New Hampshire’s Gunstock Mountain Resort started December with a bang, unveiling a major expansion proposal last night. Gunstock worked with SE Group on the master plan for up to five new chairlifts servicing more than 30 new trails. The resort also wants to build its first hotel, upgrade lodges and develop more parking to serve an increasing volume of guests. Claire Humber, Director of Resort Planning for SE Group, told the Gunstock Area Commission and gathered crowd the plan would boost the 85 year old ski area’s comfortable carrying capacity by 70 percent to 6,360 skiers.
County-owned Gunstock saw its highest-ever skier visits, season pass sales and revenue last season with signs pointing to further growth in 21-22. Despite the success, Gunstock leadership noted the mountain faces significant competition from the likes of Waterville Valley, Loon Mountain, Bretton Woods and Mt. Sunapee, all of which are privately operated with significant capital improvement plans. “In order for Gunstock to remain competitive, continuous capital investment in ski improvements is essential for attracting and maintaining a loyal customer base,” said Tom Day, Gunstock’s President and General Manager. “We want to protect and grow our market share in a very competitive New England marketplace while at the same time preserving the natural beauty of the area.”
The likely first phase would see the installation of a detachable quad running from the bottom of the current Ramrod quad to the top of the Tiger triple. Consolidating these lifts would create a more attractive alternative to the Panorama Express, which sees a disproportionate level of ridership due to its status as Gunstock’s only detachable.
Next could be an Eastside expansion with a second summit detachable. This lift would service 70 acres of new intermediate terrain on the Pistol side of the mountain. Lift, trail and snowmaking development for this pod would cost an estimated $15.3 million if built today.
Another expansion opportunity is Alpine Ridge, once home to a small ski area separate from Gunstock. This advanced-intermediate pod would include a fixed grip triple chair and require the extension of the Penny Pitou quad for access. Because the trails would be shorter than the Eastside and serviced by fixed grip lifts, this expansion would only cost about $7.4 million to construct.
The third expansion area lies beyond Gunstock’s existing property line on the backside of the mountain. Dubbed Weeks, eight new trails would be serviced by a fourth detachable quad. The lift would combine with the new Ramrod-Tiger chair to create a third summit access route. This big ticket project would cost an estimated $17.3 million.
While the room was filled with optimism, officials noted none of these major projects are going to happen tomorrow. For one thing, Tom Day noted Vail’s huge 2022 lift plan and said there are “no lifts available” for next year. “If we are thinking about doing this, we need to think about making plans to move in a year or so when we can put our order in,” he added.