The Caribou-Targhee National Forest recently accepted an updated road map for Grand Targhee Resort, which could eventually result in the western Teton mountain operating as many lifts as the more famous one to the east. The 2018 Master Development Plan serves as a guide for what could change over the following decades and includes a whopping five new fixed grip chairlifts, four detachable quads and three additional surface lifts.
Like its two Grand Teton neighbors, Targhee is owned by a wealthy family with decades of experience across multiple businesses. CEO Geordie Gillett is the son of George Gillett, who owned Vail Associates from 1985 until it went public in 1997. The family went on to create Booth Creek Ski Holdings, which bought Targhee along with seven other resorts coast to coast in the late 1990s. Booth Creek continues to operate Sierra at Tahoe, California while Mr. Gillett independently operates Grand Targhee, Wyoming.
Already analyzed and approved is a Peaked lift servicing terrain above the current Sacajawea detachable quad. The new high speed lift would rise a respectable 1,829 vertical feet with a capacity of 2,000 skiers per hour, topping out at almost 9,700 feet in elevation. To me, Peaked Mountain has always felt like an expansion yet to be completed with a lift that ends below some of its best terrain.
Another proposed project within Targhee’s existing permit boundary is the 4,300′ North Boundary fixed grip triple, which would service six gladed trails beyond the new Blackfoot lift. A second short chairlift called Rick’s Basin would provide access to the North Boundary pod, giving guests a much needed option other than Shoshone on a stormy day. “This lift will provide better utilization of the terrain at the far north edge of the resort, as well as providing access to intermediate and advanced terrain that is currently not lift-accessed,” notes the plan.
Vail is a mountain which needs no introduction. The nation’s third largest resort now attracts more than 1.6 million skiers a season, 60 percent of which are destination visitors from around the world. Owner Vail Resorts has constructed a staggering ten new lifts in the last eleven years at its flagship, including a new 10 passenger gondola and three six place chairlifts. While the beast may take a brief break to focus on snowmaking and other enhancements this year, a new master plan suggests more big ticket lift investments are coming.
Already approved for construction is the upper Golden Peak project, consisting of three new trails and a T-Bar above the Riva Bahn angle station. This lift will be 2,001 feet long with a vertical of 678 feet. While built for with ski racing in mind, the new pod will be open to the public with a capacity of 1,400 skiers per hour. Construction is set to begin as soon as this summer.
At the opposite end of Vail’s front side, the last standing of four 1985 detachable quads is Game Creek Express. This lift is approved to be replaced in the near future with a six person detachable. It would be Vail’s fourth such lift following upgrades to the Mountaintop, Northwoods and Avanti Express lifts. Uphill capacity would rise from 2,800 per hour to 3,200 in popular Game Creek Bowl.
The Wildwood Express, a CTEC dating from 1995, would be replaced with a modern version. A similar project would swap the two stage Riva Bahn Express (1996 CTEC) for a new model. Born Free Express, a 1988 Doppelmayr, would also be replaced. Next door, the Eagle Bahn Gondola is coming up on 25 years of service. “Given its year-round, day and night operations, freight hauling duties, and limited capacity, the gondola will need a major overall or potentially an upgrade during the life of this plan,” the MDP notes.
Another proposed front side project is the Ever Vail Gondola, which would move 2,400 guests per hour from a new portal west of Lionshead. This lift was initially planned to terminate above the bottom of the Pride Express lift. Newer thinking has the gondola replacing that lift as well with an angle station at the current bottom terminal. With this option, the lift would have a slope length over 9,100 feet, making it the fourth longest on the mountain. Riders originating in West Lionshead could ascend all the way to Eagle’s Nest without needing to transfer lifts.
The nearby Cascade Village lift, a 1987 CTEC quad servicing Vail’s westernmost trail and the new Hotel Talisa, would be replaced with a detachable quad under the plan. This project would leave just two remaining fixed grip chairlifts in a sea of detachable technology at Vail.
In the Back Bowls, the 1988 vintage Orient Express would be replaced with a new high speed quad, increasing throughput from 2,400 to 2,800 in the process. I am a bit surprised this is not proposed as a six pack. In fact, Game Creek is the only additional lift set to become a six place chair under this master plan.
A major new lift approved in 2009 but not yet built is called the Sun Down Express. This high speed, detachable quad would stretch more than 6,000 feet from the bottom of Lift 5 to the top of Lift 7 with a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour. Currently, the Sun Up Express and Teacup Express lifts provide egress for over 4,000 acres of terrain, causing congestion on busy afternoons. Sun Down would become a much-needed reliever.
On the opposite end of Vail’s Back Bowls, the Mongolia Express is proposed to replace the difficult to access Mongolia platter, which opens only some of the time. At 5,786′ feet long with a vertical of 1,575′, skiers would be able to spread out and lap this high speed quad without needing to return to the Orient Express.
While no new lifts are proposed in Blue Sky Basin, its operational boundary could be expanded both east and west. A series of new trails are proposed near Pete’s Express along with groomed access to West Earl’s Bowl.
Vail Resorts announces new lifts for its resorts each December and I expect at least one of the many projects in the new master plan will get the green light for 2020.
The list of firms which have supplied ski lifts to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is impressive: Hall, Willamette, Murray-Latta, Mueller, Riblet, Heron, Doppelmayr, Garaventa CTEC, Lift Engineering, Poma, Doppelmayr CTEC, Garaventa and Leitner-Poma. This fall, Skytrac Lifts will join the club as it builds a new version of one of Jackson Hole’s inaugural chairlifts from 1965. The new Eagle’s Rest quad will follow a revised alignment from the original, which was removed to make way for the three station Sweetwater Gondola in 2016. Running across six towers between the Sweetwater and Bridger gondolas, the new top station will be located near the bottom of Sundance Gully. Beginner skiers and snowboarders will also be able to reach the lift from the new Solitude Station learning center.
Eagle’s Rest will become the third new lift in five years for Jackson Hole, which just concluded its busiest season ever with more than 715,000 skier visits. The Ikon Pass partner mountain will also add 14 new cabins to Sweetwater, increasing capacity between the base area, Solitude Station and Casper Restaurant by nearly 30 percent. The new cabins will match the 48 Omega IV 8 LWI models currently in service. Both the Skytrac quad chair and CWA cabins will be ready for guests this November.
The Summit at Snoqualmie, operated by Boyne Resorts, is getting in on the new lift action. One of eleven Riblets still operating at Washington’s most-visited resort will be replaced with a fixed grip quad over the summer. The Holiday Quad will feature a height adjustable loading carpet and more than double hourly capacity on this section of Summit Central, which caters to beginners. The 1,380 foot lift will rise 260 feet at a maximum speed of 450 feet per minute. The most recent Summit master plan contemplated removing the Gallery lift alongside this project.
Notably, of the more than 35 chairlifts built at Snoqualmie over the decades, Holiday will be the first supplied by Doppelmayr. “Going from a two-person to four-person chair and adding the easy loading conveyor will be a true game changer for Summit Central, particularly for our first-timers and kids,” stated Guy Lawrence, President & General Manager at The Summit in an online announcement. Construction will begin in June and wrap up prior to the 2019-20 season.
We are incredibly excited to announce that this summer we will install a new Dopplemayr quad chairlift to replace the aging Holiday Chair at Summit Central! Learn More in the link below. https://t.co/zMCRCpIBJD
Fifty years after its trusty beginner chairlift opened, Sugar Mountain says the Brown Hall double has carried its last skiers and snowboarders. Next winter, a Doppelmayr detachable quad chair will run up the Easy Street slope, more than doubling uphill capacity to 2,400 people per hour. The new lift, tentatively dubbed the Silver Bullet, will also improve ride time from more than six minutes to two and a half while making loading and unloading more comfortable.
“Replacing the original Easy Street lift is not just an upgrade, it is example of the continued commitment to offering our guests an exceptional mountain experience,” said Sugar Mountain Resort owner Gunther Jochl in a statement. “The majority of our guests are beginners who go on to develop skiing and snowboarding as a life-long, family activity. Generation after generation lays roots right here on our beginner terrain. This hasn’t changed in Sugar’s fifty year history.” Sugar Mountain launched its first high speed lift, the Summit Express six pack, in 2015.
The two longest chairlifts at Brian Head Resort will both be detachable quads by next season. The Navajo triple chair will be retired this spring and replaced over the summer, enhancing beginner and family options at one of Utah’s highest elevation resorts. The move comes five years after the installation of Brian Head’s first detachable lift, the Giant Steps Express.
Lift Engineering constructed the current Navajo lift in 1980 to service almost exclusively beginner terrain. The existing lift runs 3,900 feet and rises 620 vertical feet over nine minutes. Brian Head lift maintenance is selling components from it including towers, sheave assemblies, pneumatic emergency and service brakes, grips and chairs.
Western Canada’s oldest ski resort will continue to expand next summer with the addition of a new triple chairlift. Red Mountain, situated along British Columbia’s famed Powder Highway, says the long sought Topping lift and terrain will debut for the 2019/20 season and bring the resort to 3,840 acres. “This new triple chair is exciting on its own,” said Red CEO Howard Katkov in a statement. “But what’s truly exciting is how the Topping Chair continues our dedication to improving the adventure for our guests. This new chair streamlines skier traffic around the resort beautifully.” Guests will now be able to access Grey Mountain (opened in 2013) from the Silverlode lift (opened 2007) without needing to ride the extremely long Motherlode chair. The 300 acre boundary expansion will also include six new intermediate trails approaching 1,000 vertical feet apiece.
The Mueller lift was purchased last year from Big White, where it operated for four decades as the Powder chair. At Red, Topping will join an all fixed grip fleet of lifts built by Mueller, Doppelmayr, Poma, Lift Engineering and Thiokol. With the confirmation of Red’s project, ski resorts across British Columbia have now committed to add at least four new lifts in 2019, more than any other Canadian province thus far.
The original chairlift from Sasquatch Mountain Resort’s inaugural 1969-70 season will be replaced this summer with a Leitner-Poma fixed grip quad chair. The new 4,000 foot lift will supplant a classic Mueller center pole double called Skyline, which rises just over 1,000 vertical feet.
Sasquatch, situated along a gravel road north of the fast growing city of Chilliwack, British Columbia, also features a Doppelmayr triple chair and newer Mueller beginner lift. Back in December 2017, the resort announced a used Doppelmayr detachable quad chair would replace Skyline, a project which did not end up happening.
Sasquatch Mountain used to be known as Hemlock Valley Resort and is operated by the Berezan Hospitality Group.
Make it an even six new lifts slated for construction across the great state of Idaho this year. Bogus Basin announced today it will replace the Morning Star triple with a 3,100 foot detachable quad chair from Doppelmayr USA in time for next winter. Capacity will increase and ride time will quicken dramatically to just over three minutes. The Morning Star Express will rise approximately 625 vertical feet and service a variety of tails from beginner to expert.
“We are really excited about an improvement that will have a tremendous impact on the flow of guests throughout the area in winter and summer,” said Kevin Settles, Bogus Basin board chairman in a press release. “The community has been incredibly supportive of the changes that have happened at Bogus Basin over the past three years, all of which are part of a comprehensive master plan.” Bogus is the largest 501(c)3 nonprofit ski area in the country and operates a fleet of seven chairlifts on 2,600 acres. Expect the $5 million lift to open some time in December.
The fifth US state to feature a bubble lift will be a place close to my heart – Washington. Although both Alterra and Vail Resorts now operate mountains in the Evergreen State, it’s independent gem Mission Ridge that will debut a bubble lift next season. Subject to Forest Service and state approvals, the used detachable quad will replace the Poma-built Liberator Express, which launched in 2005. The existing lift came used from Winter Park and is now 34 years old.
Liberator stretches more than 6,500 feet and rises 1,600′ vertical but has not been very reliable in its life up north. “The costs and limitations associated with maintaining the Liberator required us to take a new approach, so we began a search and found an ideal replacement,” said General Manager Josh Jorgensen in a statement. “If approved, this investment will offer consistency of operations and a much more comfortable ride up the mountain,” he added. “The new lift will come with all new electronic systems and controls which will serve Mission well for many years into the future.”
“We feel fortunate to have this opportunity,” noted Larry Scrivanich, the Seattle entrepreneur who purchased Mission Ridge from Harbor Properties 16 years ago. At the time, Harbor also owned and had invested in new lifts at two other mountains while mostly neglecting its Wenatchee property. Under Mr. Scrivanich’s leadership, Mission not only added the Liberator Express, but also Washington’s most comprehensive snowmaking system. The resort recently launched an expansion plan, seeking to add three more lifts and a ski-in, ski-out village northeast of the current base area. Some noted at the time of the announcement that the Liberator lift should be addressed first. Now it will be, though with another used lift. If all goes according to planned, Mission Ridge guests can be the only ones in the world to ride a classic Riblet double chair to a bubble detachable next winter.
Correction:This story originally stated that the lift would be new from Doppelmayr. It has been updated to reflect that the lift, while Doppelmayr, is coming used from Europe.