It’s official; in the wake of the incident two weeks ago, Big Sky Resort will remove and replace the Challenger double chair this summer rather than repair it. General Manager Taylor Middleton announced, “After exhaustive efforts to make Challenger operational for the rest of the season, we have determined that the best course of action is to replace it with a completely new lift. Skiers will continue to access the Challenger terrain via the Headwaters Lift for the rest of this season.” The new lift will be built by Doppelmayr but there’s no word yet on model and capacity.
In addition, a letter to passholders announced the Lone Peak triple chair – a 1973 Heron-Poma – will also be replaced this summer in some form. Big Sky has struggled for years with aging lifts needing replacement. The mountain’s gondola had a multi-tower de-ropement in February 2008 and never ran again. Big Sky has been looking to build a new, longer gondola from the base of the mountain to the Lone Peak Tram that would span more than two miles. With a mid-station, such a gondola could replace the original Gondola One, Lone Peak triple and Explorer beginner double in one alignment. Elsewhere on the mountain, the Shedhorn double needs more capacity and Big Sky has floated an idea of a lift up Liberty Bowl.
If you include Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks, what is now Big Sky Resort built an amazing 13 new lifts in six years between 2002 and 2007 (with 7 more going in at the Yellowstone Club.) The 2008 recession literally stopped the construction boom in its tracks, with the Stagecoach lift at Moonlight left half-finished and abandoned when owner Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. I’ve heard SkyTrac will be finishing that lift this summer. It’s going to be a busy one on Lone Peak.