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.

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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!

Six Big Lifts Launch in Colorado

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This new high-speed chairlift on Beaver Creek Mountain is one of six new lifts on Colorado slopes this season, representing the most new additions in a single year since 2013.

With over 100 detachable chairlifts, 22 gondolas and some 150 fixed-grip lifts, the Colorado lift fleet represents a total investment somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 million.  The Centennial State has more ski lifts than any other state or province and on each visit I’m amazed by the caliber of ski infrastructure here.  More than half of Colorado’s lifts are detachable models, a feat which no other North American region comes close to achieving.  This winter, six more high-speed chairlifts came on scene, and while none open up new terrain, each one serves an important purpose.  I was lucky enough to ride the new machines at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper, Eldora, Keystone and Vail over three days this week, testament to the remarkable amount of skiing available within a few hours’ drive here.  This year’s class includes two Doppelmayr high-speed quads, a Doppelmayr six-pack and three Leitner-Poma six-place chairs representing half of all new detachable chairlifts built in North America for 2017-18.

Red Buffalo Express – Beaver Creek Mountain

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The last lift from Beaver Creek’s 1980 inaugural season, Drink of Water, was replaced with a new lift with a new name over the summer.  The quad’s namesake, Red Buffalo Park, is now a dedicated learning zone with awe-inspring views of the Gore Range from 11,400 feet.  While lift 5’s terminals, hangers, grips and operator houses are new, most of the tower components and chairs are from the former Montezuma lift at Keystone.  Like its sister Vail, Beaver Creek now has just one fixed-grip lift of appreciable length remaining alongside an amazing 14 detachable chairlifts and gondolas.

Falcon SuperChair – Breckenridge

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Breckenridge debuted its third next-gen Leitner-Poma LPA six-pack on December 28th.  The new Falcon SuperChair replaces a Poma high-speed quad that opened along with Peak 10 itself in 1985.  The new ride lifts capacity by 25 percent to 3,000 guests per hour in this popular advanced-intermediate pod.  The Falcon has the same sweet plush chairs as the new Colorado and Kensho SuperChairs.

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News Roundup: Outage

  • Aspen Mountain 1A stakeholders narrow replacement options to a few alignments with a two-stage lift or pulse gondola still in the mix.
  • Crystal Mountain, WA retires its hand-painted trail map for a computer-rendered VistaMap.
  • Antelope Butte, Wyoming inches closer to reopening with its two existing Riblet chairlifts.
  • Local paper tells the story of how Borvig’s owner came to own Berthoud Pass.
  • Breckenridge and Vail debut new Leitner-Poma six-place lifts.
  • A power outage closes Sugarloaf on the always-busy day after Christmas.
  • Two different New Hampshire ski areas remain closed due to problems with lifts.
  • LST detachable lift number one is still undergoing testing in France with opening now planned for January.
  • Bromley’s Sun Mountain Express is back in action today following Monday’s incident.  Ironically, it’s currently on wind hold.

Instagram Tuesday: Night Shift

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

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Instagram Tuesday: Metropolitan

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

Sunday Line work. #portland #portlandaerialtram #liftmaintenance #pnw #linework

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Instagram Tuesday: Stealth

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

El Supremo Bendito. #alta #supremelift #newskilift #liftmaintenance

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Instagram Tuesday: Heli Days

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

Copper-

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Instagram Tuesday: Vail Land

Every Tuesday, I feature my favorite Instagram photos from around the lift world.

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Will Vail Resorts Build Big in 2018?

Winter Dual Mountain Bluebird DavidMcColm
With the additions of Whistler Blackcomb and Stowe, Vail Resorts’ reach is larger than ever.  The company typically announces new lifts projects in a single press release each December.  Photo credit: Whistler Blackcomb/Vail Resorts.

If you follow the ski industry, mark your calendar for four months from now, the week of December 4th.  Very early one morning that week, the largest mountain resort operator in the world will release its fiscal 2018 first quarter results and, more importantly to this audience, outline capital expenditures for 2018.  Last year, this is the moment Vail Resorts committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (the company later added a fourth detachable to this year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.)  In December 2015, MTN announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six-pack at Vail.  So, what might be on the likely $120+ million agenda for 2018?

Vail Mountain

  1. Game Creek Express #7 six-pack.  The current 1985 version of Game Creek is the oldest operating lift on Vail Mountain and one of three remaining CLD-260 style Doppelmayr detachables there.  It is likely to be replaced with a six-pack, increasing capacity by at least 25 percent in popular Game Creek Bowl.  Of the recent six-pack upgrades at Vail, two were built by Doppelmayr (Avanti #2 and Mountaintop #4) and one by Leitner-Poma (Northwoods #11.)vail 4-1-07 184
  2. Orient Express #21 six-pack.  Three years newer than Game Creek but still with DS grips, Orient Express serves some of the most popular terrain in Vail’s famous Back Bowls below the equally popular Two Elk Lodge.  A six-pack upgrade would be the first such lift in the Back Bowls or Blue Sky Basin.
  3. Wildwood Express #3 six-pack.  A 1995 CTEC, Wildwood is not as old as other detachables recently replaced at Vail, but it serves a high-traffic pod between Mid-Vail and its namesake Wildwood.  Parts from this lift could be used as spares for Riva Bahn/Pride Express and Cinch, Bachelor, Grouse Mountain and Strawberry Park high-speed quads at Beaver Creek.
  4. Born Free Express #8 replacement.  Born Free is the 1988 sister ship to Orient and runs parallel to the Eagle Bahn Gondola, built 1996.  Vail could opt to address both lifts in the coming years with a gondola like Keystone’s or replace only Born Free with a new high-speed quad or six-pack.
  5. Golden Peak Race lift.  In April, Vail submitted a master plan amendment to add a third lift on Golden Peak above the Riva Bahn mid-station.  This short fixed-grip chairlift or surface lift would primarily serve an extended race course.vailgoldenpeakexpansion

Beaver Creek

  1. Arrow Bahn Express replacement.  Beaver Creek doesn’t see nearly the traffic that Vail does and has seen ten new lifts since 2000.  However, Arrow Bahn Express is by far the oldest lift at Beaver Creek, built in 1988 to serve a separate Arrowhead ski area.  A CLD-260 like Game Creek, Orient and Born Free but with lower hours for its age, Arrow Bahn might make it a bit longer.img_4153

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