New Master Plan Outlines Big Snowmass Upgrades

The Forest Service has accepted an updated Master Development Plan for Snowmass, the second largest ski resort in Colorado. Lift projects include everything from new teaching surface lifts to a two mile long 10 passenger gondola and multiple six place chairlifts. Aspen Skiing Company partnered with SE Group to craft the plan, which identifies incremental upgrades to an already well-balanced mountain with significant excess trail capacity.

Likely coming sooner rather than later out of necessity is the proposed Coneygame lift. The name is a portmanteau of longtime lifts Coney Glade and Burlingame. Coney Glade stands tied for the oldest operating high speed quad in the country (the other is Sunshine at Telluride.) Burlingame was a Riblet double that serviced the Fanny Hill slope and was removed in 2014. As the name implies, Coneygame would be a detachable six pack loading near the Snowmass Mall and unloading at the top of the existing quad. Due to private land ownership, the new lift would require a slight angle change near the Lynn Britt Cabin. It has not been decided whether deflection would be accomplished with a full station or an Alta-style bend with sheaves. At more than 7,000 feet long with an hourly capacity of 2,800 skiers, Coneygame will be a major project regardless.

Aspen Skiing Company also plans to replace the Village Express chairlift with a gondola. The 10 passenger model would include an unloading mid-station with an expansive cabin storage and maintenance space. The gondola would improve year round access to Sam’s Knob and increase out-of-base capacity by 25 percent. As part of the Village gondola conversion, A 750 foot platter lift is proposed that would carry early and late season skiers from high alpine terrain on Big Burn to Sam’s Knob for downloading on the gondola.

The Burnt Mountain expansion remains in long term plans for Snowmass. First approved in 1994 but not implemented, Burnt Mountain includes a 2,700 vertical foot detachable quad. Once built it will immediately become the highest vertical high speed quad on the continent. The Burnt Mountain detachable will also span a remarkable 11,596 feet with an hourly capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour. It would increase the comfortable carrying capacity at Snowmass by 1,340 skiers with expansive glades and access to advanced and intermediate trails.

A number of replacements are also proposed. The popular Cirque Poma would see its capacity double and turn removed when swapped for a modern model. Both the 1993 Alpine Springs and 1995 Elk Camp high speed quads are earmarked for replacements with six seat lifts. Newer Sheer Bliss may eventually get the same treatment. The SkyCab pulse gondola is also identified for replacement with a detachable gondola. Aspen Skiing Company does not own that lift, however and any replacement would be up to Snowmass Village owners.

While Aspen Skiing Company is focused on the Pandora’s expansion on Aspen Mountain this year, the 2022 master plan makes clear Snowmass will be a focus in years to come. With upgraded lifts, the largest of Aspen’s four mountains could comfortably accommodate a whopping 15,000 skiers.

64 thoughts on “New Master Plan Outlines Big Snowmass Upgrades

  1. Scott Young January 28, 2023 / 9:12 am

    Isn’t challenger at Sun Valley 3,200 vertical feet?


      • Scott Young January 28, 2023 / 9:23 am

        And replaced with a new one right?


        • Peter Landsman January 28, 2023 / 9:30 am

          Not a high speed quad. I was very specific :)


        • Scott Young January 28, 2023 / 10:48 am

          Ah, right. So many quads there, I forgot they were going the 6 pack route.


        • Myles January 28, 2023 / 10:16 am

          It’s being replaced with a D-line six pack with a midstation.


  2. BrownsFan27 January 28, 2023 / 9:49 am

    Assuming all these lifts will be Leitner-Poma?


    • pbropetech January 28, 2023 / 11:40 am

      Assume all you want. Yes, SkiCo has a long history with Poma, but with the market the way it is these days I wouldn’t be surprised at anything.

      Liked by 2 people

    • AO January 30, 2023 / 12:30 pm

      From a maintenance and emergency repair perspective there’s something to be said about having only one manufacturer in the fleet, and to have that manufacturer just 2 hours down the road. At least for the aerial lifts I’d guess LPA; the surface lifts could be anything, but likely Sunkid carpets and Poma platters/t-bars. Like PBROPETECH said, anything is possible with today’s market.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pockets January 28, 2023 / 10:06 am

    Any idea what the plan for the Wine Cabin lift at the top of Sam’s Knob is? It’s on the upgrade map but not included on the upgraded lift specs table.


    • Pockets January 28, 2023 / 2:50 pm

      Disregard previous comment, after re-reading I assume Wine Cabin is the Sam’s access surface lift in the footnotes.


  4. kiroro January 28, 2023 / 10:21 am

    the new burnt mountain express will break the record for longest chairlift in the world


    • Donald Reif January 28, 2023 / 10:22 am

      Hopefully they make it a 1,200 fpm lift.


      • awconrad January 28, 2023 / 4:39 pm

        Prepare to be disappointed. It looks like it’s gonna be 1,000 fpm base on the table.


        • vons3 January 29, 2023 / 10:13 am

          In my experience the speed of the lift will be whatever the resort decides at the time of lift purchase. These Master plan documents tend to be a guide, not a definitive plan, many details will change before some of this is implemented.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Ryan Murphy January 28, 2023 / 11:10 am

    How big an angle change would the Coneygame lift have?


    • pbropetech January 28, 2023 / 12:23 pm

      Looks pretty similar to the existing midstation on the Elk Camp gondola, from the map.


      • AO January 30, 2023 / 12:39 pm

        ECG is 27 degree deflection. I think the proposed ConeyGame is closer to 20 degrees, maybe as small as 18.


        • Mike B January 30, 2023 / 4:01 pm

          Alta Supreme only 8 degrees, so not sure that’s a good comp in terms of precedent for sheave-only angle change.


        • ShangRei Garrett January 30, 2023 / 8:38 pm

          Yeah, 18-20 degress would be one heck of a canted sheave contraption


        • AO January 30, 2023 / 8:43 pm

          I might be wrong… the deflection might be only 8-10 degrees. It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed it with those that know


  6. Donald Reif January 28, 2023 / 4:16 pm

    Burnt Mountain’s going to eclipse Slide Brook’s length record by about 600 feet.


  7. Ryan King January 28, 2023 / 9:04 pm

    Peter! I’m such a geek with these lifts. I’d love to see more articles or tweets showing “top 10 vertical for high speed quads” on the continent etc. Or longest lifts in America etc.

    Also, where does John Paul fit in at Snowbasin? With challenger gone and the burnt mountain lift taking the#1 spot, I’m curious where JP stands.

    Thanks for all you do!


    • Aidan Reilly January 29, 2023 / 10:59 am

      I believe most of those articles have been published on the platform regarding longest lifts, etc. You can find them through the search bar.


  8. skitheeast January 29, 2023 / 9:35 am

    Great plan from Snowmass, and many elements will likely come to fruition given SkiCo’s history. The only part I question a little is the proposed Coneygame lift. It will be epic in terms of its specs, but it also creates a bit of runoff for those lapping its lower-intermediate pod between Banzai and Dawdler. In fact, bringing it all the way down to the top of the Sky Cab makes it more of a secondary base egress lift than a lapping lift.


    • AO January 30, 2023 / 12:07 pm

      The whole reason of replacing and extending Coney Glade to Coneygame (not likely the final name) is to offer additional egress from the base area. Otherwise, I suspect Coney would just be removed once we couldn’t get any more TB-40 grip bodies.


    • Mike B January 30, 2023 / 3:34 pm

      Further to AO’s comments, converting VGX into a gondola will actually create new need for egress from Fanny Hill up towards the Sam’s Knob area. Clicking in/out of skis will make the gondola less attractive as a lapping lift, so Coneygame takes on more importance. The new Village gondola will really just be a workhorse for ski school and morning egress from that area. With Coneyglade now being accessible from most of Snowmass Village and via Adam’s Ave from Elk Camp or Alpine Springs, there really is very little need to ski down into the mixing bowl of the Snowmass Base Village below Skittles/Elk Camp gondola mid-station. This will help with circulation and provide another means of moving East to West, especially if starting out up in Elk Camp.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. vons3 January 29, 2023 / 10:21 am

    Just spitballing, I wonder if the current Village Exp 6 is worth recycling into the Conygame lift using a modified version of the current mid station on the up hull turn for a load (it would help in preventing traffic from going into the confined base area) and doing the alta (sheaves only) style turn for the down line.


    • Donald Reif January 29, 2023 / 7:23 pm

      I think you’d need to build a brand-new mid-station.

      Liked by 1 person

    • AO January 30, 2023 / 12:09 pm

      Coney will be replaced before the VX gondola is put in place. Moving the VX6 to Alpine Springs has been floated, but it’s a 15 yo lift, and will likely be 20 by the time it’s replaced. I suspect ASC will sell it to someone else and install all-new lifts.


  10. Thomas Jett January 29, 2023 / 5:22 pm

    Is there any reason that Campground won’t be upgraded? Is the terrain there just too unpopular/unreliable to draw a crowd.


    • ShangRei Garrett January 29, 2023 / 5:28 pm

      At least in my experience, I’ve never seen a crowd or line over there.


      • OttawaSkier January 29, 2023 / 6:31 pm

        Chicken or egg – if it doesn’t have the traffic it won’t be upgraded, if it isn’t upgraded it won’t get any traffic. Depending on who you ask, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ed Mettelman January 29, 2023 / 7:17 pm

      Though Campground has some great terrain (e.g. Powderhorn), it’s lower elevation and lack of snowmaking makes the snow unreliable. It is late to open and early to close.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. alexvermont1999gmailcom January 29, 2023 / 8:18 pm

    I’m curious if the Burnt mtn lift will actually get built. As was stated its been approved since 1994 so why is now the time? As a frequent skier of “the glades” the hike does a lot to keep people out of that terrain. I would rather see a mid-station installed on two creeks to avoid the mile-long runout.. The coney-game lift should start a bit higher than the mall, at the intersection of Banzii and Fanny hill below the pond/wastewater treatment plant. This would reduce crowding on fanny hill. I like the plan to do early/late season high up on the burn!


    • AO January 30, 2023 / 12:19 pm

      I agree that the hike keeps the BM glades nice. I suspect ASC will build the BM lift when they decide it’s time to relieve pressure off the Elk Camp pod. A mid-load on Two Creeks is an interesting idea, but it would do nothing to help with reducing traffic on the Elk Camp lift. The Coney replacement is intended to add base-area egress and relieve pressure on VX. Yeah, Fanny Hill is a cluster and will only get worse, but I think it’s still a good idea to have back-up out of the base area.

      Liked by 1 person

    • afski722 January 30, 2023 / 7:17 pm

      I see the Burnt Mt lift as a long-shot “what if” scenario, and not in reality happening anytime soon. This is a master plan, and its better to keep it in there based on a potential for future development/implementation but this lift is likely at the far bottom of priority. It would be a long/expensive lift, that with a lower base / runout that doesn’t lend itself to great snow conditions on the lower 50% of the runs or lappable terrain. Its been on the books for 30 years now, there is no reason for them not to keep it in the plan, but its a far reach from being implemented anytime in the near term.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Chuck Savall January 30, 2023 / 1:08 am

    I’m actually sad to see this, Pretty much every resort town is at the bottom of a deep hole right now, yet we keep digging. New terrain, new lifts, new infrastructure – all require more employees, yet we have run out of room to build new employee housing, as well as the infrastructure to support more people. Hospitals, schools, office buildings, restaurants, grocery stores, and on and on. Unless we want all our lovely ski towns to look like those in Europe, with 30 story condo complexes obscuring the views from end to end, citizens need to start saying no to expansion. Don’t “Be Like Breck.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Donald Reif January 30, 2023 / 7:37 am

      New lifts are needed to keep up with demand or replace lifts that have reached the end of their service life.


      • pbropetech January 30, 2023 / 9:24 am

        While this is true, using it as the only metric doesn’t take the rest of what Chuck mentions into account. Even a ‘simple’ upgrade from a fixed-grip to a detachable generally means adding a couple of lift operators and a mechanic, at a minimum. Those people need to live somewhere. We mechanics are year-round employees, and tend to have families. This adds even more people to the area’s population, which increases the need for services, which means even more people are needed. Because ski areas are typically located in small, rural areas, additional population is a strain on those already-scarce resources. This isn’t really the place to expound on the dynamics of ski-town population growth but I thought it needed to be said. I’m not against ski areas expanding and upgrading (I really can’t be, given that it pays my mortgage) but there are many other considerations that need to be taken into account.

        Liked by 5 people

        • afski722 January 30, 2023 / 7:19 pm

          I am pretty sure that many of these mountain ski towns are going to crush under their own weight in the next 5-10 years. The pandemic gave us a previous of the labor challenges and its only going to get worse as many of the long-time locals / veterans that have been there since the 80s/90s and bought in years ago eventually retire, age-out, or sell their local businesses.


    • skitheeast January 30, 2023 / 9:53 am

      Those ski towns in Europe are consistently rated as being both more popular and beautiful than their counterparts in the US. They don’t achieve density with 30-story buildings; Switzerland as a country only has 7 buildings that reach that height, Innsbruck is a 300,000 person ski-town/city and their tallest building is 14 floors, etc. Density and affordability are achieved with gradual measures that American ski towns purposely ignore. Aspen zoning the majority of its city to have a 25-foot height limit and 25% maximum lot coverage is a choice. Snowmass Village Mall having over 11.5 acres of surface parking lots is a choice. These choices give the impression a town is full when we have artificially lowered the measuring threshold.

      Liked by 3 people

      • pbropetech January 30, 2023 / 5:55 pm

        Some valid points here.


      • Chuck Savall January 30, 2023 / 6:09 pm

        I’ve been to many of the Euro resorts. You put up with the over-crowding because the terrain is so amazing, not to mention lift tickets cost 1/5th what they cost in US. Do you really want Aspen to turn into a town with 300,000 residents and 15 story condos, that swells to over a million during ski season? What makes you think Aspen officials won’t change their zoning to allow more density, like Breck, Frisco, Telluride, CB, etc? We are now being dictated what we can do with our homes, whether we can have a short-term / long-term rental. But go ahead, keep digging.


        • Mike B January 30, 2023 / 6:47 pm

          So now you’re moving the goal posts. The response to you pointed out exactly how we could address the issue of lack of workforce housing (or affordable housing more broadly), and your response is a strawman about Aspen turning into Salzburg, which no one suggested was the solution. Sounds like your solution is “I’m already here, so how do we close the door behind me on anyone else who wants to live here so my experience doesn’t get more crowded.”

          Liked by 2 people

        • skitheeast January 30, 2023 / 7:06 pm

          Again, I am not really sure where you are getting these 15-story condo ideas from. The comparison was that Innsbruck is a city more than 42x the size of Aspen and even it does not have 15-story buildings. Churches are frequently the tallest buildings in European ski towns. I won’t go down the rabbit hole of zoning laws, but loosening restrictive zoning laws would actually do the exact opposite of what you are saying and expand what property owners are allowed to do. Rental restrictions are a form of restrictive zoning (it’s literally in the name).

          It is also worth noting Aspen Snowmass had 1.42 million skier visits last winter, so that million figure you mentioned as a scary thought is long in the rearview mirror. The geography of the resort is also relatively well-positioned for the incoming warmer climate, so growth is likely to occur regardless unless the overall number of skier days in the US starts to tank. Better to prepare for it so it can be accommodated when it arrives rather than be blindsided in the future.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Chuck Savall January 30, 2023 / 7:51 pm

          Ever been to Val d’Isere, Tignes, Chamonix, St. Anton – all lovely ski villages, ruined by over-crowding. Yes, 30 story condos/apartments. To go up the Cham gondola, make a reservation in the AM, then wait for 3 hours. Grand Montets top gondola, wait for 2 hours. That’s where the US is heading. Summit County already has a workforce housing problem that will never be solved. Aspen just keeps plowing over down-valley ranches for more housing. I don’t have many ski years left, but I’ve seen nothing but a downhill slide in the quality of the experience. It’s not my future as a skier that concerns me, it’s yours. In 20 years, you’ll be wondering why no one put a stop to it all.

          Liked by 1 person

        • ShangRei Garrett January 30, 2023 / 8:42 pm

          I’m not sure what Val d’Isere, Tignes, Chamonix and St Anton you’re going to. Most buildings in resort towns in Europe are like 7/8 floors at max.


        • Chuck Savall January 31, 2023 / 1:37 pm

          Wish I could post photos here, of the 20 story apartments on the west end of Val d’Isere. You can argue pointlessly about actual height of buildings, but that’s missing the point. What’s important to me is the mostly unchecked expansion of ski resorts, the massive over-pricing of the cost of skiing in the US, and the decline in the quality of the experience here in the US. But hey, if you like living in a place that continues to destroy its surroundings, and pack more people into smaller spaces, where home ownership is now unattainable for most, just make that hole deeper.


        • skitheeast January 30, 2023 / 9:02 pm

          I’ve been to the latter two and they are lovely, both with no buildings over 9 or so floors. I actually had one of the best ski days of my life at Grand Montets, where I lapped two feet of snow with refills on Bouchard for the entire day. This was Christmas week and I waited no more than 5 minutes anywhere.

          I never understand the argument that skiing used to be better. My first pair of skis were more difficult to turn, old chairlifts were cold and uncomfortable, and the insulation on my clothing was horrible. Rosy retrospection is real.

          Liked by 1 person

        • ShangRei Garrett January 30, 2023 / 9:05 pm

          Skitheeast, the one thing that I will say is that the busy periods in France and Switzerland are the weeks after New Year’s and some weeks in February when the schools have holiday. The weeks that aren’t those busy periods, such as the Christmas week you went, are night and day when comparing crowds. The resorts will go from no crowds to crowds everywhere overnight. The reason Christmas isn’t too busy is because that is traditionally a time to visit family, so everyone goes skiing in the weeks after Christmas. But yeah, the villages in Europe are quite nice

          Liked by 1 person

        • OttawaSkier January 31, 2023 / 3:46 pm

          Yeah, high density is scary! Why do you think there is such a housing crisis? Because there isn’t enough supply of housing (because of land protection, NIMBYs, whatever) for the demand.
          Why do you think resorts are so crowded and overpriced? Because there are so few ski resorts, and they are (often) not large enough for their demand. Then we get people who complain about prices, expansion, and crowds.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Eric G February 2, 2023 / 10:52 am

          Oh Chuck, please spare us the Aspen anti-growth fearmongering that has the town paralyzed. My entire family resides in Snowmass Village and folks like you, who make ridiculous statements, don’t help the future of Aspen or Snowmass. In fact, your quality of life suffers because of your attitude. There needs to be a thoughtful, fact-based, conversation about growth and the future of these towns, not lies.

          Aspen has a population of 6,900 as of 2020 and it will never be a city of 300,000, much less your outrageous claim of a million that would make it the 12th largest city in the United States today.

          Your “not-in-my-backyard” attitude is problematic. However, more importantly, if you’d read the master plan then you’d understand the plan is more about better serving the existing guests, versus growth in the future. SkiCo is anticipating slight increases in visitation in future years, but nothing remotely close to your outrageous claims. The biggest limiting factor to increased skier visits in Aspen Snowmass is the number of beds and neither Aspen, nor Snowmass, is permitting aggressive development or density as you suggest they will.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Chris February 2, 2023 / 11:29 am

        So as an Innsbruck local I would not call my city a ski town :) Yes, we’ve got one ski area on city limits and one partially on city limits and a lot close by. But we’re also a state capitol, a huge college town and the center of many industries in western Austria. And Innsbruck in turn is very dense, in fact the actual built up area is the densest of all cities in Austria.

        Actual ski towns here are a lot less dense usually. Still a lot more than American Ski towns, or american towns in general. But that’s because you folks really like your space :)

        Thinks are a lot less sparse here, though. The furthest your can be away from a major City in Tyrol is less than a 2 hours drive, and that really helps with infrastructure such a hospitals (or spare parts for lifts for that matter).

        Liked by 2 people

        • Chris February 2, 2023 / 11:37 am

          Oh, an Innsbruck only has ~ 130.000 people. 300.000 is the whole sprawling metro area.


  13. Required. January 30, 2023 / 4:22 pm

    What will they do with the old village lift?


    • AO January 30, 2023 / 8:40 pm

      Either refurb and move it to Alpine Springs or Elk Camp with a controls upgrade, or sell it to someone else. Though, in the master plan it’s said that Alpine Springs and Elk Camp will have backup generators installed, which implies a new generation lift with a direct drive similar to the new Big Burn lift


  14. Josh January 30, 2023 / 8:17 pm

    I think replacing the coney glade lift is a must but I don’t think it has the traffic to be a 6 person lift. What is I like about the lift most is that it goes right next to the big jumps so you can watch on your way back up. Rerouting the lift will make it so that isn’t possible. Also bringing it farther down will make it less of a lap lift. It will also bring more of a crowd to the park (new skiers) and make it less safe I think.
    What they should do is make it a new high speed quad from the same place. Coney game is such a bad name, why not just keep it the same name?
    This is seeming to be like they’re trying to ruin the resort and make it more like vail.
    In addition I think they need to bring some more attention to the other mountains like highlands for example and replace both thunder bowl lift and temerity lift with those on Snowmass.

    Most importantly where are they planning to get all these extra staff from? They have been running very low on staff lately.


    • AO January 31, 2023 / 9:13 am

      Fear not, Josh! The new alignment will have us flying over the west side of the halfpipe, east of the treeline – we’ll still have a clear view of the big hits, and a better view of the medium hits. With the loading terminal down on Fanny Hill, and especially once the VX is upgraded to a gondola, there will be plenty of traffic to justify the 6-place carriers. Yes, “coneygame” is a terrible name, but helps differentiate the new alignment from the old. There’s a good chance the name will be different by the time it is installed, but no promises.

      Yeah, staffing has been rough the last few years. It’s better this year, but there have been days where a lift or two didn’t run because of call outs. That’s an area that definitely needs help. ASC is aware and has been putting a lot of effort into trying to resolve that problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Donald Reif January 31, 2023 / 1:51 pm

        I personally think Coneygame is just a placeholder name for now, and they’ll probably decide whether to just retain the Coney Glade name or revive the Burlingame name.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Eric G February 2, 2023 / 10:34 am

      Josh- Snowmass will never be like Vail. An upgraded lift network does not make you so. What makes you like Vail is having a city like Denver reside within a couple of hours of you.

      Highlands has received lots of attention in the past two decades. Temerity is a perfect lift as-is for the location and while I felt Thunderbowl should’ve been detachable SkiCo feels otherwise. Thunderbowl is treated as a secondary lift for racers.

      Coneygame is a well-thought-out replacement for an existing chair. Since it’s a replacement this lift doesn’t require additional manpower. Snowmass is fully staffed this season by the way.

      The new alignment makes this lift more usable than Coney Glade. What you’re forgetting is that this new lift will serve more than just the terrain park and the adjacent Lower Banzai trail. All of the surrounding terrain from Dawdler to the west to Banzai to the east can be lapped with this new lift. This lift will also serve the beginner terrain parks in their entirety.

      Why a 6-pack? It’s not necessarily about maximizing capacity. There are other advantages to a 6-pack versus a quad.


  15. Peter January 31, 2023 / 7:59 am

    Could Snowmass ever expand onto its backside behind the Cirque/High Alpine or even up to Baldy Mountain or is that not feasible?


    • AO January 31, 2023 / 8:47 am

      The south and west ski area boundary is also the Maroon – Snowmass Wilderness boundary. It would literally take an act of Congress to open that area to ski resort operations. Train up your backcountry skills and get those goods when the gettin’s good!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Eric G February 2, 2023 / 10:19 am

        The backcountry skiers tell the story. The area is easily accessible from the backcountry gates at the ski area, but is not frequented by backcountry skiers. Tracks are usually found later in the season after a good snowstorm.

        Much of the terrain faces south, is very steep, avalanche prone, and has inconsistent snow cover due to sun exposure and wind.

        It doesn’t make business sense to consider expansion in this area. Burnt Mountain needs to happen first and if thereafter expansion is desired connecting Snowmass to Buttermilk makes a lot more sense from a business perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

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