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Alta Uprades?
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27 days ago
https://www.powder.com/stories/news/tram-approved-for-alta/
marzNC - DCSki Supporter
27 days ago

The Powder article is a pretty good summary but of course simplifies the reasons behind some of lift upgrades.  The details are in the EA dated April 2018.  The Draft Decision to approve started the required 45-day comment period for objections. Assuming the Forest Service ultimately approves the proposal, it will be a while before all of the projects are completed. The timeframe for the proposal is five years, based on the original request submitted in December 2015.

Environmental Assessment - April 2018
https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/103726_FSPLT3_4286628.pdf

As I understand it, once the overall proposal is approved, it will be up to Alta Lifts to prioritize the order of the projects. It’s hard to know how much design work and construction planning has already been done.

List of projects from Page 2 of the April 2018 Draft Decision to approve:

  1. Albion/Wildcat base parking improvements. 
  2. Tram from Germania Pass to Mt. Baldy. 
  3. Gazex or other equivalent technologies to replace artillery and Avalaunchers. 
  4. Sunnyside lift replacement. 
  5. Wildcat lift replacement. 
  6. Flora lift construction from bottom of Sugarbowl to the top of Collins lift. 
  7. Supreme summer ski run work. 
  8. Alf’s restaurant building addition. 
  9. Watson Shelter building addition. 
  10. Equipment storage facility construction.
marzNC - DCSki Supporter
27 days ago

For those who didn’t go to Alta this season, the view from the transfer tow or the Collins side looking towards the Rustler will be very different the next time.  The new Snowpine is as big as the Rustler.  My impression is that there will be a chairlift for access, just as there is for the Rustler.  The Snowpine has been closed since May 2017.  Plans to re-open as a 4-season hotel in Fall 2018.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
27 days ago

Pages 29-31 directly address alternatives to the Baldy tram, Flora lift, and Gazex installations that were proposed but not researched in detail for assorted reasons.  I assume some were mentioned in public comments.  I didn’t realize until I read the EA that part of Baldy is private land owned by Alta.  Can see the boundaries on the diagram of all the projects on Page 15.

2.6.1 BALDY TRAM ALTERNATIVES

Most alternatives considered involved the proposed Baldy tram. Several technologies other than a lift providing ski patrol access for conventional avalanche control were considered but not carried into in- depth analysis. These included:

  •   Continued use of the Howitzer and Avalaunchers, but this would perpetuate safety concerns including over-shoots, dud rounds, and premature detonations. Since these methods can only be used when Alta and Snowbird are closed to the public, relying on them would result in continued terrain closures during storm and wind cycles. Alternative technologies would reduce closures.

  •   Helicopter bombing, but this technology requires clear, calm weather, which is not the norm when avalanche control action is needed.

  •   Obell’X, Gazex, or similar remotely controlled installations such as those currently proposed for other locations at Alta (i.e., East Baldy, Sugarloaf Mountain, East Devil’s Castle, and Patsey Marley – see section 2.4.2.2). However, based on the number and spatial extent of starting zones on the north face of Mt. Baldy, it would take an estimated 23 Gazex installations to control the area – an area heavily used by skiers. This concentration of installations would disturb a substantial proportion of the area’s alpine habitat during construction and would permanently degrade its scenic character.

  •   Completing avalanche work on Mt. Baldy from the Snowbird side of the mountain, but this option would not eliminate the need for an extended hike through avalanche-prone terrain for ski patrollers to access the starting zones. This option would also require that Snowbird’s tram be operational, which is dependent on weather on Hidden Peak and other Snowbird operational considerations beyond Alta’s control.

Denis - DCSki Supporter
27 days ago

Where is the money coming from?  I recall once reading that Alta was the only ski area in America that had never lost money.  Every year they finished in the black.  Part of this was a conservative attitude about expansions and improvements. Not advocating for anything but I am wondering if this represents a culture change.  

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
27 days ago

Denis wrote:

Where is the money coming from?  I recall once reading that Alta was the only ski area in America that had never lost money.  Every year they finished in the black.  Part of this was a conservative attitude about expansions and improvements. Not advocating for anything but I am wondering if this represents a culture change.  

All of these projects were in the updated Master Plan submitted in 2012.  They don’t have to do the projects all at once.  Certainly don’t expect the approval to come in time for lift replacements this summer.  So presumably there is a financial plan in place to pay for the planning, design, and construction work required.  Note that exact type of lift to replace Wildcat is not specified in the EA. 

There are key points made about the old lifts, Sunnyside and Wildcat, that imply that keeping them running is getting increasingly difficult because getting parts is no longer easy.  So not replacing them would be costly in the long run.  The Sunnyside replacement is a chondola, which has value for potential summer use.  The businesses in the town of Alta have been thinking about summer revenue for a while.

EA April 2018 Page 20

2.4.3 REPLACEMENT OF LIFTS

Alta is an original ski area in the Central Wasatch, and as its lift systems age it can affect the level of service they provide, their reliability, and their repair costs. The Forest Service proposes to authorize the replacement of existing lifts as described below.

Detachable lift technology has proven to be an effective tool for adjusting skier distribution by varying lift capacity to match conditions and thus providing a desirable skier experience. For example, lift speeds can be slowed when skier density is too high, thus alleviating crowding in the terrain served by a given lift. As Alta replaces lifts or builds new lifts, they design and operate lift systems with a range of capacities to accommodate demand and provide redundancy. Reflecting these considerations, the figures provided below represent design capacity for replacement lifts and generally overestimate the capacities at which they would normally be operated… .”

 

EA April 2018 Page 21

2.4.3.2 Wildcat Lift Replacement

Project Description: Replace the Wildcat lift, a fixed-grip double (1,200 pph), with either a fixed-grip or a detachable quad lift (estimated design capacity up to 2,400 pph), using the same top and bottom terminal sites and lift alignment (Figure 2-7). The new lift would be able to reuse some of the existing towers and tower foundations, though new towers and foundations would also be needed. No access roads would be constructed; rather new towers and cement for the foundations would be flown on site, and foundations would be excavated by hand crews or spider hoe. Old towers would also be removed over the snow or flown off site by helicopter, and the foundations would be shortened to 2 feet below the ground surface then covered and revegetated. Though the alignment of a quad lift is wider than that of a double (40 feet vs. 30 feet), only minimal clearing would be necessary because the existing alignment is generally 50- to 70- feet wide in forest stands, with the exception of a few trees. The alignment lies entirely on NFS land.

Project Rationale: Wildcat lift is a 33-year-old lift with diminishing parts availability. While reliability and comfort are more important issues than capacity, replacing Wildcat with a higher-capacity lift would provide lift redundancy, allowing Alta to increase Wildcat lift’s operating speed if Collins lift were non- operational or if much of Collins terrain were closed due to avalanche conditions. The two lift pods overlap considerably, so a higher-capacity Wildcat lift could serve as a back-up to Collins as well as making the Wildcat area more attractive to skiers.”

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
26 days ago

The difference in the attitude of Alta Lifts towards lift upgrades and other improvements comes through clearly when comparing how   major changes are described.  Unlike most destination resorts, there aren’t on-going press releases full of marketing phrases.

When the construction of the new Supreme lift was finally announced on the Alta website in July 2017, the emphasis was on the efforts related to disturbances to the environment and trail closures during construction.  It does not read like material prepared by a marketing department.

https://www.alta.com/blog/the-new-supreme-lift

Summer at Alta-June Update - July 2017

The construction of our new Supreme lift is underway and will continue through November. The lift will replace the current Cecret and Supreme lifts. The new Supreme lift is a detachable quad manufactured by Leitner-Poma. The installationof the new lift will work to use as much of the existing alignment from the previous lifts to reduce environmental impact. The lift will load just off the southeast side of Alf’s Restaurant and will slightly bend to cross over the old Cecret lift alignment to the base of the old base terminal of Supreme and will continue up the old Supreme alignment to the existing top terminal remaining in the same place.

Unlike the Collin’s lift, the new lift will not have a mid-station, but will achieve the bend by way of canted tower sheaves. It will also cut lift ride-time down for our skiers. The reduced ride-time gives us more control over the number of skiers delivered to the top based on conditions, improves overall skier circulation and makes the lift-ride experience more user-friendly.

The minimal disturbance associated with installation of the new lift will be rehabilitated by efforts lead by the Alta Environmental Center (AEC). The two primary methods the AEC is applying in the rehabilitation of the disturbed sites may not be rocket science, but are things that many of us just don’t think about!

  • Employees have removed “plugs” of native soil and plants from the construction area before it is disturbed. These plugs will be watered all summer until it is time to begin the rehabilitation.  The plugs are then placed into the disturbed area and act as islands for native vegetation to grow back and fill in from the inside-out while the undisturbed soil and plant areas work their way inward.
  • Not new to this project, but a practice we have done for many years, involves employees collecting seed from various parts of the mountain, drying it, and cleaning it. The seed then is handed over to a local Salt Lake grower to be grown over the winter. The seed is returned as small plants the following summer.  Our grower delivered 4,500 plants to us this summer which will be also be used for the Supreme rehabilitation and couple other of our projects this summer. 

Summer hikers and bikers should be aware of the following trail closures surrounding the construction area:

 

  • Upper Albion Meadows Trail - The far southern last section of this trail between Alf’s Restaurant and the bottom of Supreme lift or to the Cecret lake trailhead will be closed.  Hikers are rerouted to Cecret Lake, public toilets, and the campground via the Alf’s service road.  Hikers desiring to hike up the backside will be able to maintain access via the maintained split within Albion Meadow. 

 

  • Lower Devil’s Castle Loop - Starting at the intersection of Cecret Lake Trail (far western end of the loop) the trail will be closed through to the Upper Albion Meadows Trail. Hikers and mountain bikers are rerouted down the Cecret Lake trail returning them to the Campground entrance. Mountain bikers are still restricted from going up the Cecret Lake Trail to the actual lake.

 

Compare that to the description on Copper’s website about a new lift even before they had Forest Service approval.  Pretty easy to find other examples of press releases with a similar tone.

http://www.coppercolorado.com/culture/news/resort-updates/new-american-flyer

Copper Mountain, and its parent company, POWDR, announced continued enhancements to the way guests access the mountain’s world-class, naturally divided terrain. The planned upgrades to replace the American Eagle and American Flyer lifts with high-speed cabin and bubble-style lift service are slated to debut during the 2018-19 ski season.  This plan is subject to U.S. Forest Service approval.

“Replacing our most popular mountain-access lifts will significantly improve how our guests experience some of the best skiing and riding on Copper Mountain,” said Gary Rodgers, president and general manager of Copper Mountain Resort. “More guests will be able to get up the mountain quicker to enjoy a variety of easy, intermediate and advanced terrain.”

A Leitner Poma high-speed 6-person chair with bubble enclosures is set to replace the  high-speed quad known as the American Flyer lift, offering a more comfortable ride and a 33 percent increase in uphill capacity. The new lift will primarily serve the easy and intermediate side of the resort’s unique naturally-divided terrain and also will provide expedited access to Copper’s advanced high alpine bowls.

Stay tuned for more information and updates!

 

Denis - DCSki Supporter
26 days ago

Thanks for that Marz.  I am reassured that Alta’s culture endures.  It’s a special place.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
26 days ago

Denis wrote:

Thanks for that Marz.  I am reassured that Alta’s culture endures.  It’s a special place.

If you have other questions, please ask.  It’s giving me the incentive to read the EA more carefully.

I’m lucky to be friends with the family who own Alta Lodge.  Bill Levitt bought Alta Lodge in the 1950s.  He was Mayor of Alta for a few decades.  Bill and his wife, Mimi, founded Friends of Alta in 1981.  Mimi remains actively involved with Alta Lodge.  I know Mimi is always balancing being a business owner in the town of Alta with her deep desire to preserve the area for generations to come.

In many ways, Alta is more of a ski area than a resort.  An internationally known ski area for sure because of the Little Cottonwood Canyon microclimate, but has very different vibe than Snowbird on the other side of Mt. Baldy.  Completely different from Park City or Deer Valley or Snowbasin.  It remains my favorite out west even as I explore other destination resorts with the MCP.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
25 days ago

Starting to appreciate how much planning and design work must be done before lift removal and construction can start even for upgrading a lift in the same lift line.  Getting approval from the Forest Service is a major milestone but there are a lot of other tasks to do before any actual changes start.  The cost of a new lift is in the range of $2 million to $5 million.  The new Supreme detachable quad built in 2017, with an unusual bend, was probably at the high end for total cost.

The need to replace the old Sunnyside lift is obvious.  No one is objecting to the plan.  Fair to say that advanced skiers don’t care unless they are parents who currently have kids just starting to ski.  Local kids graduate to other lifts pretty fast, usually by age 4 or 5.  Adult beginners or cautious intermediates who are travelers are unlikely to pay attention to the Forest Service approval process.   Note that some advanced/expert skiers use Sunnyside on powder days to get to Supreme Bowl quicker than if they started on Collins.  That’s probably the only time there is actually a line before it opens at 9:15.  I would guess that the owners of the Snowpine were hoping a Sunnyside lift that ran in the summer would be ready by Summer 2020 since the Snowpine plans to be a 4-season hotel.

I remember Sunnyside breaking down during late season a couple years ago.  My friend was stuck for 10-15 minutes.  The next day Sunnyside was closed and the Albion lift was running.  It was the first and only time I got to ride Albion.  At one point Alta Lifts proposed removing Albion but it’s being left alone for now to provide redundancy.

Clearly thought has gone into how to replace Sunnyside.  The idea is to put in a chondola, which requires a different layout for the loading zone.  I would guess that a fair amount of work has already been done and it wouldn’t take long to prepare an acutal pre-constrution plan.  The EA includes a list of the permits that will be required before construction could begin.

Sugar Mountain in NC put in a chondola a few years ago.  So far, they have not used gondola cabins.  Had one VIP cabin for the Grand Opening.  But it gives them the option to swap cabins for chairs in the future, especially for summer use.  Sunday River has a chondola that I’ve ridden.  A couple are being built in Colorado in the near future.

EA April 2018 Page 20-21

2.4.3.1 Sunnyside Lift Replacement

Project Description: Replace the existing Sunnyside lift with a chondola (i.e., a mix of chairs and gondola or cabriolet cabins), gondola, or detachable chair, using the current lift alignment and upper and lower terminal locations (Figure 2-6). Many of the existing towers and tower foundations would be used for the new lift, though some new ones may be required. New towers and cement for the foundations would be flown on site by helicopter, and any new foundations would be excavated by hand crews or spider hoe. As a result, no new tower access roads would be constructed. Old towers would be removed by helicopter, and foundations that were not used would be shortened to 2 feet below the ground surface then covered with soil and revegetated. The determination of which towers would be reused would be made when the lift was designed.

Environmental Assessment: Alta Master Development Plan Improvement Projects

The alignment of the new Sunnyside lift would be approximately 40-feet wide, following the existing Sunnyside alignment. Due to the clumped distribution of forest stands at Alta, minimal tree clearing would be needed to widen and maintain portions of the new alignment. The alignment is entirely on NFS land.

The chondola option would allow cabins and chairs to be used on the same lift line. It would allow flexibility as rider demand, weather conditions, and seasons change. To accommodate different types of users, the chondola would use different loading stations which would resemble a gondola station followed by a chairlift station, or vice versa. Typically, there are more chairs than cabins on a chondola. This type of lift allows for greater versatility throughout the year, and in particular, improves opportunities for summertime guests.

Project Rationale: The Sunnyside lift is a detachable triple chair lift that often cannot meet the demand on busy days. A new lift with 2,400-person-per-hour (pph) capacity would meet demand and the expectations of today’s skier market. The new lift would accommodate summer users, beginning skiers, and skiers accessing all upper-mountain lifts. The capability for summer use would provide an option to shuttle buses as a means of reducing vehicle traffic in Albion Basin.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
25 days ago

When the details of the Improvement Plan were released publicly in 2016, the uproar came mostly from advanced/expert skiers who hike Baldy regularly and conservationists from Save Our Canyons.  The Wasatch Backcountry Alliance was relieved that nothing was mentioned about a lift into Grizzly Gulch.  They didn’t like the Baldy tram but also appreciate that it would help ski patrol.  Save Our Canyons was against lift improvements serving advanced skiers (or even a storage building).  2016 Save Our Canyons initially did not object to the replacement of Supreme and Cecret or replacing Sunnyside triple with a higher capacity and faster quad.  By 2017, they thought the construction of Supreme should not have been approved.

Alta Friends was concerned about the Albion Fen (under new Supreme lift) and Lake Flora.  The design of Supreme was changed to eliminate a mid-station because of the Albion Fen. The restoration of Lake Flora is no longer under review and other ways to expand the water supply available for snowmaking are being explored.

 Not having a mid-station for the Supreme quad was a great loss for adult beginners and the instructors who teach them because the greens accessed by Cecret were good alternatives to the busier greens off Sunnyside.  The instructors have adjusted.  Just as they did for intermediate lessons when the cat track across Rustler was no longer groomed several years ago.  

In talking with folks on the new Supreme quad during late season, it was pretty clear that advanced/expert skiers mostly don’t like it.  Especially true of the locals.  (Same type of people who hated the conveyor loading when it was added to the Supreme triple.)  One older man noted that his favorite stashes are now too easy for ski school kids to reach quickly after they ride up Sunnyside.  Also heard complaints about the longer run out since the lift now starts at Alf’s.  As a traveler who skis Alta for a week or so, I like the new lift.  The longer ride takes less time from Alf’s than the old ride on the triple.  I end up skiing more and spend less time on lifts.  Also means not having to decide in shortly after unloading Sugarloaf whether to move to Supreme.  Took a while to go across the Supreme Access trail.  Now that area is ungroomed and great fun for people who like low angle powder and mellow trees.

April 2016

https://liftblog.com/2016/04/30/alta-wants-a-tram-and-a-chondola/

” …

Alta Ski Area spokesperson Connie Marshall told the Salt Lake Tribune, “This latest set of proposals is based on 10 years of study and conversation.  It reflects Alta being a mature ski area figuring out some of our fine-tuning.  We’re not trying to be totally innovative in our field, but protecting our experience and our brand.”  Of course, Save Our Canyons isn’t thrilled that a ski area which prides itself on being old school is going all-in on high speed lifts.  “The hike to Baldy has been a rite of passage for a lot of folks,” said the group’s Executive Director, Carl Fischer.  “Talking with a lot of our members and people who ski Alta regularly, if these projects go forward, it will really hurt the skiing experience that draws people to Alta.  They’re falling into the trap of high-speed quads and things like that, which will really change the ski experience.  With this, the powder will be gone in the matter of an hour.” 

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
25 days ago

marzNC wrote:

Pages 29-31 directly address alternatives to the Baldy tram, Flora lift, and Gazex installations that were proposed but not researched in detail for assorted reasons.  I assume some were mentioned in public comments.  I didn’t realize until I read the EA that part of Baldy is private land owned by Alta.  Can see the boundaries on the diagram of all the projects on Page 15.

2.6.1 BALDY TRAM ALTERNATIVES …

 

Turns out that the reason the Baldy tram proposal had to go through the Forest Service EA process is that two other potential placements completely on private land were not as good.  Both would’ve ended at the peak, which would’ve made the top terminal much more visible.  Also would’ve required two towers between the top and bottom, increasing cost and construction impact.  The proposal expected to be approved does not require any support towers.

The proposed Baldy tram would have capacity of 150 ppl/hr over 1900 feet.  The Mt. Allen tram at Snowbasin has similar construction.  It was built in 1998, holds 15 people, is 1165 ft long over 510 ft vertical, and has a capacity of 360 ppl/hr.  The Big Sky Lone Peak tram cost $3 million to build in 1995.  It also holds 15 people, with max 200 ppl/hr but usually runs about 120 ppl/hr.  The 4 min ride is longer, 2878 ft for 1450 ft vertical.  

April 2018 EA about Baldy Tram Alternatives, Page 30

“The proposed alignment was the third alignment option. As noted above, it would start on NFS land near Germania Pass and end on private land at the top of Alta Chutes, in a sheltered pocket well below the summit. This alignment would provide the needed ski patrol access while dramatically reducing the area from which the lift and top terminal were visible, and it would shield the terminal from the peak’s high winds, allowing more reliable operations. The lift would be a single, unsupported span with no towers between the terminals, reducing construction impacts. This option was identified as the only feasible alternative to effectively maintain avalanche control operations on the north face of Mt. Baldy in a safe and environmentally sound manner. This analysis addresses its potential environmental effects.”

Denis - DCSki Supporter
24 days ago

“Talking with a lot of our members and people who ski Alta regularly, if these projects go forward, it will really hurt the skiing experience that draws people to Alta.  They’re falling into the trap of high-speed quads and things like that, which will really change the ski experience.  With this, the powder will be gone in the matter of an hour.” 

That would be about the same as now, or in truth, 5 years ago which is when I last skied there.  All the big lines were tracked by 11 on a powder day.  If you want great terrain, great snow and no crowds, go to Montana.  I do appreciate that Alta has kept the faith as much as possible, but it is too close to a major city.  

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
24 days ago

Denis wrote:

“Talking with a lot of our members and people who ski Alta regularly, if these projects go forward, it will really hurt the skiing experience that draws people to Alta.  They’re falling into the trap of high-speed quads and things like that, which will really change the ski experience.  With this, the powder will be gone in the matter of an hour.” 

That would be about the same as now, or in truth, 5 years ago which is when I last skied there.  All the big lines were tracked by 11 on a powder day.  If you want great terrain, great snow and no crowds, go to Montana.  I do appreciate that Alta has kept the faith as much as possible, but it is too close to a major city.  

I think the fact that people can get weather forecasts about LCC powder storms and check webcams probably has far more to do with the increased skier traffic than the change from fixed grip chair lifts to faster detachable lifts.  Or perhaps wider skis. ;-)

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
24 days ago

The lift that people aren’t talking about that much is called the Flora lift, which would replace the East Baldy Traverse (EBT) that is also called Collins Return.  The proposal is for a short fixed-grip double chair that would start in the flats between the top of Collins and the Sugarloaf side and end near the ski patrol hut at the top of Collins.  There is an overview picture that shows the location in the EA.  Only skiers who are at least low intermediates take the EBT to ski down on the Collins side since there are no greens on that side.  Cautious intermediates and beginners take the transfer tow between the Albion and Wildcat bases.

Being a lightweight, there have been plenty of times when getting across the EBT has taken a fair amount of work because there isn’t much pitch.  For kids under 60 pounds, they would probably be much happier riding a lift.  Low visibility and wind that isn’t quite enough to close the EBT still makes it hard for some skiers.  Obviously when the EBT is closed, having to ski all the way down to Albion before heading over to Collins to finish off the day after Supreme and Sugarloaf close is a pain.  Definitely means more fast skiers buzzing down the green Home Run trail, which some beginners find intimidating.

I had a chance to ride a groomer across the EBT.  The driver noted that dealing with the EBT in low visibility conditions in the dark takes a lot of concentration.  No one wants to send a groomer over the edge.

The concerns I’ve heard about Flora is how the area would look during the summer hiking season.  There is a section of the EA that addresses Scenic Resourses.  There is a Built Environment Image Guide from 2012 specifically for Alta that is used when considering the impact of adding lifts or buildings to the area within the Alta SUP.  The location of the Flora lift and it’s top terminal is not considered an issue because it won’t be that visible.  At least not any more visible than the existing top terminals of the Sugarloaf and Collins lifts.

EA April 2018, Page 23

New Flora Lift

Project Rationale: Maintaining the East Baldy Traverse between the top of Sugarloaf lift and the top of Collins lift is a drain on snowcat and avalanche control resources. Rapidly building avalanche hazard due to wind often causes Alta to close the East Baldy Traverse. The closure creates a poor skier experience and disrupts the skier balance by forcing traffic from Sugarloaf that would have gone across the East Baldy Traverse and into Collin’s Gulch onto Devil’s Elbow, which increases skier density on Devil’s Elbow. Even when the East Baldy Traverse is open, the experience for skiers is, more often than not, unpleasant because of wind and blowing snow. Additionally, when Mt. Baldy is open for skiing, the East Baldy Traverse cuts across the lower end of an expert ski run. This lift would allow traffic to consistently flow both ways between Collins Gulch and upper Albion Basin without using the traverse.

EA April 2018, Page 99

” …

The top terminal of the proposed Flora lift would be near the ridgeline between Collins Gulch and Albion Basin, roughly 500 feet north of Germania Pass. While this location is near a ridgeline, it is a secondary ridge about 650 feet below Mt. Baldy. As a result, the terminal would not be visible from either base area or from SR 210 due to topographic screening. It would be visible from Mt. Superior, in the Twin Peaks Wilderness, at a distance greater than 2 miles. The Forest Plan directs that ridgeline development be “minimal.” Based on the limited viewshed of this terminal and the fact that only the Supreme and Sugarloaf top terminals are on ridgelines, this project would be consistent with that direction.”

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
24 days ago

The draft EA that was completed in October 2017 is substantially the same as the EA published in April 2018.  Unofficial Networks published a brief article about the opening of the comment period.  But there was not much buzz generated outside SLC given that the project list was pretty much the same as the year before in terms of lifts, which is what most skiers care about.  A little more space at Alf’s and Watson’s does not make headlines.  Neither does the installation of Gazex for avalanche work because most people have no idea what that means or might look like.

https://unofficialnetworks.com/2017/10/24/a-new-tram-and-bigger-parking-lots-alta-ski-area-wants-to-grow/

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
23 days ago

Not related to the current improvement plan, but came across an article about the decision process that Alta Lifts went through when they decided to install RFID.  Alta was among the first seven resorts to use the technology in the U.S.  The vendor selected was Axess.  The installation was completed for the 2007-08 season.  What I didn’t know was that Alta Lifts had requirements that didn’t yet exist.  Previous RFID gates had turnstiles, not gate bars that opened outwards.  Previous gates only had sensors on one side, not both.  The other innovation was suspending the gates on gantries so that they could be easily moved out of the way for grooming after a big snowstorm.

Last month my last run at Snowbird was on the Peruvian Express.  It was a little confusing because the RFID gates had already been moved out of the way of the loading zone even though the lift was still open.  Probably because it was late season and there were very few people still on the mountain after most lifts closed by 4:00pm.  Snowbird didn’t install RFID until almost 10 years after Alta.

Solitude went to RFID about the same time as Alta.  As did Vail Corp at five resorts for 2008-09 but they chose a different technology after having employees testing out the idea the season before.  Vail chose Skyetek for the pilot testing but then opted to develop the scanner software in-house.  Presumably that led to the creation of EpicMix at Vail resorts.  Aspen chose Skidata, the other company that Alta considered before picking Axess.  All these resorts made the decision to move to RFID before the 2008 recession hit.

http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?4110 - June 4, 2008

“…

Two vendors, Skidata (see Aspen Signs With Skidata, RTP for Integrated RFID/POS System) and Axess, both based in Austria, vied for the Alta project. According to Maughan, Alta chose Axess for two main reasons: First, Axess offered back-end software that could control the RFID access gates and link the tag data with the resort’s point-of-sale (POS) software. Because Alta offers a dual ski pass with access to Alta and the neighboring Snowbird ski resort, it wanted back-end software that it could meld with the latter’s ticketing system. 

Second, Axess was willing to develop a custom-designed access system for Alta that would not utilize a turnstile, which can be difficult to negotiate while wearing skis and carrying poles. Instead of a turnstile, the custom Axess system consists of a gate that swings outward to allow a skier to pass—more like a starting gate for a horserace, versus a turnstile entrance to a subway system—once the lift ticket is read and authorized by the reader embedded in the gate. Alta also requested that Axess build two vertical antennas into each gate—one on each side—that would ensure an RFID lift ticket would be read no matter on which side of the body a skier carried the ticket, or whether it was near the waist or closer to the neck. 

What’s more, because of the ski area’s healthy snowfall—Alta just recorded its third-biggest snowfall in its 70-year history, with more than 700 inches—the gates needed to be easy to lift and move, to accommodate growing snowpack throughout the season, and to allow for snow-grooming machinery to pass underneath. Axess worked directly with Alta’s operations team and snow groomers to design and install the gates, which are suspended from a gantry—an overhead beam that extends across the lift line. This allows the gates to be moved vertically, and to swung into and out of place to accommodate grooming, at each of the ski area’s seven chairlifts. 

…”

http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?4193/

“Jul 15, 2008—Last winter, Vail Resorts traversed new technological terrain, conducting a proof-of-concept test in which it employed RFID tags to read and validate roughly 1,000 season passes, carried by ski patrollers and ski school employees at Vail Mountain. With the concept tested and proven, the resort company has decided to take the plunge and issue RFID-enabled season passes to patrons and employees of Vail Mountain and its three other Colorado ski areas—Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek—as well as the Heavenly resort on the California-Nevada border. 

Embedding RFID tags into ski passes, of course, is nothing new—its been a common practice in Europe for many years, and a growing number of U.S. ski resorts have started embracing the practice as well (see Alta Opts for RFID Lift TicketsAspen Signs With Skidata, RTP for Integrated RFID/POS System). But Vail is taking the trail less skied. While high-frequency (HF) passive RFID tags operating at 13.56 MHz have become standard for ski pass applications, Vail is utilizing newer, ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive EPC Gen 2tags, which operate at 900 MHz and can be read from much greater distances than HF tags.

…”

 

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
21 days ago

To put the 2018 lift upgrade plan into context, I looked up the dates for the the most recent Alta lift upgrades for the existing lifts.  Realized that Alta Lifts has been innovative for a long time.  The Sunnyside detachable triple was installed in 1999.  Sugarloaf became a detachable quad in 2002.  The last time Supreme triple from 2002 was upgraded was when conveyor loading was added (2013?) before being replaced by a detachable quad with a unique bend in 2017.  The Collins detachable quad with a unique bend and mid-station loading dates from 2004.  Turns out the bottom section can be used with gondolas, meaning it’s actually a chondola.  The idea was for people to be able to ride up in gondola cabins for dinner at Watson’s, but that’s never been implemented.

Snowbird lifts on the other side of Mt. Baldy are more standard for ski resorts, mostly high speed quads with footrests.  But the tram was unique when it started running in 1971.  Adding the Baldy lift to Mineral Basin is what allowed the combo Alta/Snowbird pass to be created in 2001.  The Peruvian tunnel is unique.  The Peruvian quad and the tunnel were completed for the 2007-08 season.

The first season with RFID gates at Alta was 2007-08.  Snowbird finally went to RFID for the base lifts in 2015.

I began going to Alta regularly for spring break trips in 2008.  Had I started a decade earlier in 1998, the amount of change from 1999-2008 would’ve been more noticeable.  As it was I was very glad that Sugarloaf was no longer a slow fixed-grip lift and that Collins was also high speed and went all the way to the top.  Back then I was an intermediate who was skiing 95% groomers, not a traveler hoping to catch a powder storm.  My daughter was spoiled early on given that she started skiing at Alta at age 7 when Wildcat and Cecret were the only slow lifts, and she was beyond skiing greens even the first trip.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
8 days ago

There was nothing different from the EA in a blog entry on the Alta website in Feb 2018 about the Baldy tram.  But the April 2018 blog entry states that building the tram would only become a priority if Alta ski patrol lost the “the ability to use military weapons or avalaunchers for avalanche mitigation work on Mount Badly. If we did lose the ability to quickly do avalanche mitigation work on Mount Baldy, there would be many days when we could lose a significant amount of skiing in Collins Gulch.”  It’s pretty clear that the new GM is annoyed at Save Our Canyons has implied that Alta Lifts is destroying the wetlands and views in LCC.

https://www.alta.com/blog/a-message-from-our-gm-mike-maughan - Feb 2018

https://www.alta.com/blog/comments-on-altas-master-development-plan - April 2018

” …

We are disappointed with the misinformation and half truths regarding Alta Ski Area and our projects that are being promulgated by groups such as, including Save our Canyons to further their cause. They fail to recognize the actions taken by Alta Ski Area to protect and improve the well-being of Alta’s natural environment. Instead, they tend to portray Alta as a destroyer of wetlands and the environment.

To set the record straight, please note that any project that impacts wetlands within our special use permit will include mitigation measures to create additional wetlands. While the new Supreme lift project last summer disturbed approximately 560 square feet of wetland, Alta Ski Area created 3,000 square feet of wetland to mitigate this impact… .”

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
8 days ago

Summer tourists to Alta will find a different approach to traffic in 2018.  There will be a vehicle fee and the Sunnyside lift will be running on weekends.  It’s the start of making the town of Alta more than a winter lodging destination.  By the summer of 2019, the expanded Snowpine Lodge will be open year round.

https://www.alta.com/blog/comments-on-altas-master-development-plan

“Visitation to Albion Basin for the past few summers has exceeded the resources the Forest Service and Town of Alta can allocate to providing services, managing visitors and maintaining facilities. Consequently, the Forest Service will implement a pilot solution this summer in which Alta Ski Area will take over the management of the Albion Basin under our current Special Use Term Permit. Our plans include managing traffic levels in Albion Basin by matching traffic to available amenities (i.e. parking) and charging a vehicle fee to use the amenities. We also plan to run the Sunnyside lift on weekends from June 30 through Labor Day. The Albion Grill will be providing food service and 24/7 access to ADA restrooms. Our objective is to improve services and accommodate visitors in ways that are sustainable and minimize visitor impacts on the natural resources in Albion Basin.”

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
8 days ago

Not too much construction is planned for this summer.  I think the rope tow mentioned is the one that served as both a beginner lift near the ski school and as access to the Snowpine.  The new quad will be open to the public.  That’s a requirement by Alta Lifts if a lodge wants a lift to be managed and manned by Alta Lifts staff.

So any lift upgrades or installations of Gazex won’t happen before the 2018-19 season.

Summer of 2018 
This summer Alta Ski Area will be replacing the Grizzly rope tow with a fixed grip quad chairlift, completing a snowmaking spur on the Roller Coaster ski run and completing re-vegetation and wetland mitigation work near the base of the new Supreme lift. We will also be doing routine maintenance to lifts, buildings, snowmaking systems, parking lots, equipment and ski runs.”

https://www.alta.com/blog/comments-on-altas-master-development-plan - April 2018

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