News Roundup: Flames

  • Purgatory Resort closes indefinitely and is under a mandatory evacuation order due to the nearby 416 Fire.
  • Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz tells analysts in a conference call there are still select acquisition opportunities in North America (with more elsewhere) and that there are no specific plans yet for the $35 million in capital earmarked for Okemo, Mt. Sunapee, Crested Butte and Stevens Pass.
  • Swiss manufacturer BMF and French competitor LST team up to sell urban ropeways in France.
  • The Forest Service tentatively approves Steamboat’s Pioneer Ridge expansion, Bashor Gondola and other new lifts.
  • A plan for the complete rebuild and reopening of Denton Hill, Pennsylvania is now online.
  • Less than a month after opening its first two urban gondolas, the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo unveils plans for a massive 6.8 mile, six station 3S gondola line.
  • Politicians block Gunstock from borrowing $600,000 for lift maintenance and other offseason projects as some call for a private takeover of the county-owned ski resort.
  • French lift website remontees-mecaniques.net interviews Sigma CEO Yannick Morand about premium Evo & Symphony gondola cabins, air conditioning and why ten passengers are the new eight.
  • Non-Vail Colorado resorts tallied 7.1 million skier visits last season, only 2 percent below 2016-17.
  • The Balsams developers request that the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority delay consideration of its $28 million state-backed loan application.
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News Roundup: Possible

  • Vail Resorts net income rises 41.5% over last year’s third quarter with Epic season pass sales up 12 percent in units and 19 percent in dollars through May 29th.
  • The new Lift One will likely be put to Aspen voters in a winter 2019 special election rather than the November general election.
  • The Western Idaho State Fair plans to debut a chairlift for the first time in August – apparently a used Riblet of unknown origin.
  • An urban gondola proposal in Ogden, Utah is back.
  • A great writeup about Heron’s early days answers why Aspen Skiing Company switched from Colorado’s homegrown lift company to Riblet.
  • Now’s your chance to enter to win one of Arapahoe Basin’s retired Norway chairs.
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and the Sierra Club sign an agreement for the resort to abandon California Express Alternative 2 in exchange for the group withholding legal action against alternatives 3 and 4.
  • The Seattle suburb of Kirkland looks to a possible aerial lift to connect its city center with an upcoming bus rapid transit station.
  • Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and Whistler Blackcomb COO Pete Sonntag do a wide ranging interview with the local newspaper after a challenging year and a half.
  • Tower 6 of Howelsen Hill’s chairlift  is on the move for at least the third time as city leaders grapple with whether to fix it.
  • Beartooth Basin, the only summer ski resort in the United States, opens for the season as everyone else closes.  An experiment is also underway to run the lifts with biodiesel.
  • The Olympic Regional Development Authority proposes a new chairlift for its Lake Placid ski jumping venue.
  • Another Borvig surface lift bites the dust in favor of carpets.
  • Berkshire Bank says the Hermitage Club no longer has the right to restructure and argues receivership should proceed.  One Hermitage property is scheduled to be auctioned on June 25th.
  • A decision not to create an opportunity zone in Rangeley, Maine becomes yet another reason Saddleback is going nowhere fast.
  • The man accused of lying about spending a night on a Gore Mountain chairlift says he is innocent and may sue the State of New York.

Coast to Coast! Vail Resorts Buys Okemo, Crested Butte, Mt. Sunapee & Stevens Pass

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Crested Butte Mountain Resort operates a dozen lifts in central Colorado, mostly built by Poma.

The largest publicly-traded ski resort company in the world today simultaneously unveiled two major transactions to buy ski resorts in four different states for more than $300 million.  Vail Resorts will acquire Triple Peaks, LLC for $82 million and Stevens Pass, Washington for $67 million, subject to regulatory approval.  The former, founded and owned by Tim and Dianne Mueller, operates Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado and Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire, hence the name Triple Peaks.  Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail will buy out the three resorts’ long term leases from Oz Real Estate upon closing for an additional $155 million.  Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and Crested Butte signed onto the industry-pioneering Epic Pass back in March and will now offer unlimited, unrestricted access for Epic passholders.

Another Oz-owned resort, Stevens Pass, will be sold to Vail for $67 million in a separate deal subject to regulatory approval.  Stevens Pass is currently operated by Karl Kapuscinski along with Mountain High, California.  The SoCal resort is not included in Vail’s purchase.  Stevens Pass will join the Epic Pass for the first time, making it an even more compelling product for Pacific Northwest skiers who frequent Whistler Blackcomb.  Stevens will also be included in the Edge Card, a product that predated Vail and is offered exclusively to residents of British Columbia and Washington.  Notably, Stevens Pass has major lift expansions on both flanks of the current trail system in its approved master plan.

Okemo is a nearly 100 percent Poma mountain in southern Vermont that competes with the powerhouses of Stratton, Mt. Snow and Killington.

With today’s news and other deals including the sale of six resorts to Boyne Resorts, the Oz Real Estate Ski Resort Holdings portfolio now includes just Jiminy Peak and Sierra at Tahoe, down from 15 resorts at its peak under CNL Lifestyle Properties.  Northstar California, Mountain High and Bretton Woods were also sold off over the last few years.

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Vail Proposes Upgrading Game Creek Lift

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The Game Creek quad is one of seven first generation Doppelmayr detachables built on Vail Mountain between 1985 and 1989.  Only three remain as Vail Resorts renews the fleet, which could continue this summer.

When Vail Resorts unveiled its $150 million 2018 spending plan in December, it included seven new lifts in Australia, British Columbia, Nevada and Utah.  Notably, none were earmarked for Colorado, where the company operates four of the largest resorts in the state with nearly 80 lifts between them.  We learned on Thursday Vail Resorts’ North American skier visits were down 1.9 percent this season through April 15th but lift ticket revenue increased 3.7 percent, keeping MTN on solid financial footing.  Commenting on the season, CEO Rob Katz told investors, “We are pleased with our results as the 2017/2018 ski season concludes, particularly considering the historically low snowfall across our western U.S. resorts for much of the ski season.  Our results throughout the 2017/2018 ski season highlight the stability provided by our season pass, the benefit of our geographic diversification and the success of our sophisticated, data-driven marketing efforts.”

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Now the mothership – Vail Mountain – could be getting in on the new lift action as neighbors Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain, Loveland and Winter Park do the same this summer.  A Vail Resort Summer 2018 Construction project page posted Thursday on the White River National Forest website notes that Game Creek #7 is proposed to be upgraded.  While there are no supporting documents yet and the project is listed as “developing proposal,” recent history would indicate the 1985 high-speed quad will be replaced with a new detachable quad or six place chairlift.  Vail has already added ten new lifts in the past eleven years and three of the most recent were of the six variety from both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma.  Vail has made no formal announcement but the Forest Service expects to conduct public scoping in May followed by a decision in June.

News Roundup: Capital

  • There will be no construction at Valemount Glacier this year after all.
  • Catamount (the New York/Massachusetts one, not Colorado) seeks new investors or an outright buyer.
  • Following another best ever season, Whitefish Mountain Resort eyes improving lift service from the base lodge and in Hellroaring Basin, which might mean replacing lifts 4 and 8.
  • Blackcomb’s Catskinner triple will soon be available for sale.
  • Ski Areas of New York will again offer a series of lift maintenance training classes across the state.
  • French regulators propose $800,000 in fines against MND Group and its CEO for allegedly misleading investors and deleting emails, which the company denies.
  • Amid the turmoil, MND subsidiary LST Ropeways inks an order to install its second detachable chairlift worth $5.4 million in Avoriaz, France.
  • As Crested Butte departs the Powder Alliance, Marmot Basin, Castle Mountain, Sugar Bowl and Loveland join up.
  • Red Mountain is searching for a used Doppelmayr T-Bar.
  • Loveland confirms Leitner-Poma will build its much anticipated first high-speed quad.
  • The Trump Administration’s proposed tariffs target goods from China including “teleferics, chair lifts, ski draglines; and traction mechanisms for funiculars.” Outside contacted both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma for comment with interesting results.
  • More contractors and employees say the Hermitage Club didn’t fully pay them and the Town of Wilmington may hold a tax sale in June.
  • A man claims he was left to spend a cold night on one of Gore Mountain’s chairlifts and wasn’t found until the next morning, April Fool’s Day.
  • A bullwheel bearing issue on Nob Hill at Sugar Bowl throws a major wrench in the end of the season.

  • Bretton Woods’ new gondola is on track to break ground in June or July, which would make 11 new gondolas for 2018 in North America – the most ever.
  • Approaching two years post-Olympics, both urban gondolas in Rio remain abandoned.
  • Bloomberg is out with a not-so-complimentary article about the Whistler Blackcomb-Vail transition.
  • Doppelmayr wins contracts to build nine Beijing 2022 Olympic lifts including five gondolas and two bubble six place chairs.
  • A gondola once the symbol of an Olympics destroyed by war returns to Sarajevo thanks to Leitner Ropeways and a $3.5 million donation from an American.
  • The Oakland Athletics consider building a gondola to their new stadium.
  • Nine different mountains in Sweden will spin T-Bars for mountain bikers this summer.
  • If approved, Vail’s new Golden Peak lift will likely be a T-Bar.
  • Owl’s Head retires its Green lift and will give the chairs away to season pass buyers.
  • I started this blog three years ago this week as an off season project.  It now sees 215,000 page views each month from 40,000+ unique visitors.  Thanks to everyone who has helped to make Lift Blog a success!

News Roundup: Intentions

  • Poma breaks ground on Medellín’s sixth urban gondola line as Doppelmayr prepares to open La Paz’s sixth on March 24th.
  • Gearbox issue strikes Camp Fortune, Quebec and 130 guests are roped off a Blue Mountain quad chair.
  • As Beantown weighs a gondola, Boston Globe staff travel to experience Leitner’s Mexicable.
  • Boyne Resorts acquires six mountain resorts plus the Gatlinburg Sky Lift it leased from CNL Lifestyle Properties and later Och-Ziff Capital Management.  “This opportunity will enable us to accelerate and fine tune the execution of our reinvestment plans for these spectacular properties, which will boost our competitive advantages and support our focus on continuous enhancement of the guest experience,” says Boyne President Stephen Kircher.
  • Don’t let this go unpunished at your resort.
  • The Australian man who was supposed to buy Maine’s third largest ski resort is caught on tape saying, “We’re not going to deliver on Saddleback,”  “Opening the mountain is not a primary concern for us,” and  “We’re not going to lose any sleep with regards to it,” acknowledging it was mostly about cashing in on the EB-5 immigrant investor program.
  • Triple Peaks’ Okemo, Crested Butte and Mt. Sunapee join the Epic Pass through a long-term alliance with Vail Resorts.
  • Anti Edmonton gondola editorial argues “challenges to a gondola could include its operational reliability in a harsh winter climate.”  Guess again.

Epic Pass Adds Six Canadian Resorts + Telluride, Ikon Gains Five, Mountain Collective Scores Big Sky

The latest battle in the 2018-19 season pass war is being waged to the north.  Vail Resorts today announced the Epic Pass will now include up to seven days at six mountains owned by Resorts of The Canadian Rockies – Fernie, Kicking Horse, Nakiska, Kimberley, Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham.  The addition of these MAX Pass refugees follows Alterra’s recent announcement that Revelstoke, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay and Sugarbush will join the new Ikon Pass.  In addition, Telluride has defected from the MCP to join Epic and Ikon partner Big Sky Resort will also join the Mountain Collective.

The 10th anniversary Epic Pass will go on sale tomorrow with access to 21 North American destinations with 284 lifts.  It will offer unlimited skiing with no blackout dates at Vail Resorts owned mountains and a limited number of days at partner properties like Telluride.  Epic Passes will also offer access to international resorts including Hakuba Valley, Japan; Perisher, Australia; and Val d’Isère, France.  In theory, you could hit a crazy 61 resorts on this pass.  Pricing is still pending.

The 2018-19 Mountain Collective Pass is on sale now for $409 and includes up to 33 days at 16 destinations, most of which are unchanged from last year (Telluride is out, Big Sky in.)  The MCP includes access to 19 separate mountains in North America with 231 lifts and 50 percent off days after the first two.  Most Mountain Collective destinations are also on the new Ikon Pass for those seeking more days.

The Ikon Pass offers unlimited access to most of Alterra Mountain Co.’s resorts with limited access to Deer Valley and numerous partner resorts.  The flagship pass will cost $899 with a blackout date version for only $599.  Ikon includes the most North American options by far with 32 mountains and 400 lifts.  It’s not quite as many as the defunct MAX Pass (45 mountains, 435 lifts) but Ikon offers many more days at higher-caliber places.  The Ikon also goes on sale tomorrow.

News Roundup: Study

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I’m in Colorado for a few days checking out this year’s new lifts. There are six!

News Roundup: Storied

  • The Eglise expansion at the Yellowstone Club looks like something straight out of Europe!  Thanks Everett K. for the photos.
  • The Alameda County Fair will debut a Skytrac skyride next year, the fourth such lift in California.
  • Disney teases more Skyliner renderings and the first tower footings going in the ground are massive.
  • Gearbox problem turns into a rope evac at Windham Mountain.
  • Power surge blamed for a three hour evacuation at Sasquatch Mountain.
  • Belleayre’s gondola proves itself from day one in subzero temperatures.
  • If it can raise enough money, Frost Fire, North Dakota plans to build a Skytrac fixed-grip chairlift next summer to replace two broken lifts.
  • A clearance issue needs to be resolved before Bear Valley can launch the Mokelumne Express.
  • A mechanic dies while working on a carpet lift at Loveland and a GoFundMe page has been set up to support his widow and three children.
  • With a “full pipeline,” Skytrac is hiring for construction positions.
  • North Korea’s second ski resort reportedly includes lifts manufactured locally, a result of UN sanctions prohibiting the import of luxury goods.
  • Silver Mountain celebrates a storied 50 years with a look back to construction of the world’s longest gondola, uniquely funded by federal, state and local governments along with VonRoll Tramways.
  • As we enter prime time for lift construction announcements, keep track of the 2018 roster here.

Beaver Creek Eyes Two-Lift McCoy Park Expansion

Beaver Creek says it will seek Forest Service approval to build two new lifts, just as it debuts the resort’s 14th detachable lift in Red Buffalo Park.  Vail Resorts-owned Beaver Creek is unique in that much of its beginner and low intermediate terrain lies on the upper mountain, giving guests learning to ski and snowboard the high alpine experience many of us take for granted.  Just a few miles from its older, more famous cousin, Beaver Creek’s visitation has increased ten percent in just the last five years to well over a million skiers annually.  B.C. has grown to encompass 16 lifts despite opening in 1980, decades later than most American ski resorts.  Now the 16th largest resort, Beaver Creek’s success came largely through catering to families, a legacy which McCoy Park will build on.

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This expansion was previously mapped out on Beaver Creek’s 2010 master plan, though some details could change.  The Park is located near the top terminals of the Strawberry Park, Upper Beaver Creek Mountain and Larkspur Express lifts and currently features cross-country ski trails.  “McCoy Park is the ideal location for a protected family zone,” notes Beth Howard, vice president and COO of Beaver Creek Resort. “The views are spectacular, and the Park has an amazing natural feel that will be preserved. It is gentle terrain that will be separated from the rest of the mountain so that guests looking for a more relaxed, beginner and intermediate experience at a slower pace will enjoy it, and others won’t find themselves travelling through it on their way to another run or lift.”

Seventeen trails serviced by two lifts will encompass 250 acres left mostly in a natural state.  Three quarters of the trails will be green circles with the rest rated intermediate.  A McCoy Park Express quad will serve most of the new, gladed runs with a shorter, possibly fixed-grip lift providing egress.  The detachable lift will run approximately 4,746 feet with a vertical of 710′ and capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.  The other lift will be just over 2,000 feet rising 300 feet and capable of moving around 1,200 guests per hour.

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By the time McCoy Park opens, the Strawberry Park Express will be near the end of its useful life and could be replaced by a gondola, providing direct access to and from Beaver Creek Village.

As part of the expansion, the 23 year-old Strawberry Park Express will probably be upgraded to a gondola.  Strawberry Park already allows for downloading, but a gondola or chondola would better serve beginner folks and families.  The almost 7,000-foot new lift would carry approximately the same number of people as the 2,800 pph quad it replaces.  Vail Resorts plans to release additional details on the approval process and timeline for McCoy Park in the next few weeks.