News Roundup: On Line

News Roundup: California Republic

Park City to Replace Red Pine Gondola Cabins

Despite the recent postponement of two major lift projects, Vail Resorts will press ahead with another major upgrade at Park City next summer. Leitner-Poma of America has been contracted to supply all-new cabins for the Red Pine Gondola, the out-of-base workhorse in Canyons Village. The eight passenger lift dates back to 1997 and currently features 58 CWA Omega cabins with two spares. All 60 cars will be swapped for 55 Sigma Diamond C8S155 cabins manufactured in France. The project is similar to the 2018 upgrade of Killington’s K-1 Gondola, a sister ship to Red Pine built by Poma the same year for American Skiing Company.

“Some incremental re-engineering of towers and terminal rails will be completed to support the change,” said a Park City representative by email. The mountain’s other major lift project, replacement of Silverlode and Eagle, remains in legal limbo and will proceed if and when it gains approval. In the meantime, Vail Resorts and Doppelmayr are working to install equipment originally ordered for Park City at Whistler Blackcomb. In addition to the Whistler and Red Pine projects, Vail Resorts also plans to install new lifts at Attitash, Breckenridge, Keystone and Stevens Pass next year.

Breckenridge Master Plan Outlines a Flurry of Lift Upgrades

America’s most-visited ski resort would get better but not bigger under a new master plan filed with the Forest Service. Breckenridge and Vail Resorts envision eight major lift projects under the plan, the first for the resort in 15 years. Over that time, Breckenridge has grown to include new terrain on Peak 6 and half a dozen new lifts. For the next few decades, Breckenridge plans to focus on upgrading infrastructure and reducing congestion in base areas rather than adding major new terrain.

Peak 8

The first lift project in the 2022 master plan has already been completed. The new Rip’s Ride detachable quad opened November 11th and is likely to be the first of six projects replacing Riblet lifts with new equipment. Next summer, Vail Resorts plans to retire 5-Chair for another detachable quad, featuring a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour and a non-detachable mid-station for summer alpine slide access. “The existing lift is 50 years old, prone to misloads by beginner and novice using the lift and contributes to congestion at the base of Peak 8,” notes the plan.

In future seasons, 6-Chair will also be replaced by a detachable quad, marking the end of the Riblet era on Peak 8. This project has already been approved by the Forest Service and is a common wish list item for advanced skiers. One or two additional chairlifts may eventually be added to Peak 8 near the top of Rip’s Ride. “These two lifts would create a small amount of additional novice and beginner capacity on the mountain while providing an opportunity for new skiers and riders to experience purpose-built beginner terrain that allows for progression in a separate pod from the congested Peak 8 base area,” notes the document. Finally at the base of Peak 8, a new gondola is planned to connect the current Gold Rush parking lot with the BreckConnect Gondola. This extremely short lift would be built in partnership with timeshare company Breckenridge Grand Vacations as part of a planned real estate development.

Peak 9

More than 40 percent of Breckenridge skiers arrive at Peak 9 and the 2022 master plan includes multiple projects to improve skier circulation. A new 4,800 foot gondola code named Frontier would load at the base of Peak 9 and cross over the Quicksilver Super6, terminating at a new mid-mountain ski school facility. This 8 or 10 passenger gondola could move 2,200 skiers per hour both uphill and downhill along a 4,800 foot slope length. The Frontier teaching area would feature two new conveyor lifts away from the congested Peak 9 base. The concept is similar to other recent mid-mountain learning centers at Steamboat, Jackson Hole and Big Sky.

A second beginner-focused project on Peak 9 would see A-Chair replaced by a shorter, re-aligned quad chair. This lift would better serve novice skiers with a throughput of 2,000 skiers per hour. C-Chair, another Riblet, is also earmarked for replacement. A six person detachable would both load and unload slightly higher than the existing lift and span 5,862 feet. A 3,000 passenger hour capacity would help spread guests out and keep them on the mountain rather than returning to base areas. Higher on Peak 9, E-Chair is also slated for replacement with a detachable quad in the existing alignment. Quicksilver may also be upgraded in during the plan period as it is nearing the end of its useful life.

As always, Forest Service acceptance of a master plan does not constitute approval of specific projects. Rather, the 2022 plan offers a road map for possible future improvements at Breckenridge. By 2023, the resort will have completed seven major lift projects in 11 years. With that track record and a menu of future projects, Vail Resorts is likely to continue investing in lifts at Breck in seasons to come.

Park City Lift Mechanics Vote to Unionize

The results are in. Park City Mountain’s lift mechanics and electricians voted by an 85 percent margin to form a union. Nearly every eligible employee cast a ballot over the past two days with 35 choosing yes and 6 voting no. The Park City Lift Maintenance Professional Union will be part of the Communications Workers of America, the same union which represents ski patrollers at Park City, Crested Butte, Stevens Pass and other mountains. “Hard work pays off!” read a social media post from the union. “We would like to thank the community at large for their continued support, and we’re extremely excited for a phenomenal winter season and some productive bargaining sessions,” the post continued.

Park City parent company Vail Resorts had advocated for a continued direct relationship with employees who maintain the largest lift fleet on the continent. “We care deeply about all of our employees, and we are going to do what’s right for our team members regardless of today’s outcome,” said Deirdra Walsh, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Park City Mountain. “While we are disappointed with the result, we are grateful to those who took the time to vote. As we have shared both publicly and to our team throughout this process, we sincerely believe that direct communication works best to build strong relationships, ensure a safe working environment, and allow every employee’s voice to be heard through direct and open dialogue,” Walsh continued. “We respect the decision of those who chose to pay to have a union speak for them with regard to their wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.”

Assuming the election results are certified by the National Labor Relations Board, Park City will become the first ski lift maintenance union in the United States. The union plans to elect leaders soon and work toward its first contract with Vail Resorts.

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Vail Resorts to Install Deferred Park City Lifts at Whistler Blackcomb

In its earnings report today, Vail Resorts announced new six and eight passenger lifts will be built at Whistler Blackcomb in 2023, replacing the aging Jersey Cream and Fitzsimmons high speed quads. The project will utilize Doppelmayr equipment originally purchased for Park City Mountain but not installed due to a successful permit appeal by four local residents. On Blackcomb Mountain, Jersey Cream will become a six passenger detachable and on Whistler Mountain, Vail Resorts’ first eight place D-Line will replace the Fitzsimmons Express. Jersey Cream services the heart of Blackcomb’s mid mountain and Fitzsimmons provides out-of-base capacity to Whistler Mountain along with servicing the world’s largest bike park. Jersey Cream capacity will increase 29 percent and Fitzsimmons capacity will jump 73 percent. Fitz will also become the first eight place and first D-Line in Canada.

The two lifts were originally slated to become Eagle and Silverlode, respectively, at Park City. Vail said it remains “committed to resolving our permit” for the new Park City lifts in the future. “When that happens, we plan to purchase the lifts and equipment needed,” the company said. Vail Resorts appealed the permit revocation in July but no resolution has been reached. Due to continued uncertainty, lift equipment was placed in storage in Utah over the summer and will be re-engineered and modified for Whistler Blackcomb. An intermediate unloading station built for Eagle likely won’t be utilized in Whistler. Despite the Park City situation, 18 other lifts that are part of the 2022 Epic Lift Upgrade are proceeding on schedule, including two at Whistler Blackcomb.

“We are excited to continue investing in the guest experience here at Whistler Blackcomb, and the opportunity to upgrade the Fitzsimmons Express and Jersey Cream chairlifts reinforces our commitment to excellence, especially as a world-class destination resort,” said Geoff Buchheister, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Whistler Blackcomb. “Following approvals and installation, these upgrades will reduce lift line wait times and create easier access and flow for all who visit our beautiful mountains,” he continued.

The Whistler Blackcomb projects bring Vail Resorts to at least six new lifts for 2023, including three previously announced investments and the delayed Keystone Bergman Bowl expansion. In July, Vail unveiled plans to replace Summit at Attitash, 5-Chair at Breckenridge and Kehr’s Chair at Stevens Pass for 2023. The Attitash and Breckenridge projects will be detachable quads while Stevens Pass will see a fixed grip quad. Manufacturer(s) for those lifts have not been announced. At Keystone, Bergman Bowl will feature a six passenger Leitner-Poma detachable.

Vail also reported season pass sales increased approximately 6 percent in units and 7 percent in sales dollars through September 24th as compared to a year ago. However, full Epic and Epic Local unlimited season pass sales declined roughly 10 percent. The company’s total 2023 capital plan is expected to total $191 million to $196 million, significantly less than this year’s $323 to $333 million. Those numbers reflect approximately $10 million in capital deferred from 2022 to 2023 as a result of the Park City and Keystone lift delays.

In addition to the six 2023 lift projects, Vail also plans to debut new technology allowing guests to use phones as lift passes via Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity next season.

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