Solstice – Stratton, VT

This Poma quad services the lower portion of Sun Bowl.
Poma Alpha terminal with drive and tensioning.
Integrated sheave trains.
View up the lift line.
Lift line overview.
Loading area.
The top terminal in autumn.
Fixed return bullwheel.
The last two towers, 19 and 20.
View down the lift line.

17 thoughts on “Solstice – Stratton, VT

  1. somebody January 28, 2019 / 12:46 pm

    Very surprised this lift has not been removed without replacement. In a typical season it will run for around or under 100 hours, and it only carries passengers for under 60 a year. The only time this lift is ever ridden by anybody is Christmas week, MLK, and presidents weekend, or when Sunrise Express goes down (which is extremely rare, and only happens once every few seasons). Its a nice beginner area, but in the time you take the solstice lift, you could ride Sunrise Express, ski down to the top of the solstice lift, and have a few minutes to spare.

    Not only that, but it drops you off at the base of the Ursa chair, which seems great, as a second two-lift option from the sunbowl to the top, but Ursa is plagued with 30+ minute liftlines. Sunrise express starts in the same place as this chair, and brings you to the base of the Shooting Star lift instead, which also goes to the top and is known for having the shortest liftlines on the mountain. In other words, if your final destination is the top of the mountain, it almost never makes any sense to ride this lift. It takes you away from a medium-sized liftline to one that is far worse. Not only that, but its pretty much unlappable for good skiers, because most of the terrain it services is flat and useless. Sunrise Express (sorry for constantly comparing the two) goes up almost double the vertical in half of the time.

    It would make much more sense to put a lift like where the old Kidderbrook chair used to run, with a midstation to allow for laps on some of the lower trails, and cut trails to the skiers right of the current ski area boundary. The kidderbrook trail pod is one of the largest on the whole mountain, with room to expand over the south side of the ridge, but is horribly serviced right now, requiring a 5 (up to 15 on a powder day) minute “runout” (more like a glorified walk) and 2 lifts. Laps at best take 25 minutes in the Kidderbrook pod (assuming you ski down a groomer as fast as possible, and there is no liftlines), but can take up to 45 minutes.

    Another use I could see for this lift would be a chair out of Lot 2, to eliminate the need for the buses. This has the same “it never gets used” issue as before though, so a cheaper T-bar would be better suited for that.


    • Collin Parsons January 28, 2019 / 1:29 pm

      One issue is that you can’t get to the top of Solstice from the top of the Sunrise Express without skiing a blue-rated trail so this lift is really the only option for accessing those beginner runs. I agree with this assessment otherwise. I think an access lift out of Lot 2 would be a much better option. It would also encourage more people to park there instead of crowding the lots in the village. Run it on weekends as no one ever parks in Lot 2 on weekdays.

      The reason URSA lines are unreasonable is because they insist on running that chair at a snail’s pace of 700-800 feet per minute instead of the design speed 1100 feet per minute. It can move 3600 people an hour at full speed, but the speed they run it at takes that capacity down to that of a high speed quad.


      • somebody January 28, 2019 / 3:20 pm

        The big issue with putting something like a quad on Lot 2 is that most weekends it wouldn’t even be needed. People would rather park in the village if its not crowded anyways, and most weekends it just isn’t. That is why I think something like a T-bar would make more sense for the time being. A lot cheaper to buy and install, and they might be able to get away with only having to hire one liftie on quiet weekends. I don’t know what the regulation is, but I know that Telluride is allowed to run their lynx platter with one liftie with a security camera at the top instead of a second liftie. Don’t know if the vermont regulations are the same though.

        This all is changing though, because (from what I’ve seen) Alterra seems to be pulling in more skiers than ever. If the mountain continues to draw in new skiers at this rate (and hold all the ones they have) the quad might make sense come 10 years from now.

        You are right about Ursa. All of stratton’s detachables run very very slow.


      • Collin Parsons January 28, 2019 / 3:57 pm

        I doubt a t bar would be cheaper or even possible as the existing trail is not straight so you’d need to cut a new line, and to route up to where Solstice ends now, you’d have to cross over a condo development.

        As far as fixing the capacity on the detachables, all that will take is turning up the “fast adjust” knob on the control planel.


        • somebody January 29, 2019 / 2:49 pm

          If we are just trying to service lot 2 and not make this a trail pod, the lift only really needs to get skiers up to the “91” trail, from which they can ski down to the sunbowl. The distance from the parking lot to “91” is under 1500 feet and is under 400 vert, and is straight. If they wanted to be even more generous, make it go up to big ben, which is 400 feet further, and the line up to there is also straight.

          Now sure, Mainline would be a better endpoint for a lift so you could ski down to the main base, but this could even be achievable with a turn. Tons of surface lifts make turns, and while it would probably add to the purchase price, it would still probably be a lot cheaper than putting in a chair. Judging by Newenglandskihistory’s lift installation cost database-, the brand new GMVS T-bar at sugarbush costed $310,000 all in, and has the same length and vert that a lot2 t-bar would need. Meanwhile the South Ridge Quad at Killington, which is just the old snowdon quad being relocated, is costing Killington over $2 million.

          I think part of the reason Stratton runs their lifts so slow is to reduce wear, and make them last longer as a result. And honestly, its not a bad move, because 6 packs are all the capacity their pods need and can hold. Just hope they’ll crank the lifts more often when there is lines.


        • Collin Parsons January 29, 2019 / 5:19 pm

          Few would use a Lot 2 access lift if you could only access the Sun Bowl. Part of the reason Solstice was built where it is now instead of on the originally planned Main Line route is because you can get to URSA and the main base from there. From the top of Main Line, you can only get to the bottom of Tamarack or back to the Sun Bowl. For a Lot 2 access lift to make sense, it would have to go to where Solstice ends now. This would be a very similar setup to La Porte du Soleil at Tremblant. It serves as a parking lot and real estate access lift and from the top you can ski to either the South or Soleil base.

          I think the beginner area is better off staying at the main base because that’s where all the lodging is and having easy access from lodging to the ski school is a huge (HUGE!!) money maker for the resort.


        • somebody January 29, 2019 / 7:40 pm

          From lot 2 the only current option is a bus to the main base. The mountain could eliminate these buses, and make people take the T-bar. from the top of that T-bar, you could ski to Sunrise, and take Shooting star to be at the top. This is compared to taking the bus, waiting in a gondola line and riding the gondola (which, as a 30 year old detachable often runs slower than sunrise+shooting).

          Also, you can ski from the top of mainline to the main base area, but near the end you would have to take a sharp left and carry any speed you have left to make it up a small hill. It isn’t like this is an impractical (or too hard/annoying) route to the base area though, because I see tiny ski school kids do it all the time.

          You are right though, the beginner area should stay at the base, but with more and more kids learning to ski every year, that beginner area is only feeling smaller and smaller.


        • Collin Parsons January 29, 2019 / 8:17 pm

          I have the opinion that if you’re going to do a lift upgrade or relocation, it makes more sense to do it right the first time than to go cheap and wish you did it the better way. The reason the GMVS T-bar was so inexpensive is because they already had a skiable line for it and it was built used. Killington’s South Ridge Quad was expensive because it’s a high elevation, difficult to access line, with Bicknell’s Thrush restrictions in effect. I doubt that would be a factor for a relocation to serve Lot 2. Magic’s Black Line Quad is a $900,000 project.

          From where Solstice ends now, you can either get on URSA and continue to the summit or ski down to the Sun Bowl. The length would be similar to that of Solstice. I don’t think it’s a good idea to force people to cross all the trails near Tamarack especially when there will be more people over there once the lift is replaced.

          For Kidderbrook, I think that’s a lower priority than replacing Tamarack, but when it happens it should just be a new high speed quad following the exact footprint of the old one. It would make sense to add a couple trails to looker’s left of it but I don’t know what the permitting implications are for that.

          Liked by 1 person

    • skitheeast January 28, 2019 / 4:31 pm

      This lift was installed for two reasons. Firstly, it was used for marketing with the nearby Solstice development (hence the name) as it was advertised that this would allow homeowners to avoid having to trek across the Sun Bowl base area and up the hill to Sunrise Express. Secondly, Stratton wants a second lift out of the Sun Bowl just for whenever Sunrise Express goes down because it is a dead end and the large number of skiers who end up here would be stranded. They don’t want to ever have to run a massive shuttle operation to get skiers over to the main base area. The lift was originally supposed to be shorter with a slightly different alignment and end at the intersection of Mainline/Big Ben/Home Run and anchor a new beginner area, but this was scrapped for some reason and the beginner area stayed at the main base. Personally, I don’t really see an issue with it because it is a slow 80s lift in its 2nd location so having it serve primarily as a backup isn’t a huge waste of an asset. I agree the Kidderbrook pod should have a lift, but Solstice is not long enough and it is a fixed grip at a mountain where all of the primary lifts are high speed. When Snow Bowl was fixed grip, the lines were nonexistent and everyone skied right by to the bottom to wait in huge lines for either Amex/URSA or the Gondola because the lifts themselves were faster and more comfortable. The same would happen with a fixed grip on Kidderbrook (as it did happen back in the early 2000s where there was a fixed grip in place) and skiers would still primarily go all the way down to the Sun Bowl base.


      • somebody January 28, 2019 / 6:52 pm

        Well, I think the 4 less minutes of ride time added with the fact that this lift goes to nowhere makes it worth it to go up the hill. But another option would be to extend sunrise express a hundred feet downhill to where the waffle cabin used to be, or to just bulldoze the hill altogether and make the whole thing flat. The mainline complex makes more sense with a shorter lift that really gets you to the same place. From the top of mainline you can get to the main base area, which is all Stratton needs.

        The lift has resale value and heck, could even be used at another alterra resort. This is all farfetched of course, and I don’t know what the cost of moving a lift across the country is, but June mountain seems like a good candidate for this lift. J1, a 59 year old, riblet center-pole is the only access to the rest of June. The current solstice could be added there to provide as backup (or replace) J1.

        The optimal choice for kidderbrook would be to just get a HSQ on it and call it a day, but I doubt that is warranted without additional terrain. Intrawest showed no interest in it, and Alterra doesn’t seem to be different about it, so we might just have to keep trudging down that traverse forever.


        • skitheeast January 29, 2019 / 11:21 am

          I agree that the D6C is worth the hike, as do the vast majority of skiers including Solstice owners, hence its low usage. If Stratton had unlimited capital, it would make more sense to realign to the top of Mainline, but it does not and there are so many projects that have a much higher priority around the resort that this will likely never happen. The ROI is way too low.

          I am not sure the exact costs of removing, transporting, and installing old lifts, but it is extremely rare to move one across the continent, so I doubt this will happen.

          What would make the most sense for Kidderbrook would be to remove Shooting Star and put a D6C on Kidderbrook instead in almost the exact same alignment as the old lift (moving the top terminal to where Shooting Star currently ends). It has the same feed as Shooting Star plus Churchill Downs, Free Fall, and Upper Kidderbrook. However, this is unlikely because, again, the ROI would be too low. Shooting Star is only 18 years old and has relatively few hours compared to Sunrise Express, which was installed the same year. The best hope is to wait 10-20 years when the lift needs to be replaced. It would be great if Stratton developed additional terrain south of Kidderbrook, as there is plenty of land with solid grading, but they haven’t mentioned this since the 80s so I do not think it is likely in the near future.


        • Donald Reif December 21, 2019 / 4:11 pm

          Alternatively, keep Shooting Star so that Sunrise guests can directly get to the summit, install a high speed quad on Kidderbrook’s alignment, and open a few trails to the east of the Kidderbrook trail.


        • Somebody December 21, 2019 / 10:16 pm

          The issue with Shooting Star is that it already is overkill for its location, because most people on Sunrise don’t continue to the Summit. On top of that, a decent amount of the people that do continue to the summit are lapping Kidderbrook. If shooting star loses that traffic, it will become a Saturday-only six pack that never even gets lines. If a Kidderbrook HS goes in, Shooting star either needs to get downgraded or removed.

          I see a few options:

          1. Get rid of Shooting star (move it to tamarack?), HSQ on kidderbrook, HS8 on Ursa.

          2. Move Shooting Star to Kidderbrook.

          3. Get rid of existing six pack, Shooting Star HSQ, Kidderbrook HSQ

          4. (this option would be unpopular) Get rid of existing six pack, Shooting Star fixed grip, Kidderbrook HSQ

          I think I’d take option 3 tbh. Shooting star doesn’t need its current capacity (but I still want that short ride time), and Kidderbrook needs lift service. This also would allow them to move the existing six pack (which is in great shape) to Tamarack to replace that chair.

          Option 4 might make a lot of sense for the mountain though. They could move the existing 6 pack to Tamarack to replace both Tamarack and South American, and then move the South American fixed quad onto the shooting star line. They then could install a HSQ on Kidderbrook and be done revamping their lift system after buying only one new lift.


        • skitheeast December 22, 2019 / 10:42 am

          Shooting Star has no need to exist at all with a Kidderbrook detachable. All of its feed and then some can access URSA or Kidderbrook with at least the same amount of ease as it would be to access Shooting Star. With that in mind, I like option 1 where Shooting Star is then moved to Tamarack (which we know is going detachable soon anyways). Plus, URSA needs to be replaced sooner rather than later with its maintenance issues. Option 2 is problematic because Kidderbrook is almost double the length of Shooting Star and I do not see how Stratton would justify spending a couple million on a move to make it easier to lap Upper Kidderbrook and Free Fall. Options 3 and 4 make no sense in that there would be no need for a Shooting Star lift with Kidderbrook as a detachable and it has Stratton buy two new lifts with nowhere for its existing six-pack (with plenty of life left) to go.


        • Somebody December 22, 2019 / 11:59 am

          The idea behind a Kidderbrook detachable would be to add trails off the backside of that ridge. Shooting Star would still have the benefit of allowing you to easily get from the top of Sunbowl to other pods very quickly without waiting in a line. Shooting Star is around half the length of a Kidderbrook lift, and is reachable right off the top of Sunrise Express. Also in options 3 and 4, the existing Shooting Star six pack could go to Tamarack.

          The problem with removing Shooting Star entirely is that the 3 minute link from the top of Sunbowl to the top of the mountain would turn into more like a 10 minute link on weekends.


  2. Sam Altavilla December 21, 2019 / 5:46 am

    Solstice is running this weekend. I don’t know whether that’s because it is supposed to be crowded or the fact that the park on Big Ben is now open…


    • Somebody December 21, 2019 / 3:01 pm

      I think they ran it for the possible morning parking rush to get people to the Upper Mountain via Ursa. They should’ve stopped running it though, by the time I got out on the mountain (1 PM) none of the chairs had lines.


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