Real Estate Development Plans Lifts Adjacent to Brian Head

Brian Head Resort and a developer jointly announced a project called Aspen Meadows yesterday, to include up to seven chairlifts and a two stage gondola linking to Brian Head Mountain. Construction has already begun on roads and utilities and Aspen Meadows Group is working with SE Group on ski terrain design. The concept includes more than 850 acres of new ski terrain to the north of existing trails on Brian Head Peak.

Aspen Meadows would include a third base area for the ski area with a village center, additional parking and skier services. Preliminary maps show mostly beginner and intermediate trails above the village with lifts up to 4,000 feet long and vertical rises ranging between 300 and 1,100 feet. The gondola would include a transport segment from the existing Navajo base lodge and a ski section within Aspen Meadows.

“Aspen Meadows is truly a special collection of alpine lands, with the perfect slope aspects for ski terrain never before seen by most visitors to this region of southern Utah,” said A. Flint Decker, president of the Aspen Meadows Group. “We’re proud to be a part of this new chapter in our community’s history as we share new ski terrain and resort amenities with the town of Brian Head and the guests of Brian Head Resort.”

No timeline has been set for the first lifts to go in.

Sugarloaf to Debut Bucksaw Express Next Winter

The high speed quad servicing Sugarloaf’s planned West Mountain expansion got a name today: Bucksaw Express. The moniker is a nod to the Bucksaw double, a Stadeli which served the northwest edge of the mountain from 1969 to 2015. Sugarloaf began construction on the 450 acre expansion today and it is expected to open to skiers in February 2024.

The Bucksaw Express quad will span 6,574 feet with a vertical rise of 1,433 feet. Some of the equipment for the 755 horsepower lift comes from Big Sky Resort, where it operated as the Swift Current quad. The Doppelmayr detachable will be completely overhauled with brand new UNI G enclosures and many other upgrades. With a 1,000 feet per minute line speed, the lift will move 2,400 skiers per hour up West Mountain with a ride time of just seven minutes. As part of the project, the West Mountain double will be shortened to its current mid-station. The West Mountain project will include a dozen new alpine trails covering roughly 120 acres, which will increase Sugarloaf’s total skiable acreage by nearly 10 percent.

“This is the most significant development project at Sugarloaf since the SuperQuad was built in the mid-1990s,” said Sugarloaf General Manager Karl Strand. “We’re very excited to get to work on what will be a transformative project for the resort and our guests.”

Boyne Mountain to Replace Boyneland and Superbowl Lifts

Even before the first eight place chairlift in the Midwest carries skiers up Boyne Mountain this month, two more lift projects are in the works. Next summer, Doppelmayr will replace both Boyneland and Superbowl, lifts which date back to 1995 and 1987, respectively. Boyneland will go from a fixed triple to a fixed quad and Superbowl from a fixed quad to a fixed triple.

The realigned Boyneland will load closer to the Mountain Express base area and become the gateway to family-friendly Disciples Ridge terrain. A height-adjustable loading conveyor will allow the replacement lift to operate twice as fast as the existing Borvig with a ride time of just four minutes.

Expert-focused Superbowl on the mountain’s south side will debut the fastest fixed grip chairlift in the Midwest. The new triple chair will spin at 2.5 meters per second or 492 feet per minute. Superbowl will also sport a loading carpet and the bottom terminal will shift downward to provide easier loading access. Additional space at the top will create an improved unloading experience.

Lifts are a major part of Renaissance 2030, an aggressive ten year capital improvement plan at Boyne Mountain. “These new lifts bring the latest in technology to Boyne Mountain and provide our guests with the absolute best skiing and riding experience in the Midwest,” said Jason Perl, general manager of Boyne Mountain Resort. “Better, faster lifts mean more time on the slopes, enjoying the exhilaration of the sports, and time with family and friends.” Both new lifts are expected to be complete in advance of the 2023-24 ski season.

Boyne Resorts now plans to build at least seven new lifts next year between Big Sky, Boyne Mountain, The Highlands, Loon Mountain, Sunday River and Sugarloaf. Projects run the gamut from fixed grip chairlifts at Boyne Mountain and Loon to a bubble six place at The Highlands and the all-new Big Sky tram.

Winter Park Announces Pioneer Six Pack for 2023

It’s official: this winter will be the last for Pioneer Express at Winter Park, tied for oldest high speed quad in the nation. The mountain’s fourth six place chairlift will debut on Vasquez Ridge next winter, increasing capacity from 1,900 skiers per hour to 2,800. A new mid load station at the intersection of Pioneer Express Trail and Big Valley will eliminate the need for many guests to ski all the way to the bottom terminal along a flat run out. The mid-station will sit near the current tower 7 with no angle change. With the retirement of Pioneer, Coney Glade at Snowmass and Sunshine Express at Telluride will remain tied for oldest detachable quad in America at 37 years.

The Forest Service already approved Pioneer’s replacement, the seventh lift project announced by Alterra Mountain Company for next year. Others are at Mammoth Mountain, Snowshoe, Solitude and Steamboat. A manufacturer for the Winter Park project was not announced, though the mountain operates a large fleet of Leitner-Poma detachable lifts.

Park City to Replace Red Pine Gondola Cabins

Despite the recent postponement of two major lift projects, Vail Resorts will press ahead with another major upgrade at Park City next summer. Leitner-Poma of America has been contracted to supply all-new cabins for the Red Pine Gondola, the out-of-base workhorse in Canyons Village. The eight passenger lift dates back to 1997 and currently features 58 CWA Omega cabins with two spares. All 60 cars will be swapped for 55 Sigma Diamond C8S155 cabins manufactured in France. The project is similar to the 2018 upgrade of Killington’s K-1 Gondola, a sister ship to Red Pine built by Poma the same year for American Skiing Company.

“Some incremental re-engineering of towers and terminal rails will be completed to support the change,” said a Park City representative by email. The mountain’s other major lift project, replacement of Silverlode and Eagle, remains in legal limbo and will proceed if and when it gains approval. In the meantime, Vail Resorts and Doppelmayr are working to install equipment originally ordered for Park City at Whistler Blackcomb. In addition to the Whistler and Red Pine projects, Vail Resorts also plans to install new lifts at Attitash, Breckenridge, Keystone and Stevens Pass next year.

Breckenridge Master Plan Outlines a Flurry of Lift Upgrades

America’s most-visited ski resort would get better but not bigger under a new master plan filed with the Forest Service. Breckenridge and Vail Resorts envision eight major lift projects under the plan, the first for the resort in 15 years. Over that time, Breckenridge has grown to include new terrain on Peak 6 and half a dozen new lifts. For the next few decades, Breckenridge plans to focus on upgrading infrastructure and reducing congestion in base areas rather than adding major new terrain.

Peak 8

The first lift project in the 2022 master plan has already been completed. The new Rip’s Ride detachable quad opened November 11th and is likely to be the first of six projects replacing Riblet lifts with new equipment. Next summer, Vail Resorts plans to retire 5-Chair for another detachable quad, featuring a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour and a non-detachable mid-station for summer alpine slide access. “The existing lift is 50 years old, prone to misloads by beginner and novice using the lift and contributes to congestion at the base of Peak 8,” notes the plan.

In future seasons, 6-Chair will also be replaced by a detachable quad, marking the end of the Riblet era on Peak 8. This project has already been approved by the Forest Service and is a common wish list item for advanced skiers. One or two additional chairlifts may eventually be added to Peak 8 near the top of Rip’s Ride. “These two lifts would create a small amount of additional novice and beginner capacity on the mountain while providing an opportunity for new skiers and riders to experience purpose-built beginner terrain that allows for progression in a separate pod from the congested Peak 8 base area,” notes the document. Finally at the base of Peak 8, a new gondola is planned to connect the current Gold Rush parking lot with the BreckConnect Gondola. This extremely short lift would be built in partnership with timeshare company Breckenridge Grand Vacations as part of a planned real estate development.

Peak 9

More than 40 percent of Breckenridge skiers arrive at Peak 9 and the 2022 master plan includes multiple projects to improve skier circulation. A new 4,800 foot gondola code named Frontier would load at the base of Peak 9 and cross over the Quicksilver Super6, terminating at a new mid-mountain ski school facility. This 8 or 10 passenger gondola could move 2,200 skiers per hour both uphill and downhill along a 4,800 foot slope length. The Frontier teaching area would feature two new conveyor lifts away from the congested Peak 9 base. The concept is similar to other recent mid-mountain learning centers at Steamboat, Jackson Hole and Big Sky.

A second beginner-focused project on Peak 9 would see A-Chair replaced by a shorter, re-aligned quad chair. This lift would better serve novice skiers with a throughput of 2,000 skiers per hour. C-Chair, another Riblet, is also earmarked for replacement. A six person detachable would both load and unload slightly higher than the existing lift and span 5,862 feet. A 3,000 passenger hour capacity would help spread guests out and keep them on the mountain rather than returning to base areas. Higher on Peak 9, E-Chair is also slated for replacement with a detachable quad in the existing alignment. Quicksilver may also be upgraded in during the plan period as it is nearing the end of its useful life.

As always, Forest Service acceptance of a master plan does not constitute approval of specific projects. Rather, the 2022 plan offers a road map for possible future improvements at Breckenridge. By 2023, the resort will have completed seven major lift projects in 11 years. With that track record and a menu of future projects, Vail Resorts is likely to continue investing in lifts at Breck in seasons to come.

Loon Mountain to Build New Lift at South Peak

Loon Mountain Resort today unveiled plans for its tenth chairlift, a quad servicing 30 acres of new terrain on South Peak. The expansion will feature a Doppelmayr Alpenstar fixed grip lift with loading conveyor, a guest service facility and fully automated snowmaking. This will increase Loon’s beginner terrain by over 50 percent and bring the resort above 400 acres total. Initial work is already underway and the long-awaited expansion will open for the 2023-24 ski season.

The yet-to-be-named quad chair will load at the bottom of the existing Escape Route trail and service 500 vertical feet of beginner and low intermediate terrain. For guests looking for more advanced skiing, the new lift will also serve as a connection from parking lots in the town of Lincoln to the Lincoln Express and the rest of Loon Mountain. “Providing lift access and more skiing and riding closer to downtown Lincoln is exciting—and unique—particularly in the East,” said Brian Norton, Loon’s president and general manager. “Adding lift service just a mile and a half from Interstate 93, in the center of Lincoln, improves the guest experience immensely and is something we’ve been focused on for many years,” Norton added.

The South Peak expansion comes hot on the heels of two major lift upgrades, both part of the Flight Path: 2030 capital improvement roadmap. Kancamagus 8 opened in 2021 and a new Seven Brothers Express quad will debut this season, making the South Peak lift will Loon’s third new lift in three years. “The South Peak expansion has been a key part of Loon’s master plan for decades and we are thrilled to be moving towards the next major milestone of Flight Path: 2030,” noted Jay Scambio, COO of Boyne Resorts. Future phases of the plan include a replacement of the gondola and upgrades to the North Peak and Lincoln Express lifts.

With Loon’s announcement of South Peak expansion, Boyne Resorts is on track to build at least five new lifts across its network in 2023. Other projects include the new Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky, Camelot 6 at The Highlands, the West Mountain expansion at Sugarloaf and a Barker Mountain Express replacement at Sunday River.

Snowriver to Build Six Pack at Jackson Creek Summit

The rumors were true – the first detachable chairlift in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will debut for the 2023-24 season at Snowriver Mountain Resort. The Doppelmayr six place will replace Chippewa, Leelinaw and Voyagers at Jackson Creek Summit, formerly Indianhead. The existing double, triple and quad have a combined design capacity of 5,250 passengers per hour, though that capacity has not been realized for years. The replacement lift will include 53 chairs yielding a capacity of 2,800 skiers per hour with the opportunity to go to 3,200 per hour if needed. It will take the name Voyageur Express and run from the bottom of Leelinaw to the top of Chippewa. With a line speed of 1,000 per minute, ride time will decrease from eight-plus minutes to just 3.5 minutes. “The new lift will greatly enhance our guest experience at Jackson Creek Summit,” said newly-hired General Manager Benjamin Bartz. “Because the new lift will be much easier for guests to load and unload, we anticipate smoother operations, meaning guests will spend more time skiing and less time sitting on a lift.”

The project is the second announced for next year by Midwest Family Ski Resorts, which already operates five detachable lifts across its resorts. The company previously announced plans to build another six pack at Lutsen Mountains next summer. “High speed lifts are a perfect fit for our Midwest ski areas,” explained Charles Skinner, President and owner of Snowriver, Granite Peak and Lutsen Mountains. “Most skiers need to stop and rest every 500-700 vertical feet, about two-thirds of a mile, which happens to be the length of our runs. So, rather than stopping to rest on the side of the trail as is the case for most skiers on a longer Western slope, skiers at our resorts simply rest on the three minute ride back up the mountain. High speed lifts transform the ski experience at our resorts from spending most of the ski day riding the chairlift or waiting in line to enjoying most of the day skiing down the hill,” Skinner continued.

The Voyageur Express line has already been cleared and the lift will be completed for the 2023-24 winter season.

Base Camp at Schweitzer to Debut with New High Speed Quad

The most significant infrastructure project in the history of Schweitzer Mountain Resort is underway and will see its first new chairlift next summer. Dubbed Base Camp, the all-new day skier portal will eventually feature a 1,400 parking spaces, a day lodge, access road, three new lifts and trail connections to Schweitzer’s existing terrain. As Idaho’s largest ski area, Schweitzer already offers nearly 3,000 acres of skiing. However, the Inland Northwest region is growing rapidly and guests today funnel through one base area. “To keep up with demand and continue providing an exceptional guest arrival experience, we prioritized looking for solutions that directly affected parking and mountain access,” explained Mountain Operations Director Rob Batchelder. “I’m very excited about this third phase of Master Plan development and believe Base Camp is a unique solution intended to get people on the mountain efficiently,” he continued.

Schweitzer placed a deposit with Leitner-Poma in the spring for a new detachable quad to replace the Musical Chairs double in 2023. The high speed lift will service beginner terrain and provide egress from the future base area to the current village. A skier bridge across Schweitzer Creek will be built simultaneously with the new, longer lift. “The installation of a high-speed detachable quad will be a major enhancement for all of our guests,” said Batchelder. “Not only will it be easier for beginner skiers and riders to load and unload, the new lift will increase capacity to 2,400 guests per hour, allowing guests to upload and download safer and more efficiently. It will also provide the opportunity to transport foot passengers without skis or snowboards to and from the village, even in summer,” he continued. While the new parking lot and lodge may not be ready for the 2023-24 season, the new lift and first new run will be.

Schweitzer’s 2018 Master Plan, which differs slightly from the latest Base Camp plan.

Down the road, a second new detachable will connect Base Camp to the Stella saddle, separating beginner and village-bound guests from other skiers. This nearly 7,000 foot long lift will also allow day skiers to access the backside of the mountain without the need to ride the popular Great Escape Quad. Plans call for additional snowmaking and lifts as buildout continues. “The vision for Base Camp is to become a dedicated area for our day-guests, perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers and riders, with ample parking and additional rental and SnowSports school facilities,” says Schweitzer’s master plan website. “Across the country, ski resorts have continuously faced challenges associated with growth and increased demand. The new Base Camp project is not only a big deal for our growing community, it’s a big deal for the industry, and as of the last independently owned resorts, Schweitzer’s future is very bright.”

Mount Norquay Unveils Gondola Plan

As it approaches 100 years in operation, Banff’s Mount Norquay today announced plans to build a new gondola, mountaintop restaurant and via ferrata among other improvements. The Norquay 100 Vision is distinct from a previous plan by Mt. Norquay’s owners to build a gondola from the Town of Banff to the ski area. The newly-proposed Cliff House Gondola would replace the North American double, a machine the ski area bluntly calls “Western Canada’s most outdated chairlift.” The Garaventa pulse lift was installed in 1974 and operates throughout winter and summer. The new detachable gondola would run in a similar alignment between Norquay’s base lodge and a new Cliff House restaurant. The building would serve as a base of operations for a new via ferrata and alpine hiking.

“For nearly 100 years, Norquay has served as Banff’s backyard, an iconic destination for skiers and sightseers, often providing visitors their first introduction to Banff National Park,” said Mount Norquay General Manager Andre Quenneville. “As we start to look towards our second century of operation, we are putting plans in place to improve the visitor experience and make ourselves more accessible as well as environmentally and economically sustainable,” he continued.

The resort notes the restaurant and gondola projects are inseparable with one providing revenue to offset operating costs of the other. “Without this project, Norquay is not economically sustainable because it does not generate enough funds to replace its existing lifts at the end of their life,” said Quenneville, noting the Norquay gondola would also take pressure off the nearby Banff Gondola.

Even with enhanced facilities, Norquay does not seek to increase its guest capacity beyond the current 3,800 people at one time. Initial review of the plan by Parks Canada is already underway and the resort hopes to qualify for a simplified regulatory review process in the lead up to its 2026 centennial.