News Roundup: Four More Weeks

  • I managed to completely miss an installation from last year – a used Doppelmayr quad at a publicly-owned hill in Lévis, Quebec.
  • Bousquet acknowledges engineering issues with its chairlift project and offers passholders privileges at nearby ski areas until its new triple is complete.
  • Ontario extends the closure of ski resorts another 28 days, forcing business like Mt. St. Louis Moonstone to make more difficult decisions.
  • France’s 250+ ski resorts may not open at all this season.
  • Austrian resorts expect business to plunge 75 percent this year, calling operating “philanthropic” rather than profitable.
  • One of British Columbia’s largest resorts provides a sobering look at business: lodging occupancy down 87.5 percent, midweek skier visits down 84 percent and ski school down 96 percent.
  • Here’s another 1A update from Aspen.
  • As it negotiates with Vail Resorts, the Park City ski patrol union weighs attempting to unionize other work groups such as lift operators.
  • Skeetawk remains closed for a second week following a lift malfunction.
  • Kimberley reopens the Northstar Express after a successful multi-continent repair effort.
  • Utah’s new Governor expresses support for a gondola in Little Cottonwood.
  • A new lift garners rave reviews at Lake Louise.
  • There’s tons of cool lift history in this feature on the legendary Lone Peak Tram.

News Roundup: Settling Up

News Roundup: Next Up

News Roundup: Key Weekend

Vail Resorts to Debut Seven New Lifts in 2021

Despite a 44 percent decline in earnings, Vail Resorts plans to invest in new lifts across five mountains in 2021.  The seven projects at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone and Okemo were initially planned for 2020 but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts and creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests,” noted CEO Rob Katz. “We plan to maintain a disciplined approach to capital investments, keeping our core capital at reduced levels given the continued uncertainty due to COVID-19.” The company will announce its complete capital plan for calendar year 2021 in March.

At Beaver Creek, a new Doppelmayr detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone.  “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company. A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry Park and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.

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The Peru Express, dating to 1990, will be replaced with a higher capacity lift.

At Keystone, Leitner-Poma will replace the Peru Express with a six pack.  The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve circulation.  Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair.  “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.

Crested Butte plans to replace the two-person Peachtree chairlift with a Skytrac triple servicing beginner terrain at the base of the resort. Grading around the new lift will create a more consistent experience for beginner and ski school guests.

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News Roundup: Name Game

Bergman Bowl Project Moves Forward at Keystone

Being the first Front Range mountain to open wasn’t the only great news for Keystone Resort this morning. The White River National Forest also released a Draft Decision Notice paving the way for construction of the mountain’s seventh high speed chairlift. The lift will service 555 acres of alpine terrain in Bergman and Erickson bowls, delivering up to 2,400 skiers per hour to an altitude of 12,300 feet. The project also includes 20 acres of new snowmaking, expansion of the Outpost restaurant and a ski patrol station atop Bergman Bowl.

The White River hosts the most skiing of any National Forest and staff worked closely with Keystone to minimize environmental impacts. The lift’s bottom terminal, towers and access roads were shifted from initial locations to reduce impacts on wetlands. Required glading was also reduced by 19 acres and tree clearing by 10 acres to lessen pressure on Canada lynx.

Project approval is subject to a 45 day objection period. Assuming everything is still a go, Vail Resorts could opt to start building as soon as next summer. Keystone’s parent company had planned to replace the Peru Express this year, a project awarded to Leitner-Poma but delayed by the coronavirus. Vail also postponed construction of new lifts at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Crested Butte. If the ski season now underway is successful, the Bergman Bowl Express could be one of a bunch of new lifts in Colorado over the next few years.

Mt. Sunapee Master Plan Includes Lift System Overhaul

Vail Resorts recently submitted an updated improvement plan for Mt. Sunapee to the State of New Hampshire which includes construction of five new chairlifts and two surface lifts. Most transformative would be the West Bowl expansion, including a mile long high speed quad and 1,082 feet of vertical. This would be Mt. Sunapee’s second longest lift, servicing five new trails. West Bowl would also feature a new beginner conveyor, parking and guest services building.

Vail also plans to upgrade the Sunapee Express to a six pack or combination lift with gondola cabins capable of moving 3,000 guests per hour. The existing high speed quad opened in 1998 and is undersized for the amount of terrain it services.

As planned by Triple Peaks before the 2018 Vail purchase, the North Peak triple would be replaced by a fixed grip quad. The nearby Spruce triple is also slated to be upgraded to a fixed quad, compensating for Vail’s recent removal of the Duckling double. It’s possible one of these two lifts would utilize equipment from the former Sunbowl quad, which remains in storage on site.

The Sunapee Express would become a six place chairlift or gondola/chair combination lift under a new master plan for Mt. Sunapee.

A new triple chair would be be built to connect the bottom of Sunbowl to North Peak. Known as Cataract, this lift would service a modest amount of new terrain and improve skier circulation. Rather than purchasing new, Vail may opt to re-use equipment from the North Peak and/or Spruce triples for Cataract.

A rope tow is proposed to link Parking Lot 2 and Spruce Lodge, reducing the resort’s reliance on shuttle buses. Finally, Vail seeks to add a grip maintenance building and carrier storage for the Sunbowl Express.

The plan would increase Mt. Sunapee’s comfortable carrying capacity by 40 percent to 6,850 skiers. Most of the proposed projects were previously approved during Triple Peaks ownership, though a few are new. A public meeting will be held Thursday evening to solicit comments or you can submit them to MountSunapeeComments@dncr.nh.gov. The deadline to weigh in is November 12th.

News Roundup: Vail Numbers

  • Vail Resorts has sold 850,000 season passes as of September 18th, an 18 percent increase compared to last year at this time.
  • CEO Rob Katz assures skiers reservations should be widely available for most resorts on most days.
  • Vail lost $153.6 million in the quarter ended July 31st compared with an $89.5 million loss in the same period last year.
  • For the full fiscal year 2020, Vail reported a net income of $98.8 million, a decrease of 67.2 percent.
  • The company also recently cut 410 jobs.
  • Regarding capital projects and the seven lift projects Vail postponed this year, Katz said on the conference call:

“We are of course going to be monitoring the season closely before we come out with any plan for calendar year 2021. We’ll make sure we’re incorporating what happened this year. We will likely still be in a conservative approach though hopefully not as conservative as last year because the environment around Covid and travel has all improved. We will definitely be prioritizing projects that we think will have a significant impact on the guest experience and certainly some of the projects that we deferred from last year will be top of the list.”

News Roundup: Endless Winter