Vail Resorts to Debut Seven New Lifts in 2021

Despite a 44 percent decline in earnings, Vail Resorts plans to invest in new lifts across five mountains in 2021.  The seven projects at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone and Okemo were initially planned for 2020 but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts and creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests,” noted CEO Rob Katz. “We plan to maintain a disciplined approach to capital investments, keeping our core capital at reduced levels given the continued uncertainty due to COVID-19.” The company will announce its complete capital plan for calendar year 2021 in March.

At Beaver Creek, a new Doppelmayr detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone.  “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company. A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry Park and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.

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The Peru Express, dating to 1990, will be replaced with a higher capacity lift.

At Keystone, Leitner-Poma will replace the Peru Express with a six pack.  The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve circulation.  Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair.  “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.

Crested Butte plans to replace the two-person Peachtree chairlift with a Skytrac triple servicing beginner terrain at the base of the resort. Grading around the new lift will create a more consistent experience for beginner and ski school guests.

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Okemo Mountain Resort will complete two transformational projects first announced last year.  Quantum Four will be swapped for a detachable Leitner-Poma six place lift.  The existing equipment, originally installed in 2002 and upgraded with bubble chairs in 2015, will move to replace the Green Ridge triple.  Green Ridge is currently the only non-Poma lift at Okemo.

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Overall capital spending in 2021 is expected to total $125 to $130 million, about 40 percent less than what was initially planned for 2020. The largest non-lift project announced last year, an expansion of the Rendezvous Lodge at Blackcomb, was not mentioned in today’s release. “Since the start of COVID-19, disciplined cost management has been a primary focus, with significant actions taken to date to tightly manage our costs with reduced revenue expectations,” said Vail.  “We have implemented operating plans that actively manage our expenses, while maintaining a high-quality experience for our guests.”

Vail reported a net loss of $153.8 million for the 2021 fiscal first quarter compared with a loss of $106.5 million a year ago. Season pass sales through December 6th, 2020 increased approximately 20 percent in units but were flat in sales dollars compared to the prior year (the company expects to have a total of more than 1.4 million passholders this year!)  Vail continues to maintain significant liquidity with $614 million of cash on hand as of November 30th and $587 million available under revolving credit facilities.

48 thoughts on “Vail Resorts to Debut Seven New Lifts in 2021

  1. skitheeast December 10, 2020 / 3:09 pm

    This is about what I expected, a repeat of last year. The addition of Peachtree at Crested Butte is nice and, importantly for Vail, relatively inexpensive as a short fixed-grip lift.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Collin Parsons December 10, 2020 / 4:52 pm

      Peachtree was actually on the order books last year, but was never publicly announced.

      Like

  2. Jonathan December 10, 2020 / 3:19 pm

    Will Argentine be removed as well? I know last year they planned to pull it out.

    Like

    • skitheeast December 10, 2020 / 3:50 pm

      I do not remember them saying Argentine would be removed alongside Peru last year, and I doubt they will do it this year either. That would leave Mountain House with no out of base lift options if Peru were to go down. Having a single point of failure at a major base area is a big problem at ski resorts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Skristiansen December 10, 2020 / 3:53 pm

    Is it possible that Vail could announce a lookout/mountain replacement for Stowe this March?

    Like

    • Peter Landsman December 10, 2020 / 6:43 pm

      Possible but the vast majority of lifts Vail built the last five years were announced the same week in December. The only recent exception is Over and Out at Park City, which was announced in May.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ryan December 10, 2020 / 6:45 pm

      Nope. Not for awhile. Mountain is just a back-up or reliever. Lookout? Maybe.

      Like

      • Donald Reif December 10, 2020 / 6:57 pm

        And Lookout as a high speed quad also wouldn’t be redundant to FourRunner since it starts 50 feet lower.

        Like

        • Carleton December 10, 2020 / 8:09 pm

          Fixed grip with conveyor, would potentially give them an alternative in higher wind conditions.

          Like

        • Skristiansen December 11, 2020 / 8:39 am

          Perhaps a 2000 ph capacity high speed quad that retains the same tower height as lookout (maybe a little higher) to mitigate wind. I’m guessing that it would go on wind holds more than fourrunner.
          Most likely lifts for wind hold at Stowe:
          1 gondola
          2 sunny spruce
          3 over easy
          4 sensation
          5 fourrunner
          6 lookout

          Like

  4. No name December 10, 2020 / 6:37 pm

    I wonder if they’ll announce something for whistler. Because lost of old lifts and lots of lifts being Brocken down?

    Like

  5. Danny Bryant December 10, 2020 / 7:46 pm

    Not much love from Vail for the three resorts in the Reno/Tahoe area. Heavenly can use upgrades, especially North Bowl. Northstar’s lift infrastructure seems to be in great shape as far as HSQs and the Chondola are concerned.

    As much as I would love to see Kirkwood get some love, I do like it the way that it is because it is an old-school type of resort. However, Sunrise–Chair 4 would be great to be converted to a HSQ because it is popular with most folks. Then, they can move current Chair 4 to replace the 1972 Ironhorse–Chair 3; a YAN double that is the only chair that has not been upgraded to a triple and is the egress lift from Sunrise terrain. That said, Vail needs to leave Chair 10 alone and keep as-is. There are too many steeps up at the top and a HSQ would encourage folks that do not have the proper skiing/snowboarding ability to ride this lift, but they would not be able to get safely down the runs.

    Like

    • R Thompson December 10, 2020 / 11:02 pm

      I think Sky is likely to be replaced before North Bowl. I was stuck on Sky for more than 30 minutes TWICE last year when it broke down. I was told it broke down 3 times and I somehow managed to be on it for 2 of them. It’s almost 30 years old and takes a beating in the wind up there.

      I don’t have much faith in any new lifts for Tahoe next year though. I’m guessing Vail is stretched really thin by the Whistler acquisition, competition with Alterra, and Covid.

      Like

      • Greg Brock December 11, 2020 / 2:43 am

        Great improvement at Peak 7 in Breckenridge. I hated going to 7 on a crowded day due to long lift lines. This should really help.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Donald Reif December 12, 2020 / 6:30 am

          I get the impression that Breck’s management didn’t consider that they were making Peak 7 base into a chokepoint when they expanded onto Peak 6, since while they made it possible to go directly from the Rocky Mountain SuperChair to the Zendo Chair without going through Peak 7 base, you can’t do the same in reverse. And if the Independence SuperChair goes down, there’s no way to get to the trails it services.

          Like

  6. Coloski December 10, 2020 / 8:32 pm

    I feel like this year it is the colorado resorts and next year they’ll do tahoe or something

    Like

    • skitheeast December 10, 2020 / 9:05 pm

      Given that Vail has built 0 lifts at Kirkwood since its acquisition in 2012, 2 at Northstar since its acquisition in 2010, and 5 at Heavenly since its acquisition in 2002, I do not have high hopes. 7 lifts over a combined 36 years is not a great track record for 3 resorts each with double-digit lift fleets, respectively. I really do wish Vail invested more in Tahoe, but my best hope at the moment is for Alterra to convert more skiers over to Ikon by either combining Squaw/Alpine and having a big marketing campaign or buying/partnering with another Tahoe resort (Sugar Bowl, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Mt. Rose) and forcing Vail’s hand.

      Like

      • Ryan December 10, 2020 / 11:26 pm

        What at Tahoe needs fixing?

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        • skitheeast December 11, 2020 / 1:32 am

          Heavenly: It takes two slow lifts and 20+ minutes to get out of Boulder Lodge. I know a single, long lift may be too expensive or whatnot, but a detachable from the base up to somewhere above Stagecoach to at least allow for a two high-speed lift ride would be an improvement. Galaxy is relatively new, but not being detachable is ridiculous considering the length ad terrain it serves. There needs to be a second lift out of California back over to Nevada for when Sky goes down.

          Northstar: The parking situation is a mess, and the Castle Rock gondola is really needed. The transition between Lookout and the rest of the resort is still iffy, even with the platter being in place. Comstock could use a capacity upgrade, possibly with its bottom terminal moved uphill to avoid the runout on Cascade around Rendezvous. Northstar also lacks the terrain diversity of other Tahoe mountains that cannot be solved without an expansion, likely onto Sawtooth Ridge.

          Kirkwood: I know the mountain is supposed to be a little more advanced oriented with an old-school feel, but there is nothing Old School about the ticket prices, so they really should have more high-speed lifts, especially for the beginner and intermediate terrain. That means Sunrise, Caples Crest, and Snowkirk, with Caples Crest also being extended down to the base to make it easier to access the back. Also, I understand the appeal of having some hike-to-terrain, but Kirkwood has too much relative to its size (and price). A lift or two should be put into some combination of Covered Wagon, Sentinel Bowl, and/or Palisades Bowl.

          Are all of those higher priorities (in my head) than what they are doing this year instead? Maybe. For example, if they actually do install an Argentine two-stage detachable lift like they have discussed, I would have a much lower priority on the Peru replacement. It is a tough call when you own 37 resorts and face a limited budget, but it is a bit unbalanced when the past eight years (the time since Kirkwood was acquired) have seen Vail receive 7 new lifts, Breck receive 4, and all of Tahoe receive 2.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Mr Incredible December 11, 2020 / 9:36 pm

        I think the big problem for Tahoe (and mammoth) is they have captive markets (skiers and riders from the coastal cities) and negligible traffic from outside California. Other than efficiency or safety upgrades what incentive does Vail Resorts have to invest in nicer amenities when they only have one competitor (Alterra) who I’m sure is looking at the same calculus? Big resorts in Colorado compete with Utah, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming (featuring resorts with more diverse ownership) for the millions of destination visitors from points east, visitors who are going to select resorts with the best and newest amenities since they can travel anywhere and are less price sensitive. We have the same dynamic here in the PNW. Resorts replace lifts when they’re forced to since they’re not competing for traffic from anywhere other than Seattle and Portland and skiers and riders tend to stick with one ski area. BC resorts invest in nice amenities because they are the destination resorts for eastern Canadian cities and the ownership is highly diverse – most resorts are independently owned – thus more competition. Of course there is also Whistler which competes worldwide so has a much higher bar to clear.

        Like

        • Somebody December 12, 2020 / 12:00 am

          Tahoe pulls in out of staters, but only during good snow years. I’d be shocked if they weren’t pulling skiers from CO/UT/MT/ID/WY during 2017 or 2019. The issue is that if it doesn’t dump, nobody’s going through the extra hassle to go there from anywhere that’s not the bay.

          Like

        • skitheeast December 12, 2020 / 1:38 pm

          Tahoe absolutely pulls in out of state skiers. Squaw Valley receives the same world renown status as Jackson Hole or Breck. Ritz Carlton and Marriott Vacation Club would not have large stakes at Northstar and Heavenly without people flying in. I will give you Kirkwood, as they do not currently receive the same crowds.

          Regardless, I think the incentive to install new lifts actually comes more from locals. There are plenty of options for Tahoe skiers, and the majority of them have multiple options within similar drives. If Squaw Valley were to build the Calfornia Express gondola next summer while Vail did nothing, would you not expect at least some Epic passholders to switch over to Ikon?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Donald Reif December 14, 2020 / 7:45 am

          Still, how Vail treats the Tahoe resorts when it comes to new lifts really pales compared to their Colorado resorts. Once the 2021 lifts are built, they’ll have, in the last 11 years, built five lifts at Beaver Creek (three high speed quads, a fixed grip quad, and a chondola), eight lifts at Vail (a relocated triple, two high speed quads, three high speed six packs, a gondola, and a T-Bar), five lifts at Breckenridge (three high speed six packs, one high speed quad, and a fixed grip quad), two at Keystone (both high speed six packs), and two at Crested Butte (a fixed grip quad and a triple) which were the mountain’s first new lifts since the East River Express in 2007. And each has been given a fair shake despite having differing clientele and branding.

          With the Tahoe areas, there’s not only been a lack of new lifts, but there’s a bit of an identity crisis with Heavenly which keeps it from attaining its true potential.

          Like

  7. Gavin December 10, 2020 / 11:22 pm

    Hope for a Franz’s express or Jersey creme 6 at Whistler. And of course the rendezvous expansion.

    Like

    • No name December 11, 2020 / 6:19 pm

      Yes that would be great. Exactly what I’d like to see

      Like

  8. Dave December 11, 2020 / 5:51 am

    How about the East namely Attitash in NH. It’s been 25 or more years since a new lift has been installed. We have 1 lift a triple which has been on it’s last legs for the last 5 years. Yes Vail just acquired the Peaks resort so our hope out East is we are not forgotten but Vail as Peaks did during their ownership.

    Like

  9. cfglick December 11, 2020 / 8:52 am

    Once again Afton Alps is noticeably missing. Basically all they need is 3 new quads.

    Like

    • Utah Powder Skier December 11, 2020 / 11:38 am

      Since the Midwest isn’t a big money maker for Vail, I don’t think there will be many new lifts there for a few years. Ever since Vail bought Peak Resorts, the Midwest hasn’t had any upgrades in lifts. The only thing Vail has done is removed some old lifts. Yes, Vail did upgrade lifts at Mt. Brighton, but other than that, Vail has basically ignored the Midwest.

      Like

      • cfglick December 11, 2020 / 12:00 pm

        Which is unfortunate. I understand that the midwest doesn’t make a lot of money. But for a major company like Vail they shouldn’t neglect any of their resorts.

        Like

      • Randy December 11, 2020 / 12:11 pm

        Wilmot in Wisconsin got an upgrade with 2 new Quads from Vail.

        Like

        • Utah Powder Skier December 11, 2020 / 12:23 pm

          Are you sure both of the quads at Wilmot were new? Those lifting frames look very similar to the ones at Mt. Brighton, which came from a former lift at Vail Mountain. The drive terminals are definitely new so I would assume it came from a detachable quad.

          Like

        • Patrick Perlman December 11, 2020 / 12:33 pm

          All 3 lifts at Wilmot were new. Drive and Returns were new. Towers & Carriers were recyled from a BC chair

          Like

  10. Skristiansen December 12, 2020 / 12:15 pm

    Vail mountain should probably get some upgrades soon. The master plan is set to be complete in 2030 and they haven’t started yet. I think they’ve got about 10 new high speed lifts to complete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif December 12, 2020 / 1:13 pm

      The only thing on the Master Plan that’s been built is the Golden Peak T-Bar.

      The ones on the master plan that I see as feasible are:

      1. Upgrade the Game Creek Express lift to a high speed six pack

      2. Installation of a high speed quad running from the bottom of the High Noon Express lift to Wildwood

      3. Installation of a high speed quad servicing the Mongolia Bowl

      4. Rebuilds with capacity upgrades for the WIldwood Express, Riva Bahn Express, Born Free Express, and Orient Express lifts

      I don’t think EverVail is going to happen (which would see the Pride Express replaced with a two-stage gondola from West Lionshead).

      Like

      • Skristiansen December 12, 2020 / 1:53 pm

        I think that game creek should definitely be a priority. Then orient (hopefully changed to 6 pack). Then Mongolia and high noon to wild wood could be done in a single year. The following year could see wildwood and the rivabahn (I still feel that the rivabahn would be great for a 6/8 or 8/10 telemix). Then finally a replacement of the eagle Bahn and Born free.

        Like

        • Donald Reif December 14, 2020 / 7:33 am

          Riva Bahn isn’t exactly a lift that would do for a hybrid, given the need for a midstation at the top of the Golden Peak terrain park.

          Like

      • afski722 December 14, 2020 / 8:42 am

        7 Game Creek replacement, is almost certainly happening in 2022 or 2023.

        Lift additions in Sun-Down Bowl & Mongolia Bowl are likely next priority.

        Born Free & Orient Express probably have a few more years left in them and can survive of all the parts from all the previously replaced first-gen Doppelmayrs.

        Riva Bahn is not a priority for replacement for at least another 5-10 years, especially since that is going to be an expensive replacement, its generally well under-utilized, and the vast amount of other priority lift replacements and infrastructure requirements across all their other resorts.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Donald Reif December 14, 2020 / 9:19 am

          I would put the Game Creek Express upgrade and the Sundown Bowl high speed quad at the top of my priorities list for Vail. Game Creek because of it being the only way out of the bowl it services. And Sundown Express because that one February weekend this year where the High Noon Express lift was slammed due to the rest of the Back Bowls being closed demonstrates the need for a second lift out of that area (plus allow one to bypass Patrol Headquarters and Mid-Vail when traveling from Blue Sky Basin and the China Bowl back to the central Front Side).

          Like

  11. afski722 December 14, 2020 / 5:05 pm

    Yeah, I would think that a new Sundown Express is the 2nd highest priority after Game Creek replacement, and in theory could be done at the same time with some efficiency gains/cost savings as the top terminals of both lifts would be in the same area. Savings from utility replacement/relocation and construction at the same time.

    I’ve only ever seen what happened last Feb happen one other time at Vail.
    It was April 2013 and there was like 18″ of fresh on closing day, and many other ski resorts were already closed, and Chair 5 was the only lift open in the back bowls since the rest of the back and Blue Sky had already closed for the season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif December 14, 2020 / 5:24 pm

      Definitely a project where both should be built at once. The last time Vail built two detachables at once was the Highline Express and Sourdough Express lifts in 2007.

      It’ll be interesting to see, whenever Vail decides to do those projects, whether they go with Doppelmayr or Leitner-Poma, since they’re like Copper in going back and forth between the two manufacturers over the past decade (Doppelmayr for the Mountaintop Express, Avanti Express, Gopher Hill and the Golden Peak T-Bar; and Leitner-Poma for the High Noon Express, Gondola One, Sun Up Express and Northwoods Express).

      Like

  12. Alex December 14, 2020 / 5:20 pm

    I wonder if they will replace Eagle Bahn and Born Free with lift such as 10 PAX Gondola at 4000 PPH (similar to the Blackcomb Gondola). If they wanted to be even more ambitious, 3S or a Funitel could be options to replace both. I think it would be awesome if they consider a 3S. Per Dopplemayr sounds like capacity is as high as 5500 PPH. https://www.doppelmayr.com/products/3s-gondola-lift/

    Like

    • Donald Reif December 14, 2020 / 5:27 pm

      Unlikely. The Born Free Express functions as a means up during early season, and you can use it to bypass Eagle’s Nest en route to the Avanti Express lift.

      And these days, I think it would be practical to have a chairlift option out of the base for those who have an aversion to gondolas.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. afski722 December 14, 2020 / 6:28 pm

    Same. Eagle Bahn, which hard to believe is approaching 25 years old, man I remember when it was built is not going to be considered for replacement / upgrade for at least another decade.
    Its just not on the radar with everything else that is potentially up for replacement or additional lift needs across their portfolio of resorts.

    Born Free, probably not up for replacement for at least 3-5 years out, but a few scenarios:
    1) If EverVail happens, Born Free would not be replaced as-is, instead the other gondola / access point would be developed and in conjunction replace the Pride Express

    2) IF EverVail doesn’t happen then Born Free gets replaced as-is, or with a chair with a mid-station and extends up to Eagles Nest in parallel to the gondola.

    Born Free will probably be the last first-gen Doppelmayer HSQ at Vail. Just a low priority replacement with all else in queue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Myles Svec December 14, 2020 / 6:58 pm

      I think everything on the master plan except Ever Vail will happen.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Donald Reif December 14, 2020 / 8:31 pm

      I don’t see Born Free Express getting extended so long as the Pride Express exists.

      Liked by 1 person

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