MND Ropeways to Build First US Detachable at Waterville Valley

Waterville Valley Resort and MND Ropeways have inked a deal to bring a first-of-its-kind chairlift to New Hampshire. The six place bubble lift will replace the White Peaks Express, in operation since 1988. One hundred chairs designed by Porsche Design Studio will carry 3,000 skiers per hour along a 5,700 foot alignment.

Waterville Valley and MND previously collaborated to install three surface lifts and more than 400 snow guns. “We have been partners with Waterville Valley Resort since 2017 and are pleased to be continuing our collaboration,” noted Xavier Gallot-Lavallée, Chairman and CEO of MND. “This project will expand our position in the U.S. market by building our first detachable ropeway transportation system in the United States.”

The $9 million, 845 horsepower machine will become one of the largest bubble lifts in the East. “Replacing our White Peaks lift is the most important project in our investment plan for the existing resort footprint, and we will continue our work to enhance the guest experience at Waterville Valley Resort,” said President and General Manager Tim Smith. “This lift represents the best technology in the market today and we are pleased to extend our partnership with MND.”

MND Ropeways has built lifts in more than 40 countries to date. German Peter Loipolder founded the company as LST (Loipolder Seilbahn Technik) in 1989. Following Mr. Loipolder’s 2011 death, the French conglomerate MND (which translates in English as Mountain and Snow Development) acquired LST, moving manufacturing to the French Alps. MND went public on the Euronext Growth exchange in 2013 and constructed its first detachable chairlift in 2016. By 2019, the firm pivoted to a partnership with Bartholet Maschinenbau Flums (BMF) of Switzerland, allowing MND to utilize Bartholet’s detachable technology. MND has been present in the United States for 10 years with a main office in Eagle, Colorado and a satellite location in Laconia, New Hampshire.

A third player entering the North American detachable lift business is a big deal. The last time three companies offered detachables here was pre-2002, when Doppelmayr merged with Garaventa. Competition is good for ski resorts and ultimately the skiing and snowboarding public.

White Peaks is a turnkey project with MND providing design, project management, equipment fabrication, construction, installation, start-up and operator training. Foundations for Waterville’s six pack will be poured this year with steel erection taking place next summer. Commissioning is slated for the fall of 2022.

News Roundup: Ramping Up

News Roundup: Vail Numbers

  • Vail Resorts has sold 850,000 season passes as of September 18th, an 18 percent increase compared to last year at this time.
  • CEO Rob Katz assures skiers reservations should be widely available for most resorts on most days.
  • Vail lost $153.6 million in the quarter ended July 31st compared with an $89.5 million loss in the same period last year.
  • For the full fiscal year 2020, Vail reported a net income of $98.8 million, a decrease of 67.2 percent.
  • The company also recently cut 410 jobs.
  • Regarding capital projects and the seven lift projects Vail postponed this year, Katz said on the conference call:

“We are of course going to be monitoring the season closely before we come out with any plan for calendar year 2021. We’ll make sure we’re incorporating what happened this year. We will likely still be in a conservative approach though hopefully not as conservative as last year because the environment around Covid and travel has all improved. We will definitely be prioritizing projects that we think will have a significant impact on the guest experience and certainly some of the projects that we deferred from last year will be top of the list.”

Waterville Valley Eyes Terrain Expansion and a Gondola

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A gondola may finally link the Town of Waterville Valley with its ski area in the coming years, just one of many exciting projects outlined in the new Waterville Valley Master Development Plan.  Recently accepted by the United States Forest Service, the MDP will guide upgrades at the mountain over the next decade.  It’s the first such comprehensive plan for Waterville since 1999, when Booth Creek owned the resort.

Waterville is seeking a 140 acre boundary expansion and 15 new trails on Green Peak, which saw its first lift installed in 2016.  The resort now features two summits accessed from one base area.  A proposed new portal would separate different user groups and improve the guest experience.  A two stage gondola or chondola is planned to link the Waterville Town Square to the new base area and on to Green Peak.  Two sections would be capable of operating independently with an angled mid-terminal.  The exact alignment of the first stage, which would be located on private land, has not yet been determined.

“The most remarkable element of the plan is that it includes the eventual installation of a gondola that will start in the Town of Waterville Valley near Town Square and transport guests to the summit of Green Peak,” said Waterville Valley CEO John Sununu.  “Connecting our pedestrian village to the ski resort will be incredibly exciting for our resort and community.”  The gondola would be a major undertaking, spanning some 9,000 linear feet with 1,400 feet of vertical and eight passenger cabins.  It would operate in both winter and summer.

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Green Peak would also see a second triple chair servicing 500 vertical feet of beginner and low intermediate terrain.  Two conveyor lifts in the existing base area would be relocated to a new ski school facility at the gondola mid-station.

Two lift upgrades are planned, which Waterville filed to construct back in October.  The White Peaks Express, nearing the end of its useful life, would become a six place detachable in the existing alignment.  Sunnyside is targeted to be replaced with a fixed grip quad.  Two other lift modifications are included: removal of Northside and lengthening of the World Cup T-Bar.  Outside of the scope of the new development plan but on the horizon is further expansion onto Green Peak’s South Ridge.

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“We’re thrilled to continue Waterville Valley’s development and look forward to fulfilling our team’s vision,” said President and General Manager Tim Smith in a statement announcing the Forest Service acceptance. “This is just the first step in a long process, but it marks an exciting milestone towards progressing Waterville Valley into the future.”

Loon Mountain & Waterville Valley Look to Build Big New Lifts

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The current Loon Mountain trail map shows two lifts on the lower mountain which are now slated to be replaced.

The Interstate 93 corridor in New Hampshire could soon be a hotbed of lift construction.  Four exciting projects appeared on the White Mountain National Forest proposed actions page this week.  In what would be a major move, Loon Mountain is seeking to replace the Kancamagus detachable quad with an eight seater chairlift.  Next, the Seven Brothers triple would be replaced with a detachable quad, presumably utilizing equipment removed from the Kanc.  This project would be similar to one Loon’s owner Boyne Resorts completed last year at Big Sky.  There, the Ramcharger detachable quad was replaced by North America’s first eight passenger chairlift and the old machine moved to replace a Heron-Poma double.

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The Kancamagus quad at Loon is 24 years old and in need of more capacity at peak times.

Just to the south at Waterville Valley, the White Peaks Express is proposed to be replaced by a six passenger detachable lift.  The current machine was built in 1988 and shortened to its current length in 1996.  In a second project, the Sunnyside triple would be swapped for a fixed-grip quad and the Northside double removed.  Both of these lifts were built decades ago by Stadeli.  Waterville Valley has been independently owned and operated by a local group of investors since 2010.  They recently replaced another aging Stadeli lift with an LST T-Bar.

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The White Peaks Express is one of just three lifts in North America utilizing a unique 1988 design from Poma.  The others are at Crystal Mountain, Washington and Sunshine Village, Alberta.

It is unknown whether any of these new lifts will feature bubbles and/or heated seats, which have become popular across New England.  The Forest Service expects to make decisions on whether to approve the projects in December.

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With new White Peaks and Sunnyside lifts, Waterville’s seldom-operated Northside double would no longer be needed.

News Roundup: Back to Work

 

News Roundup: Halfway

  • The first D-Line lift in New Zealand won’t be built this summer after all and The Remarkables will place 60 containers of lift parts into storage until government approval comes through.
  • A little ski resort in Labrador has as many new lifts as Whistler Blackcomb this winter – three!
  • A proposed gondola in Oakland would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits, says a new study.
  • Two workers fall to their deaths during a practice evacuation of a new gondola in India.
  • A Swiss aerial tramway will be out of service for months following an avalanche that damaged a support tower.
  • Sleeping Giant experiments operating without a general manager.
  • Waterville Valley explains why some of its lifts are out of service.
  • Recently closed Vermont area Plymouth Notch goes up for sale along with its 1964 Mueller double.
  • The old  high speed quad from Horseshoe, Ontario is still available.
  • Faced with the possibility of losing its operating lease completely, Sunshine Village reluctantly agrees to new guidelines that remove the proposed Goat’s Eye tramway, Bye Bye Bowl expansion and Wildside lift from future consideration.  A second lift in the existing gondola corridor, Goat’s Eye II, Lookout, Hayes Hill and Lower Meadow Park expansions are still possible.
  • Environmental groups and Squaw Alpine are still sparring over the proposed California Express gondola.
  • Resorts across the Pacific Northwest come to the aid of Hurricane Ridge season pass holders, who lost a month of their season due to the government shutdown.
  • Rain delays the debut of Spider Mountain, the seventh lift-based destination for Mountain Capital Partners.

News Roundup: Next Season

News Roundup: Decisions, Decisions

  • With approvals inked, Steamboat considers whether to build a second gondola or the Pioneer Ridge expansion first.
  • The Kohlmaisbahn in Saalbach, Austria becomes the first gondola spotted with Omega V cabins.
  • The Hermitage may miss Christmas.
  • Catch a glimpse of the new Winter Park gondola cabinsKillington too!
  • The eight urban gondolas in La Paz transported a 318,532 riders last Wednesday – a crazy new single day record.
  • Thanks to community support, Antelope Butte is poised to reopen with two chairlifts.
  • After having its summer camp shut down by the state of New Hampshire, Granite Gorge likely won’t open for downhill skiing this winter.
  • The ex-Gore Mountain employee who claimed he was left on a lift overnight last winter is convicted of making a false statement to police and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
  • Mont Gleason, Quebec will build a fixed grip quad with loading carpet next summer.
  • The Iron Mountain Tramway in Glenwood Springs is carrying its final riders next Sunday as Leitner-Poma mobilizes to build an improved gondola this winter.
  • Thanks to Jared Emerson for taking me around the newest North American lift by LST Ropeways at Waterville Valley.  She’s a beauty!

News Roundup: Nine Figures

  • wild wind video from South America makes the internet rounds.  Anyone know why are there double and quad chairs on the same lift?
  • A founding partner of the hugely successful Sea to Sky Gondola looks at building a similar lift along the Trans-Canada Highway near Chilliwack, BC.
  • 9News checks in on Winter Park’s major gondola upgrade.
  • Mexicable’s second gondola line could be a $105 million monster: 5.2 miles long with six stations carrying an estimated 35,000 riders each day.
  • I usually write about lifts and not myself but Skytrac recently interviewed me.
  • A BC court will hear the case of a skier injured when a Mueller lift de-roped four years ago. Crystal Mountain never reopened following the incident, which was blamed on multiple factors.
  • A local photographer is posting weekly pictures of Killington’s three simultaneous lift installations.
  • Fatzer releases more details on the US debut of Compacta at Big Sky.
  • The Balsams withdraws its application for a $28 million state loan guarantee, effectively shelving redevelopment for now.
  • LST’s American lift number two looks sharp at Waterville Valley.
  • Another Blackcomb Gondola update courtesy of Rob at WB shows how giant UNI-G XXLs are.