Vail Resorts to Install Deferred Park City Lifts at Whistler Blackcomb

In its earnings report today, Vail Resorts announced new six and eight passenger lifts will be built at Whistler Blackcomb in 2023, replacing the aging Jersey Cream and Fitzsimmons high speed quads. The project will utilize Doppelmayr equipment originally purchased for Park City Mountain but not installed due to a successful permit appeal by four local residents. On Blackcomb Mountain, Jersey Cream will become a six passenger detachable and on Whistler Mountain, Vail Resorts’ first eight place D-Line will replace the Fitzsimmons Express. Jersey Cream services the heart of Blackcomb’s mid mountain and Fitzsimmons provides out-of-base capacity to Whistler Mountain along with servicing the world’s largest bike park. Jersey Cream capacity will increase 29 percent and Fitzsimmons capacity will jump 73 percent. Fitz will also become the first eight place and first D-Line in Canada.

The two lifts were originally slated to become Eagle and Silverlode, respectively, at Park City. Vail said it remains “committed to resolving our permit” for the new Park City lifts in the future. “When that happens, we plan to purchase the lifts and equipment needed,” the company said. Vail Resorts appealed the permit revocation in July but no resolution has been reached. Due to continued uncertainty, lift equipment was placed in storage in Utah over the summer and will be re-engineered and modified for Whistler Blackcomb. An intermediate unloading station built for Eagle likely won’t be utilized in Whistler. Despite the Park City situation, 18 other lifts that are part of the 2022 Epic Lift Upgrade are proceeding on schedule, including two at Whistler Blackcomb.

“We are excited to continue investing in the guest experience here at Whistler Blackcomb, and the opportunity to upgrade the Fitzsimmons Express and Jersey Cream chairlifts reinforces our commitment to excellence, especially as a world-class destination resort,” said Geoff Buchheister, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Whistler Blackcomb. “Following approvals and installation, these upgrades will reduce lift line wait times and create easier access and flow for all who visit our beautiful mountains,” he continued.

The Whistler Blackcomb projects bring Vail Resorts to at least six new lifts for 2023, including three previously announced investments and the delayed Keystone Bergman Bowl expansion. In July, Vail unveiled plans to replace Summit at Attitash, 5-Chair at Breckenridge and Kehr’s Chair at Stevens Pass for 2023. The Attitash and Breckenridge projects will be detachable quads while Stevens Pass will see a fixed grip quad. Manufacturer(s) for those lifts have not been announced. At Keystone, Bergman Bowl will feature a six passenger Leitner-Poma detachable.

Vail also reported season pass sales increased approximately 6 percent in units and 7 percent in sales dollars through September 24th as compared to a year ago. However, full Epic and Epic Local unlimited season pass sales declined roughly 10 percent. The company’s total 2023 capital plan is expected to total $191 million to $196 million, significantly less than this year’s $323 to $333 million. Those numbers reflect approximately $10 million in capital deferred from 2022 to 2023 as a result of the Park City and Keystone lift delays.

In addition to the six 2023 lift projects, Vail also plans to debut new technology allowing guests to use phones as lift passes via Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity next season.

65 thoughts on “Vail Resorts to Install Deferred Park City Lifts at Whistler Blackcomb

  1. Donald Reif September 28, 2022 / 3:14 pm

    Fitzsimmons 8 feels a bit like overkill, but then again, it might be useful if they’re planning on overhauling the gondola in the near future.


    • Max V. September 29, 2022 / 11:55 am

      I agree. I never would have thought they’d upgrade it.


    • squigly September 29, 2022 / 8:17 pm

      The D-Line has technology that makes bike loading/unloading simple for the user. Im sure that is a major factor here.


    • uberright (@uberright) September 28, 2022 / 3:26 pm

      With EpicMix you would think Vail would have better analytics about where the bottlenecks are.


    • Carola January 19, 2023 / 10:23 pm

      Totally agree. 7th heaven is the bottleneck and would really benefit from a lift upgrade!


  2. Owen Mitchem September 28, 2022 / 3:36 pm

    Wasn’t this 6 pack designed with a midstation? I wonder what’s happening to that


  3. OttawaSkier September 28, 2022 / 3:47 pm

    Interesting. 6 lifts, three of them already paid for, isn’t a lot for 40 resorts. I guess this is Vail’s warning to those places that want to block lift projects.

    Fitzsimmons as VR’s first eight-pack and D-Line wasn’t on my bingo card, but I guess it wasn’t on anybody’s. Could be a sign that they want to ramp up bike park operations at W-B. On that note, Fitzsimmons is relatively young, built in 1999. Does anybody think they will use it, either for one of the already announced projects (probably the Summit Triple), or some other project that they will announce in the spring?

    Jersey Cream as a 6 is less surprising, though I (and many others, no doubt) am surprised that 7th Heaven is going see another season when Jersey Cream isn’t.


    • Paul Hothersall September 28, 2022 / 9:33 pm

      Village 8 in Perisher was Vail first 8 pack. installed like 15 years ago.


      • Aussierob06 September 28, 2022 / 9:37 pm

        The 8 pack in perisher was installed long before Vails involvement.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Paul Hothersall September 29, 2022 / 12:26 pm

          AussieRob, you are right as normal.
          But my logic is just because I bought my first NEW dishwasher 5 years ago, because anywhere I lived already had one, doesn’t mean “its my first dishwasher”


      • Aussierob06 September 29, 2022 / 1:37 pm

        Grammar. Your comment implies Vail were involved in the installation. There are numerous others where comments ascribe to Vail things that were done prior to their ownership. anything that happened prior to 2016 at WB has nothing to do with Vail.


  4. Philip Keeve September 28, 2022 / 4:16 pm

    I sincerely hope they can still move forward with the Park City upgrades in 2023.

    Liked by 2 people

    • carletongebhardt September 28, 2022 / 4:29 pm

      I think the fact they are moving them across country for 2023 install at WB, would indicate that the PC upgrades are on indefinite hold….


    • Bob September 28, 2022 / 4:33 pm

      I’m not sure the planning commission will let them unless they get their free parking.


      • Donald Reif September 28, 2022 / 9:41 pm

        Depends on whether VR can bribe the right people to overrule those NIMBYs who are basically holding PCMR’s lift projects for ransom.


      • Donald Reif September 29, 2022 / 7:24 pm

        Yeah, VR probably doesn’t want to give in to their ransom demands, because they fear “if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile”, and they’ll start making more demands.


    • Ryan September 28, 2022 / 5:54 pm

      Won’t happen. I don’t see this happening if it did get agreed upon, until 2025 at the soonest.


  5. Aussierob06 September 28, 2022 / 4:45 pm

    Just for info on the new lifts here at WB, the replacements are based on finding profiles at WB that are similar to the ones at Park city. Neither of these lifts are nearly big enough for a 7th replacement. Peak isn’t long, but steep. The Fitzsimmons project is all about bike park capacity, not skiing capacity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul Hothersall September 29, 2022 / 12:29 pm

      Please please can the unload be moved 75-100m uphill (if its staying on the same alignment) ? The traffic flow would be much better if that is the case.


  6. Kevin R September 28, 2022 / 6:11 pm

    I think our Aussi Brother is Correct
    Someone chez Vail and Doppelmayr spent a lot of hours looking at Vail’s resorts lift profiles All the towers, sheave assemblies were delivered for two specific geographical lines
    Doppelmayr Salt Lake crew will be busy modifying galvanized tubes


  7. Alex September 28, 2022 / 6:29 pm

    I am struggling on how they get to 73% increase in Fitz capacity? Isn’t the current capacity 2650 pph? That would imply the new lift is 4500+ pph? AussieRob do you know by chance?


    • Aussierob06 September 28, 2022 / 9:38 pm

      Fitz is 1800pph. Runs much bigger carrier interval than usual.


      • Donald Reif September 28, 2022 / 9:47 pm

        Those bigger intervals might mean reduced misloads too…


      • Alex September 29, 2022 / 7:05 am

        Thank you Aussierob. Do you know what the capacity of Garbanzo is? 2650 PPH?


        • Aussierob06 September 29, 2022 / 7:48 am

          Garbanzo is 2800pph.


  8. kaden01m September 28, 2022 / 6:44 pm

    I wonder if WB will stick with the Park City colors or get everything re-painted?

    You would think too with everything already ready they could shorten the construction time and keep Fitz open for part of the summer.


    • Aussierob06 September 28, 2022 / 9:40 pm

      It would be crazy if they went the other way. Open it on Labor day.


      • kaden01m September 28, 2022 / 10:30 pm

        In the past it seems like Fitz doesn’t run much after Presidents week. Could they start in some spots then and be ready by end of July?

        if not would they open the Red chair to help with summer uploads if biking is on the Village gondola?

        and what did you mean by went the other way?


        • Aussierob06 September 29, 2022 / 7:53 am

          @ KAden01M, rather than delay starting construction, to have a short spring opening, start the construction in March/April and hope to have the lift finished by Labor day and get a month of operations on the new lift in the fall. Same idea as you, but July would be a push. It is a smaller lift with easier access so construction likely a lot quicker than Red or Creek.


    • Max V. September 29, 2022 / 11:56 am

      I assume they’d repaint it, since all the new lifts are practically the same.


  9. Paul Hothersall September 28, 2022 / 7:40 pm

    I did wonder if Fitz could be realigned such that it could replace both itself and Olympic chair to save staff and optimize ops. But I think that ‘surplus’ 8 pack isn’t the one with the mid load ?
    In any case, if the Fitz unload could just be moved up the hill 75-100m to make it more customer friendly to unload witbout having to either push across to the garbo, or worse on the busy days were the Garbo lineup fills the Fitz unload area. As a bonus, the bikers headed over to crank it up/b-line/ Whistler downhill etc don’t have to bike up the muddy side hill above Olly’s cheese.


  10. skitheeast September 28, 2022 / 8:30 pm

    There has really been a complete shift in mindset for Vail over the past year. They have had clashes with a handful of communities, whether about overcrowding, parking, or housing, and have recently shown that they are putting their foot down and willing to fight. Listening to the call, the pause on massive upgrades like last year is likely due in part to them now being hesitant on announcing any project until all approvals are received and they have any necessary community support.

    Regarding the new locations: I really like both upgrades. Jersey Cream is old and overcrowded (I did not realize it was the most popular lift on Blackcomb) and Fitzsimmons does get busy in the morning rush, although a gondola replacement would be the better solution if this lift was not already available. I am curious how the Fitzsimmons replacement will get done given the wild popularity of the bike park over the summer. The gondola and Garbanzo can still cover the terrain, but most of the trails are under Fitzsimmons so laps will suddenly become a lot longer. Plus, I assume some tree cutting may need to take place given the width of the new chair compared to the existing one, so many trails may be closed as well. Also, Fitzsimmons is pretty young, and even with its heavy summer usage, it may be more than able to be relocated elsewhere after a refurbishment. Perhaps the proposed Franz/T-Bar replacement?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark September 28, 2022 / 8:45 pm

      Replacing Jersey Cream also impacts summer skiing on the glacier as Jersey Cream is used to transport skiers at the end of the day after off loading glacier express, taking skiers to the top of the Blackcomb gondola.


      • Paul Hothersall September 28, 2022 / 11:32 pm

        re jersey summer – bus to excelerator is an option, they have done that before now


    • Aussierob06 September 28, 2022 / 9:42 pm

      Some eggs are going to be broken to make the ommlete.


    • Donald Reif September 28, 2022 / 9:46 pm

      Fitzsimmons 8 could be used to plug the gap temporarily for summer operations when the gondola’s up for a replacement.


    • Morris September 28, 2022 / 11:58 pm

      Using Fitzsimmons for the Franz/T-bar replacement would be a great idea!


  11. Tin Pants September 29, 2022 / 1:57 am

    eventually they will have to replace the garbanzo for winter crowds


  12. Muni September 29, 2022 / 2:40 am

    Nice to see Vail pushing back against NIMBYism.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if few other lift projects get announced for the company this year. As a bond issuer and publicly traded company, they are beholden to rapidly rising interest rates and general market turmoil. If anything, the ‘Epic Lift Upgrade’ may have been in part motivated by a desire to get the CapEx done while the getting was still good.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Bob September 29, 2022 / 6:35 am

    PCMR is stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can easily see the planning commission blocking other projects in the future in an attempt to pressure VR into giving them what they want. This means that PCMR is probably not getting any lift upgrades anytime soon, which is really disappointing seeing as there are some spots where it could really use them, due to capacity problems. The small amount of good news though is that it doesn’t seem that any of PCMR’s lifts need replacing due to age, giving VR and the NIMBYs more time to come to an agreement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif September 29, 2022 / 12:36 pm

      Yeah, Silverlode is a lift needing replacement for capacity reasons.


  14. Logan Clarke September 29, 2022 / 9:50 am

    My question is will crankworx still happen? They can’t afford to cancel that surely?


    • Andrew K September 29, 2022 / 12:29 pm

      It’s Vail, they most certainly can. 1 year off Crankworx is a pretty small sacrifice for them.


  15. Max V. September 29, 2022 / 11:53 am

    This is a huge deal, I’m shocked I haven’t yet heard about it. Whistler has been my mountain for all my life and so I’m excited to see what will happen.


  16. AvocadoAndy September 29, 2022 / 12:18 pm

    Not at all surprised about Kehr’s, they’ve had the approval to replace that one for years now. Really hoping they move the base a little further downhill, getting to it right now involves either hiking a ways up past the lodges or planning several trails in advance to go up Hogs and/or Tye and bombing down Promenade hoping you have enough momentum.

    I’m curious too to see if they end up advertising that as an alternative to the backside. You can take Kehr’s and then Double Diamond and follow a blue road all the way down to link up with one of the Jupiter trails, but that doesn’t seem to be a popular option. Could help to alleviate some of the crowds off of Hogs and Tye if they do, but then again, Double Diamond/Southern Cross doesn’t exactly have the best track record for reliability.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. El Chapo September 30, 2022 / 7:18 pm

    I wonder if Powdr still regrets losing PCMR


  18. John S October 6, 2022 / 5:22 pm

    An 8-pack on Fitzsimmons that leads to the Garbanzo quad doesn’t seem like a smart decision – it will overwhelm Garby. Fitz isn’t the problem and rarely backs up. The real bottleneck is Seventh Heaven on Blackcomb. Also, some of the most underutilized terrain on Whistler is the Franz’s Chair (a slooooooow fixed-grip triple) and the T-Bar above it. The smarter decision would be to replace 7th Heaven, and replace Franz’s and the T-Bar with one lift. This feels, to me at least, like another bad decision by VR and honestly seems as if they’ve never even skied Whistler Blackcomb. Sheesh!


    • OttawaSkier October 6, 2022 / 5:44 pm

      It’s for the bike park. Also, they are using existing lifts built for Park City, so they had to find lifts that fit the existing profile.
      That being said, the current Fitzsimmons Express is a young lift, and could replace Olympic, Magic, or Franz’s/T-Bar.


      • John S October 6, 2022 / 6:10 pm

        Fair enough, but I am addressing the ski experience. Granted, the MB operation is an incredibly successful operation – I know – I was there for the first year of commercial mountain biking on the mountain and have watched it since then. But IMHO, it would be better to expand their MB operation onto Blackcomb as they’ve discussed for years. The biggest winter time bottleneck on the mountain is 7th Heaven, especially with the removal of the Hortsman T-Bar. Regardless of the profile issue and the MB park, the ski experience will be diminished. Having said that, the Jersey Cream replacement will be helpful.


        • ShangRei Garrett October 6, 2022 / 8:06 pm

          If I’m understanding correctly, I think 7th’s alignment is longer than the lift equipment they are receiving


        • skitheeast October 6, 2022 / 10:35 pm

          Assuming the 8-pack has the same profile as the existing Silverlode lift, it has 1322 feet of vertical over a distance of 5370 feet. It is extremely difficult to relocate a lift to a location with more vertical and/or distance, so 7th Heaven was not an option because it has more of both. In fact, most of Whistler’s lifts are incredibly long and have large verticals. Besides Fitzsimmons, the only realistic options are Catskinner, Emerald, Jersey Cream, and Peak. Catskinner and Emerald were both installed in 2018, Jersey Cream is being replaced, and Peak’s terrain pod cannot handle the extra capacity. It was either Fitzsimmons or a different resort.


        • Aussierob06 October 7, 2022 / 10:59 am

          @skitheeast, Excelerator is actually a good option for the 8 pack.
          @John S, neither lift fits at 7th, and there is a longer term plan there that requires serious geotechnical work. Having an 8 pack feeding Garbanzo won’t be the problem most think it is. Fitz is only heavy for a couple of hours in the morning on really busy days. At this time Garbo is not busy. Once the crowd is on the hill later in the day, Fitz will be light and not adding much to the Garbo line up. Fitz is being optimized for the bike park, not skiing. Also, all the lifts decisions are made locally by the people who have always made them.


        • John S October 7, 2022 / 5:19 pm

          Well, you make good points, and I hope you’re right. Garby is a bit of a relief when the mountain is busy. (Though that has even changed over the past few years.) But just for some clarification, the lift decisions are absolutely not being made by the people that have always made them. Most of the senior management team that was in place when VR acquired the area is long gone.


        • skitheeast October 7, 2022 / 1:41 pm

          Could the Silverlode lift actually fit at Excelerator in the same profile without serious engineering rework? It is only a tad longer but with 25%+ more vertical.


        • Aussierob06 October 7, 2022 / 1:57 pm

          It really depends on the engineering of the Silverlode. If the design was to have the drive system rated at 120% of operating values, there might be enough there to run Excelerator near 100%. Not that it’s optimal, but you could remove a few chairs as well.


        • Aussierob06 October 8, 2022 / 10:11 am

          @John S – The only person not a long term WB employee is the COO. Everyone else has been here a long time, just some weren’t in senior management when Vail took over. I’ll reiterate again, the installation of these two lifts is based on what we could do with the equipment we were given, not to do with our priority list.


        • John S October 8, 2022 / 12:44 pm

          Completely understand. I’ve been around Whistler since 1987 and know many of them including the former senior management. And I completely understand you all are dealing with what’s been given. I also understand that there is no space at 7th Heaven for an 8-pack. I also understand the bike park.

          I am speaking from one guest’s perspective on what my ski posse would hope to see without regard to business or geotech issues. Like many guests, we won’t always look at the big picture and you helped remind me to do that. Still, I’m human, have been in the industry a long time, love WB, and have not always been thrilled with the operational and capital changes since VR took over. And for a little context, I worked for Vail Associates back in the day so also know quite a bit about the company which was one of my favorite jobs ever.

          I appreciate your information and perspective.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Ski guy October 10, 2022 / 9:38 pm

      7th will be replaced but they have so so many things like decreasing the summits height because it sits on ice and that takes a lot of work to do. So they are sort of making it have a longer life before they drain all that cash into 7th.


  19. Mont Saint Marie > Tremblant October 10, 2022 / 2:45 pm

    Hi John, what would be the reason that 7th heaven doesnt have enough space to have an 8 pack? The current 7th heaven Doppelmayr CLD-260 terminals are incredibly long and large, not to mention ugly, and a new Doppelmayr 6-8 pack D-line Terminal would be more compact than the one currently there.


    • Whistler Local January 19, 2023 / 10:12 pm

      Ik I’m not John. But I’m a local and the reason is bc right now the 7th heaven express sits on top of ice. In order to replace it they will have to excavate the whole top ridge and lower it by quite a bit. There’s talk abt building the proposed tram, and a 6 place for 7th. Although by doing this they will create more room so they could build an 8 but a 6 is probably more logistical.


      • Aussierob January 20, 2023 / 10:02 am

        @Whistler Local, I need to correct you here. 7th Heaven doesn’t sit on any ice. It’s all rock. The problem now is the ice on Horstman glacier used to come up to the ridge top and buttressed the ridge. This has now receded leaving unsupported rock and a large step down into the glacier that really impedes skier traffic. Going forward, the ridge needs to be lowered to eliminate this step, and create safe room for the new 7th Heaven and tram if it ever gets built. As to a 6 or 8, even with shorter terminals, space for an 8 pack maze at the bottom is likely an issue. At the top, a second ski away from the unload is needed to clear the skier traffic if the capacity is going to be increased. A 6 and 8 are essentially the same capacity, just an 8 had a bigger carrier interval.


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