As I first wrote last summer, Big White Ski Resort is eyeing its most ambitious expansion since the 1996 Gem Lake megaproject. This time, a pair of quad chairs are planned for east of the Black Forest Express, servicing 300 acres of new intermediate trails and glades within the mountain’s existing controlled recreation area. The expansion is in place of one once planned for west of Gem Lake. “The Black Forest Connector and Backcountry chairs will build on and complement the Black Forest ski pod, the most popular area at Big White,” notes Brent Harley and Associates, which prepared the plan. “Together, these chairlifts represent the full realization of the vision described in the 1999 Master Plan, and the fulfillment of the Controlled Recreation Area’s physical potential to offer a world class alpine skiing experience.”
A gorgeous new daylodge and parking lot opened at the base of Black Forest in 2015, encouraging regional guests to bypass the congested village portal. The upcoming lifts are envisioned as gateways to even more terrain planned for East Peak eventually. Both lifts would be 2,400 passenger per hour quads with Backcountry being detachable and Black Forest Connector being fixed grip. The former would rise 1,250 feet over a slope length of 4,977′ in under five minutes. The smaller lift would be about 4,354 feet long with a vertical of 666′ and ride time just under nine minutes.
Big White operates a mix of mostly older Doppelmayr lifts and a few newer Leitner-Poma models, so I could see either company winning the next contract. Just last year, the resort’s Powder triple was replaced with a Leitner-Poma Alpha quad. Big White initially intended to build both Backcountry lifts in 2019 but the project is still listed as “Under Review” by the province. Not to worry though, the resort is focusing on new bike trails, Gem Lake base area improvements and new employee housing this summer.