Lake Louise owner Charlie Locke shared a hopeful year end message today, detailing among other things construction of the mountain’s eighth lift. Known as Lower Juniper in the Lake Louise Long Range Plan, the quad chair will eventually be joined by a second lift to form a new route from the Whiskyjack base area to the Top of the World. Lower Juniper is expected to transport 2,200 guests per hour and service 75 acres of beginner and low intermediate terrain.
Contract signing for a new lift in 2021 is the latest in a string of good news from Lake Louise, which just debuted West Bowl terrain along with a new Doppelmayr fixed grip quad. The manufacturer for Lower Juniper was not specified.
“As this challenging year draws to a close, we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to all our guests, staff, community members, and healthcare workers of all kinds who have supported us during this difficult time,” said Locke. “We have shown how resilient, creative and collaborative we are when faced with adversity and uncertainty. We are all looking forward to a New Year that will be safe, happy, healthy, and secure for all of us as the light at the end of this dark tunnel becomes ever brighter.”
Sunday River Resort’s 15th chairlift will be installed next summer, one year earlier than originally planned. The Doppelmayr fixed grip triple will service Merrill Hill, a community of 23 home sites located between South Ridge and Aurora Peak. The lift will load near the existing Dream Maker run and service three new trails. Nine of the lots surrounding the lift remain available for sale.
Merrill Hill will become the third lift addition in five years for Sunday River following construction of the Spruce Peak triple in 2017 and the Alera Group Competition T-Bar in 2019. Parent company Boyne Resorts also plans to add Doppelmayr lifts at Big Sky Resort and Loon Mountain in 2021.
Despite a 44 percent decline in earnings, Vail Resorts plans to invest in new lifts across five mountains in 2021. The seven projects at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone and Okemo were initially planned for 2020 but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts and creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests,” noted CEO Rob Katz. “We plan to maintain a disciplined approach to capital investments, keeping our core capital at reduced levels given the continued uncertainty due to COVID-19.” The company will announce its complete capital plan for calendar year 2021 in March.
At Beaver Creek, a new Doppelmayr detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone. “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company. A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry Park and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.
At Keystone, Leitner-Poma will replace the Peru Express with a six pack. The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve circulation. Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair. “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.
Crested Butte plans to replace the two-person Peachtree chairlift with a Skytrac triple servicing beginner terrain at the base of the resort. Grading around the new lift will create a more consistent experience for beginner and ski school guests.
Being the first Front Range mountain to open wasn’t the only great news for Keystone Resort this morning. The White River National Forest also released a Draft Decision Notice paving the way for construction of the mountain’s seventh high speed chairlift. The lift will service 555 acres of alpine terrain in Bergman and Erickson bowls, delivering up to 2,400 skiers per hour to an altitude of 12,300 feet. The project also includes 20 acres of new snowmaking, expansion of the Outpost restaurant and a ski patrol station atop Bergman Bowl.
The White River hosts the most skiing of any National Forest and staff worked closely with Keystone to minimize environmental impacts. The lift’s bottom terminal, towers and access roads were shifted from initial locations to reduce impacts on wetlands. Required glading was also reduced by 19 acres and tree clearing by 10 acres to lessen pressure on Canada lynx.
Project approval is subject to a 45 day objection period. Assuming everything is still a go, Vail Resorts could opt to start building as soon as next summer. Keystone’s parent company had planned to replace the Peru Express this year, a project awarded to Leitner-Poma but delayed by the coronavirus. Vail also postponed construction of new lifts at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Crested Butte. If the ski season now underway is successful, the Bergman Bowl Express could be one of a bunch of new lifts in Colorado over the next few years.
Vail Resorts recently submitted an updated improvement plan for Mt. Sunapee to the State of New Hampshire which includes construction of five new chairlifts and two surface lifts. Most transformative would be the West Bowl expansion, including a mile long high speed quad and 1,082 feet of vertical. This would be Mt. Sunapee’s second longest lift, servicing five new trails. West Bowl would also feature a new beginner conveyor, parking and guest services building.
Vail also plans to upgrade the Sunapee Express to a six pack or combination lift with gondola cabins capable of moving 3,000 guests per hour. The existing high speed quad opened in 1998 and is undersized for the amount of terrain it services.
As planned by Triple Peaks before the 2018 Vail purchase, the North Peak triple would be replaced by a fixed grip quad. The nearby Spruce triple is also slated to be upgraded to a fixed quad, compensating for Vail’s recent removal of the Duckling double. It’s possible one of these two lifts would utilize equipment from the former Sunbowl quad, which remains in storage on site.
A new triple chair would be be built to connect the bottom of Sunbowl to North Peak. Known as Cataract, this lift would service a modest amount of new terrain and improve skier circulation. Rather than purchasing new, Vail may opt to re-use equipment from the North Peak and/or Spruce triples for Cataract.
A rope tow is proposed to link Parking Lot 2 and Spruce Lodge, reducing the resort’s reliance on shuttle buses. Finally, Vail seeks to add a grip maintenance building and carrier storage for the Sunbowl Express.
The plan would increase Mt. Sunapee’s comfortable carrying capacity by 40 percent to 6,850 skiers. Most of the proposed projects were previously approved during Triple Peaks ownership, though a few are new. A public meeting will be held Thursday evening to solicit comments or you can submit them to MountSunapeeComments@dncr.nh.gov. The deadline to weigh in is November 12th.
Catamount Mountain Resort on the New York-Massachusetts border today announced the retirement of its 49 year old double, a Ski Lift International classic called Glade. A triple chair will take its place next summer, servicing the summit alongside the existing Ridge quad. The lift will be the second new triple installed by the Schaefer Family since they purchased Catamount in 2018. A manufacturer for the project was not revealed.
With the removal of Glade, fewer than 20 SLI lifts remain in operation out of more than 70 constructed across the United States. Catamount’s other double chair is now the last remaining SLI lift in the Northeast. Ride it while you still can!
Jackson Hole will soon be a three gondola valley with the addition of an enclosed lift on what locals affectionately call the Town Hill. Leitner-Poma will not only supply Snow King Mountain’s new 8 passenger gondola but also a Skytrac chairlift servicing new backside terrain. The projects were recently green lighted by both the Town of Jackson and United States Forest Service. The approval is still subject to a 45 day objection period, but the ski area wanted to get in line early with Leitner-Poma and Skytrac with the goal of completion for the 2021-22 season.
“We are extremely excited to take this leap forward for Snow King to ensure that the historic ski area can be economically viable and sustainable long into the future,” said Snow King Mountain President Ryan Stanley. “We have gone through a very extensive review process with both the Town of Jackson and USFS over the past five years and are now looking forward to making some exceptional improvements to the Town Hill that the community will be able to enjoy for decades to come.” The gondola will be the first detachable lift for 82 year old Snow King and will replace a 1981 CTEC double. To make room for the bottom gondola terminal, the Cougar triple‘s drive station will be moved 250 feet uphill.
A ride on the gondola will end at a new summit lodge featuring panoramic views of the Town of Jackson and Teton Range. The gondola will operate year round for skiers, sightseers and mountain bikers. In winter, a mountaintop learning area will feature three new surface lifts in a scenic setting. More advanced riders can look forward to new trails and glades on the southern flank of Snow King.
The two lift order is one of the first major projects announced for 2021, which could be a busy one for lift companies. More than a dozen North American 2020 projects were delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and hopefully will be completed next year.
The once sleepy ski area in Eden, Utah will grow dramatically this winter with the addition of a high speed lift and new terrain. Leitner-Poma of America will supply the yet-to-be-named six place chair, which will move 2,500 skiers per hour and service approximately 50 acres of terrain the first season. When completed, the expansion will more than triple skiable terrain with 300 new acres. “The pioneers who started Nordic Valley dreamed of sharing this amazing terrain,” said Brandon Fessler, Nordic Valley general manager. “Our team has worked hard to realize that dream, and we cannot wait to share it with our guests, our friends and our neighbors this winter.” The lift will rise 1,400 vertical feet in just 4.2 minutes with a slope length of 4,213 feet. It will become the first six passenger lift built by Leitner-Poma in Utah.
Fast-growing Mountain Capital Partners took over operations of Nordic Valley in 2018. This expansion project will be located entirely on private property, though more lifts could eventually be added on Forest Service land at higher elevation.
MCP is also partnering with Leitner-Poma to add a base-to-summit Telemix at Arizona Snowbowl this summer. The two projects combine to form the largest lift investment in North American skiing for the 2020/21 season. While some resort groups have paused expansion capital due to the pandemic, Mountain Capital Partners and select others continue to forge ahead.
Nordic Valley expects to open the new six passenger lift early this winter, increasing its vertical drop by 65 percent.
Western New York’s Holiday Valley will build high speed lifts each of the next two years on the heels of $2.9 million worth of investments in 2020. Next summer, a realigned high speed quad will replace the Yodeler fixed grip quad and the mountain’s first six place chairlift will follow in 2022. The second project will replace the Mardi Gras Xpress, a key out-of-base workhorse constructed in 1996.
Holiday Valley is privately owned by a small group of shareholders. “We have a long range plan and are able to continue moving forward on resort projects,” noted General Manager Dennis Eshbaugh in a statement. “We are thinking positive about the future and we hope that by continuing to invest in this community, it will help stimulate the economy and instill confidence in others to follow suit.”
No manufacturer was announced for the new lifts. Holiday Valley currently operates a high capacity fleet of eleven quads from the Doppelmayr and CTEC families.
Work is underway to add 480 acres of new high alpine, advanced terrain at Lake Louise for next winter. West Bowl will be accessed by a Doppelmayr fixed grip quad replacing the old Summit Platter. This expansion will feature natural, side country-style terrain with gladed trees. The only groomed portion will be a new ski-out trail to the front side of the mountain.
The new Summit quad will be Lake Louise’s first Doppelmayr chairlift. It will run in a new alignment from Top of the World to Mt. Whitehorn. That means a lap will in West Bowl will require three lift rides: Glacier Express or Grizzly Express, Top of the World and Summit. Eventually, a new Upper Juniper lift will eliminate the need for West Bowl skiers to transit the base area and ride three lifts.
Lake Louise plans to replace and make more lift additions in future years as part of its new Long Range Plan in partnership with Parks Canada.