Vail is a mountain which needs no introduction. The nation’s third largest resort now attracts more than 1.6 million skiers a season, 60 percent of which are destination visitors from around the world. Owner Vail Resorts has constructed a staggering ten new lifts in the last eleven years at its flagship, including a new 10 passenger gondola and three six place chairlifts. While the beast may take a brief break to focus on snowmaking and other enhancements this year, a new master plan suggests more big ticket lift investments are coming.
Already approved for construction is the upper Golden Peak project, consisting of three new trails and a T-Bar above the Riva Bahn angle station. This lift will be 2,001 feet long with a vertical of 678 feet. While built for with ski racing in mind, the new pod will be open to the public with a capacity of 1,400 skiers per hour. Construction is set to begin as soon as this summer.
At the opposite end of Vail’s front side, the last standing of four 1985 detachable quads is Game Creek Express. This lift is approved to be replaced in the near future with a six person detachable. It would be Vail’s fourth such lift following upgrades to the Mountaintop, Northwoods and Avanti Express lifts. Uphill capacity would rise from 2,800 per hour to 3,200 in popular Game Creek Bowl.
The Wildwood Express, a CTEC dating from 1995, would be replaced with a modern version. A similar project would swap the two stage Riva Bahn Express (1996 CTEC) for a new model. Born Free Express, a 1988 Doppelmayr, would also be replaced. Next door, the Eagle Bahn Gondola is coming up on 25 years of service. “Given its year-round, day and night operations, freight hauling duties, and limited capacity, the gondola will need a major overall or potentially an upgrade during the life of this plan,” the MDP notes.
Another proposed front side project is the Ever Vail Gondola, which would move 2,400 guests per hour from a new portal west of Lionshead. This lift was initially planned to terminate above the bottom of the Pride Express lift. Newer thinking has the gondola replacing that lift as well with an angle station at the current bottom terminal. With this option, the lift would have a slope length over 9,100 feet, making it the fourth longest on the mountain. Riders originating in West Lionshead could ascend all the way to Eagle’s Nest without needing to transfer lifts.
The nearby Cascade Village lift, a 1987 CTEC quad servicing Vail’s westernmost trail and the new Hotel Talisa, would be replaced with a detachable quad under the plan. This project would leave just two remaining fixed grip chairlifts in a sea of detachable technology at Vail.
In the Back Bowls, the 1988 vintage Orient Express would be replaced with a new high speed quad, increasing throughput from 2,400 to 2,800 in the process. I am a bit surprised this is not proposed as a six pack. In fact, Game Creek is the only additional lift set to become a six place chair under this master plan.
A major new lift approved in 2009 but not yet built is called the Sun Down Express. This high speed, detachable quad would stretch more than 6,000 feet from the bottom of Lift 5 to the top of Lift 7 with a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour. Currently, the Sun Up Express and Teacup Express lifts provide egress for over 4,000 acres of terrain, causing congestion on busy afternoons. Sun Down would become a much-needed reliever.
On the opposite end of Vail’s Back Bowls, the Mongolia Express is proposed to replace the difficult to access Mongolia platter, which opens only some of the time. At 5,786′ feet long with a vertical of 1,575′, skiers would be able to spread out and lap this high speed quad without needing to return to the Orient Express.
While no new lifts are proposed in Blue Sky Basin, its operational boundary could be expanded both east and west. A series of new trails are proposed near Pete’s Express along with groomed access to West Earl’s Bowl.
Vail Resorts announces new lifts for its resorts each December and I expect at least one of the many projects in the new master plan will get the green light for 2020.
The list of firms which have supplied ski lifts to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is impressive: Hall, Willamette, Murray-Latta, Mueller, Riblet, Heron, Doppelmayr, Garaventa CTEC, Lift Engineering, Poma, Doppelmayr CTEC, Garaventa and Leitner-Poma. This fall, Skytrac Lifts will join the club as it builds a new version of one of Jackson Hole’s inaugural chairlifts from 1965. The new Eagle’s Rest quad will follow a revised alignment from the original, which was removed to make way for the three station Sweetwater Gondola in 2016. Running across six towers between the Sweetwater and Bridger gondolas, the new top station will be located near the bottom of Sundance Gully. Beginner skiers and snowboarders will also be able to reach the lift from the new Solitude Station learning center.
Eagle’s Rest will become the third new lift in five years for Jackson Hole, which just concluded its busiest season ever with more than 715,000 skier visits. The Ikon Pass partner mountain will also add 14 new cabins to Sweetwater, increasing capacity between the base area, Solitude Station and Casper Restaurant by nearly 30 percent. The new cabins will match the 48 Omega IV 8 LWI models currently in service. Both the Skytrac quad chair and CWA cabins will be ready for guests this November.
The Summit at Snoqualmie, operated by Boyne Resorts, is getting in on the new lift action. One of eleven Riblets still operating at Washington’s most-visited resort will be replaced with a fixed grip quad over the summer. The Holiday Quad will feature a height adjustable loading carpet and more than double hourly capacity on this section of Summit Central, which caters to beginners. The 1,380 foot lift will rise 260 feet at a maximum speed of 450 feet per minute. The most recent Summit master plan contemplated removing the Gallery lift alongside this project.
Notably, of the more than 35 chairlifts built at Snoqualmie over the decades, Holiday will be the first supplied by Doppelmayr. “Going from a two-person to four-person chair and adding the easy loading conveyor will be a true game changer for Summit Central, particularly for our first-timers and kids,” stated Guy Lawrence, President & General Manager at The Summit in an online announcement. Construction will begin in June and wrap up prior to the 2019-20 season.
We are incredibly excited to announce that this summer we will install a new Dopplemayr quad chairlift to replace the aging Holiday Chair at Summit Central! Learn More in the link below. https://t.co/zMCRCpIBJD
The New Hampshire Business Review profiles legendary resort developer Les Otten.
The privately-held conglomerate behind Leitner Ropeways, Poma, Leitner-Poma of America and Skytrac announces the highest revenue in the company’s history for 2018: €1.02 billion. The group built approximately 100 ropeways around the world last year, up from 75 in 2017.
Fifty years after its trusty beginner chairlift opened, Sugar Mountain says the Brown Hall double has carried its last skiers and snowboarders. Next winter, a Doppelmayr detachable quad chair will run up the Easy Street slope, more than doubling uphill capacity to 2,400 people per hour. The new lift, tentatively dubbed the Silver Bullet, will also improve ride time from more than six minutes to two and a half while making loading and unloading more comfortable.
“Replacing the original Easy Street lift is not just an upgrade, it is example of the continued commitment to offering our guests an exceptional mountain experience,” said Sugar Mountain Resort owner Gunther Jochl in a statement. “The majority of our guests are beginners who go on to develop skiing and snowboarding as a life-long, family activity. Generation after generation lays roots right here on our beginner terrain. This hasn’t changed in Sugar’s fifty year history.” Sugar Mountain launched its first high speed lift, the Summit Express six pack, in 2015.