Yesterday, Belleayre posted this picture on facebook, confirming that construction on the new gondola has begun.
This isn't what I consider the most logical way to spend 8 million dollars at Belleayre, but it's happening, so we may as well look to the positive side of things. This project will be the first gondola built in the east since 2006 when Stowe installed the Over Easy lift, and the first to serve skiable terrain since 1999 when Gore and Whiteface installed their gondolas. All 3 ORDA mountains will have a gondola once this opens in December. I predict it will open along with Tomahawk, usually right before Christmas.
From the information that's been given so far, this lift will start just above the Discovery Lodge deck, and end at the top of Tomahawk as shown in the picture. This will give it a slope length of 6400 feet, with a vertical rise of 1350 feet. There is no mention of any mid station, so it will be a single stage lift, running from the starting location, through the area below the road that has no trails, crossing the road, and then following the Seneca trail to the top. The article on the website says it will have a speed of 1000 fpm with 60 cabins. This will give it a capacity of approximately 2100 per hour.
There is nothing that officially announces the manufacturer yet, but I believe it will be a Doppelmayr lift, due all but one of Belleayre's current lifts being under Doppelmayr support. The double-double is a pre-merger Doppelmayr, Tomahawk is a pre-merger CTEC, and Superchief is a post-merger Doppelmayr that reused some pre-merger CTEC parts.
As far as the effect on the day to day skiing experience goes, I think improved connectivity will be the largest benefit. This lift isn't positioned as something that's meant to be lapped, so once everyone is on the lift section they want to be on, they'll stay there and use that lift, not the gondola. It will take a considerable load off the double-double and Superchief, as there will now be a second route to the upper mountain from the base. For those wanting to access the Superchief section, they will be better off going double-double to Superchief, but for those wanting to access the Tomahawk and Lift 7 areas, they will be better off taking the gondola. There will also likely be increased skier traffic on some of the lower mountain trails by advanced skiers as those who parked at the mid lodge will be going down to access the gondola as that's easier than taking the Superchief and traversing the entire mountain. It will also probably increase the number of people on Tomahawk, but not by enough that would make it unenjoyable to ski there. IMO it's the best terrain on the mountain.
There's also a trail planned to go to the base from the bottom of Tomahawk. This should reduce cross trail traffic because people have to traverse to the mid lodge to get back to the base. However, I'm not sure if it will have snowmaking in the first year.
By double-double I assume you mean lifts 1 and 2? The west side of the mountain near Tomahawk was always my families favorite place to ski as there were never any crowds.
I know it is too early to ask but do you think they will increase or start earlier in the season - snowmaking on dot Nebel and Deer Run?
Yes, I mean lifts 1 and 2 when I say double-double. Just what I've always referred to them as.
For 17-18, I don't think they will start making snow earlier on Seneca, Dot Nebel, and Deer Run. The gondola is scheduled to be open by Christmas, but if any delays occur, it might be getting pushed back to early January. Tomahawk will be opening at the same time it usually does, regardless of the gondola, which is right before Christmas. There may be some midweek closures if they need to do any construction work that isn't safe for guests to be around such as a haulrope splice. I do believe they will blow more snow on that side as the season progresses. I'm not 100% sure, but I think they are replacing some pipes on the Tomahawk side this summer.
For 18-19, they may change up their opening strategy to get the gondola open earlier. Time will tell.
What I'm concerned about is that they'll stop running Tomahawk midweek and force everyone to take a long runout to the gondola to ski that terrain. Whiteface doesn't run the Little Whiteface lift midweek, while Gore runs the Adirondack Express midweek, so it could go either way.
This will go down as the stupidest lift ever built in the world. It only made a tiny bit of sense with a mid station so that beginners could walk onto the lift to get uphill. This lift is only getting built because the Gov is starting his run for Potus by showering spending projects around the state instead of lowering taxes.
End of discussion.
"It is better to go skiing and think of God, than go to church and think of sport."
Artic Explorer Fridtjof Nansen
Can it be considered overkill for the purpose it will serve initially? Yes. Will it go down as the stupidest lift ever built in the world? Hardly. I can think of some other lift projects that were really questionable. For example, the Cabriolet gondola at Mountain Creek makes zero sense in a skiing application and is just there because Intrawest wanted to say that they had the only gondola in NJ. There's also the former Devil's Fiddle Quad at Killington that only served one seldom open expert trail, plus a long flat beginner run and wasn't accessible from the lodge. It only operated a few days a year for much of it's history. Or what about the fixed grip Superchief Quad at Belleayre that was so unfit for it's location that it had to be replaced after only 7 years.
I do not like the trend of installing gondolas as beginner lifts. People have to learn to get on and off a regular chairlift when they first learn how to ski, and if they don't, there will be even more slows and stops on lifts that serve more advanced terrain.
Also, if the Highmount expansion is ever built, they will need this gondola because it would take 5 lifts minimum to reach that section with the current arrangement.
Two variables regarding the lift design that I'm interested in finding out. I already know it is a Doppelmayr lift.
The first variable is the grips. Doppelmayr offers two designs for a lift of this model. The DT-108 grip is used on the Whiteface gondola and is a double position grip. This means that the grip stays locked open in the terminals when off the cable. They also offer the AG-108 grip that is used on the Sunday River Chondola, and many recent western installations used them too. This is a single position grip, meaning that it does not lock open in the terminal. The grip closes again once the cabin is off the cable.
I'm guessing they'll use the DT-108 grips because the Superchief already uses the DT-104 grips which is the smaller version designed for chairlifts. All gondolas and 6-packs use 108 series grips while all HSQ's use the 104 series. They used to make a 106 series grip for 6-packs, but it was discontinued because it was easier to just make two sizes instead of 3.
The second variable is top or bottom drive. Top drive is more efficient, and this is especially true on lifts with 100% downhill capacity. The brakes are applied at the drive bullwheel, and you have gravity pulling the cable away from the drive bullwheel on a bottom drive vs pulling it towards on a top drive. A bottom drive lift needs to run at extremely high tension in order to be able to safely perform an e-stop with a fully loaded downhill side. This increases friction and means the lift needs more power to move. On bottom drive lifts without downhill capacity, this isn't as much of an issue.
The gondola will serve as a way to get summer guest involved with the mountain and be more versatile to meets customer needs. I could care a less what they do down there but I do believe it is necessary for the long term plan with Bel.
Also isn't one of the goals of the gondola to get more people to park down below instead of cramming up by the current lodge? They are going to update the lower lodge (discovery lodge). Also they plan to add mtn biking and have more summer tourism. So maybe not the "worst" lift ever.
We gotta face it that if we want to live in a state that doesn't waste millions of dollars we need to move.
Well, now Belleayre has posted the renderings of the terminals and cabins on facebook. Looks like it will be a blue color scheme like all the other lifts except Superchief which is green. I wonder if they'll repaint the Superchief blue to match all the other lifts.
I really like the way these look. IMO, Doppelmayr gondolas are some of the highest quality lifts on the market. The ride will likely be smooth as glass, and the machinery very quiet. Another feature of this lift will be level walk in cabins. This helps to speed up loading and makes the lift ADA accessible.
There's also a video of them cutting trees with an excavator equipped with a logging attachment. They confirmed on facebook that it was taken between Tomahawk Crossing and Seneca, which I found odd because where I plotted the lift out had it running directly over Tuscarora (the lowest portion of Seneca). I think I assumed the starting location to be in the wrong place and it will be further to looker's left. This does mean that there will be fewer lift towers in the middle of the Seneca trail and there will be less widening and straightening needed.