Denver’s Magic Carpet: Not just for ski areas
From a nondescript industrial park near Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood, Dave Kelly and his wife, Jennifer, operate two small-conveyor manufacturing companies that are transporting people and products in many countries and industries.Though their Magic Carpet ski lifts are used at resorts throughout the state, the companies have largely flown under the radar.”We go to ski shows, and people think we’re manufactured in Europe,” Dave Kelly said.After opening Rocky Mountain Conveyor & Equipment, Kelly patented the Magic Carpet ski lifts that took the company international and paved the way for its expansion to moving people on water.Before conveyor ski lifts became a common feature at ski resorts, beginning skiers shuffled up hills, sometimes hauled by a ski tow, in a daunting trek to the top. The Magic Carpet, which the company trademarked, revolutionized the way beginners learned to ski by moving riders along on its conveyor belt.Dave Kelly started working with conveyor systems in the early 1970s, before opening Rocky Mountain Conveyor & Equipment in 1982.The company primarily builds industrial conveyors, moving goods rather than people. Examples of its work include the inmate property-storage conveyors built for the Adams County Jail.The company developed the first conveyor ski lift in 1990 for a Breckenridge ski school and day care.”We were probably the worst marketers at that time,” Kelly said, noting that the company didn’t build its second lift until prompted by a request from Vail Resorts in 1992. The beginners’ ski lift was later named Magic Carpet to capitalize on the popularity of the Disney movie “Aladdin.”By 1996, Magic Carpet Ski Lifts emerged as a separate company focused exclusively on the winter-sports market. Since then, nearly 300 Magic Carpets have been installed in ski areas in eight countries, and 50 percent of the company’s sales are exports, Kelly said.The Magic Carpet is now used as a transporter for half pipes and tubing sports – including one soon to be installed at Frisco’s new tubing hill on the peninsula – and has been used in fashion shows.Three years ago, the company dropped “ski” from its name as it began encompassing new industries, loading and unloading riders at amusement parks, and moving boats and kayaks for water sports.”If it moves people, we’re for it,” Kelly said.Magic Carpet Lifts recently completed three projects for NBC Universal, including building the unloading and loading conveyors for the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” attraction at the Universal Orlando Resort. More recently, it installed conveyors to control the whitewater rafting course for a project in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.Despite demand for their products, both companies remain small, together employing just 12 full-time workers, along with additional contractors as needed. Combined annual revenues for the companies total more than $5 million, Kelly said, and conveyor prices range from $50,000 to $600,000.Though the company’s international reach has expanded, its local customers remain a loyal and significant part of its business.”Their service has always been good,” said Jim Kercher, director of the Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School. “Their machines are consistent and easy to deal with because they’re local.”
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