Will Vail Resorts Build Big in 2018?

Winter Dual Mountain Bluebird DavidMcColm
With the additions of Whistler Blackcomb and Stowe, Vail Resorts’ reach is larger than ever.  The company typically announces new lifts projects in a single press release each December.  Photo credit: Whistler Blackcomb/Vail Resorts.

If you follow the ski industry, mark your calendar for four months from now, the week of December 4th.  Very early one morning that week, the largest mountain resort operator in the world will release its fiscal 2018 first quarter results and, more importantly to this audience, outline capital expenditures for 2018.  Last year, this is the moment Vail Resorts committed to building three six-packs as part of $103 million in capital spending for 2017 (the company later added a fourth detachable to this year’s class, the Red Buffalo Express at Beaver Creek.)  In December 2015, MTN announced a high-speed quad for Vail Mountain and in 2014, $50 million in improvements including three new lifts at Park City plus another six-pack at Vail.  So, what might be on the likely $120+ million agenda for 2018?

Vail Mountain

  1. Game Creek Express #7 six-pack.  The current 1985 version of Game Creek is the oldest operating lift on Vail Mountain and one of three remaining CLD-260 style Doppelmayr detachables there.  It is likely to be replaced with a six-pack, increasing capacity by at least 25 percent in popular Game Creek Bowl.  Of the recent six-pack upgrades at Vail, two were built by Doppelmayr (Avanti #2 and Mountaintop #4) and one by Leitner-Poma (Northwoods #11.)vail 4-1-07 184
  2. Orient Express #21 six-pack.  Three years newer than Game Creek but still with DS grips, Orient Express serves some of the most popular terrain in Vail’s famous Back Bowls below the equally popular Two Elk Lodge.  A six-pack upgrade would be the first such lift in the Back Bowls or Blue Sky Basin.
  3. Wildwood Express #3 six-pack.  A 1995 CTEC, Wildwood is not as old as other detachables recently replaced at Vail, but it serves a high-traffic pod between Mid-Vail and its namesake Wildwood.  Parts from this lift could be used as spares for Riva Bahn/Pride Express and Cinch, Bachelor, Grouse Mountain and Strawberry Park high-speed quads at Beaver Creek.
  4. Born Free Express #8 replacement.  Born Free is the 1988 sister ship to Orient and runs parallel to the Eagle Bahn Gondola, built 1996.  Vail could opt to address both lifts in the coming years with a gondola like Keystone’s or replace only Born Free with a new high-speed quad or six-pack.
  5. Golden Peak Race lift.  In April, Vail submitted a master plan amendment to add a third lift on Golden Peak above the Riva Bahn mid-station.  This short fixed-grip chairlift or surface lift would primarily serve an extended race course.vailgoldenpeakexpansion

Beaver Creek

  1. Arrow Bahn Express replacement.  Beaver Creek doesn’t see nearly the traffic that Vail does and has seen ten new lifts since 2000.  However, Arrow Bahn Express is by far the oldest lift at Beaver Creek, built in 1988 to serve a separate Arrowhead ski area.  A CLD-260 like Game Creek, Orient and Born Free but with lower hours for its age, Arrow Bahn might make it a bit longer.img_4153


  1. 6-chair replacement.  Breckenridge is the most-skied resort in the country and while it has built four new lifts in four years, it still operates some surprisingly old fixed-grips.  The most-likely to be upgraded first is 6-Chair, a 1979 Riblet double serving popular advanced terrain easily accessed from the Colorado SuperChair.  A low-ish capacity high-speed quad would make sense here.img_3185
  2. Beaver Run SuperChair replacement.  With the recent Colorado and Falcon upgrades, Beaver Run on Peak 9 is now the oldest remaining detachable at 27 years.  Sandwiched between two other lifts, Vail Resorts will be thinking about what capacity makes sense, but a six-pack seems likely.
  3. C-Chair replacement.  Staying on Peak 9, C-Chair is a long 1972 Riblet that could be replaced with a high-speed quad.  If Beaver Run becomes a six-pack, C could be removed but that would leave a long, flat run out from certain trails like Sawmill and Crosscut.
  4. A-Chair replacement.  Built in 1975, A is a beginner lift that is not very beginner-friendly.  A high-speed quad would be a nice upgrade of this nearly 5,000-foot Riblet.


  1. Wayback replacement.  This long-awaited project would replace a 1991 fixed-grip quad with a 2,400 pph detachable in the same alignment.img_3599
  2. Ski Tip Gondola.  Under the Keystone Master Plan, a new Ski Tip portal is planned with a 3,400′ x 1,154′ two-way gondola that could transition approximately 18 percent of skiers away from the River Run and Marmot portals.  Skiers would ride the gondola to a point above the River Run Gondola mid-station and return there at the end of the day to ride back down.
  3. Two-stage Argentine high-speed quad.  A new high speed quad will replace Argentine and continue to the Dercum summit with a mid-load angle station near the top of the current double.
  4. Summit Learning Center Lift.  A new fixed-grip chairlift is proposed to connect the top of the new Argentine to the top of the mountain between Ranger and Montezuma.
  5. Outback surface lift.  This 3,425′ T-Bar or platter would provide lift access for the first time above the popular Outback Express.
  6. Windows triple.  This one would serve two-fold, providing access to Bergman and Independence Bowls while also making it easier to access the Windows under the Outpost Gondola.
  7. Bergman Bowl Express.  This high-speed quad would top out at 12,200′ above the current lifts on Dercum Mountain with a vertical rise of 1,000′.
  8. Independence Bowl Lift.  Proposed as an above-treeline fixed-grip triple with a capacity of 1,200 pph.

You can read more about the Keystone master plan here.

Park City

  1. Sunrise detachable.  This is the most likely project at Park City for 2018 with the Canyons Village redevelopment already underway.  The plan describes a ‘strategic lift,’ which could be a chairlift or gondola, rising towards Tombstone and Quicksilver.  I’ve never seen an exact proposed alignment.
  2. Dreamcatcher high-speed quad.  What once was a long lift at the far reaches of The Canyons is still a long lift but now in the heart of One Park City.  With a 10+ minute ride time, I’m surprised Dreamcatcher has made it this long as a fixed-grip quad.IMG_3046
  3. Pioneer high-speed quad.  While not super long, Pioneer serves popular intermediate terrain near the summit of Park City and could be upgraded to a high-speed quad.
  4. Town high-speed quad.  While not a lift that many skiers lap, the Town lift is more than 6,600 feet long and takes some 14 minutes to ride each way.  Operated in both winter and summer, a detachable would make sense here.
  5. Pinecone Ridge expansion lift(s.)  As I wrote in my One Wasatch post, a large hole exists in the middle of the combined Park City with no lifts above 9,000 feet from Jupiter to Ninety Nine-90.  There’s a thousand acres of likely develop-able private land in the upper reaches of White Pine Canyon owned by Iron Mountain Associates/The Colony. With 1-2 new lifts in No Name Bowl, Park City could finally gain some real skiing in the vicinity of Dreamscape.  Possible alignments are shown in white.PC No Name expansion


  1. Comet Express six-pack.  No doubt a top priority at Heavenly is replacement of its oldest detachable, a Doppelmayr built with chain-driven terminals in 1988. Because it is sandwiched between another high-speed quad and six-pack, Vail could opt to build a modest-capacity sixer or a new high-speed quad.
  2. Galaxy replacement.  Poor Galaxy never ran this winter despite ample snowfall.  I fear this SLI double could be removed and not replaced, which would be the second such shrinkage of Heavenly.  A more popular option would be to replace Galaxy with a new fixed-grip or (preferably) detachable quad.IMG_4277
  3. Boulder/North Bowl replacement.  Boulder and North Bowl started out as one exceptionally long lift (almost 8,000′) before wisely being split in two.  In the detachable era, a single lift in a new alignment might make sense.
  4. Mott Canyon extension.  While Mott Canyon is awesome, the current lift is relatively short and the last time I skied Heavenly I was the only soul around.  An extension to top of Dipper or Milky Way would better serve Heavenly’s best advanced terrain but also could subject it to more wind closures.


As of February, Northstar has approval in hand for seven new lifts, which I’ve ordered by possible chronology below.


  1. Lift J (Lookout Mountain Access): A long new detachable quad or six-place chairlift starting near the bottom station of the Highlands pulse gondola and ending near the Lookout Vista surface lift providing increased out-of-base capacity.  A mid-load station would serve new trails to the north of the Tahoe Zephyr Express pod.
  2. Lift C: A fixed-grip or detachable chairlift east of the existing Vista Express serving three new intermediate trails above Sawmill Lake.
  3. Castle Peak Gondola: A six-passenger gondola to Northstar Village that wouldn’t serve any ski trails but would reduce traffic on Northstar Drive by diverting more vehicles to the offsite Castle Peak parking lots.  The gondola alignment would require two stages and an angle station to the east of Northstar Village.  It would serve a similar function to the Vail-owned BreckConnect Gondola.  Upon completion of Castle Peak, Northstar will operate a whopping four gondolas.
  4. Lift V: A bottom drive fixed-grip lift starting near the Backside Express/Promised Land Express rising into the new Sawtooth Ridge expansion area.
  5. Lift W: A second fixed-grip chairlift serving Sawtooth Ridge.  No trails would be cut in this pod; it would be dedicated to serving natural tree skiing.
  6. Lift Z: Surface tow similar to Lookout Vista providing access to “backcountry-style” terrain beyond lifts V and W.
  7. Lift Q: A second lift on Lookout Mountain to the west of the Martis Camp Express.  This one would be fixed-grip and top drive.


Kirkwood is unique in that Vail has not built any new lifts here since it went Epic in 2012. The biggest upgrade possibility I see is a detachable to replace parallel lifts 10 and 11. Built in 1984 and 1986, respectively, these Yan triples could have many more years of life but Wagon Wheel is 2,000 feet longer than Kirkwood’s longest detachable, with an 11-minute ride time.  A half mid-station with unloading only could allow The Reut to be removed too.


Four out of the last five times Vail bought a mountain, it added at least one new lift the following construction season.  This year’s addition the the Vail family is Stowe, a mountain already graced with six new lifts since 2004.  Still, the resort still operates at least three lifts that could potentially be replaced.

  1. Lookout replacement.  Mechanically, Lookout is the most obsolete lift at Stowe.  It is more than a mile long and 38 years old manufactured by a company no longer in business. Lookout lies between a new Doppelmayr high-speed quad and the Mountain triple, which could be replaced instead of or in addition to Lookout.IMG_5013
  2. Toll House replacement.  There’s some speculation Vail could look to Toll House to help alleviate Stowe’s parking woes.  To make it a more attractive portal and beginner facility, this 6,400′ fixed-grip would need to be replaced with a detachable quad.
  3. Mountain replacement.  While not as old as Lookout, the Mountain triple is further from FourRunner and could plausibly go high-speed first.  It is middle-aged by lift standards at 32.

Urban Resorts

  • Vail Resorts has so far given little lift love to Afton Alps, which operates a stunning 19 Halls and Herons, the newest of which debuted in 1979.  For a company which prides itself on investing in the ski experience, I don’t think Vail can go much longer without addressing Afton Alps.  I could see multiple fixed-grip quads replacing a slew of double chairs using parts from Colorado à la Wilmot.
  • I don’t expect to see any more new lifts at Mt. Brighton and Wilmot for awhile given they’ve already seen five new quad chairs.

Whistler Blackcomb

I saved the best for last.  The beast that is Whistler Blackcomb has approval for literally dozens of new lifts which I’ve outlined before.  If you look at a lift fleet like an airline or public transit agency would look at a fleet, a mountain with 30 lifts that last an average of 35 years should replace one every 1.2 years, on average.  That doesn’t factor expansion, which Whistler Blackcomb has lots of opportunities for.  With a massive infrastructure in need of renewal and room for expansion, I would be shocked if W-B did not see at least one new lift in 2018.


  1. Magic Chondola.  First, Blackcomb.  A project announced before Vail arrived on scene, the Magic Chondola would create a true gondola transit connection between Blackcomb, Base II and Whistler Village.  The Excalibur mid-station could become a transfer hub for both skiers and non-skiers near a new water park.  The existing Magic triple would be removed.Blackcomb gondola
  2. Wizard/Solar Coaster Gondola.  When Peak 2 Peak debuted, Wizard and Solar Coaster became a missing gondola link in both winter and summer.  With W-Bs move away from bubble chairs, it only makes sense for this to become a big gondola.  With a mid-station and high capacity, this could become the biggest new gondola in North America since P2P.  By the way, Wizard and Solar Coaster both turn thirty this year.
  3. Jersey Creme six-pack.  J.C. is the Emerald of Blackcomb, serving the very middle of the mountain.  We know the guys in Broomfield love six-packs and Jersey Creme is only slightly newer than Wizard and Solar Coaster.
  4. Glacier Express six-pack.  Glacier Express is another key lift at the heart of Blackcomb that experiences epic lift lines.  Like Jersey Creme, the current version is a 1992 Doppelmayr with DS grips.
  5. 7th Heaven six-pack.  As with Harmony and Symphony across the way, 7th Heaven could be an entire ski resort on its own.  Another of Blackcomb’s CLD-260 detachables, this lift has operated in both winter and summer since 1987 and won’t last forever.
  6. Glacier T-Bar replacement.  It’s no secret the Blackcomb Glacier is retreating and the Horstman T-Bar may go with it.  The surface lift’s track can no longer be reliably maintained and an aerial option may be needed.
  7. Catskinner replacement.  As outlined in the above master plan, Catskinner is slated to be swapped with an extended high-speed quad for beginner lessons and terrain park access.  With Magic gone, the Yan days would end at Blackcomb.


  1. Emerald replacement or Olive high-speed quad.  Crossing over to Whistler, I can’t believe Emerald has lasted as long as it has without a higher-capacity replacement or supplemental lift. Like Vail did on the backside at Northstar, one option is to simply add a second detachable quad roughly parallel and to the south.
  2. Franz’s/T-Bar detachable.  A single high-speed quad could replace three lifts in between Big Red and the Peak Express to serve intermediate terrain near the tree line.
  3. Big Red six-pack.  I go back and forth on this one because the area Big Red serves is awfully constrained already.  But when in doubt, Vail seems to go with higher-capacity lifts.
  4. New lift(s) in Symphony Amphitheatre.  This crowd favorite zone could eventually hold up to four lifts, up from the current one.
  5. Orange Gondola.  A second gondola from Creekside would provide badly-needed staging capacity, topping out at the Garbanzo unload.  Creekside could eventually become home to a whopping four gondolas!  Another alternative would be to simply replace the Creekside Gondola with a bigger version.
  6. Westward Ho.  Unlike on Blackcomb, Whistler Mountain can be expanded significantly to the west with a new base area, new gondolas, and high-alpine lifts in Bagel and Khyber Bowls.  None of these are likely to be built in 2018, however.

With two more flagship mountains and a rival empire rising, I see Vail Resorts as poised to make a splash in 2018 like it did at Park City in 2015.  Unlike peers Boyne, Intrawest (rest in peace) and Powdr, MTN has shown a tendency to centralize and it will be interesting to see whether a bunch of lift projects get lumped into one or two major contracts.  While I dare say Breckenridge is a safe customer for Leitner-Poma and Beaver Creek in the bag for Doppelmayr, many of the others are wild cards.  You can bet potential big projects at Vail, Keystone, Stowe and Whistler will be fought hard for this fall.

52 thoughts on “Will Vail Resorts Build Big in 2018?

  1. Jeff Lynne August 10, 2017 / 10:58 pm

    Honestly, I don’t think it would be possible to replace Wagon Wheel at Kirkwood. The breakover just below the top is extremely low, and the top simply doesn’t have room for a detachable terminal.


    • RMurphy August 11, 2017 / 12:11 am

      I haven’t been to Kirkwood, but what Doppelmayr did with Little Cloud at Snowbird is really impressive. Traffic actually flows significantly better with a HSQ than it did with the old double. The 90 degree unload makes a huge difference.


    • williemax21 February 4, 2018 / 12:59 am

      I’ll second that. Kirkwood master plan has a quad running from base to the top of two an another running from Timber Creek to the glove so I’ll stick with that over some cockeyed nonsense about running a singe life line to service the whole wall and eagle bowl. lol. deep thought about it, having never served the bay area.


    • Tad February 23, 2021 / 11:02 am

      I agree with you on that the breakover now is pretty tight maybe they could go from the base were cornice express runs and try to go up the side of the mountain but then again I am not an engineer. I also think that replacing sunrise with a detachable 6 pack or just a detachable quad would really benefit the backside of the mountain.


  2. T.A. August 11, 2017 / 6:55 am

    Dreamcatcher at Park City will never be a HSQ due to restrictions which prevent installation of HS Lifts within the boundaries of the Colony Development (noise). This is why every lift is a FG.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Landsman August 11, 2017 / 7:04 am

      I had never heard that explanation before, just thought ASC was trying to save money near the end. Seems like such a restriction could be re-negotiated with the homeowners. Do you know how Quicksilver was allowed through? If you are correct, Sunrise will have to end outside of The Colony. This map from 1998 shows what could have been without all the houses…


      • Walt Schuster August 12, 2017 / 5:16 pm

        When I think of QuickSilver I think about the lift at the base of Peak 9 at Breckenridge. I don’t think QuickSilver existed there before the 6-Pack was built. I learned to ski on the old lift but I just don’t remember the name. Seems like it was A or B lift. I don’t remember it being Quicksilver. The first run was Bonanza which is where the old lift dropped you off on. Or was it El Dorado? Guess I will have to look at the trail map.


      • Mike August 15, 2017 / 11:48 am

        That map of The Colony really underlines how myopic the ASC/Talisker thinking was with respect to the build out at Canyons. Unless there are more easements than we know about, they’ve effectively boxed themselves in on the entire southern half of the old Canyons terrain. Their focus was on real estate first, skiing second, and the current situation reflects that.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ryan August 13, 2017 / 2:19 am

      I don’t buy it. How is a HSQ noisier than an old FG?


      • Michael August 14, 2017 / 8:19 am

        Many more moving parts= more noise. Larger electric motors and auxiliary engines=more noise.


      • Peter Landsman August 14, 2017 / 9:52 am

        I did some digging on the Summit County GIS system to try and understand the craziness that is The Colony. 9990 is carved out on land owned by Talisker and was built the same year the development started so it does not go over any home sites. Peak 5 is also on land owned by Talisker so could presumably be upgraded to a detachable without issue. Dreamcatcher goes over eight different sold home sites. Talisker must have easements over these properties that may specify no detachable can be built. Dreamscape, Flat Iron, Timberline and Peak 5 are similar. Quicksilver appears to have been carefully sited to pass over the fewest individual parcels possible. The entire line only crosses two sold home sites, neither of which have been built on to date. Either an easement was already in place or Vail/Talisker negotiated a deal with those two individuals prior to Quicksilver’s construction.

        Below is The Colony master plan showing how complex negotiations for a new Sunrise lift into The Colony could be if easements are not already there. Clearly, Quicksilver and the others show that lifts can be built on private property not owned by Talisker/Iron Mountain Associates.


        • Nick Pullan January 16, 2020 / 2:24 pm

          Can someone please explain this in simpler terms? I LOVE Park City and want Dreamcatcher to become a detachable, but I still don’t understand if Dreamcatcher will or won’t be upgraded. Also what’s with the “Future Lift” above Flat Iron?


      • Ryan August 14, 2017 / 11:06 pm

        What if it is a vault drive? That would just leave the noise of the tires in the terminals?


    • Ric August 14, 2017 / 10:58 pm

      The Town lift isn’t going to be replaced until there is clarity on the Treasure resort development that is widely opposed. As part of that resort proposal, the Town plaza would be served by a cabriolet to the new resort and then a new high speed quad would replace the existing lift. It appears that the developers may force the Park City planning commission to vote on the proposal this fall. However, widespread opposition may result in appeals and delays, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ric August 15, 2017 / 3:43 pm

        I talked to a sales rep in Canyons Village a couple of weeks ago and asked about the potential orientation of the new Sunrise lift. She told me they couldn’t work a deal with the private property owners to route the lift to the bottom of Tombstone. She said they are looking to route the lift either to Lookout Point (near the Orange Bubble mid-station, I assume) or to Red Pine Lodge. If they go to Red Pine, it would have to be a gondola, rather than a quad chair because of the need to cross the canyon. I was super bummed when she said this because it won’t help with faster egress from the south side of the Canyons portion of the resort. We’ll have to still go up Tombstone.


      • Peter Landsman August 15, 2017 / 5:28 pm

        That is too bad if true. I was hoping the new gondola would go beyond Tombstone all the way to somewhere between Dreamscape and Dreamcatcher. Another lift to Red Pine would overwhelm Saddleback/High Meadow and make Chicane even more of a mess without solving the end-of-day Tombstone problem.

        Looking at the ownership map, the Osguthorpe Family holds all the cards between the Village and Tombstone. While they agreed to allow seven towers of the Red Pine Gondola on this land, it sounds like relations may have soured. If the new lift must stay on Talisker property, it will have to go to Lookout Point (or have two 90-degree angle stations!)

        The background on the Osguthorpe parcel is fascinating. Doing some research, Wolf Mountain leased it in 1996 for a period of 28 years at $150,000 per year. ASC then subleased the entire 3,000+ acre Wolf Mountain complex and built The Flight of The Canyons and other new lifts beginning in July 1997. After trying multiple times in the late ’90s, ASC was able to change the Osguthorpe lease to an easement in 2001 at a new price of $200,000 per year. In another twist, Steve Osguthorpe hit a Canyons winch cat cable while snowmobiling on his land in 2010 and sued the resort in a lawsuit which presumably settled. The crazy thing is this 550-acre parcel is still assessed at only $6 million. I’m thinking Vail/Talisker would have to offer a lot more than that to build a lift directly to Tombstone. All of this makes the Forest Service look like a dream landlord!


      • RaflW August 25, 2017 / 10:19 am

        Is a lift along Chicane from the bottom of Tombstone to Red Pine not workable/desireable? It would get skiers back from the south and off of Sidewinder or Red Pine Road late in the day (or for lunch!).
        Overall, after two visits to Park City, first time Canyons only before Vail swooped in, and then after the merger & new gondola, I find the Canyons to be a strange place. Had some great runs, and some real hassles getting around.
        At least now I have a better understanding of the reasons for some strange alignments and why some lifts are still fixed grips.


      • Peter Landsman August 26, 2017 / 8:46 am

        This alignment would be entirely on Talisker-owned land…

        A gondola from the bottom of Tombstone to Red Pine Lodge would have to cross Osguthorpe land or do a 10-15 degree turn.


  3. Walt Schuster August 11, 2017 / 8:06 am

    In Beaver Creek I wonder if the Arrowhead will be re-aligned to link up with the Bachelor Gulch Express. I also wonder how long it will be until the Bachelor Gulch Express is upgraded to a 6 Pack since there is a base there now. There was not a base area there when this lift was built. I worked there as a lift-op in 1999-2000 and there was only an outdoor cafe. Grouse is probably next up because of the age of the lift although Strawberry Park should probably be upgraded first because it operates out of a base area. Tremendous growth in the Bachelor Gulch area so I would imagine that upgrading that lift infrastructure first would be a higher priority.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Peter Landsman August 12, 2017 / 7:31 pm

        I didn’t realize two lifts are planned for McCoy Park too. Wow.


    • RaflW August 25, 2017 / 10:41 am

      Has Elkhorn always had a load station on the west side of Village Rd? Even the most recent BC trail map doesn’t show a load station there, but a gmaps photosphere on the west side shows the load station. This isn’t the most exciting terrain there, but on crowded days, I can see using that lift for some relief from lines.


      • V12Tommy September 2, 2017 / 7:33 pm

        Yes, at least for the 10+ years I’ve skied Beaver Creek anyway. I didn’t realize it wasn’t listed on the map anymore. I think the load station on the west side of the road gets used more than the bottom terminal. There is some great tree skiing over there, but riding the lift back out is like watching paint dry.


  4. Jordan Smith August 11, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    Biggest need I can think of at Heavenly is a 6-pack at Sky Express- lines here get ridiculous during peak times. Heavenly’s master plan also called for a fixed-grip quad running from the base of Sky and Canyon to the top of the gondola, which would hugely cut travel time from the California side to Tamarack lodge. They could possibly move current Sky equipment elsewhere on the mountain as well. However, given that no new lifts have gone in at Heavenly in 10 yrs, I’m curious to see how many proposed lift projects actually happen.


    • Peter Landsman August 11, 2017 / 4:18 pm

      When I skied at Heavenly this spring, Sky was down, splitting the resort in two. Once I went to California, I had to ride a bus and the gondola to get back to the Nevada side. The chairlift you mention would be super helpful on days like this.


      • Mike August 12, 2017 / 12:55 am

        Wouldn’t it make more sense to terminate such a lift near the top of Tamarack or Dipper? That way you could not only access the gondola but also ski directly to the heart of the Nevada side. It would provide redundancy for Sky while also potentially being a lap worthy pod in its own right.


      • Cameron Halmrast August 12, 2017 / 9:47 am

        The ordeal with Heavenly is that it doesn’t operate its lifts when its blowing over 15 mph, so having a fixed grip quad that starts at Steins to run up to the top of the gondola makes a lot of sense. I’m kind of surprised Heavenly hasn’t installed this lift yet, but then again, were back at the stupid 15 mph B.S, so this lift may not run either.


      • RaflW August 25, 2017 / 10:44 am

        Wow is that 15mph thing for real? Breck would never function with that limitation!
        Speaking of Breck, for the love of g-d I hope Vail doesn’t put a HSQ in for 6 Chair. Yes the lift lines are crazy, but the terrain under it already gets tracked too fast. Maybe a FGT. But please, not more!!


  5. Cameron Halmrast August 11, 2017 / 6:16 pm

    Yes, something does need to be done with Heavenly in regards to its “closed due to high winds B.S.” Getting back to Gondola Square from the California side is a pain in the butt and you can wait in line for over an hour trying to catch a bus.


  6. Boardski August 12, 2017 / 2:43 am

    I would like to see Keystone install some of those lifts serving new terrain before another capacity upgrade for existing terrain. Last time I skied there the runs were dangerously overcrowded and icy due to all the uphill capacity on Dercum mountain. It would be more fun if they were able to spread people out more with some new terrain.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Gregg Blanchard August 12, 2017 / 10:14 am

    This post makes me happy. The knowledge, the thoroughness, the photos; full LiftBlog on display and I love it. Nice work as always, Peter.


  8. ALEX August 12, 2017 / 11:53 am

    re: Whistler/Blackcomb the one project that is not on the list that i think is likely the next project on the Blackcomb side is the Showcase Gondola proposal. As the current Horstman T-Bar situation gets worse and worse every year, and now that they have the Crystal Express it make lapping Blackcomb Glacier more realistic.

    On Whistler I think next project is the infill HSQ between Emerald and Harmony.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Walt Schuster August 15, 2017 / 7:26 am

    Born Free might become a 6-Pack or maybe an 8-Pack once that technology is ready. Born Free is a high-profile lift for Vail Mountain in the early season because it is one of the first lifts to open each season. Vail Mountain usually doesn’t open early and if they do it is a week early. I think this is because of being on Forest Service land so their ski season dates are set in stone regardless of snow conditions. Debut a shiny new gondola and an 8-Pack lift. That would make a statement for Vail Mountain.


    • Peter Landsman August 15, 2017 / 7:30 am

      The Forest Service dictating opening/closing dates is largely a myth. A convenient one for ski resorts that like to open late and close early!

      Vail could theoretically replace 7, 8 and 21 next summer. Back in the day they would regularly build three or four lifts at a time. Breck, Keystone and Beaver Creek have fewer needs after this year in my opinion.


      • Walt Schuster August 15, 2017 / 4:14 pm

        Elk calving season dictates the closing date for the Bachelor Gulch portion of Beaver Creek. Unsure about what rules Vail Mountain is under but I know that even in the good snow years they only will open a week early or extend the season by a week. I can’t remember an instance where they extended it for longer period of time.


  10. Nick August 16, 2017 / 1:06 pm

    As a Minnesota resident and midwest skier, I have to comment on Afton. It seems like a lot of the lifts at the resorts close to the Twin Cities metro are quite dated. My home hill, about 45 mins north of Minneapolis, exclusively runs old fixed grip quads that have to date from the 70’s at least. It would be awesome to see Minnesota get some chairlift love someplace closer than Giants Ridge or Lutsen for us metro dwellers who need some skiing close by to balance our weekend trips up north and spring break trips out west.

    Loving this blog, by the way…

    Liked by 1 person

    • RaflW August 25, 2017 / 10:55 am

      I had two days at Afton this year, one to warm up for the season, and one to board with my 10 y.o. niece.
      The lifts were a disgrace. I’ve ridden there on and off since about 1998, and I don’t mind them being old. I don’t mind them being fixed grip, since the ride times are mostly short.
      I do mind them being closed. Lift lines were long in some places, and worse, navigation around the hill was tough, esp on a snowboard. The layout works when at least 50% of the lifts are turning. But they cheaped out (or couldn’t hire enough lift ops?), so it was frustrating.
      I do think a case could be made for two HSQs, btw. The first at Chair Two and the second at either Chair 13 or 14. This would have the benefit of actually allowing the removal of Chair One and then either 13/14 depending on which is replaced.
      Oh, the Afton web site is also an amateurish mess. I know Vail bought Afton and the others to generate pass sales and get people out to the big resorts, but they need to at least run Afton with some pride.
      That said, we had a great instructor for our nice, and the price for lift+lesson+rental at Afton was super attractive.


  11. Rob Withey August 22, 2017 / 11:04 pm

    Current plan at WB for 2018 is to remove Catskinner and replace it with Emerald chair. New 6 pack to replace Emerald. Lift alignments will be slightly different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Landsman August 26, 2017 / 9:02 am

      Good to hear Rob. Do you think Wizard and Solar Coaster are likely to be replaced with a gondola soon after that? And should it be one stage or two?


  12. RaflW August 24, 2017 / 11:10 pm

    I would be very surprised to see Wildwood upgraded to a six, at least not for a few seasons. Lift lines are generally short and the pod is not used much for laps, more for single rides to access either the back bowls or game creek (which would make sense for a six, which would be good for lift lines but perhaps unfortunate for slope crowding in that pod).


  13. ALEX August 26, 2017 / 11:15 pm

    Do you think its possible that Vail will just take our Born Free instead of replacing it? Hence its the only Vail portal with more than one lift?


    • Cameron Halmrast August 27, 2017 / 9:57 am

      No, due to the fact that if the gondola goes down due to mechanical issues, there is alternative lift to get people out of the village.


  14. Alex August 27, 2017 / 5:34 pm

    So given that line of thought are Gondola One and Riva Bahn the backups for each other?


  15. Peter Landsman August 31, 2017 / 4:12 pm

    I emailed Heavenly this week to ask whether Galaxy would ever spin again. Their not-so-encouraging response was “we don’t know.”


  16. stmeyer2015 October 17, 2017 / 7:39 pm

    With regards to Kirkwood:
    I agree replacing chair 10 and chair 11 with an HSQ and a mid station makes sense. However, one problem is the choke point at the summit. The cat track that runs under the top station and drops into “The Wall” can get backed up when chair 10 is running at full capacity. I’ve seen them have to stop the lift because the top became so congested with skiers. I think upgrading chair 4 (Sunrise) should be Kirkwood’s top priority. It appears that Chair 4 was closed on the day Peter visited Kirkwood. Chair 4 is a long and windy ride. If they were to replace it with an HSQ they could probably reuse the towers from the existing lift. This would greatly improve access to Kirkwood’s awesome backside terrain.

    This is the most recent master plan for Kirkwood I could find:

    I’ve heard electricity is the limiting factor in Kirkwood. Because Kirkwood is so isolated it has its own power station- which currently can’t handle an additional HSQ. If I remember correctly the power station was severely damaged by a fire sometime in the 2000s (Bummer). Kirkwood would probably see utility upgrades before any new lifts go in. As is, Kirkwood’s lift system provides for an awesome experience. The master plan also suggests some interesting ideas.


    • Kevin October 17, 2017 / 10:30 pm

      Kirkwood came online a few years ago, generators are no longer needed for daily operation.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. ALEX BOESENBERG November 29, 2017 / 11:17 pm

    Vail Resorts – Summer 2018 New Lift Predictions (Pure Speculation)

    Vail – Sundown Express HSQ
    Whistler – Wizard Gondola (10 Passenger), Solar Coaster HSS
    Breckenridge – Chair C HSQ
    Keystone – Wayback HSQ
    Stowe – Mountain HSQ

    What do you think?


    • Collin November 30, 2017 / 6:59 am

      My guess is zero chance of upgrading anything at Stowe. They only bought it as a cash cow to sell epic passes and with the price of that being less than competing resorts in New England they won’t need to upgrade anything to get people in there.


    • Thomas Jett November 30, 2017 / 11:16 am

      From what I’ve gathered:
      Vail – Golden Peak Race (T-bar)
      Breck – nothing
      Keystone – ?
      Beaver Creek – nothing
      Park City – Sunrise
      Heavenly Galaxy HSQ?
      Northstar – ?
      Kirkwood – ?
      Whistler – Emerald HSS, Catskinner HSQ from Emerald
      Stowe – nothing


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