The Eagle Bahn Gondola on Vail Mountain is carrying guests again this afternoon following a nearly six day closure. Approximately one hour before it was scheduled to open to the public last Wednesday, a monitoring system alerted Vail lift mechanics to a tower joint problem. Seventy four employees riding the lift at the time were brought down by rope over several hours. The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board and Vail Associates were in constant contact following the incident and throughout the repair process according to spokesman Lee Rasizer. “Repairs have since been completed,” he said in a statement this afternoon.
The Eagle Bahn Gondola 19 is now open for downhill loading only. The gondola will download until 5:30 PM this evening. 07/08/19 4:15 PM
“The resort worked diligently with lift specialists and experts to resolve the issue,” said Vail Resorts Communications Manager Jessie Vandenhouten in a separate release. “Vail places the highest value on the safety of its employees and guests and extends its apologies to those who were inconvenienced by this event.”
The CPTSB noted it conducted two inspections of Eagle Bahn within the last nine months – a licensing inspection on November 3rd, 2018 and an unannounced visit on February 15th of this year. All necessary corrections were completed by the ski area stemming from those two inspections.
The gondola was built in 1996 by Garaventa CTEC utilizing 12 passenger CWA X model cabins. Eagle Bahn operates not only for skiers and sightseers but also for Vail’s Epic Discovery summer program at Eagle’s Nest. Gondola One in Vail Village provided mountain access together with shuttle buses during the extended Eagle Bahn closure on a busy holiday weekend.
Vail is a mountain which needs no introduction. The nation’s third largest resort now attracts more than 1.6 million skiers a season, 60 percent of which are destination visitors from around the world. Owner Vail Resorts has constructed a staggering ten new lifts in the last eleven years at its flagship, including a new 10 passenger gondola and three six place chairlifts. While the beast may take a brief break to focus on snowmaking and other enhancements this year, a new master plan suggests more big ticket lift investments are coming.
Already approved for construction is the upper Golden Peak project, consisting of three new trails and a T-Bar above the Riva Bahn angle station. This lift will be 2,001 feet long with a vertical of 678 feet. While built for with ski racing in mind, the new pod will be open to the public with a capacity of 1,400 skiers per hour. Construction is set to begin as soon as this summer.
At the opposite end of Vail’s front side, the last standing of four 1985 detachable quads is Game Creek Express. This lift is approved to be replaced in the near future with a six person detachable. It would be Vail’s fourth such lift following upgrades to the Mountaintop, Northwoods and Avanti Express lifts. Uphill capacity would rise from 2,800 per hour to 3,200 in popular Game Creek Bowl.
The Wildwood Express, a CTEC dating from 1995, would be replaced with a modern version. A similar project would swap the two stage Riva Bahn Express (1996 CTEC) for a new model. Born Free Express, a 1988 Doppelmayr, would also be replaced. Next door, the Eagle Bahn Gondola is coming up on 25 years of service. “Given its year-round, day and night operations, freight hauling duties, and limited capacity, the gondola will need a major overall or potentially an upgrade during the life of this plan,” the MDP notes.
Another proposed front side project is the Ever Vail Gondola, which would move 2,400 guests per hour from a new portal west of Lionshead. This lift was initially planned to terminate above the bottom of the Pride Express lift. Newer thinking has the gondola replacing that lift as well with an angle station at the current bottom terminal. With this option, the lift would have a slope length over 9,100 feet, making it the fourth longest on the mountain. Riders originating in West Lionshead could ascend all the way to Eagle’s Nest without needing to transfer lifts.
The nearby Cascade Village lift, a 1987 CTEC quad servicing Vail’s westernmost trail and the new Hotel Talisa, would be replaced with a detachable quad under the plan. This project would leave just two remaining fixed grip chairlifts in a sea of detachable technology at Vail.
In the Back Bowls, the 1988 vintage Orient Express would be replaced with a new high speed quad, increasing throughput from 2,400 to 2,800 in the process. I am a bit surprised this is not proposed as a six pack. In fact, Game Creek is the only additional lift set to become a six place chair under this master plan.
A major new lift approved in 2009 but not yet built is called the Sun Down Express. This high speed, detachable quad would stretch more than 6,000 feet from the bottom of Lift 5 to the top of Lift 7 with a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour. Currently, the Sun Up Express and Teacup Express lifts provide egress for over 4,000 acres of terrain, causing congestion on busy afternoons. Sun Down would become a much-needed reliever.
On the opposite end of Vail’s Back Bowls, the Mongolia Express is proposed to replace the difficult to access Mongolia platter, which opens only some of the time. At 5,786′ feet long with a vertical of 1,575′, skiers would be able to spread out and lap this high speed quad without needing to return to the Orient Express.
While no new lifts are proposed in Blue Sky Basin, its operational boundary could be expanded both east and west. A series of new trails are proposed near Pete’s Express along with groomed access to West Earl’s Bowl.
Vail Resorts announces new lifts for its resorts each December and I expect at least one of the many projects in the new master plan will get the green light for 2020.
With four recent additions, Vail Resorts Inc. now operates just over 10 percent of American and Canadian lifts, more than any other company. Vail prides itself on investing heavily in its mountains and the average lift at an Epic resort is three years newer than the rest of the industry. The company’s lifts now number 305 in the United States, Canada and Australia with an average age of 24.6 years. If we assume the average lift lasts 35 years, Vail would now need to replace an average of about nine lifts per year just to turn over its fleet.
A little less than a year ago, a smaller VR unveiled plans for seven new lifts as part of a $150 million annual capital plan, the largest in the company’s history. Back in 2016, Vail committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (VR later added a fourth detachable to that year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.) In December 2015, the Broomfield-based company announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, it was $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six pack at Vail. Over the last five years, more resorts have consistently led to more revenue and more capital investments. The company said it will invest $35 million at the four new mountains in the next two years, making it possible this December’s announcement will be the most valuable ever.
Going resort by resort, the most obvious projects are ones already in the pipeline, namely the Game Creek Express #7 replacement and Golden Peak race lift at Vail. But VR could go bigger like it did this summer at Whistler Blackcomb, spending $52 million to package four lift replacements together. On Vail Mountain, additional aging lifts likely to be up-gauged to six-packs eventually are Orient Express #21, Born Free Express #8 and Wildwood Express #3. The mothership mountain has the third largest and third newest lift fleet in the company and I expect investment to continue at Vail following this year’s pause.
On average, the newest lifts within Vail Resorts are at Beaver Creek, which opened decades later than its peers. A major expansion was approved in September – McCoy Park – which may be implemented in 2020. In advance of those two new lifts, the Strawberry Park Express could be updated in 2019 to a higher capacity gondola. The oldest lift at Beaver Creek is the 1988 Arrow Bahn Express, which eventually will be replaced by a newer detachable. Probably not this year though.
Sticking in Colorado, Breckenridge is usually the first or second most visited resort in America and did not see a new lift in 2018. I say a Riblet gets replaced here in 2019 and my vote would be 6-Chair with a high speed quad. My second guess would be C-Chair followed by 5, A, E and Rip’s Ride. If Vail decides to continue replacing older high speed quads instead, Beaver Run SuperChair is the logical candidate.
Keystone has both expansion possibilities and lifts that could be upgraded. The project everyone’s been clamoring for is a detachable lift from The Outback to replace Wayback. Peru Express is the oldest high speed lift at Keystone and a core workhorse, making it likely to be replaced with a six pack soon. Outback Express is one year newer and in a similar situation. Another possible replacement is Argentine, a 1977 Lift Engineering double that the 2009 Keystone Master Development Plan proposed replacing with a two stage detachable. The new lift would load near Peru, have an angle station above Lower Schoolmarm and continue all the way to the ridge of Dercum Mountain. The Keystone MDP also outlines major expansions that I expect we will hear more about over the next decade. They include a Ski Tip gondola, Bergman Bowl lift, Independence Bowl lift, Windows lift and Outback surface lift. Whatever Vail chooses, I am hopeful for a new lift or two at Keystone in 2019.
Crested Butte is the new kid on the block and Vail may wait a year or more to do anything lift wise. The mountain’s Teocalli II expansion is still moving through the Forest Service NEPA process. The Mueller family invested heavily in the Triple Peaks resorts over the years and I don’t see a whole lot needed near-term at CBMR. Replacing original Teocalli with a high speed quad would be a nice way to burn some of the promised $35 million.
The second Doppelmayr Wir magazine of 2018 highlights the company’s quickest ever gondola construction project in the United States, Big Sky’s upcoming D-Line eight seater and a 2,800 pph gondola that requires no operators at all.
Purgatory furloughs employees, reduces hours and eliminates some positions entirely as it remains closed due to the 416 Fire.
Sebastian Monsour, the Australian developer who flew to Maine to announce his purchase of Saddleback, is arrested in Brisbane, accused of misusing $3.4 million in investor funds.
Parts are everywhere at Wolf Creek for the upcoming Meadow detachable quad.
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.”
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.
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.
We regret to inform you, Nob Hill lift is closed for the remainder of the season. The repairs will take several days to accomplish & cannot begin until after the upcoming storm. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. Tomorrow all resort services via Judah portal only.
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!
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
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
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.