Steamboat Plans More Lifts


Steamboat is the fourth largest ski resort in Colorado with 19 lifts and almost 3,000 acres of terrain on 10,568 foot Mt. Werner.  In 2011, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation commissioned Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners to perform a detailed mountain analysis and update the resort’s master plan.  The Routt National Forest approved the plan in 2013, which envisions seven new lifts installed over the next ten years to better serve skiers.  Included are a mid-mountain learning center served by a second gondola, a new lift on Sunshine Peak and replacement of four lifts with upgraded equipment.  The first of the upgrade projects already underway, replacing the Elkhead triple (a 1984 Yan) with a Doppelmayr detachable quad.  Initially proposed as a six-pack, Steamboat opted to build a 4-place detachable instead.  The new Elkhead will be the first Doppelmayr lift built here since 1997 following four new Leitner-Poma lifts built at Steamboat in the 2000s.

Plan overview from Ecosign.  The new lift and trails on Pioneer Ridge shown in blue were not approved in 2013 but are within Steamboat’s existing permit boundary, were approved in 1996 and remain in the resort’s long term plans.
By far the largest component of the 2011 plan is the Rough Rider Learning Center in Bashor Bowl served by a new 8-passenger gondola.  The Bashor Gondola will rise from the base of the Silver Bullet Gondola to the northeast, crossing Christie Peak Express and Christie III.  The top terminal will house an 8,000 square foot skier-services building. Unfortunately for the gondola’s future mechanics, 3,500 square feet of that space for gondola cabin storage and maintenance will be a lunch room for 300 kids during the day.  At night, the gondola will service the lodge and a new tube park near the top terminal.  It will also spin all summer alongside the Silver Bullet.

Two fixed-grip chairlifts dubbed Rough Rider and Swinger (no way that name sticks) will service teaching terrain in Bashor Bowl along with 2-3 new magic carpets.  The 1989 Rough Rider platter nearby will be removed.  A third new chairlift will replace the Bashor lift in the same vicinity but in a new alignment ending 500′ higher.  Bashor is the second oldest lift at Steamboat, a Lift Engineering double dating back to 1972.

The new learning center will provide a much-needed alternative to the congested base area, which has seven beginner lifts crammed onto 20 acres.  The Christie Peak Express provided some relief in 2007 but did not completely solve the problem.  To quote from Ecosign, “unfortunately, at the exact time of day when maximum capacity is needed for staging, the ski school begins to use the Christie Peak Express and significantly decreases its loading efficiency.” A new gondola will serve as a much-needed third option, relieving half hour-plus gondola lines that persist for hours on peak days.  All of this sounds a whole lot like Jackson Hole’s Sweetwater Gondola and Solitude Learning Center currently under construction that will similarly boost out-of-base capacity.

Overview of the Rough Rider Learning Center with up to seven new lifts.
The other significant piece of the plan would bring a third lift to Sunshine Bowl for the low-intermediate skiers that make up the majority of Steamboat’s clientele.  The Sunshine II high speed quad would supplement Sunshine Express with additional trails cut to the east.   Sunshine Express came to Steamboat in 2006 but dates back to 1997 at The Canyons (American Skiing Co. owned both mountains back then.)   Sunshine II will be 5,900 feet long with 1,025′ of vertical and a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.

The 1984 Yan South Peak triple will eventually be replaced with a third high speed quad starting at the bottom of Sunshine Bowl.  This may come as a surprise given the alignment is only 1,700 feet long.  However, Ecosign notes the existing triple only achieves 80 percent loading efficiency due to skier ability, resulting in 15 minute lines before lunch and near the end of the day.  With two high speed quads in Sunshine Bowl, up to 3,500 skiers will seek to leave via South Peak at peak times.  A new high speed quad with 2,400 skiers per hour and 90 percent loading efficiency will meet this need for getting out.

Expansion in Sunshine Bowl includes two new high speed quads on either side of the Sunshine Express.
The rest of the approved master plan focuses on optimizing capacity and modernizing existing lifts.  Thunderhead Express, which runs from the top of the new gondola to the top of the old gondola, would be upgraded to a high speed six-pack moving 3,200 skiers per hour.  Thunderhead currently experiences 30-plus minute lines on peak days with more than 12,000 skiers at Steamboat.  Carriers would be added to nearby Pony Express to bring it up to 1,800 skiers per hour, up from the current 1,200  (Garaventa CTEC designed it to eventually reach 2,400 skiers per hour.)

At the completion of this plan, Steamboat will operate 29 lifts – 2 gondolas, 2 six-packs, 7 high speed quads, 10 fixed-grip chairlifts and 8 surface lifts – serving a comfortable carrying capacity of 18,000 skiers per day.  Elkhead Express will be the mountain’s the third new lift built since Intrawest bought Steamboat from American Skiing Company in 2007.  In 2014, after an initial public offering and with increasing revenues, Intrawest said it plans to invest $8-12 million in capital improvements annually across its portfolio of six mountain resorts.  The company’s stock is up 37 percent in the last three months so hopefully that bodes well for more new lifts at Steamboat. In addition to everything mentioned above, the mountain’s next master plan will include a 7,000 foot high speed quad north of Pony Express serving new trails on Pioneer Ridge.


28 thoughts on “Steamboat Plans More Lifts

  1. Somebody... June 8, 2016 / 1:56 pm

    Would the Thunderhead chairs be compatible on Pony? Thunderhead has dopp chairs…
    My idea is that Intrawest could ship Thunderhead over to Snowbowl at stratton, and ship snowbowl over to Steamboat and divy it up into those planned beginner lifts. The only new lift they would have to pay for in order for Intrawest to install / replace 5 lifts would be a six-pack.

    Liked by 1 person

    • powderforever45 November 12, 2019 / 6:12 pm

      I think thunderhead chairs would be compatible on pony they would just have to put AK grips on the thunderhead chairs. Not sure if where the hangar arm goes into the terminal would be too wide.


  2. ALEX BOESENBERG August 27, 2016 / 7:16 pm

    Do people think moving the beginner area up to the Thunderhead base area is a good idea? I thought the whole point of the turn station of the Christie Express was to have a dedicated beginner area that was regraded, good for teaching, etc. I have not skied at Steamboat since the 80’s so I have no idea.


  3. Duncan October 20, 2018 / 7:27 am

    Hey peter, is there a higher resolution version of the map available? Any images seem to have dissapeared in the two years since this was uploaded.


  4. powderforever June 29, 2019 / 9:58 am

    The projects got final approval by the us forest service. Including
    the Pioneer Expansion. The question is will Alterra decide to invest in any of the projects. Plus right next to the proposed Sunshine II area is protected winter elk habitat and some of the runs that are proposed are right on the sup boundary.


    • Donald Reif June 29, 2019 / 4:40 pm

      I don’t think they’ll worry too much about any environmentalists that come crawling out of the woodworks to complain.


  5. powderforever July 6, 2019 / 1:38 pm

    Peter, Do you know if all of Pioneer going to be glades because it appeared to only show glading for the Pioneer Expansion on the updated master plan. Plus, will Pioneer be a HSQ?


    • Donald Reif July 7, 2019 / 9:52 am

      I’d assume based on length of the line, it’d be a HSQ.


      • powderforever July 7, 2019 / 1:50 pm

        That would be viable because the line is 7,000 ft long.


  6. skitheeast July 26, 2019 / 10:07 am

    This master plan is only semi-accurate because it is now eight years old and Alterra decided they are using older master plans for ideas/inspiration but not as definite guidelines. From what I heard, the whole Bashor beginner complex is still being discussed, but four lifts that look solid are Thunderhead Express 2.0 as a six-pack, Sunshine II (which would probably get some ex-Thunderhead equipment due to its age and the similar length), South Peak 2.0 (unsure if detachable quad or fixed-grip quad), and Storm Peak Express 2.0 as a six-pack with a possible mid-station at Four Points Lodge (so Four Points lift would probably go).


  7. Collin Parsons July 26, 2019 / 4:15 pm

    It would be a huge mistake to pull Four Points without replacement. It’s needed for days when wind or ice prevent summit lift service. I’m hoping they’ll bring back the bubbles on Storm Peak 2.0 but with proper indoor storage. Maybe even go with an 8 pack for better wind tolerance. Sundown will also need to be upgraded at some point.


    • Donald Reif July 26, 2019 / 5:26 pm

      An eight-pack would be overkill on the Storm Peak Express lift line. I don’t think it gets the traffic to warrant one.


    • Collin Parsons July 26, 2019 / 7:03 pm

      When I was there Christmas 2015, Sundown was by far the most crowded lift (besides the gondola in the morning). I think Sundown should definitely become a bubble 8 (capacity 4000) especially if Sunshine 2 is built. It would also allow for removal of Priest Creek. I think Sunshine 2 is more important than a second Pioneer Ridge lift as Sunshine 1 is often crowded while Pony is not. Storm Peak doesn’t need quite as much capacity, so I think it should be upgraded to a bubble-6 or 8 with a capacity of 3200-3600. If the reliability of both removed detachables is sufficient, then a Shedhorn-style upgrade would allow for reuse elsewhere, like Sundown could become Sunshine 2 and Storm Peak could become Pioneer Ridge 2. I’m not sure replacing Thunderhead is as much of a priority anymore because of the gondola capacity upgrade.


      • Donald Reif November 12, 2019 / 7:17 pm

        High speed eight packs are overkill. I think it would make more sense to put a high speed six pack on Sundown then use excess chairs from it to increase the Storm Peak Express’s uphill capacity to 2,800 pph. And Priest Creek should be retained as a backup lift for at least a few more years.


        • Snow Boys March 5, 2020 / 7:24 am

          For storm peak they should just increase capacity by a little bit and do something like mt bachelor did for pine marten.

          On sundown they should make it a six pack or bubbled six pack with a capacity of 3,600.


        • Donald Reif March 5, 2020 / 8:47 am

          That’s definitely what I was getting at, receiving some chairs from the Sundown Express would be a quick fix to boost capacity on the Storm Peak Express. It’d be no different from when Keystone upgraded capacity on the Outback Express by moving chairs over from the Dercum Mountain high speed quads.

          I think the Storm Peak Express would receive about 20 chairs in the process, going from 143 chairs to 163 chairs. There’s already room for two additional chairs due to the length of the end gap between chair 143 and chair 1.


  8. New England Chairlifts & Skiing July 27, 2019 / 6:52 am

    How often do Christie II and Preist Creek Run? They’re listed as secondary lifts. Probably only during peak periods when traffic gets heavy at the nearby main lifts.


  9. New England Chairlifts & Skiing July 27, 2019 / 6:54 am

    *Christie III, not Christie II. Christie II was a Heron Poma double that was Removed in 2007 when the Six Pack was built.*


    • powderforever45 November 11, 2019 / 8:29 pm

      Christie III is only used usually when there are ski races or when the race team is practicing. But most of its use is for the ski races that take place on the All Out ski run.


      • Snow Boys March 5, 2020 / 7:25 am

        Priest Creek runs when there is hour plus lines on sundown express. It usually only runs once a season.


  10. powderforever45 March 11, 2020 / 5:14 pm

    I wonder if the Pioneer expansion plan will come in multiple phases as it is just getting new trails this summer.


    • Mike B March 12, 2020 / 2:26 pm

      Have to imagine that’s the plan. This gives them the opportunity to do a soft opening and get credit for the terrain expansion while seeing what actual traffic patterns look like before committing to installing the planned lift on Pioneer Ridge. Given Steamboat’s core guest, I’m kind of surprised this was prioritized over the Bashor Bowl and Sunshine II changes.


      • powderforever45 March 12, 2020 / 3:47 pm

        When I first saw this in the steamboat pilot I was very surprised Alterra went for this first instead of Bashor or Sunshine II. Steamboat could use some more capacity on lifts and even more beginner terrain due to the crowding of the ikon pass.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s