- America’s only indoor ski lifts debut October 25th in New Jersey.
- The Forest Service and Vail Resorts react negatively to the idea of a $5.2 million chairlift from Eagle-Vail to Beaver Creek Mountain.
- A deropement turns into a 10 hour ordeal for passengers on a gondola in Pakistan.
- The City of Steamboat considers a deal with Alterra to operate Howelsen Hill.
- Snow King’s proposed expansion may get another alternative before a 2020 decision.
- Timberline, West Virginia seeks permission to sell off snowmaking equipment and the CEO is charged with a felony for allegedly providing resort employees paychecks that never cleared.
- Manning Park seeks a name for its first quad chair.
- The Salesforce gondola is carrying passengers!
- Vail ropes down 74 employees from a broken Eagle Bahn Gondola, which remains closed three days later.
- Berkshire Bank wants the Hermitage to be liquidated.
- Steamboat’s new gondola towers are multiplying.
- A Stevens Pass employee snaps some awesome shots of the resort’s ongoing lift projects.
- James Niehues is at work on an all new trail map for Wolf Creek.
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.
- The Pandora’s high speed quad is a go for next summer on Aspen Mountain.
- Construction of a T-Bar on Golden Peak should begin even sooner at Vail.
- Prying doors open and jumping out of a gondola at Steamboat is not a good idea.
- Nor is bailing from a chairlift at Crested Butte.
- The owner of closed Timberline Resort writes an op-ed about the situation.
- Remember the avalanche that took out a six pack tower in New Zealand last winter? The lift is back together again.
- One of the last remaining Yan detachable lifts, out of service for much of this season, will be torn down this summer.
- Vail CEO Rob Katz says his company will continue to invest in infrastructure such as lifts and steer customers towards season pass products.
- The names for Schweitzer’s upcoming new lifts are Cedar Park Express and Colburn.
- Deer Valley-turned-Alterra executive Bob Wheaton discusses the benefits of being part of a conglomerate.
- Winter Park’s C.A. Lane explains Alterra’s capital allocation is based on resort wish lists.
- Hogadon considers putting $250,000 toward the purchase of a quad chairlift.
- Fernie announces the Timber Bowl Express will close this summer for a bunch of upgrades.
- Sugarloaf uses the backup to the backup on a busy Saturday at Skyline.
- The Austrian resort whose 1980s bubble detachable is apparently destined for Mission Ridge is building two D-Line Omega V 10/bubble 8 combination lifts worth $35 million.
- The first D-Line half station is coming to Sölden.
- There could be another gondola in Banff.
- The BreckConnect won’t spin for much of Breckenridge’s extended winter season out of concern for wildlife.
- A full complement of cabins is spotted on a second Disney Skyliner line.
- The owner of 49 Degrees North says he plans to build a detachable summit lift within three years.
- A Balsams update.
- Mountain Capital Partners will modify the Nordic Valley expansion proposal to address Forest Service concerns.
- The Forest Service tentatively approves Vail’s Golden Peak T-Bar project.
- US Representative from New York Patrick Maloney dreams up a gondola across the Hudson.
- Red Mountain seeks approval to build the Topping Creek lift.
- Apple Mountain, Michigan is no longer a ski area.
- The first rope evac of the season goes to Super Bee at Copper.
- Gore Mountain solicits bids to replace Sunway and High Peaks with fixed grip quads. That brings the Olympic Regional Development Authority to five potential lift projects for 2019!
- The Aspen City Council considers Aspen Mountain’s Telemix project again.
- The Jackson Town Council rejects Snow King Mountain’s proposed gondola alignment.
- Doppelmayr apologizes for a delay completing the new Blackcomb Gondola. The new Catskinner and Emerald Express lifts open Thursday and the gondola will be finished by December 14th.
- Calgary voters say no to hosting the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
- The world’s largest urban gondola network now transports 250,000 passengers every weekday with the most popular line doing a million passengers every 19 days.
- Alterra’s Ikon Pass now includes three resorts in New Zealand; Vail adds Les 3 Vallées, France and Skirama Dolomiti in Italy to the Epic Pass.
- Following a lift failure and other struggles, the owners of Timberline, West Virginia seek to recapitalize and restructure the business.
- Remember Gudauri, the Georgian ski resort which made global headlines last winter? It’s fixing the quad that rolled back and adding six more lifts.
- The Hermitage Club receiver will retain a single lift mechanic to maintain five chairlifts in mothballed status over the winter.
- The longest Skytrac to date is ready for winter in Washington State.
- Killington puts new Sigma cabins on the K-1 Gondola a few at a time.
- The Ramcharger 8 haul rope is spliced and chairs are in place at the summit of Andesite Mountain.
- Ski Blandford is officially back in business minus one chairlift.
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.
- Keep an eye out for a brand new urban gondola adjacent to the stadium during coverage of the final World Cup soccer match in Moscow.
- The Jay Peak receiver goes after the owner of six Quebec ski resorts for allegedly aiding and abetting fraud that followed the sale of its Vermont ski resort to a Florida businessman.
- Boston will spend $400,000 to study a gondola and other possible transportation options for the city’s Seaport district.
- Utah skier visits fell 9.6 percent compared with last year but were even with the state’s ten year average.
- Vermont visits rose 1.2 percent year over year to 3.97 million.
- New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald says the state will have the final say in Vail Resorts’ announced takeover of Mt. Sunapee’s lease from Triple Peaks.
- The Oakland Zoo will more than double in size on July 12th thanks to an innovative gondola.
- SilverStar’s new gondola, recently dubbed the Schumann Summit Express, launches July 14th.
- The White River National Forest approves Vail’s Game Creek six place project. I’m still waiting to hear back from Vail Resorts about a construction timeline and manufacturer.
- A Branson, MO company is still talking about building a $260 million gondola system there.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
- 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.