Aerial tram could be replaced by cable cars | Local

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FRANCONIA NOTCH – Governor Chris Sununu and other state officials plan to make a major financial and tourism decision in the coming months that would affect the state-owned and operated Cannon Mountain ski area in the park State of Franconia Notch.

Long-time park and ski area general manager John “JD” DeVivo presented the options being considered at the July 14 Governor and Executive Council meeting hosted by District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney of Wakefield , at the Peabody Lodge in the ski area.

Many at the meeting took the aerial tramway to enjoy a soup and sandwich lunch.

Three options are already under consideration: 1) renovating and modernizing the existing 80-passenger tramway II; 2) replace this aging tram with a brand new one designed to carry 100 passengers; and 3) the complete scrapping of the tram and its replacement with a multiple gondola system, similar to the one recently installed at the Bretton Woods ski area, off Route 302.

“Franconia Notch State Park is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the country and serves as a flagship park and sub-region within our system,” said DeVivo. “Note that although our ski area operates from late November to mid-April, the aerial tramway serves our customers during our two operating seasons, every day from late May to late October and four days a week (for skiers and snowboarders).

“During the summer months, we typically have between 100,000 and 120,000 guests, and during the winter months, 45,000 to 55,000 guests,” he said.

DeVivo traced the history of the publicly funded streetcar from its conception in 1933 until its inauguration in June 1938; the first in North America. By his retirement in 1980, he had carried over 6 million passengers.

Tram II was designed in 1965, authorized by the Legislative Assembly in 1977 and approved in February 1980. It has carried nearly 10 million passengers.

“The tram is an iconic ski lift at Cannon Mountain, but its real value lies not in its winter role, where it is one of 11 lifts, but in its status as the main source of income – and wonder – in the springtime. , summer and fall.… it’s not just a ride but an experience, ”said DeVivo.

As always, cost is an important factor that should be taken into account when considering capital budget proposals. “To operate the overhead tram costs approximately $ 350,000 per year, including labor and standard maintenance, and generates approximately $ 2 million in direct revenue in the summer,” DeVivo said.

The tram also conducts other income-generating tours throughout the year to the park and ski area that they otherwise wouldn’t see, he said, including Flume Gorge tours, hiker tours and ski tours. boat rentals in Echo Lake.

The aerial tram stop caused by COVID-19, which lasted from March 14, 2020 to May 28, 2021, not only created a loss of $ 1.5 million in streetcar ticket sales, but also cost at least An additional $ 1 million in lost revenue at the park, DeVito estimated.

The original streetcar was built for approximately $ 250,000 and operated for 40 years, thanks to a state-of-the-art maintenance program. The second was built for around $ 5 million and operated for 40 years, thanks to a highly technical maintenance program.

“We typically spend $ 100,000 to $ 500,000 per year on maintenance and upgrades, depending on the component system,” the general manager said. “We have been engaged for some time in an in-depth discussion regarding our future options with Doppelmayr from Austria (with two offices in Europe and two in the US).”

“The most immediate need is to replace the current primary systems of the tram, such as the two cars themselves, the suspension arms, the transport carriages, the electromechanical components and the motor and brake systems, at a cost. of about $ 10 million. Each of these systems has a remaining lifespan of three to five years, ”said DeVivo. Doppelmayr recommends that the concrete for the tower bases be carefully inspected and the steel superstructure repainted, which could cost an additional $ 1 million to $ 2 million.

“The second option is to replace the entire tram system at a cost of around $ 20 million,” DeVivo said, noting that this figure is an estimate based on expanding the size of each car to 100. passengers. “This option would give us a whole new system and a good start to a new 40 to 50 year legacy, but at twice the cost. “

The first option would provide new primary systems and around 20 years of solid operation, DeVivo said, through constantly improving maintenance programs.

“The first option would probably also cost us revenue in both summer and winter, while a full rebuild would likely take most of two calendar years,” DeVito said.

The tram structures at the base and at the top could potentially be reused, but the lodge facilities are showing their age and in need of refurbishment and modernization. The design, development and maintenance office of the Ministry of Natural and Cultural Resources has begun to examine options and costs.

DeVivo is concerned about replacing the tram with a gondola system designed to increase overall passenger capacity. “We and our partners at Doppelmayr believe that our ability to operate a system with such small individual cabins would be severely hampered by our weather systems between 3,000 and 4,000 feet,” he said. Frost, DeVivo explained, is generated during most months of the year, requiring the weight of trams and brass wheel sets to break the ice from the track cables.

“Plus, at Cannon, we just don’t think a gondola offers about the same level of family and group experience that makes the tram such a beloved part and element of the park,” said the manager. of the park who held this position for 14 years. years.

In a brief one-on-one interview, Governor Sununu said he expected a decision to likely be made in the relatively near future. Federal dollars for infrastructure and other capital projects are now pouring into New Hampshire. There will be a number of people involved in making investment budget decisions whose advice will be sought, the governor said, including Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Charlie Arlinghaus and staff.


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