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.

Summit at Snoqualmie Unveils Big Plans

One of Washington’s most-visited resorts today announced Summit 2030, a multi-year capital improvement push to start this summer. Reimagining The Summit is just the latest initiative by Boyne Resorts to bring its ten ski resorts into the modern era. The vision for Snoqualmie includes eight new lifts across all four base areas, enhanced summer operations, expanded snowmaking, new lodges and more. The resort has a lot of work ahead just on lift renewal with 19 chairlifts averaging 35 years old.

To start, Doppelmayr will replace the Hidden Valley double with a triple chair, enhancing capacity on the backside of Hyak for next season. The new lift will feature conveyor loading and transport 1,800 skiers per hour. “Another milestone in our plan to modernize our lift network, the new Hidden Valley Triple provides more capacity, dependability, and greatly improves access to one of most unique areas at The Summit,” said Guy Lawrence, Summit President and General Manager. The mountain also plans to open a bike park at Silver Fir this summer, add more chairs to the Armstrong Express and implement RFID ticketing this offseason.

Many more lift upgrades will follow over the next decade. At Alpental, fixed grip triple chairs are planned to replace both Sessel and Edelweiss. Perhaps most exciting will be construction of the International lift, a project first conceived decades ago. “The long-awaited International Chair at Alpental will be a fixed-grip triple dropping skiers and riders in the best spot for accessing Lower International, Snake Dance, Felson & Back Bowls, providing a whole new way to access some of the most popular terrain at Alpental,” says The Summit. Another key focus at Alpental will be installation of remote-operated avalanche control systems to open terrain faster during storm cycles.

At Summit Central, Boyne plans to replace and realign the Central Express with a larger lift. Nearby, Triple 60 is earmarked for a detachable quad. A brand new lodge, snowmaking and alpine coaster will round out improvements at Central.

Learn to ski hotspot Summit West will see replacements for workhorse lifts like Wildside and Pacific Crest as part of Summit 2030. Wildside will likely be a fixed grip quad and Pacific Crest a detachable six place.

It’s no secret Snoqualmie and other Cascades ski areas attract throngs of skiers at peak times so it’s great to see Boyne committing to major improvements in the Northwest. Not far away, Alterra has announced a similar $100 million plan for Crystal Mountain and Vail Resorts has expansion opportunities at Stevens Pass. Higher capacity lifts and more terrain at Snoqualmie will surely help meet demand for skiing in a booming region with just three ski areas.

ORDA to Spend $38 Million on Lifts in ’23

Citing a tight supply chain and manufacturer consolidation, the staff of New York’s Olympic Regional Development Authority today requested board approval for seven major lift projects to be completed in 2023. Three state-run ski areas – Belleayre, Gore Mountain and Whiteface – each would receive new and upgraded lifts under the ambitious plan.

At Gore Mountain, bids are already in for replacing the Hudson triple with an extended detachable quad. The lowest bid came in at $8,761,520, though ORDA has not yet released the name of the winning manufacturer. This lift would operate year round and be accompanied by a new lodge. ORDA now also wants to replace Gore’s Bear Cub Poma in 2023. A replacement fixed grip chairlift would cost an estimated $3.5 million.

Four lift capital projects are proposed for Belleayre, the largest of which is a full replacement of Lift 7. A $6.5 million detachable quad would follow a modified alignment beginning near the top of the Lightning Quad. The Belleayre Express, a 16 year old detachable quad, would receive new operator houses and electrical systems at a cost of $1.7 million. Lift 8 is in line for a $400,000 upgrade and a new conveyor would round out $9+ million worth of lift projects at Belleayre.

The largest single project is at Whiteface, the largest vertical ski resort in the east. ORDA plans to build a two stage detachable quad from the Bear Den base area to mid mountain with an angle station along the way. This lift would cost a whopping $16.5 million due to the complex nature of the alignment.

The ORDA Board nearly unanimously approved resolutions for all projects to proceed as quickly as possible.

Mt. Shasta Announces Gray Butte Expansion

Rumors of a major expansion and new lift coming to Mt. Shasta Ski Park were spot on. The Northern California mountain plans to build a Doppelmayr fixed grip quad on Gray Butte, significantly extending the skiable vertical drop with five new intermediate runs. The new lift will rise 1,154 vertical feet along an approximately 4,300 foot run, topping out at 7,500 feet in elevation.

“We are so excited to announce the Gray Butte Lift, which has been a long time in the making,” says a new project webpage. “The new lift will service much higher elevation, epic terrain, and access to our backcountry area.” Gray Butte will be the longest chairlift at Mt. Shasta with 14 towers and a 9.5 minute ride time.

Although the lift line has already been cut, the project has not yet received final approval and the ski area is asking the public to contact the Siskiyou County Planning Commission with support. Planning documents state construction is expected to take place in the fall of 2022 into early 2023. More information on the timeline will be shared at an April 20th public meeting.

New Six Packs Coming to Blue Mountain and Camelback

A report by Ski Area Management reveals new six place chairlifts will be installed at both Camelback Resort and Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania this summer. The resorts share common ownership and are located within an hour of each other in the Pocono Mountains, though the lifts will be built by different manufacturers.

At Camelback, Doppelmayr will replace the aging Sullivan Express with a bubble lift named Black Bear 6. The existing high speed quad was the site of a tragic accident a year ago which injured three guests. Black Bear will feature a 667 foot vertical rise, 3,000 passenger per hour capacity and indoor parking for its 50 chairs.

Blue Mountain’s new six pack will replace the Main Street and Burma doubles but start lower on the mountain than the existing lifts. The Leitner-Poma machine will rise 980 vertical feet in under five minutes. “The new lift aims to improve connectivity between Valley Lodge at the base and the Summit Lodge, as well as access to terrain on the western part of the mountain,” reported SAM. The lift will spin at 1,000 feet per minute with 80 carriers.

Both projects are expected to begin construction this month and open for the 2022-23 ski season.

Sundance to Expand with New Lift

Sundance Resort says it’s no joke that a new lift will debut on the back mountain for the 2022-23 season. The Doppelmayr fixed grip quad chair will service four new low angle trails and unload near the top of Jake’s lift. “It has long been a goal of the resort to provide additional terrain on our mountain,” noted Sundance President and General Manager Chad Linebaugh. “This new area has great natural light with abundant sunshine; I am confident it will be a new favorite area for early morning runs and laps throughout the day for families.” When the project is complete, Sundance will feature a total of six chairlifts on two mountains.

Sundance’s new owners and Doppelmayr completed two new quad chairlifts last summer as part of a major rebuilding effort and the next new lift will be similar to Stairway. That project included a new snowmaking system which will be expanded to cover the 15 acres of terrain being added this summer.

Red Lodge Mountain to Install Detachable Beginner Lift

The only detachable triple CTEC ever built has found a new home in Montana. The one-of-a-kind installation will be removed from Alta Ski Area this spring and go on to replace Red Lodge Mountain’s Miami Beach double in 2023. The $2.25 million project will reimagine the learn to ski experience with a new conveyor lift and yurt in addition to the high speed chairlift.

The Miami Beach detachable will follow a modified alignment to better serve the mountain’s beginner terrain and provide access the the Palisades. “This is an exciting and significant investment into the ski experience here at Red Lodge,” said General Manager Jeff Schmidt. “Upgrading to this high-speed triple chair will be a transformation of the beginner experience. The Sunnyside Lift has the perfect horsepower and capacity for the Miami terrain.” The Red Lodge team will assist with removal operations at Alta this spring and the lift will be stored in preparation for installation next summer.

Mt. Bachelor to Replace Idled Skyliner Express

The second six place chairlift in Oregon will debut for the 2023-24 ski season, Mt. Bachelor and parent company Powdr announced today. The larger detachable will increase capacity by 50 percent from the current Skyliner Express, which debuted in 1989 and has remained out of service this season due to technical issues. Mt. Bachelor and Doppelmayr will repair the aging high speed quad for the coming 2022-23 season before replacement begins a year from now.

“Since Skyliner went out of service the team and I, together with Powdr have been working parallel paths, first to try to get the lift repaired for the current season and second to either replace or repair the Skyliner lift in time for next winter,” noted President and General Manager John McCleod in a blog post. “As it turns out, we are going to do both,” he continued. “If there had been any way that we could have replaced Skyliner with a six-pack over the coming summer we would have done it, however by the time we began talking to lift manufacturers in January their production and installation schedules were fully committed for 2022.” The Lift Blog 2022 project count stands at 56 with 35 of those being new detachable lifts across North America.

Exact specifications for the new Skyliner are yet to be determined but it will become the largest lift investment in Mt. Bachelor’s history. A manufacturer was not publicly announced and Mt. Bachelor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that.

Jackson Hole’s Thunder Quad to Go High Speed

A detachable chairlift is coming to the upper mountain at Jackson Hole for the first time. The Leitner-Poma high speed quad will replace the Thunder fixed grip quad, a favorite with Teton Village skiers since 1994. Thunder 3.0 will feature 90 degree loading to the north and 90 degree unloading to the south for improved skier circulation.

Ride time on the 1,454 vertical foot lift will be reduced from seven minutes to three and a half with a line speed of 1,000 feet per minute. “The Thunder lift has been the most popular lift on the upper mountain, and it delivers access to some of the legendary terrain JHMR is known for,” said Jackson Hole Mountain Resort President Mary Kate Buckley in an announcement. “The new Thunder lift will dramatically cut down on skiers’ and snowboarders’ time spent waiting in line and on the lift.”

Fans of the current Thunder will be happy to learn it will spin on at a resort in California. Construction on the Thunder detachable will begin in May with completion scheduled for October.

Beech Mountain Announces New Chairlift

The third new Doppelmayr quad in four years is coming to North Carolina’s Beech Mountain. The fixed grip quad with loading conveyor will replace the mountain’s oldest chairlift, Lift 1. The beginner-focused double chair was constructed in 1968 and upgraded over the years but has reached the end of its useful life. Upon completion of the project, Beech Mountain will feature six modern Doppelmayr lifts.

Other projects announced for this summer include a new conveyor lift and enhanced snowmaking.