Disney Unveils Bold Skyliner Gondola Plan

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A six-station Disney Skyliner gondola network will connect two parks with four vacation resorts at Walt Disney World, the company announced yesterday.

It’s official: North America’s largest-ever gondola network is coming to Walt Disney World in Orlando.  Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced the project in a Steve Jobs-esque keynote at a Disney fan convention in Anaheim yesterday. The name for the new system will be Disney Skyliner in a nod to the Skyway VonRoll gondolas which operated at three Disney Parks from the 1950s until 1990s.  “I’m proud to announce that we’re building a whole new transportation system,” Chapek said onstage to wild applause.  “The Disney Skyliner will soon give our guests a bird’s eye view of Walt Disney World.  Many of these gondolas will feature your favorite Disney characters and what a better way to get around the resort than with your pals in the sky.”  A simultaneous post on the Disney Parks Blog noted, “[This] new transportation system will add even more magic to your future vacation experiences.”

As rumored since February, there will be five stages connecting Disney’s Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach Resort, and new Riviera Resort to Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at EPCOT.  Whistler Blackcomb currently operates the most gondola sections in North America – six – but they are not contiguous and utilize varying technologies. The longest of three individual lines at Walt Disney World will have two angle stations, one of which will serve the all-new Disney Riviera Resort opening in 2019.  All three lines will meet at a hub on the south side of Caribbean Beach Resort, where guest can change cabins based on destination.  Renderings confirm Doppelmayr and CWA ropeway technology and this is probably Doppelmayr USA’s largest lift contract ever (excluding DCC rail-based systems like the Oakland Airport Connector.)  Air conditioning does not appear to be included but the Omega cabins will include more open windows than normal like those on the recently completed Arthurs Seat Eagle in Australia and California Trail at the Oakland Zoo Singapore Cable Car.

Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek shows off Skyliner’s five stages and six stations at the D23 convention yesterday.  Photo credit: Inside the Magic.

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News Roundup: Removed

  • Reopening of Steamboat’s refurbished gondola has been delayed one more week to July 21st.
  • Pats Peak starts work on the new Peak chair, a CTEC from Ascutney, VT with Skytrac upgrades and a loading carpet.
  • Alta updates skiers on the new Supreme.
  • The Snowdon triple at Killington is getting new SkyTrans crossarms this summer.
  • Didn’t make it to Interalpin?  You can see the Leitner-Poma Group’s booth through an interactive panorama.
  • This week’s Disney gondola update comes from EPCOT.
  • Waterville Valley proposes replacing unreliable High Country double with a T-Bar.
  • More details surface in fatal Gulmarg Gondola tree incident.
  • Six Flags sky ride reopens with new between-leg restraints following rider fall.
  • The Community Ski Areas at Risk Symposium, sponsored by Skytrac, is a worthy watch.
  • I stopped by Hogadon this weekend and confirmed the Red chair has been removed.  Pictures of all 33 of Wyoming’s lifts are now in the database and Montana will be completed next.
  • An Eldo Express update.
  • Doppelmayr opens an impressive over-water gondola in South Korea’s second largest city.
  • Medellín’s four gondola lines will be joined by a fifth.
  • The Lake Compounce Skyride, a 1997 CTEC Sprint with 14 towers closes for good.
  • Leitner’s new urban gondola in Berlin sees a million riders in its first three months.
  • Insolvent Ski Blandford may be sold to Ski Butternut.

News Roundup: Skyride

  • MND Group secures $6.7 million private investment to support future growth.
  • Whitewater’s new Leitner-Poma quad chair project update.
  • Sunday River blasts some rock to make way for Spruce Peak 2.0.
  • Timberline Helicopters, the company that flies the majority of lift towers in the West, plans to build a new $3 million home on 93 acres in Northern Idaho.
  • SeaWorld San Diego commemorates 50 years of operation of its VonRoll Skyride, one of only 11 remaining in the U.S.
  • Tragedy in Gulmarg, India as seven die following tree strike on the world’s second highest gondola.  The accident was blamed on an ‘act of god’ and the gondola deemed mechanically fine.  More trees will be cut before reopening.
  • Human error caused 14-year old girl’s fall from a chairlift at Six Flags Great Escape.  After video gets millions of views, editorial in the local paper calls for locking restraint bars.
  • Colorado tram board votes against disciplinary action in Granby Ranch case.
  • A Walt Disney World gondola update.
  • Much-maligned New York State Fair gondola project is dead.
  • Anakeesta load tests new Chondola.
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Wood-paneled terminal sections arrive at Breckenridge from Leitner-Poma for the new Falcon SuperChair. Photo credit: Benjamin Bartz

News Roundup: High Country

  • Watch LST Ropeways build its first detachable lift in three minutes.
  • A Swedish company has developed a new, more comfortable T-Bar carrier called Boardie.
  • Doppelmayr moves into new $62 million Wolfurt headquarters.
  • Grand TargheeJackson Hole, BrundageSun ValleyMt. Hood Meadows and Tamarack are operating a total of 13 lifts on August 21st for the first total solar eclipse visible from the United States since 1979.
  • Sunlight’s end-of-season survey includes some insightful tidbits:
    • “Sunlight is evaluating the addition of a high-speed detachable lift.”
    • “Understanding that lift ticket and season pass prices would likely increase with the addition of a high-speed lift, please rank how favorable this would be.”
  • Vail and Replay Resorts break ground on LIFT development set to anchor future detachable Sunrise lift at Park City’s Canyons Village.
  • Preliminary gondola tree cutting and construction work spotted at Walt Disney World.
  • Waterville Valley secures $7.5 million for future projects including multiple unspecified lift upgrades.  “To answer one burning question, we do have multiple options in development regarding the High Country lift,” the resort says on Facebook.
  • Utah sets another all-time record for skier visits.
  • Two new Skytracs in St. Maarten won’t open until late summer but are already getting rave reviews.

News Roundup: Confirmed

  • $150 million Raymond James settlement includes $762,503 for Burke Mountain’s new Leitner-Poma T-Bar.
  • Power outage leads to rope evacuation of Loveland’s newest lift.
  • Steamboat gondola refurbishing begins  (I got to tour Northstar’s gondola this week which received a similar upgrade in 2015.)
  • Orlando Sentinel confirms Walt Disney World is building three Doppelmayr 10-passenger gondolas with six stations.
  • Crystal Mountain breaks away from Boyne Resorts, orders five additional gondola cabins and plans to build new Discovery and Gold Hills lifts in 2018.
  • Eldora is selling Hall and Heron chairs as six-pack construction begins.
  • Preview Oakland’s new $13 million restaurant accessible only by gondola.
  • Sunday River’s new owner commits to replacing Spruce Peak.
  • This week’s cities floating gondolas include Edmonton and Burlington, Vermont.
  • Fatzer delivers four 153-ton track ropes to Germany’s Zugspitze using two trucks linked together for the entire journey.

News Roundup: A Million

  • Foundation work is starting for Disney gondolas.
  • Partek will build a fixed-grip quad at Mt. Peter, NY this summer.
  • East River Skyway proposal expanded to five phases with more possible stations.
  • Belleayre bid documents suggest December 2017 completion and a name for gondola: Catskill Thunder.  Funding was approved Monday though I’m told a manufacturer has not yet been awarded the contract.
  • NY State Fair gondola is also funded, separate from a chairlift to be built there by SkyTrans Manufacturing this summer.
  • Lee Canyon seeks approval to build two new quad chairs in new places.
  • Work to resume on Poma gondola in Zacatecas, Mexico with commissioning scheduled for September.
  • Gould Academy may build a T-Bar up Monday Mourning at Sunday River.
  • Intrawest stock hits record high amid acquisition rumblings.
  • A Yan detachable still operates with original grips in Spain.
  • Quebec announces $70 million in subsidies to support infrastructure investments at ski resorts in the province, including lift upgrades.
  • SEC filing shows exactly how much CNL Lifestyle Properties paid for each of the 16 ski resorts it owns.  The most valuable was Northstar at $80.1 million with Loon Mountain selling for just $15.5 million. The Gatlinburg Sky Lift operation went for a whopping $19.9 million!
  • Bridger Bowl to sell chairs from Virginia City if buyer falls through.
  • Interalpin, the every-other-year mountain technology nerd fest is April 26-28.
  • If rent payments to the federal government are any indication, Colorado is booming.
  • Flying demo tent gets hung up on Stowe gondola.
  • Staff at Barcelona’s urban gondola will strike.
  • In addition to completing the Green Lift, Magic Mountain will install a new motor and drive for the Black Lift and return capacity to three per chair.
  • Lift Blog reaches 1,000 Instagram followers, 700 Facebook fans and 1,000,000 page views.  Thank you to everyone who has supported me with this project over the last two years.

News Roundup: Colorado

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Likely new lifts for 2017 are pacing 39 percent ahead of last year, when 28 new lifts had been announced on this date.  I’ve identified 39 lift projects for 2017 and if last year’s pattern holds, lift manufacturers will build approximately 57 new ropeways in N. America in 2017, the most since 2004.  We’ll know by about July 1.

News Roundup: Inaugural

Disney Possibly Planning Gondola Network at Orlando Resort

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The Walt Disney Co. is like Apple. It doesn’t like to reveal plans for its theme parks until it has to.  However, a user on a fan website called Walt Disney World Magic yesterday unearthed a recent watershed permit drawing that includes buildings looking an awful lot like those for a multi-stage gondola system.  I’ve heard similar rumors for months and apparently the theme park world has too.  Major newspapers joined the fray today, including the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal.  If true, this could become the largest lift project in North America since Peak 2 Peak.

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It all started with drawings like these, which I agree look spot on like detachable lift terminals and angle stations.
The forum thread on WDWMagic now has 656 replies and users have pieced together a conceptual five-stage alignment based on the permit application that would require at least two haul ropes, some 200 cabins and three angle stations.  The system could connect Disney’s Boardwalk, Caribbean Beach Resort, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, the latter of which is slated to house Star Wars land beginning in 2019 and all of which are scheduled for expansion/improvements in the next few years.  Visitors currently go between these hotels and attractions by car or bus and gondolas would certainly be more in keeping with the Disney brand.

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