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Park City Lift Projects Blocked

The Park City Planning Commission voted 3-1 tonight to grant an appeal of two approved lift projects at Park City Mountain. First announced in September 2021, the new Eagle six pack would have featured a mid-unloading station and a new Silverlode lift would have become the first eight place lift constructed by Vail Resorts. Both detachables were set to be built by Doppelmayr and Silverlode was slated to be a D-Line model. The projects were part of the Epic Lift Upgrade, a 21 lift modernization initiative across Vail Resorts.

The appeal focused on a decades-old agreement with a cap on Comfortable Carrying Capacity between Park City Mountain Resort and previous owner Powdr. At issue was the degree to which new lifts create new demand for skiing. Vail argued the projects were simple lift replacements and would pull skiers off of the current 3 Kings lift in addition to three removed lifts. Appellants said the projects would induce new demand for parking and cause traffic. Normally chairlift replacement projects do not make it to the Planning Commission and are approved by city staff. The appeal was brought by four citizens, triggering elected officials’ involvement.

New Park City Mountain Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Deirdra Walsh blasted the move in a late night statement. “Those opposed to these important enhancements to the guest experience have created a false narrative that the replacement of aged infrastructure with modernized lifts will draw crowds,” she said. “Chairlift tourism does not exist – skiers and riders just want to spend more time on Park City Mountain’s vast terrain and less time in line. Investment in infrastructure is a critical part of the guest experience at Park City Mountain – and we are deeply disappointed that the City is now blocking that investment at the last minute.”

Luckily the lack of approval and threat of appeal kept Doppelmayr and Park City from removing the outgoing Eagle and Silverlode lifts, which will remain in service. Only preliminary construction work had taken place including fabrication of foundation elements in Park City’s parking lot. Both lifts were ordered many months ago and well into production, leading to questions about the future of the euipment. “We are considering our options and next steps based on today’s disappointing decision,” Park City said, adding that new lifts at Park City would not move forward until at least 2023.

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Charles Skinner to Acquire Michigan’s Big Snow

The owner of the largest ski resorts in Minnesota and Wisconsin will expand his portfolio to include one of the biggest ski areas in Michigan. Located in the Upper Peninsula, Big Snow Resort’s Blackjack and Indianhead mountains together feature more than a dozen lifts across 1,000 acres of land. Wisconsin developer Art Dumke has owned the mountains since 2014.

There’s no word yet whether Lutsen Mountains, Granite Peak and Big Snow will be combined onto a single pass product but that seems likely. “We are thrilled that these two historical, Upper Michigan ski areas, known for their prodigious powder snow, will be joining our legendary family of resorts in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” said Charles Skinner in a press release. “The current owner and his excellent staff have done a terrific job honoring the legacy of Indianhead and Blackjack and combining them into the largest ski area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We intend to build upon this work by investing in new lifts, snowmaking, and base area infrastructure at Big Snow.” Specific plans for investments at Big Snow will be announced later this summer. The two mountains currently feel like museums with most lifts and buildings dating back to the 1960s and ’70s.

Skinner also announced construction of a Leitner-Poma six place chairlift at Lutsen Mountains for the 2023-24 season. The second such lift there will run alongside Bridge chair, a 1972 Riblet double on Eagle Mountain.

The Big Snow sale is expected to close by the end of July, subject to financing and due diligence completion.

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