News Roundup: Cold Front

  • Sunday River releases maps of the upcoming Merrill Hill project.
  • Updated stats from NSAA show how many ski areas operated in each state last winter.
  • Las Vegas’ decision to go with Teslas in a tunnel rather than a Doppelmayr automated people mover may have been short sighted.
  • Jay Peak President Steve Wright discusses joining the Indy Pass, limited winter tram operations and potential future lift upgrades.
  • Mission Ridge begins erecting terminals for the new Liberator Express, which load and unload inside buildings.
  • Whiteface’s new beginner quad will be called Owl Express.
  • A new lift at Sun Valley will also get a fresh name, to be announced soon.
  • Gunstock burns down an old T-Bar station for firefighter training.
  • An Ontario ski area worries about lift safety following a rash of vandalism.
  • With the launch of a gondola up Hoonah Mountain next year, an Alaska Native corporation sees new opportunities for development.
  • Despite a 30 percent drop in business last winter, at least two New Zealand resorts plan to build new lifts this offseason.
  • As Smartwool moves headquarters from Steamboat to Denver, the company gifts $1.5 million to Howelsen Hill for a new Barrows chairlift, to be built by Skytrac.
  • A Michigan ski area with 12 lifts won’t make snow and will operate weekends only due to Coronavirus.
  • Mont-Sainte-Anne is no longer certain its base-to-summit gondola will be functional by December.
  • Big Sky wraps up a busy season of preparation for the Swift Current 6 top terminal and carrier storage facility.

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.”

News Roundup: Master Planning

News Roundup: Suits

News Roundup: Government Relations

  • Bogus Basin shells out $53,000 to settle alleged environmental violations related to the construction of the Morning Star Express and other projects.
  • Former owner Ariel Quiros will plead guilty to orchestrating a fraudulent investment scheme at Jay Peak.
  • The Jay Peak receivership has racked up more than $8 million in attorney and accountant bills so far.
  • Aspen Snowmass hasn’t decided whether the Big Burn six place will get bubbles.
  • A near collision leads to an evacuation of a Leitner-Poma six pack in New Zealand.
  • Skiing in that country proves super popular even without international travel.
  • The State of New York makes huge investments at Whiteface this summer: $2.4 million worth of gondola upgrades, a new quad chair, a new lodge and snowmaking enhancements.
  • Skytrac is the low bidder to replace Howelsen Hill’s Barrows double with a quad next summer.
  • Alterra characterizes season pass sales for next winter as “shockingly strong.”
  • Mt. Norquay will try again for approval to build a gondola linking the ski area to Banff.

News Roundup: Shovel Ready

  • Lift construction resumes in New Zealand, where resorts are optimistic they can open next month with social distancing.
  • The Forest Service commences scoping for Lutsen Mountains’ big expansion, which would include seven new chairlifts.
  • You can also submit comments on Keystone’s Bergman Bowl project starting today.
  • The State of New York partners with Skytrac and Leitner-Poma for three fixed grip quads – two for Gore and one at Whiteface.
  • Vail Resorts provides last season’s Epic Pass holders with 20-80 percent credits and introduces free refund coverage for next winter.
  • Silver Mountain joins the Powder Alliance, Schweitzer exits.
  • Vail Resorts says goodbye to many Peak Resorts employees as planned before COVID-19.
  • The Burnaby Mountain Gondola project could benefit from an infrastructure push in Canada.
  • Wolf Creek planned to reopen this weekend but an executive order late last night extended the closure of Colorado ski areas through May 23rd.
  • Valemount, BC considers building a community ski hill.
  • I’m not an accountant but I think this filing reveals Vail Resorts has agreed with creditors not to make capital improvements of more than $200 million per year or undertake any mergers/acquisitions through January 2022.
  • Vail is also borrowing $600 million through the sale of bonds.

New York State Ski Areas Plan New Lifts for 2020-21

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As part of a proposed budget, three more lifts similar to Belleayre’s new Lightning quad would be built at ORDA ski resorts in 2020 and 2021.

New York’s state-owned Olympic Regional Development Authority plans to spend a whopping $147 million to upgrade its facilities during 2020 and 2021.  Those venues include Belleayre, Gore Mountain, the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex and Whiteface, which together saw three new lifts over the last three years.  On Friday, the agency issued a formal request for proposal for three more fixed-grip quad chairlifts to be built over two years.

This summer, both Gore and Whiteface would see new lifts replacing Riblet models.  Gore proposes replacing the Sunway double with a fixed quad capable of moving 2,400 guests per hour.  The previous lift dates back to 1986.  The new alignment would end slightly higher than the current lift, with a 566 foot vertical rise and 3,102 foot slope length.  This machine would be bottom drive, bottom tension with a loading carpet.

sunway2020

Also in 2020, Whiteface plans to replace the Bunny Hutch triple with a quad.  The current lift opened in 1997 with used Riblet equipment.  The new lift would be about 450 feet longer with a vertical rise of 364 feet.  This quad would also be bottom drive/bottom tension and may include a loading conveyor.

bunnyhutch2020

Following in 2021, Gore would see a replacement for the High Peaks double.  The existing lift is a quirky Riblet-CTEC hybrid that experiences long lines during peak times.  The new lift would be a bottom drive fixed-grip quad with a design capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.

highpeaks2021

No new lifts are planned for Belleayre, understandable considering the Catskills mountain got two of the last three projects.  There’s no guarantee ORDA will follow through on these specific plans but the RFP gives us a pretty good idea of the authority’s wish list.  Potential suppliers have until March 5th to bid and, if funded and approved, construction would be complete by November 15th of 2020 and 2021.

News Roundup: Glass Floors

News Roundup: Beyond Skiing

  • According to the New York State contracting website, the Gore Mountain Sunway, High Peaks, Hudson and Whiteface Bear Den lift replacement projects that went out to bid last fall are all on hold.  Two bids were received for the Olympic Jumping Complex gondola in Lake Placid but no builder has been selected as of January 18th.
  • A chair falls off a 1993 Yan detachable quad in Spain, closing an entire ski resort indefinitely.
  • Lift service returns to Killington’s South Ridge for the first time in a decade as of yesterday.
  • Bartholet completes its first 10 passenger gondola lift in Norway.
  • Les Otten lobbies for a new bill that would permit public financing for The Balsams redevelopment.
  • The proposed gondola in Idaho Springs, Colorado would be modeled after the Sea to Sky Gondola, which now carries more than 400,000 riders a year in British Culumbia.  The 1.2 mile Colorado version would rise 1,100 feet above Interstate 70.
  • The largest lost ski resort in Canada, Fortress Mountain, could reopen with a mix of new and refurbished lifts in 2020.
  • Sun Valley and Snowbasin ditch the Mountain Collective Pass for a partnership with Vail Resorts and the Epic Pass starting next winter.
  • The Laconia Daily Sun explains how Highland Mountain Bike Park finds success on the grounds of a long lost New Hampshire ski area.
  • The former longtime operator of Timberline Four Seasons Resort is indicted, accused of illegally prescribing pain drugs.  The ski area suffered a major lift accident in 2016 and has operated only sporadically this winter.

New York State Goes Lift Shopping

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This triple chair at Gore Mountain is one of three chairlifts scheduled for replacement at state-run New York ski resorts in 2019.

Only a handful of ski mountains in the United States are government owned and operated.  The largest public ski outfit by far is New York’s Olympic Regional Development Authority, which runs Belleayre, Gore Mountain, Whiteface and the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex at Lake Placid.  All but one of these properties are likely to see new lifts in 2019.  Because the mountains are funded in part by taxpayers, potential lift projects are subject to competitive procurement.  Over the last month, the Authority has opened requests for proposals for a new high speed quad at Gore Mountain, a quad chair at Whiteface and a surprise gondola at the ski jump.

Lift 12 at Gore Mountain is to be replaced and extended in a new alignment as shown on the area’s management plan.

Back on September 17th, ORDA opened bidding for a chairlift replacement project at Gore Mountain.  “Gore Mountain Ski Resort will be replacing their existing triple chair lift with a high speed detachable quad chair lift,” notes the New York State Contract Reporter.  “This would be a turnkey project where the winning bidder would provide all materials, labor and equipment to build and install the lift.”  This is almost certainly the approved upgrade of Hudson, a 2010 Partek build.  Bids were due last Tuesday and the term is 12 months.  Leitner-Poma of America built the last three detachable lifts at Gore, so I’d argue it is their contract to lose.

Next up is an RFP for a new Bear Den quad at Whiteface, the largest ski mountain in the east by vertical.  The current Riblet triple in the Bear Den base area will become one of many late model Riblet lifts to be replaced recently.  I assume this one will be fixed grip but the contract reporter website does not specify.  Bids are due on Monday, November 26th.  Doppelmayr would seem to have the edge at Whiteface, having built the mountain’s three newest lifts.

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The last Riblet at Whiteface will probably be retired next spring.

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