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

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.


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.

Road Trip 028
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.

Vail Resorts to Build New Lifts at Whistler Blackcomb, Park City, Heavenly & Perisher

It’s 4:45 am in Jackson Hole and I’m awake because today is the biggest day of the year for the North American lift business.  Moments ago, Vail Resorts released its first quarter 2018 financial results which include guidance on next year’s capital improvements to the tune of $150 million.  As I speculated it might, Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail is going all in on new lifts next year, with $52 million (CAD$66 million) going to Whistler Blackcomb alone.

Whistler Trip 098
Goodbye Wizard and Solar Coaster, hello gondola on Blackcomb Mountain.

On Blackcomb, the company will add a signature 10-passenger gondola with mid-station replacing Wizard and Solar Coaster, two 1987 bubble quad chairs with very high hours.  The new 4,000 skier-per-hour machine will be W-B’s sixth gondola and the second-highest capacity lift in North America after Squaw Valley’s Gold Coast Funitel.  The mid-station will likely be located downhill of the current Wizard/Solar Coaster transition where more space can be created for a large terminal and cabin parking.  The two stages will be able to be run independently with two haul ropes and separate drive systems.  Together with the Peak 2 Peak and Whistler Village gondolas, the new gondola will create the world’s only three-gondola connection and an impressive 8.4 mile-long continuous sightseeing trip.  The nearby Excalibur Gondola, amazingly Blackcomb’s last all-new lift, debuted in 1994.

The 1997 Doppelmayr-built Emerald Express on Whistler Mountain will move to Blackcomb, replacing the Catskinner triple likely in a modified alignment.  An all-new Emerald six-place lift will also welcome skiers on Whistler Mountain for 2018-19.  “Our integration efforts at Whistler Blackcomb are largely complete,” commented Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz.  “We believe this plan will dramatically improve the on-mountain experience for our guests with enhanced lift capacity, improved circulation and a significantly elevated experience for skiers, riders and sightseeing guests.”  The three new lifts represent a combined 43 percent improvement in capacity over the lifts they replace and are part of the largest-ever capital improvement season at Whistler Blackcomb, topping even the 2008 construction of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola.  “We believe these transformational, mountain-focused investments are the most significant improvements we can undertake to support Whistler Blackcomb’s long-term growth and our commitment to pursue the most impactful projects to enhance the guest experience,” Vail noted.

In a bit of a surprise, Vail chose to upgrade High Meadow at Park City Mountain, the main beginner lift at Canyons Village.

At Park City, the rumored Sunrise replacement will wait for another year but the High Meadow lift will be swapped for a high-speed quad chair, reducing ride time by 70 percent and anchoring a new family fun zone.  On the shores of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly will finally replace Galaxy, which has fallen into disuse.  A new fixed-grip triple chair will serve 400 acres of terrain that was inaccessible the past two seasons.  Vail Resorts will also replace a T-Bar with a fixed-grip quad at Perisher in Australia.  “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts, creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests and generating strong returns for our shareholders,” Katz concluded.

Galaxy will remain closed this season but 2018 will see a new lift go in on the Nevada side of Heavenly.

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News Roundup: Express

  • Both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma show off gondolas at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions expo in Orlando.
  • A startup venture is restoring Hall, Riblet and Heron-Poma chairs for sale online.
  • Snow King Mountain says the outcome of a rent dispute with the Town of Jackson could affect its ability to replace Summit with a gondola.
  • Afton Alps ditches Lift 8, a 1969 Heron triple, for a terrain park.
  • Re: Saddleback sale, an investigative report by the Portland, Maine NBC station concludes, “the money isn’t there” and “the deal could fall apart entirely.”
  • Killington switches from a James Niehues-painted trail map to a VistaMap this year; Whiteface and Belleayre ditch VistaMap for Kevin Mastin paintings.  Gunstock goes from a computer-generated map to a James Niehues one and Mt. Snow does the opposite.
  • The first lift sporting Leitner Ropeways’ new station design is almost finished.

  • A county supervisor in San Diego who gets gondolas does a great interview about them.
  • Aspen-affiliated KSL resort group to have a name by Christmas, launch a new pass product next year and continue participating in the Mountain Collective.
  • Doppelmayr releases fiscal 2016/17 global results: project count up 2.9 percent to 106, employee headcount up 1.8 percent to 2,720, revenue down 4 percent to €801 million ($948 million.)
  • T minus 14 days ’til Vail Resorts reveals preliminary lift plans for next year.

News Roundup: Resources

  • Amid zip line dispute, Peak Resorts threatens to close Hidden Valley, remove five chairlifts and sell the land to a residential developer.
  • “I’m very confident we’re going to have new resources we haven’t had in previous years,” Steamboat COO says of Crown/KSL ownership.  Deer Valley President and COO Bob Wheaton makes similar comments in Park City.
  • Saddleback sale to Australian firm still hasn’t closed.
  • Bear Valley’s six-pack looks great in green and now has a name: Mokelumne Express.
  • Who says detachable terminals must be symmetrical?  Leitner experiments in Europe.
  • T-Bar area in Edmonton, Alberta shuts down.
  • At the end of a tough year, Granby Ranch goes up for sale.
  • New Heavenly trail map confirms Galaxy won’t spin again this season, leaving a big hole in Nevada.
  • Epic Passes account for 43 percent of Vail Resorts revenue.
  • New lifts at the Yellowstone Club get names: Eglise, Great Bear and Little Dipper.  A few hundred families now enjoy the 14th largest lift fleet in the country.

News Roundup: Following

  • Mt. Hood Meadows, Skytrac and Timberline Helicopters fly Buttercup towers in just 45 minutes.
  • Vail Resorts schedules annual meeting for Wednesday, December 6th, where multiple new lift projects are likely to be revealed.
  • Aspen Skiing Company, the City of Aspen, private landowners and the public collaborate towards building a long-sought detachable Lift 1.
  • Latest LST detach update: chairs are back at the factory being reworked and the Envers lift is expected to be up and running around Christmas.
  • Revelstoke adds 24 new gondola cabins, Crystal Mountain gets five more.
  • Navajo Nation leadership soundly rejects Grand Canyon Escalade gondola in 16-2 vote.
  • SkiCo and the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club plan to build a platter surface lift on the skier’s right side of Golden Horn at Aspen Highlands next summer.
  • There’s an unconfirmed rumor that the Cyclone at Sunrise Park, AZ won’t operate this winter.  The 1983 Yan is North America’s longest triple chair at 7,982′ with 32 towers and 352 chairs.  I’ve reached out to Sunrise for comment and will update if I hear anything.
  • Montana Snowbowl’s TV Mountain expansion won’t open this season.
  • After building three new lifts in a row, the Hermitage Club finds itself in a cash flow crunch.

News Roundup: Dire

  • Hemlock Mountain, BC re-brands as Sasquatch Mountain and eyes a high-speed quad to replace Skyline.
  • Vail Resorts’ fiscal 2017 net income rose 40.6 percent and skier visits 20.1 percent over 2016 with Epic Pass pass sales trending 17 percent higher for 2017-18.
  • Och-Ziff sells Mountain High back to previous ownership group.
  • Frost Fire, ND won’t open this winter, citing the “dire” condition of its triple chairlift.  The nonprofit mountain estimates $1.35 million is needed to buy a replacement.  The statement makes no mention of the mountain’s other lift, a double chair with Poma components.
  • Sugarloaf’s five year plan would turn the SuperQuad into a SuperSix in 2019, move the CTEC Stealth to Timberline and add a T-Bar to Brackett Basin in 2021.
  • Kevin Mastin paints a new trail map for Whiteface.
  • Belleayre’s gondola will feature a new rack design for snowboards and skis of different sizes.
  • Steamboat Resort won’t operate Howelsen Hill.
  • Resorts grapple with whether service dogs should ride chairlifts.
  • Allen Peak Tram’s new tower is in at Snowbasin.
  • Doppelmayr’s latest Wir magazine features Oakland’s new gondola and more.