26 votes, but it may be a few years before a Telemix joins the Ajax lift fleet.
  • Two years after a fatal ride accident blamed on corrosion, the Ohio State Fair is spending $116,000 to replace all the carriers on a different attraction – its chairlift.
  • Doppelmayr is looking for workers to help build lifts across the country this summer.
  • Vail Resorts season-to-date lift revenue is up 9.6 percent from a year ago, with skier visits increasing 7.9 percent.
  • Attitash won’t open Summit this weekend but not for lack of trying.
  • In California, the City of Long Beach is in the very early stages of considering a multistop gondola.
  • For the first time in years, Black Mountain is opening its 1935 vintage J-Bar this weekend.

News Roundup: More Epic

  • The Spanish ski resort that closed when a chair fell from its Yan detachable quad reopens with uploading via snowcat.
  • The San Diego Fire Department performs a successful over water night evacuation of the Bayside Skyride at SeaWorld San Diego.
  • Timberline Four Seasons Resort, which has struggled with lift breakdowns and other issues of late, is closed this weekend and could be placed in receivership.
  • Snow Valley missed all of President’s weekend will remain closed indefinitely due to road damage.  Mountain High is kindly honoring their season passes during the shutdown.

Crested Butte to Replace Teocalli Lift

Just weeks after declaring the Teocalli lift wouldn’t spin this season due to needed maintenance, Crested Butte Mountain Resort today announced the Riblet double will be replaced with a new fixed-grip quad next summer.  Teocalli opened in 1979 and was the last operating Riblet lift at the resort.  Pending Forest Service approval, the larger lift will increase capacity by more than 50 percent.  The lower terminal will remain in its current location while the top station will shift closer to the Red Lady Express summit.

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“The realignment and improved capacity of the lift will provide an elevated on-mountain experience via quick terrain access, improved egress to the resort base area and access to Uley’s Cabin – one of CBMR’s premier on mountain restaurants,” said Tim Baker, general manager of the resort in a blog post.  “We believe this investment can provide a significant benefit to a variety of guests in the near future, and we’ll continue to listen to feedback and evaluate other potential investments that will have a similar impact for a spectrum of guests moving forward.”  Ten of Crested Butte’s eleven lifts are of Leitner-Poma lineage but no manufacturer was specified.  The new lift is the third to be announced by Vail Resorts for 2019, following the company’s commitment to replace two chairlifts at Stevens Pass next summer.  Both Crested Butte and Stevens were acquired by Vail last summer.

News Roundup: Only in Utah

Vail Resorts to Replace Two Lifts at Stevens Pass

After spending approximately $150 million on capital improvements in 2018, Vail Resorts revealed early this morning its capital plan for 2019.  First, a recap.  The company went big on lifts this year, building a total of seven including the game-changing Blackcomb Gondola, Catskinner Express and Emerald 6 Express at Whistler Blackcomb, High Meadow Express at Park City and new Galaxy triple at Heavenly.  Contracts for projects in all three countries Vail operates were awarded to Doppelmayr this round.  With Stevens Pass joining Vail Resorts in August and Crested Butte, Mt. Sunapee and Okemo following in September, next year’s focus will skew towards snowmaking, ticketing infrastructure and restaurants.

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Brooks is a 1968 Riblet double at Stevens Pass that Vail Resorts will replace with a new chairlift in 2019.

Vail will build two lifts at Stevens in 2019.  “We plan to replace and upgrade the Daisy and Brooks lifts, both of which serve critical terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders,” says the company.  The lift replacements will reduce lift line wait times and increase total lift capacity at Stevens Pass by more than nine percent.  Brooks is slated to become a high speed, detachable quad and Daisy a fixed grip quad pending Forest Service approval.  Other projects include snowmaking expansions at Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek, a new Tombstone restaurant at Park City and new skier services facility at Breckenridge.  “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts, creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests and generating strong returns for our shareholders,” notes CEO Rob Katz.

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News Roundup: Friday Night

  • Disney unveils a Skyliner cabin and confirms there will be no air conditioning.
  • Could Vail Resorts or Alterra buy Jay Peak?
  • Friday, December 7th is the big day Vail announces first quarter earnings and capital expenditure plans for next year.
  • The Hermitage Club might be loaned $25 to $30 million next week.
  • Doppelmayr/Garaventa worldwide revenues grow 5.7 percent to $965 million for the 2017/18 fiscal year.
  • American Eagle at Copper is beginning to look like a Telemix.
  • My brother Ben Landsman and Tiffany Wilson are Lift Blog Southeast Asian correspondents this week.  Check out their adventure on the world’s longest and fastest gondola earlier today.

News Roundup: A World Away

  • As Vail Resorts shakes up management in the northeast, outgoing Mt. Sunapee GM Jay Gamble reflects on 20 years of growth including four new lifts and 110,000 annual skier visits.
  • Vail also says goodbye to Sunapee’s Duckling double after 55 years.
  • The owner of Mt. Washington, British Columbia; Ragged Mountain, New Hampshire; Wisp, Maryland and Wintergreen, Virginia takes over operations at Powderhorn, Colorado.
  • Propelled by five major projects in Colorado, Leitner-Poma says 2018 is it biggest year ever in the United States.
  • The $2 billion Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco, which features a short aerial tramway, is mired in problems unrelated to the lift.
  • Construction begins in Switzerland for the world’s second longest 3S with the most towers – seven.
  • With new six and eight passenger lifts, Big Sky Resort shifts away from the double/triple/quad lift lingo.
  • Alterra names KSL veteran Adam Knox Senior Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development to lead the company’s acquisitions and resort partnership group.
  • Due to the amount of lift work needed after seven shuttered years, Cockaigne, NY won’t reopen this winter after all.
  • One of the longest Riblets retired from Snowmass turns up in the Pakistani town where Osama bin Laden was killed.
  • A freshly cut lift line is spotted in the Spanish Peaks development adjacent to Big Sky Resort, probably for the planned Highlands chair.
  • The Berkshire Eagle looks at Catamount’s $5 million fall.
  • A judge quashes spending for lift maintenance at the Hermitage Club, which remains in foreclosure.  A new lawsuit against the ski area alleges breach of contract and consumer fraud.
  • Another aerial tramway cabin crashes in Europe, this time on the one year old Bartholet jigback Staubernbahn.  No one was hurt as the cabin that hit the ground was empty.
  • The Boston Globe talks with Mainers about a fourth winter without Saddleback.
  • In New Zealand, The Remarkables is set to build the inaugural D-Line in the southern hemisphere and Coronet Peak announces a Leitner Telemix.
  • The new Bretton Woods trail map indicates the gondola may not be called Presidential Bahn after all.
  • As Copper Mountain and Leitner-Poma crews work hard to finish two big lifts, opening weekend shifts to Super Bee.

How Many Lifts Could Vail Resorts Announce Next Month?

With four recent additions, Vail Resorts Inc. now operates just over 10 percent of American and Canadian lifts, more than any other company.  Vail prides itself on investing heavily in its mountains and the average lift at an Epic resort is three years newer than the rest of the industry.  The company’s lifts now number 305 in the United States, Canada and Australia with an average age of 24.6 years.  If we assume the average lift lasts 35 years, Vail would now need to replace an average of about nine lifts per year just to turn over its fleet.

A little less than a year ago, a smaller VR unveiled plans for seven new lifts as part of a $150 million annual capital plan, the largest in the company’s history.  Back in 2016, Vail committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (VR later added a fourth detachable to that year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.)  In December 2015, the Broomfield-based company announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, it was $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six pack at Vail.  Over the last five years, more resorts have consistently led to more revenue and more capital investments.  The company said it will invest $35 million at the four new mountains in the next two years, making it possible this December’s announcement will be the most valuable ever.

Colorado

Going resort by resort, the most obvious projects are ones already in the pipeline, namely the Game Creek Express #7 replacement and Golden Peak race lift at Vail.  But VR could go bigger like it did this summer at Whistler Blackcomb, spending $52 million to package four lift replacements together.  On Vail Mountain, additional aging lifts likely to be up-gauged to six-packs eventually are Orient Express #21, Born Free Express #8 and Wildwood Express #3.  The mothership mountain has the third largest and third newest lift fleet in the company and I expect investment to continue at Vail following this year’s pause.

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Vail’s lift 7 is the only chair in Game Creek Bowl and could use more capacity.

On average, the newest lifts within Vail Resorts are at Beaver Creek, which opened decades later than its peers.  A major expansion was approved in September – McCoy Park – which may be implemented in 2020.  In advance of those two new lifts, the Strawberry Park Express could be updated in 2019 to a higher capacity gondola.  The oldest lift at Beaver Creek is the 1988 Arrow Bahn Express, which eventually will be replaced by a newer detachable.  Probably not this year though.

Sticking in Colorado, Breckenridge is usually the first or second most visited resort in America and did not see a new lift in 2018.  I say a Riblet gets replaced here in 2019 and my vote would be 6-Chair with a high speed quad.  My second guess would be C-Chair followed by 5, A, E and Rip’s Ride.  If Vail decides to continue replacing older high speed quads instead, Beaver Run SuperChair is the logical candidate.

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6 Chair at Breckenridge is wildly popular despite being fixed grip and 40 years old.

Keystone has both expansion possibilities and lifts that could be upgraded.  The project everyone’s been clamoring for is a detachable lift from The Outback to replace WaybackPeru Express is the oldest high speed lift at Keystone and a core workhorse, making it likely to be replaced with a six pack soon.  Outback Express is one year newer and in a similar situation.  Another possible replacement is Argentine, a 1977 Lift Engineering double that the 2009 Keystone Master Development Plan proposed replacing with a two stage detachable.  The new lift would load near Peru, have an angle station above Lower Schoolmarm and continue all the way to the ridge of Dercum Mountain.  The Keystone MDP also outlines major expansions that I expect we will hear more about over the next decade.  They include a Ski Tip gondola, Bergman Bowl lift, Independence Bowl lift, Windows lift and Outback surface lift.  Whatever Vail chooses, I am hopeful for a new lift or two at Keystone in 2019.

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I don’t mind Wayback at Keystone but I also rarely ski in Colorado on weekends or holidays.

Crested Butte is the new kid on the block and Vail may wait a year or more to do anything lift wise.  The mountain’s Teocalli II expansion is still moving through the Forest Service NEPA process.  The Mueller family invested heavily in the Triple Peaks resorts over the years and I don’t see a whole lot needed near-term at CBMR.  Replacing original Teocalli with a high speed quad would be a nice way to burn some of the promised $35 million.

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