Gunstock Presents Ambitious Expansion Plan

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.

16 thoughts on “Gunstock Presents Ambitious Expansion Plan

  1. Myles Svec December 5, 2021 / 6:24 pm

    So there are no lifts available for next year? Does that mean if a ski area wants to buy a lift for next year they can’t get it unless it’s used?

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    • James December 5, 2021 / 6:33 pm

      Doppelmayr’s 2022 summer is full.

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      • Wiggles December 5, 2021 / 7:10 pm

        What about MND? Looks like a prime time for them to gain a little more traction stateside.

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        • pbropetech December 6, 2021 / 9:14 am

          Definitely- but ski areas have to give them bids first, which means they need to know they exist. So far Joe Skier commenting on this website seems to know about the company more than most area operators, from what I can tell. The last European company to make any inroads in the North American market was Garaventa, but they had an existing partnership with CTEC.

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      • Donald Reif December 6, 2021 / 1:24 pm

        The Breckenridge and Keystone projects are almost certainly Leitner-Pomas. Vail’s lifts could be Doppelmayr or Leitner-Poma.

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        • Peter Landsman December 6, 2021 / 1:25 pm

          You would have said the same thing about Mt. Snow though and look what happened.

          Liked by 1 person

    • carletongebhardt December 6, 2021 / 10:31 am

      All of their current lifts are Doppelmayer – they may want to keep it that way? Or they subtlety trying to get the approval/funding process going with the notion that they have to act fast…..

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  2. carletongebhardt December 6, 2021 / 10:37 am

    If they upgrade Ramrod/Tiger, they should move the Ramrod quad and replace the Pistol triple. They could use a quad at that location. Then the Pistol or Tiger could be used as the fixed grip at Alpline Ridge.

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    • Calvin December 7, 2021 / 6:18 am

      The Ramrod Quad is way too short. Pretty sure that would be a net loss in capacity.

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  3. Utah Lost Ski Area Project December 6, 2021 / 10:54 am

    I wonder why it isn’t in the plan to reuse the existing runs on Mt. Rowe and Alpine Ridge. Wouldn’t it be easier to reopen the existing runs with less investment than to cut a whole bunch of new runs? While they haven’t been used in 35 years, they don’t look to be in too bad of shape for reopening.

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  4. skitheeast December 6, 2021 / 1:40 pm

    The Ramrod/Tiger upgrade makes a ton of sense. I am surprised they are opting for a detachable here instead of a fixed-grip given that the lift line seems to be less than 3000 ft long (which is very reasonable for a fixed-grip). Perhaps if the Backside expansion was imminent and they wanted to ensure quick access even if Panorama went down? But even then, I feel as though needing this lift to be detachable for a backup scenario is unnecessary, and they seem to agree by not making Pistol detachable in preparation for Eastside.

    I like the proposed Eastside expansion. It faces NE, so it should retain snow well, and the proposed hotel within the expansion site looks as though it will offer spectacular views. Plus, the summit would gain redundant access.

    The Alpine Ridge expansion is confusing to me. Penny Pitou is a beginner lift serving almost entirely green runs, and the terrain above it gets steeper (which is why it is located where it is). I am worried moving its top terminal uphill will ruin the only beginner pod at the mountain at the expense of having a single catwalk-ish trail go over to the Alpine Ridge base. I think a better solution would be to install a second fixed-grip lift (perhaps reuse Tiger or Ramrod) to the summit of Mt. Rowe, which would better integrate the new terrain and make it feel less like two separate ski areas while also allowing a lap-able pod to be cut above Penny Pitou. I also like the ability for them to eliminate the Lot C shuttle with this expansion.

    The Backside expansion looks like a fantasy. I am shocked the cost is that low given that they need to acquire private land. Plus, it faces west and looks like it will go down to 1300 feet or lower, so it will likely not retain snow well. For some comparison, Skyeship at Killington, which notoriously needs a lot of snowmaking to operate and often has slushy conditions, is at roughly the same latitude, faces the better direction of east, and receives more snow. The other comparable aspect/elevation comparison I can think of is South Peak at Loon, but even that is an hour north, often gets slushy towards the base, and is really a real estate project.

    I really like Gunstock and think the mountain offers spectacular views of Lake Winnipesaukee that are almost equivalent to the east coast version of Heavenly on Lake Tahoe. With that being said, I think this growth plan may be a bit too ambitious for even their own forecasted growth. Four detachable lifts for a mountain with less than 300k skier visits is a lot. Loon post-Seven Brothers upgrade will be at 4 (plus the gondola), but they average more than 400k annual visits. The only comparable mountain in terms of lift infrastructure would be Bretton Woods, but they are one of the poshest resorts in New England so the detachables aid that reputation (similar to why every lift is detachable at Deer Valley). A fixed-grip replacement of Ramrod/Tiger and no Backside seems much more reasonable and fit for Gunstock.

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    • BB17 December 6, 2021 / 9:21 pm

      I mostly agree, however I like how the current lift system separates skiers by ability level: Beginners ride Penny Pitou, which services greens, intermediates ride Ramrod, which services blues, and experts ride Tiger which services blacks as well as the race course. While I understand the need for increased out-of-base capacity, replacing Ramrod and Tiger with one lift will remove this separation between ability levels, potentially leading to skiers mistakenly going down trails too advanced for them.

      If it were up to me, I would replace Tiger with a high-speed quad and relocate it to Alpine Ridge. I would also build a fixed-grip quad to the summit of Mt. Rowe with the bottom station located where the old Gunshy Double started. I wouldn’t make any changes to the Eastside expansion.

      Also, I have a feeling that some or all of these new lifts will go to Leitner-Poma as their last new installation in NH was 20 years ago and they may be looking to expand their presence in the state.

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    • Mike B December 7, 2021 / 10:29 am

      Generally agree with most of this. The Backside expansion is clearly a fantasy and I’d bet good money it never happens. On Ramrod/Tiger, given the stated desire to spread traffic out away from Panorama, I think it makes sense despite the short length. Frankly, I think there’s a decent chance that this lift/trail enhancement is the only one that actually gets funded.

      Alpine Ridge/Penny Pitou comments are bang on. I’d add that by requiring a ride on Penny Pitou to access the more advanced terrain on Alpine, you’re now forcing different skier types together on that lift and setting yourself up for trouble due to the frequent stops that lift makes given the ability level it services today. Moreover, you’re going to have more advanced skiers bombing through the bottom of that Pitou pod now when they want to return to the main base from Alpine.

      Southwest Pistol/Eastside seems second most likely, or at least makes the most sense operationally, but $15M (in 2021 dollars – more in the future) is a big ticket for a mid-size area like Gunstock. I’d guess this is 50/50 at best.

      The hotels seem “ambitious”. No way three get built. Frankly I’d set the line at 0.5 – not even sure one will get built.

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      • Calvin December 7, 2021 / 3:06 pm

        No they are three proposed sites for ONE hotel. Site 1 high up on the Eastside expansion is the #1 pick of the 3.

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  5. K December 6, 2021 / 8:50 pm

    I agree on extending Penny Pitou lift is a mistake. This is currently a very good beginner pod away from other traffic. The Ramrod/Tiger replacement being a detachable would make sense to help with loading and unloading. The current Ramrod gets heavy usage especially at night. Hopefully they will have an easy intermediate run from the top of the new lift away from the runs near the existing Tiger lift.

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  6. Calvin December 7, 2021 / 6:25 am

    I’m a bit surprised by the proposed alignment for the combined Ramrod/Tiger HSQ. They mention in the presentation that one downfall of Gunstock is that the base is so wide and its hard to get across. And because there is only one HSQ, the public flocks to Panorama and the Ramrod and Tiger pods are underutilized.

    If that’s the case then the new lift should start no east of the base of Ramrod Race so that it can provide easy vertical access for as many trails in the Ramrod/Tiger complex as possible. It’s a long skate (or walk if you’re on a snowboard) from the base of Flintlock Extension to the Ramrod Quad as it is.

    If you’re spending $5M on a new HSQ, put it on an appropriate alignment. A base around Ramrod Race cuts that nasty flat traverse a bit while providing faster vertical transport. Both are needed to entice people to the Ramrod/Tiger pod, else it will be business as usual and nearly everyone from the summit on the west side will go to Upper Smith to Smith.

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