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.

The 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.

Nub’s Nob Announces New Quad for 2023

Michigan ski areas continue to invest in new lift technology as Nub’s Nob today became the latest to announce a project for 2023. Skytrac will build the new Green chair, a fixed grip quad replacing a 1978 Riblet. The existing lift serves as the main out-of-base people mover at Nub’s Nob.

In a video message announcing the project, General Manager Ben Doornbos identified three reasons Nub’s Nob chose a fixed grip quad over a detachable. “High speed chairlifts at Nub’s Nob just don’t make sense,” he said, noting the high cost and other drawbacks. A detach would only shave two minutes off the current five minute ride and would cause congestion as skiers favored the lift over nearby fixed grip chairs. “We want to stay future focused and continue to invest in the downhill experience,” he continued. “The only thing we’re ever going to care about at Nub’s Nob is making this place the home for the best Midwestern ski experience possible.”

Elsewhere in Michigan, The Highlands, Mt. Holly and Snowriver also plan to debut new lifts for 2023-24. The four projects announced already come on top of big investments by Michigan ski resorts this season including new lifts at Bittersweet, Boyne Mountain and Caberfae Peaks. That’s seven new lifts in two years for the Great Lakes State.

The Highlands to Build First Six Place Bubble Lift in the Midwest

The fifth Boyne Resorts property to launch a D-Line detachable will be The Highlands, Michigan come 2023. Camelot 6 will include the first modern bubble chairs in the Midwest and the first fully automated safety bar system in the United States. Ergonomically designed D-Line seats will also feature heating and individual footrests. The lift will be the fastest in the Midwest with a line speed of six meters per second and ride time of just three minutes.

The flagship chairlift will replace three Riblet triples – Camelot, MacGully and Valley – all of which date back to the 1960s and the earliest days of triple chairs. Unlike the current Camelot, the new Doppelmayr will extend to the top of the Upper Camelot slope on the southern end of the mountain.

The Camelot zone features some of The Highlands’ most popular beginner and intermediate terrain adjacent to the Day Lodge. Appropriately, Camelot 6 will feature the first fully automated closing, locking and opening bar mechanisms in the US in addition to a height-adjustable loading conveyor. “We’re coming full circle in lift innovation from the world’s first bubble chairlift in 1963, to the Midwest’s first modern bubble lift with unrivaled guest comfort, speed, energy efficiency, and safety in 2023,” said Mike Chumbler, President and General Manager of The Highlands. “This will be the most kid-friendly and safest lift ever built. The addition of Camelot 6 will transform the guest experience on the southern end of our slopes for all levels of skiers and riders,” he added.

Camelot will become the fifth Boyne destination to debut Doppelmayr D-Line technology. Big Sky Resort, Boyne Mountain, Loon Mountain and Sunday River all feature six and eight passenger D-Line detachables, many with bubbles and heated seats. While Alterra, Vail Resorts and other operators have also purchased D-Line lifts, Boyne’s level of commitment to the technology remains unrivaled in North America.

Camelot 6 is the first significant on mountain investment as part of The Highlands’ Transformational Journey, a vision guiding resort growth with an array of new offerings and enhancements through the year 2030. More lift upgrades are expected to follow in the coming years.

Camelot 6 will debut for the 2023-24 ski season. Once complete, it will serve both day and evening skiers as well as becoming the primary access lift for summer sightseeing and mountain biking.

Sun Valley Plans New Warm Springs Lifts

The Sun Valley Company and US Forest Service are soliciting public comments on an ambitious plan to redesign lift service on the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain. First, a new Challenger six place chairlift is proposed to replace the aging Challenger and Greyhawk detachable quads. Challenger is no ordinary chairlift – it services more vertical than any other chair in North America – 3,142 vertical feet in nine minutes. Greyhawk runs parallel to Challenger for its first 1,488 feet of vertical. Both Lift Engineering-turned-Doppelmayr detachables date back to 1988. The wider gauge Challenger would feature a mid-unloading station at the top of the Upper Greyhawk and move 2,400 skiers per hour.

The project also includes a new Flying Squirrel/Lift A detachable quad. The original Flying Squirrel opened in 1972 and operated until February 1st, 2014, when it was destroyed by a drive terminal fire. The lift was removed the following offseason but never replaced. The A quad would follow a modified alignment, loading at the base of Warm Springs and terminating near the top of Picabo’s Street and Flying Squirrel. It would move up to 1,800 skiers per hour and provide key redundancy out of the base area. The Flying Squirrel run would be extended downhill to the bottom of Warm Springs and the new lift’s load point. New snowmaking would also be included.

If approved, both new lifts would be constructed in 2023 and open for the 2023-24 ski season. A manufacturer has not been announced. Sun Valley currently operates an all Doppelmayr fleet but the resort’s parent company recently partnered with Leitner-Poma for a new six passenger lift at Snowbasin.

Update: Both lifts will be built by Doppelmayr.

Brundage Announces Centennial Express Project

New owners of Idaho’s Brundage Mountain Resort will complete their first major capital project next year, installation of a detachable quad replacing the Centennial triple. The soon-to-be-retired CTEC was built in 1990 and takes 14 minutes to ride. The new lift, which will be called the Centennial Express, will cut ride time to six minutes and increase uphill capacity from 1,300 people per hour to 1,800 people per hour. All of Brundage’s lifts are Doppelmayr and the new lift will be as well.

“Having two high-speed quads in the base area gives us more flexibility and redundancy for moving people up the mountain, which is especially important on busy days and holidays and during challenging weather conditions,” said Brundage General Manager Ken Rider. “The loading experience will be so much smoother – especially for families – which will make some of our best terrain infinitely more accessible,” he continued. The lift will service 1,616 vertical feet of intermediate and advanced terrain.

Brundage was acquired by a small group of Idaho-based investors two years ago and the Centennial Express is their first lift upgrade. “When the new ownership group formed in November 2020, we took a long, hard look at the immediate and future needs of our beloved Brundage Mountain,” said mountain President Bob Looper. “Our priority is to maintain the low-key character of Brundage, while building toward a sustainable future. Keeping lift lines to a minimum and keeping slopes uncrowded is a top priority, and upgrading the Centennial lift is a key first step in improving and expanding our lift infrastructure.”

The ownership group plans to invest between $25 and $30 million dollars over the next 2-3 years with more projects to be announced in the coming months. Centennial Express is scheduled to debut for the 2023-24 winter season.

Wild Mountain to Add First New Chairlift in 40 Years

Skytrac will construct a fixed grip quad at Wild Mountain, Minnesota next summer replacing a nearly 50 year old lift. The new quad will run parallel with the current Chair 2 and replace Chair 3, a Borvig center pole quad dating back to 1972-73. “The new chairlift will become the primary chairlift used for access from the base lodge, but Chair 2 will remain in use for summer operations and high visitation days during the winter,” said Wild Mountain.

Tree clearing has already begun and the lift will be manufactured over the winter. The new Chair 3 is expected to be complete by the start of the 2023-24 ski season. Once the Skytrac is installed, Wild Mountain will remove Chair 3, freeing the South Wild trail from from tower obstructions. Chairs from the old lift will be sold to the public next summer.

Wild Mountain’s announcement follows the recent trend of lifts being ordered well in advance of installation. High demand for new equipment and supply chain delays are driving longer manufacturer lead times. North American resorts have already announced an impressive 42 new installations for next year.

Vail Resorts to Build New Lifts at Attitash, Breckenridge & Stevens Pass in 2023

Vail Resorts today released quarterly financial results and previewed three signature lift installations for 2023 construction season. The newly-announced projects will follow the record 21 new lifts currently under construction as part of the 2022 Epic Lift Upgrade.

Season pass sales are trending up for the 2022-23 season, increasing approximately 9 percent in units and 11 percent in sales dollars from the year prior as of May 31st. This past season, approximately 72 percent of all Vail Resorts 2021/2022 North American skier visitation was on a pass product. The company noted visitation on weekday and non-holiday periods increased approximately 8 percent last season while visitation on weekend and holiday periods decreased 3 percent, excluding Peak Resorts visitation in both periods. “We believe this trend is driven by the growth in pass sales as pass holders tend to spread their visitation more across the season, and, with the increase in flexible and remote work, we expect this trend to continue,” the company said. Vail is continuing to build new lifts across its portfolio in an effort to increase capacity and improve the ski experience.

Attitash skiers will be thrilled to learn the Summit triple is slated for replacement in 2023. A detachable quad will increase uphill capacity and reduce ride time on the longest lift at the resort. Attitash is also getting a fixed grip quad this summer to replace the mountain’s Borvig double doubles. When both projects are complete, five of Attitash’s seven chairlifts will be quads.

At Breckenridge, 5-Chair will be replaced by a detachable quad in 2023. Redevelopment of the Peak 8 base area will include new teaching terrain and a transport carpet to make the beginner experience more accessible. The new 5-Chair combined with a new Rip’s Ride being constructed this summer will mean all five lifts at the Peak 8 base will be detachable.

Finally at Stevens Pass, a fixed grip quad will replace Kehr’s chair, a Riblet dating back to 1964. This is the third new chairlift for Vail Resorts at Stevens and will improve out-of-base capacity.

Vail is investing approximately $320 million across its resorts this season for improvements. “Vail Resorts will have invested over $2 billion in capital since launching the Epic Pass, increasing capacity, improving the guest experience and creating an integrated resort network,” the company noted. Additional calendar year 2023 investments and upgrades will be announced in the coming quarters.

Sun Peaks Plans West Bowl Detachable

An eighth Doppelmayr quad chairlift may soon join the Sun Peaks Resort lift fleet. The resort recently applied with the Province of British Columbia for right of way to build a mile long high speed quad in West Bowl, currently home to a disused T-Bar. Sun Peaks retired the West Bowl T-Bar in 2020, leaving the terrain hike-in only. The 1965 Hall was the last remaining non-Doppelmayr lift at Sun Peaks.

Now Sun Peaks plans a much longer detachable quad with an approximately 1,000 foot vertical rise. With a lower bottom terminal and higher top station, the West Bowl Express would significantly improve access to a large variety of underutilized terrain. The province is soliciting public comments on the project through June 24th. If approved, the new lift would be constructed in 2023 and 2024, opening for the 2024-25 ski season.

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.