Winter Park Master Plan Includes Town Gondola, Vasquez Expansion

Alterra-owned Winter Park Resort is poised for major growth as outlined in a proposed master development plan for the next 10 to 15 years. Key elements include a three-gondola connection from downtown to the village, new lifts on Vasquez Ridge and replacements for six existing chairlifts. Many projects are unfinished holdovers from Intrawest’s 2005 master plan but other elements are being proposed for the first time.

As the fourth largest ski area in Colorado, Winter Park already encompasses more than 3,000 acres with a comfortable carrying capacity (CCC) of just over 15,000 skiers. The resort enjoys a large regional bed base and can be accessed by train from Denver to avoid I-70. If accepted as proposed, the 2022 Master Plan would see Alterra develop 358 acres of new terrain and make upgrades around the mountain to accommodate up to 22,375 skiers a day. The total lift count would increase from 23 to 29 with a mix of additions, removals and replacements.

A long-envisioned link from town would come in the form of a 10 passenger gondola with a top terminal at Cooper Creek Summit. This station would include a skier services building and summer activity hub with ski access to six different chairlifts. One chair would unload here, carrying skiers returning from the Pioneer zone. A second, 8 passenger gondola would connect Cooper Creek Summit to a new learning center near the current Discovery and Endeavour lifts. From here, the 8 seat gondola would continue to the Village, replacing the current Gemini Express.

The three gondola sections would form a nearly three mile chain connecting four different stations. Analysis estimates 28 percent of Winter Park skiers would access the resort from town via the new gondola. As such, a robust hourly capacity of 3,600 is planned for the Town Gondola and 2,000 guests per hour for the Cooper Creek to Village gondola.

The planned Vasquez Mountain zone would be transformative, featuring two six packs and a high alpine T-Bar. This terrain would be accessed from the current Pioneer Express and new gondola via a short connector chairlift. A runout from Vasquez Mountain to the Town of Winter Park would require a short surface lift part way down. The Vasquez zone is so large it would include new lodges at the base and summit along with a dedicated lift maintenance facility.

As for lift replacements, the long-planned Pioneer six place remains a priority. That project has already been fully approved and would include a mid-station for loading.

At the reimagined learning center, Endeavor would become a detachable quad and Discovery a fixed quad to improve the beginner experience. Three new conveyors would be built nearby.

The lone big change at Mary Jane is a six place chairlift replacing both Iron Horse and Pony Express. The upgraded lift would feature a mid angle station for unloading about two thirds of the way up. Full stats for the complete proposed lift fleet are below.

Winter Park has not yet submitted the 2022 master plan to the Forest Service and is soliciting public feedback by email at 2022MDP@winterparkresort.com. Once the Forest Service receives and accepts the final plan, environmental analysis of individual projects can begin.

51 thoughts on “Winter Park Master Plan Includes Town Gondola, Vasquez Expansion

  1. Aidan Reilly April 28, 2022 / 11:18 am

    This is great to hear! I know they have started mapping and zoning the Cooper Creek Gondola, and I know that the top level of the parking garage at Cooper Creek was built to support a Terminal station. I would assume Endeavor would be replaced with the current Gemini and shortened a little.

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  2. jcartergibb April 28, 2022 / 11:26 am

    this is going to be very exciting if the Forest Service likes it.

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  3. Randy April 28, 2022 / 12:06 pm

    Sad to see the Looking Glass lift go away. Interesting to see Lariat replaced with a magic carpet. Thought an older MP plan showed new Intermediate runs cut off Eagle Wind. And wonder how often the runout to town runs will be open without snowmaking.

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      • pbropetech April 28, 2022 / 4:00 pm

        It’s on the map- says ‘Looking Glass removal’ and the lift is orange, not black (existing) or red (proposed). Also it’s not listed in the table of lift capacities post-buildout. It is interesting that a replacement is no longer on the table.

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        • Raidy (raidify) May 1, 2022 / 12:36 am

          Will it get removed if this plan is approved or if it doesn’t get approved will it still go or will it stay a couple more years

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        • pbropetech May 3, 2022 / 8:12 am

          Couldn’t tell you. They’ve talked around and about removing it for years, but generally in the context of a replacement.

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  4. nedakal April 28, 2022 / 1:38 pm

    This is amazing news!!! Finally they’re getting their head out of the sand and developing the mountain! People have been talking about the cooper creek gondola for a long time, it’s amazing that it’s finally official now.

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  5. Boardski April 28, 2022 / 3:03 pm

    Looking forward to the new terrain on Vasquez. More lifts and runs were proposed in that area during the early 90s but did not materialize. I have thought another detatchable lift somehow combining Iron Horse and Pony Express would be a good addition. A good name for the new combined lift might be “Arrowhead ” since Arrowhead loop is one of the main runs over there. Hopefully HSS won’t crowd the terrain too much or cause wp to feel like they need to groom more. Anyway long live Challenger! Now, to slow the aging process as much as possible so I can enjoy these improvements and additions.🙂⛷🏂

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    • Donald Reif April 29, 2022 / 6:47 am

      Certainly it means that they don’t have to reclassify the lower section of Arrowhead Loop as a black run (that lower section that can be reached from Pony Express is a blue).

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    • Brody May 3, 2022 / 3:24 pm

      The old parts from pony and iron house will go in to maintaining Challenger. P.S. they are thinking about adding an alignment to Sunspot from old iron horse since the gondola is not departing to lunch rock due to spacing constraints at lunch rock.

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      • Brody May 3, 2022 / 5:17 pm

        Oops, I misread the response I got, it’s a lift from Jane base to Village not from Jane base to Sunspot. So they are basically extending the cabriolet to Jane.

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  6. Ryan Gardner April 28, 2022 / 3:25 pm

    Bye bye quiet peaceful Winter Park.

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    • pbropetech April 28, 2022 / 3:56 pm

      That happened a long time ago. Their lines aren’t as big as Vail’s but they can get crowded for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

    • nedakal April 28, 2022 / 6:11 pm

      quiet winter park died 2 years ago when the whole country decided that it was the top destination to be at on a weekend. This plan is necessary to handle the already present influx of people.

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  7. df April 28, 2022 / 5:09 pm

    I’m assuming the data table info on the Cooper Surface Conveyor is a typo. 960 vertical feet for a conveyor sounds brutal and the elevation change on the map doesn’t show that much change.

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    • Peter Landsman April 28, 2022 / 5:10 pm

      I noticed that. Even 1,000 feet horizontal sounds brutal on a conveyor.

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      • Joe Blake April 28, 2022 / 5:55 pm

        I can’t even handle the tunnel conveyor at Snowbird. That’s like 13 dripping feet.

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      • Thomas Jett April 29, 2022 / 10:29 am

        Mathematically, there’s no way that it’s not a typo. 960 vertical over a slope length of 1000 would imply a slope of 73.7 degrees.

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  8. Donald Reif April 29, 2022 / 6:46 am

    So the Vasquez Mountain area will basically be configured the same way Breck configures Peak 6, where you take a connector lift to access the main lifts. (Though unlike Zendo, the access lift will be a detachable as well)

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    • askifan April 29, 2022 / 8:10 am

      It also looks like you can ski to it from the top of Pioneer as well.

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      • Donald Reif April 29, 2022 / 8:46 am

        Yeah, admittedly there’ll be two ways into the pod. As opposed to Breck, where I think 80% of Peak 6 traffic accesses the Kensho SuperChair via Zendo.

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        • Thomas Jett April 29, 2022 / 10:33 am

          I’m surprised that the utilization from Zendo is that low. Are there really that many people accessing Kensho directly from the Peak 7 lifts?

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        • Donald Reif April 30, 2022 / 9:32 pm

          No, Zendo is the main way into Peak 6. There are some people who come directly from the Independence and Freedom SuperChairs via Wanderlust, but those are probably just a handful, as are those who traverse from Imperial across upper Peak 7 before descending down the Dunes to Delirium.

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        • Thomas Jett April 30, 2022 / 11:21 pm

          Wait, I’m confused. Are you agreeing that 80% is too low an estimate?

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  9. Tinpants April 29, 2022 / 7:51 am

    are they developing the pod to the east of parseen bow down towards the hyw it is hard to see on the slidesit looks like there are trails cut but no lifts

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    • Ryan Murphy April 30, 2022 / 3:37 pm

      Those are avalanche paths iirc.

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  10. Munier Salem April 29, 2022 / 8:42 am

    It’s great to see plans that will actually boost skiable acreage—and high-quality acreage, at that.

    Connecting to the town is really a game-changer for Winter Park. And it looks like the new 3-part gondola system is all about connectivity: not only town/resort, but also getting learners up into the learning zone, and skiers over to Vasquez more easily. It’s a super good use case for a multi-stage gondola.

    The Winter Park master plan has evolved in such a nutty way since 2005 … gondolas and lower-elevation trail pods have come and gone. I’m glad some of them were nixed (e.g. the lunch rock extension of the gondola or the one over near Vasquez).

    Some other thoughts …

    – Iron Pony is a better MJ replacement than Challenger (in the 2005 plan). Those lifts serve more dedicated intermediate terrain that can handle higher traffic.
    – Endeavour is a much higher-quality beginner trail pod than Gemini (which has always been mostly an access lift).
    – it’s a bit hard to gauge, but it looks like Cooper Summit will provide a steeper-angle approach to Pioneer/Vasquez Ridge than the current run-out from Olympia … which is definitely an improvement from most folks’ perspectives.

    My only complaint here is no six-pack for Olympia. But the new lifts will likely spread intermediate traffic further out towards Vasquez Ridge and Cirque.

    I hope this will come with increased (and less expensive) train service … Winter Park may not contribute to Eisenhower Tunnel traffic, but it’s still part of the Floyd Hill bottleneck. America’s highest-elevation Amtrak station deserves more service.

    It sounds like Pioneer replacement is back on the agenda for 2023? I see it on Peter’s list again :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif April 29, 2022 / 8:51 am

      Adding more train service to Winter Park would probably be dependent on Amtrak getting more equipment and more cooperation with Union Pacific.

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    • Brody May 3, 2022 / 3:10 pm

      Going to what you said about Olympia being a 6 person lift. I got a response from the feedback I sent. Doug Laraby stated, “Not sure of the timing of improvements in the Olympia Basin but we need to make sure we have the correct capacity to move skiers out of that area. A six-passenger lift probably makes sense for the Olympia because it also is used as an access lift.” So it’s definitely in their plan to replace this lift, and who knows? They might move this to high lonesome!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ShangRei Garrett May 3, 2022 / 4:35 pm

        I don’t think that they would relocate Olympia to Hi-Lo because they’re both of similar vintage. I’m willing to bet that High Lonesome stays how it is.

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  11. Joshua Redman April 29, 2022 / 9:10 am

    It seems like a really cool plan. The only question I have is why Looking Glass won’t be replaced by any other lift. There would be no easy way to get back on that side of the mountain.

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    • Brody May 3, 2022 / 3:13 pm

      I was thinking the same thing! They really could move Endeavor to looking glass alignment and possibly speed it up a bit. It’s newer and less of a maintenance nightmare.

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      • ShangRei Garrett May 3, 2022 / 4:38 pm

        It seems to me that the Cooper Creek South lift would serve Looking Glass’s role in the at buildout. There are two proposed runs (1 green & 1 blue) that go from Cooper Creek Summit to Jack Kendrick.

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        • Aidan Reilly May 3, 2022 / 4:47 pm

          The Green run listed is actually one of the Summer Service Roads. It goes directly into Jack Kendrick right where the Ash Cat terrain Park ends. The only problem I see with this is that if people want to get to the Winter Park base without taking Turnpike, they have to ride A) Discovery B) Explorer or C) Prospector. Discovery is slow and has frequent stops do to being a beginner lift. Explorer is fast but has a longer run to get to the base, but can get you to both Winter Park Base and the Mary Jane base. Prospector also has frequent stops to do being a beginner lift, but will get you to the base via Vista Dome and Village Way.

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  12. Donald Reif April 29, 2022 / 9:37 am

    It’s pretty interesting that most of these newly proposed detachables are six packs and not quads. Because if this is the final plan, you’ll have two new high speed quads and five new high speed six packs. It’s possible these plans could change by the time final construction occurs, like some of these proposed six packs end up being built as high speed quads instead (or six packs with wider chair spacing so they could get capacity boosts by simply adding more chairs).

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  13. boardski April 29, 2022 / 4:47 pm

    They will have some very old chairlifts when the plan is built out, Challenger and Galloping Goose will be approaching 70 years old as well as Eagle Wind and the HSQs of the 90s such as Olympia and Prospector over 40 years old, it will be interesting to see what additional modifications or replacements happen along the way…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luke April 30, 2022 / 12:44 pm

      I’m hoping for more some more replacements too. Those old quads run at a significantly slower line speed and lines can get long on busy days.

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      • Tin Pants May 1, 2022 / 12:21 pm

        back in the day they bought short  terminals to save money they will have to be replaced hard to upgrade

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        • Donald Reif May 1, 2022 / 6:23 pm

          I’m one who’s honestly felt that the Olympia Express should’ve been built with the full-length Challenger terminals rather than the compact ones on account of its length, so it could run a full 1,000 fpm.

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    • Brody May 6, 2022 / 3:20 pm

      To reply to all in this thread of replies, Winter Park has Olympia Express on their list of replacements, they plan to replace it with a Six Person. Right now, though, it is outside of the 10-15 year MDP. Doug stated, “A six-passenger lift probably makes sense for the Olympia because it also is used as an access lift.”

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  14. Joshua Redman April 30, 2022 / 12:26 pm

    One thing that I noticed is the Village Connection Gondola will make its 2nd mid-station at Discovery Park. Many visitors will probably get off there and not continue to the Village. Those skiers will either stay at Discovery, ski to the village, or take Explorer or Prospector. This will pour a lot of traffic on the lifts and they are only HSQ’s. I think, at least Explorer, should be upgraded to a six pack. The lift already can be crowded on peak days.

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  15. Zak May 1, 2022 / 8:17 am

    This is great news! I have been waiting for this proposal for 30 years now and some other locals even more. I do not wish to be sarcastic, but you know the nature of the beast. They will build everything except when it gets to town’s gondola they run out of money. Town’s officials ought to take a proactive role and set priorities straight when it comes to deal with an entity that is for profit.

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    • Munier Salem May 3, 2022 / 7:36 pm

      What role, if any, does the City of Denver play in Winter Park’s master development plans and capital projects? If I’m not mistaken, Denver owns the operating rights to the resort, and Alterra pays the city annually. I would not be surprised if their are other strings attached …

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      • pbropetech May 4, 2022 / 8:57 am

        The City of Denver owns the ski area’s physical assets. If it’s the same as when Intrawest owned us both, Alterra leases the mountain and operates it for a fee. I don’t recall Denver having much input in regards to operations and capital expenses- they just took their share of the operating income. I could be misremembering.

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  16. Bobby May 4, 2022 / 10:26 am

    this is awesome and such an actually well thought out logical plan that benefits both the skiers and the resort, dare i say the town even. Doesnt seem like the in town gondola will be a huge car traffic mat, just for drop offs and walkers who live nearby it.

    can we fast forward 10 years so this is complete???? lol

    also SO happy to see they’re keeping the best chair in the world, challenger

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  17. Boardski May 4, 2022 / 11:34 am

    Hopefully the new terrain at Vasquez will come first and the Iron Horse replacement will be last, that way Iron Horse will retire around the same time I retire. For the interim, it would be nice to have it run every day during regular season. It has been good to see wp realize the Iron Horse is a more important lift than Pony Express and run it on Sundays as well as Saturdays though.

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  18. Blake H May 13, 2022 / 1:38 pm

    I love this plan and it is great news for the town of winter park and the skiers who frequent it. However as a WP skier myself, I do not like the idea of opening much of the cirque and eagle wind to easier access as these areas will likely suffer from overuse as the steep grades and rough terrain will cause snow quality to suffer. This is especially the case with the T bar accessing the top of the cirque from the proposed Vasquez Mountain and Vasquez East lifts.

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    • ShangRei Garrett May 13, 2022 / 3:45 pm

      I feel like that new T-Bar might operate like the Cirque platter at Snowmass where it’s a sort of “bonus lift.” Sure, it’ll be popular when it’s open, but I honestly don’t see it being open all that often. Day-to-day, the Cirque may be more skied-off, but I think that overall, especially during the week, the snow quality will be replenished. Another thing to keep in mind is that although it may not seem like it, the Cirque actually has a rather large acreage, so with a lower capacity lift, the spread of people might be adequate.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Mike B May 13, 2022 / 4:30 pm

      You’d have to take three different lifts to get there from any access point at WP, and it’s the furthest point from any of them. I rather doubt that this surface lift will overcrowd an area the size and remoteness of Vazquez Cirque.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Joshua Redman July 27, 2022 / 3:52 pm

    In the article it says there will be 2 six-packs, Vasquez Mountain Express and Vasquez East Express. However, in the lift chart it says Vasquez Access is a six-pack too. Meaning 3 six-packs on Vasquez Mountain is that true? Also the proposed Lunch Rock Gondola is not included is that not planned at all. I can tell it really isn’t as big as a priority as the new Pioneer and Town Gondola.

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