URSA Express – Stratton, VT

This Stealth II was the first CTEC detachable at Stratton.
Leaving the bottom station.
Garaventa chair and grip with footrests removed.
The top drive terminal with a short maintenance rail.
Stealth terminal.
View down the line.
Top terminal and the final tower.
This is one of the busiest lifts on the mountain due to its location and the amount of terrain it services.
Stealth station.
Looking up at tower 2.
Side view of the return station.
Lift line seen from below.

67 thoughts on “URSA Express – Stratton, VT

  1. Collin Parsons January 28, 2019 / 4:08 pm

    This lift most definitely does not run at the design speed of 1100 feet per minute. More like 700-800. This kills the capacity and causes long wait times on weekends.

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    • skitheeast January 30, 2019 / 6:11 pm

      Although true, it used to run faster two years ago before the motor gave out. They had to use a replacement motor which could not spin the lift as fast (and was quite noisy as well) the remainder of last season. I heard they bought a new motor over the summer but that they are running it slower to preserve it as the mountain was quite a disaster when the motor took the lift out on a peak day.

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      • Collin Parsons January 30, 2019 / 7:43 pm

        Instead of slowing the lift to reduce the frequency of breakdowns, I want to see them adopt a proper maintenance schedule that will prevent future breakdowns from happening and allow it to run at full speed when necessary.

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  2. Collin Parsons March 2, 2019 / 8:34 pm

    Well today they finally ran this at a decent speed. I timed it at 925 feet per minute. Kept the line moving when it got busy.

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  3. skitheeast July 29, 2019 / 1:37 pm

    This lift is prone to get the worst lines I have ever seen at any ski resort. The new Snow Bowl has done a great deal in shortening lines on most days, but windy days when the Gondola, Shooting Star, or Snow Bowl go down or holiday weekends create an absolute nightmare. I have seen the lift line go all the way up the final drop of Black Bear. This lift is only 20 years old, but it has had motor issues in the past and if any lift could use the capacity of an eight pack, this is the one. However, there have not been any talks about replacing this lift.

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    • Sam Altavilla July 29, 2019 / 3:51 pm

      I see your point. This lift is the main mid-mountain to summit lift. Although Snow Bowl provides access to the summit from the mid-mountain, it certainly isn’t the logical way to go. If anyone comes off of say Upper Tamarack, for example, they’re most likely going to ski to the closest lift which in that case is URSA. This causes massive lines on busy days since many of the upper mountain trails (Polar Bear, Frank’s, Upper Tamarack, etc.) end somewhere near the bottom of URSA.
      The motor issues seemed to be fixed, however, the capacity can be greatly improved. They still refuse to run the lift over 950 FPM from what I’ve observed. It will be interesting to see if Alterra will put any money towards a motor or gearbox upgrade.
      Despite the fact that it needs better capacity, an eight pack would not be a logical investment. The replacement that makes the most sense to me is to swap URSA for Haystack’s Barnstormer lift since it will now be up for sale.
      That’s my two cents.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Collin Parsons July 29, 2019 / 5:50 pm

      Barnstormer has less capacity than this lift. No way they’d use that to replace it. I do think an 8 pack would work well here, but I only think a replacement is needed if they can’t operate this lift reliably at full speed to achieve the highest possible capacity.

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      • Sam Altavilla September 9, 2019 / 10:39 am

        If Alterra would cough up the money to run Ursa and the gondola faster, everything would work out nicely.

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      • Collin Parsons September 9, 2019 / 12:54 pm

        I don’t think Alterra controls the lift speeds at any resort, but URSA needs to be run at least 900 feet per minute every day. The gondola is often requires to run slowly because of wind. I’ve seen it run over 900 on non-windy days.

        Liked by 1 person

        • xlr8r September 9, 2019 / 6:32 pm

          This lift does get long lines, but Stratton’s summit cannot handle any more people. Unlikely any lift gets a capacity upgrade as the summit is already served by an 8 passenger gondola, 2 six packs and now the snowbowl quad. Stratton is known for its trails getting skied off very fast and overcrowding on Black Bear and Janeway Junction trails. The mountain is overcrowded on weekends, but that is not just a lift capacity issue, but a trail capacity issue as well.

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        • Collin Parsons September 9, 2019 / 7:02 pm

          Expansion is the most effective solution to trail crowding. The three newest trails in the lower Sun Bowl (Rising Star, Rick’s Catch 22, and Sun Beam) still don’t have snowmaking. If snowmaking is added and the trails are open more, more people might ski that lift and not go to the summit. For cutting new trails, the Kidderbrook area would be the best spot to do it. There is room for at least 2 or 3 on the opposite side of the former lift. Then a high speed lift could be built there. I think that is many years off. Tamarack is the top priority for now.

          Liked by 1 person

        • skitheeast September 10, 2019 / 11:13 am

          They don’t need to prioritize giving the three newest Sun Bowl trails snowmaking because Sunriser Supertrail is so wide that it doesn’t get skied off like Janeway/Black Bear do and Lower Downeaster acts as a nice secondary trail. There is plenty of room for a trail between Free Fall and Bear Down, but Kidderbrook Ravine is one of my favorite glades and I would hate to see it go. The only terrain expansion that would make a significant dent in spreading people out would be to install a new lift from where the old Kidderbrook quad started up to the Stratton Fire Tower, opening an entire new pod with a variety of natural slopes. However, this would be expensive and is not even on Stratton’s radar as far as I know so it’s just a dream.

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        • Collin Parsons September 10, 2019 / 2:51 pm

          If the trails are open regularly, people will ski them, and more people will come to that side of the mountain. A lift from the bottom of Kidderbrook would be about 7000 feet long and 1600 vertical. Would be a nice expansion, but I think it would just be too expensive and hard to permit.

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  4. Sam Altavilla September 9, 2019 / 10:41 am

    Note that none of the CTEC six packs here at Stratton have slow/med/fast buttons on any of the control panels. There is a maintained push/pull slow button with a momentary fast button next to it. If anyone knows why this is, let me know. Most CTEC detaches I have seen have the three buttons (yellow for slow, blue for medium, black for fast).

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    • Sam Altavilla September 9, 2019 / 10:43 am

      Also strange that some of the sixes have stop buttons that just read ‘Stop’, whereas others read ‘Stop LNS1’ to identify which stop button it is.

      Like

  5. Tijsen September 11, 2019 / 11:22 am

    I wonder what Stratton is going to do about the insane lines on this lift. Especially with a new tamarack detachable coming in soon, even more people will be ending up at this lift. They are either going to have to somehow get a second lift out of that bowl and end it somewhere on the mountain where the people unloading it can access part of black bear, and Shooting star, or they are going to have to boost the capacity of the lift by a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Collin Parsons September 11, 2019 / 1:03 pm

      They need to run this lift at the full speed of 1100 fpm. If it is run slower for mechanical problems, they need to fix them. If it’s because of loading efficiency, they should add a loading carpet to make loading at a shorter interval easier. There should be no consideration for a second lift until this one is operating at it’s full speed and capacity and still can’t handle the crowds.

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      • Tijsen September 11, 2019 / 6:38 pm

        They have been doing work on Ursa over the summer. How ever I do not think 3600 pph is enough when about a third of amex riders go down to that lift, and when this new lift even more people will use it, and all the trails on the main side funnel into Ursa (excluding snnowbowl area and upper sun bowl.) If they do not increase the capacity out of that area they will need to do some clearing so that people skiing the trails that end up at bottom of franks (lower grizz and upper tamarack) can ski to snowbowl.

        Liked by 1 person

        • skitheeast September 12, 2019 / 12:16 am

          The mountain’s topography will prevent any skiable path from mid-mountain to Snow Bowl. They do want more Amex skiers who plan to go to the summit to take Snow Bowl, but there is a bit of a learning curve as everyone is so used to heading to URSA.

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      • Collin Parsons September 11, 2019 / 7:05 pm

        I don’t think you’ll ever be able to get to Snow Bowl from the mid mountain lodge. What could be done is put up a sign to encourage more people coming from AMEX to take Snow Bowl to the summit instead of URSA. I don’t think you’ll ever see another lift on the North American or Grizzly routes.

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        • Tijsen September 11, 2019 / 7:23 pm

          Youre right. Maybe they should get rid of the ursa sign on top of Amex all together. On the point you said about no lift on North American, I have heard that sms is considering to get a t-bar on there.

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        • Sam Altavilla September 12, 2019 / 7:47 am

          They could simply put a large sign that says ‘To Summit’ pointing right off of the top of Amex. I feel like most people would follow that.

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  6. Tijsen December 4, 2019 / 10:58 am

    URSA has been running at a higher speed recently. It runs on weekends now at about 800-900 feet per min.

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    • Collin Parsons December 16, 2019 / 9:23 pm

      An 1100 fpm lift running at 800-900 even on busy days. Still pathetic.

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      • skitheeast December 16, 2019 / 11:04 pm

        At this point, with its recent history of motor/drive issues, I doubt they can reliably run it at a high speed for an extended period of time. Alterra management has shown a willingness to run lifts at their full speed or close to it, which leads me to believe they are not the reason.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Teddy's Lift World December 17, 2019 / 4:05 am

          Keep in mind that Alterra has nothing to do with how fast the lifts run. It’s all about the mountain’s own lift operations team. They couldn’t care less about what speed a lift runs at unless complaints start to pile up in their corporate offices. It’s all up to Stratton. Ursa was poorly maintained over the years and it is starting to catch up to them now. If I were them I would run it at about 800-900 to avoid wear on the aging lift.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Donald Reif December 17, 2019 / 11:15 am

          Plus, 900 fpm is a pretty fair speed as it were.

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        • Sam Altavilla December 17, 2019 / 3:12 pm

          Motor issues are not the main focus right now. As of lately, the lift has had many problems with grip force and spacing. It seems every time I get on it, the LCD shows some spacing fault being bypassed. It could be another reason as to why the speed its kept down.

          Like

        • Somebody December 17, 2019 / 4:00 pm

          The issue isn’t ride time, it’s that it is pretty common to come to this lift on a Saturday and be greeted with a 15+ minute liftline. It’s made even worse when Ursa is the only Summit lift open during periods of high winds. The real solution (if an 8 pack is out of the picture) is that they need to be running this lift 1,100 FPM when lines longer than a few minutes begin to form. They also need to add more expert-ish terrain. Right now the only real black diamond pods on the mountain are Snowbowl and Ursa. They need to turn Kidderbrook into a one-lift pod and expand south of Test Pilot.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Tijsen December 18, 2019 / 2:45 pm

          The grip design isn’t as good as the other spring grips on lifts, because since the springs are perpendicular to the grip lever instead of parallel so the grip doesn’t lock in as well. They might have to do an overhaul/ rebuilt soon. Also this grip design can cause the lift to be very dangerous in icy conditions, hence why Ursa is constantly on icing delay.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Tijsen December 18, 2019 / 2:41 pm

        They are running Ursa at that speed on weekdays now and now closer to 1000 on weekends. Also all lifts besides Ursa are running at very close to full capacity, as I commonly see even the gondola running the same speed as snowbowl.

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        • Teddy's Lift World December 18, 2019 / 5:17 pm

          I can guarantee you that the gondola was not running 1,000 FPM. It has been running at a crawl in recent years which is just a shame. It really needs to be replaced sooner rather than later.

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        • skitheeast December 18, 2019 / 5:23 pm

          The gondola is not going anywhere, it is too vital for capacity the cabins, haul rope, and other drive equipment are too new. Its only real problem is that some of the towers are pretty high above the treetops and therefore get hit with a lot of wind. Perhaps they will try and lower them in the future, but I have not heard anything about that and I know they have other projects ready to go.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Collin Parsons December 18, 2019 / 5:33 pm

          I saw the gondola running full speed on the webcam on December 7th. 18 seconds between cabins. Usually it’s slower, especially midweek. Also, are you sure URSA is running over 800 midweek? From seeing it on the webcam it often looks slower.

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        • Somebody December 18, 2019 / 6:09 pm

          The gondola line can’t be fixed. If the line gets shorter, more people will stop lapping amex-ursa and lap gondi instead. With that being said, I’d still like to see the wind issues fixed so the Ursa line gets shorter. Ursa+Snowbowl do not provide enough summit capacity by themselves on weekends. Either the gondola needs to be dropped below the trees or a wind-resistant Kidderbrook chair needs to go in. The new Snowbowl improved the situation greatly, but it still goes on hold quite frequently due to the wind spot between towers 11 and 12.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Donald Reif December 18, 2019 / 6:34 pm

          There should be a high speed quad installed on Kidderbrook, and to actually give people reason to go to it, cut maybe three or four new trails south of the Kidderbrook trail. Maybe even construct an all-new pod of trails east of the Kidder Brook with their own high speed quad.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Tijsen December 18, 2019 / 7:26 pm

          I take Ursa every day and most of the time it takes 5.5 min on weekdays so yeah, basically 800 fpm

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        • Teddy's Lift World December 19, 2019 / 4:07 am

          After skiing at Stratton for a few years, I found that by avoiding Ursa everything was fine. The only line I would really have to wait in was for AMEX after lunch. I rode the gondola probably only 2 or 3 times during the 2017/18 season, so I usually rode the old Snowbowl Quad to the summit because it never had a line. I hardly ever rode Ursa either. Shooting Star came in handy to get to the summit, but I never really did any laps off of it. Now that Snowbowl is a HSQ I would just ride that like I did the old quad.

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  7. Somebody December 19, 2019 / 6:42 pm

    I heard in a youtube comment section that this chair originally shipped with footrests, but had them removed shortly after because they were causing issues in high winds. I can’t find many early pictures of this lift but there was definitely no footrests on this chair by 2006, and considering that the Sunbowl chairs didn’t ship with them, we can likely assume they were gone by 2001 at the latest.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sam Altavilla December 20, 2019 / 5:23 am

      I can confirm that footrests on these chairs were a common issue. They made the bars top heavy, and in high winds, they would blow down constantly.

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      • Sam Altavilla December 20, 2019 / 5:24 am

        Payday at Park City has footrests and they do the same thing.

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    • Donald Reif January 23, 2020 / 8:24 am

      The fact that Snow Bowl has footrests shows how improvements have been made in that department.

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    • lowe January 23, 2020 / 8:55 am

      I rode this the season it opened and it never had foot rests. I did hear the CTEC initially wanted to build this with much higher towers and Stratton ops intervened to give it a much lower profile. This lift is rarely ever on wind delay so I guess that worked!

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    • Donald Reif January 23, 2020 / 12:22 pm

      This would be a situation much like on Siberia 6 at Squaw, where the chairs were originally installed with footrests, but then the footrests were cut off between installation and opening day.

      Like

  8. Brady December 19, 2019 / 9:00 pm

    I’m sure someone commented this already, but because of the lack of a proper maintenance schedule, this lift is just destined for an uncertain future ending in a disaster. It’s 100% predictable. Unless they manage to get it together and take care of URSA here, nothing good will happen!

    Then again, this would be a cool spot for an 8-pack.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Teddy's Lift World December 20, 2019 / 4:17 am

      I perfectly agree that maintenance is key to operating a lift. Sugarbush does occasional work to their lifts, but they’re in very rough shape. Everything has a dent or a scratch, not to mention rust. The control systems are a mess too. Slide Brook is one of the worst offenders with this, and if there’s any lift that you don’t want to break down, it’s that one. I really hope Alterra can bring in a new maintenance crew that adopts a proper schedule and keeps the lifts running for years to come. Another thing that bothers me with their lifts is that they do not follow ANSI standards. Castlerock’s control panel is an example of this, as well as insufficient signage. Over the summer they repainted the towers on Super Bravo which honestly was the last thing they should’ve done, but okay, and they still managed to have crooked tower numbers. This is one of the many reasons why I’m happy to see Alterra buy Sugarbush.

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      • Tijsen December 20, 2019 / 2:35 pm

        Stratton does a decent job keeping their lifts in great shape, except for ursa. Both sunbowl 6 lifts look almost brand new (great paint except towers (a problem across every lift at Stratton since everyone taps the towers with poles for some reason) and underside panels are also in great condition) same with AMEX and Gondola, as they have recently over the past two summers replaced window panels and repainted terminals. Not entirely sure why URSA is the only lift not kept in good condition. The lower terminal got repainted and they did some top terminal work over this summer, but the top terminal still has a ton of rust underneath and chair entering area.

        Liked by 1 person

      • pbropetech January 13, 2020 / 4:04 pm

        I’m curious how you can say that their lifts don’t follow ANSI standards, or make the statement that they only do occasional work to their lifts. I’d be willing to bet my counterparts are more concerned with keeping the lifts running safely than buffing out every single scratch. If you’re not a member of their maintenance crew or a VT state inspector you don’t see 95% of what lift maintenance does. Everything I work on has dents, scratches, and the occasional rust patch. Those don’t equate to substandard maintenance.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Collin Parsons January 13, 2020 / 6:03 pm

        I don’t think it’s fair to accuse any resort’s lift maintenance department of cutting corners on safety unless you’re a state inspector, or there’s a major accident that’s proven to be the fault of the resorts. It’s one thing to call out resorts for poor maintenance when repeated breakdowns occur, and a fix it when it breaks strategy is clearly in place (yeah I mean you ORDA), but I think the accusations about safety or not meeting ANSI standards go too far.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Tijsen January 13, 2020 / 3:00 pm

    Apparently since the motor gave out on this lift 2 years ago they’ve been borrowing a motor, probably less horsepower and not as well fit for this lift and over the summer they bought a new one and installed it, hence why its running faster now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Donald Reif January 13, 2020 / 5:41 pm

      It needs all the speed it can get, since Snow Bowl can only capture so much of URSA’s traffic.

      Like

  10. Tijsen January 19, 2020 / 4:33 pm

    Today I think is the first time in many years where Ursa was running at full 1100 fpm. It took 4.2 min from exit to entrance of stations.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Sam Altavilla January 19, 2020 / 5:34 pm

      This really helped us out with the wait times. Snow Bowl also ran full speed to eliminate crowds.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sam Altavilla January 19, 2020 / 5:36 pm

      According to my boss, we had 11,500 people today. Minor changes like this really improve the skier management.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tijsen January 19, 2020 / 5:52 pm

        Except sunbowl…. Even with Sunrise at max speed the line was still awful- 30 min plus.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Donald Reif January 23, 2020 / 8:23 am

          No relief from Solstice?

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        • Tijsen January 23, 2020 / 11:37 am

          Solstice even had a short line. For me solstice doesn’t take me anywhere as I wanted to lap kidderbrook area glades

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    • Collin Parsons January 19, 2020 / 5:38 pm

      Do you think it will be running this speed more often now? Too bad it still runs sub-800 on uncrowded days.

      Like

      • Tijsen January 19, 2020 / 5:53 pm

        They have been running it fast on most weekends. I have a feeling that the fact they are running it faster now is a sign that there will be an upgrade to the lift somehow in the near future, because they are being less cautious about the wear and tear on it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • pbropetech January 22, 2020 / 3:46 pm

          I’ve heard this comment about lift speeds before. Lifts are designed to run at their full speed; what you guys are calling ‘wear-and-tear’ is not significantly increased by running at 5.5 m/s versus 4 (for example). I don’t work at Stratton but I’m sure there are other factors directing what speed they run lifts. Yes, sheaves spin faster and grips open faster but they’re still operating as designed.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Tijsen January 22, 2020 / 1:25 pm

    Is this grip design only used on 6 packs? The only lifts I know with this grip design are CTEC 6 packs from before 2001

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  12. Alex May 11, 2020 / 8:25 am

    on the spreadsheet you said this was a ¨bottom drive¨

    Like

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