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.

News Roundup: Flying High

Alterra Announces $344 Million Capital Plan for 2022

Alterra Mountain Company today affirmed plans to open big new lifts in 2022 and more next year as it increases investment across its 14 resorts. This year’s $344 million plan includes $93 million in increased capacity and terrain expansion, $91 million for skier services upgrades, and $16 million in guest experience technology with a focus on Palisades Tahoe, Steamboat, Crystal Mountain, Mammoth Mountain and Deer Valley.

At Palisades Tahoe, the $65 million Base-to-Base Gondola will be completed this summer after two seasons of construction. The Leitner-Poma gondola will connect the two mountains of the resort for the first time, giving skiers and riders access to a combined 6,000 acres of terrain and making Palisades the third largest resort in North America. The 16 minute gondola ride will take skiers and riders between The Village at Palisades Tahoe and Alpine Lodge, reducing road congestion in the region and making it easier to enjoy both mountains in a single day. It is the first gondola of its kind in North America, with four terminals connecting two base areas via a climb of nearly 2,000 vertical feet.

Winter 2022-23 will also see phase two of Steamboat’s Full Steam Ahead redevelopment completed with $90 million of investment to include the relocation of the lower terminal of the Christie Peak Express and the first leg of the Wild Blue Gondola, which will take guests to the new Greenhorn Ranch learning center at mid-mountain.

Wild Blue will become the longest gondola in North America and the fastest 10-person gondola in the country. With the lower leg opening in 2022-23, and the upper leg opening in 2023-24, the state-of-the-art Doppelmayr D-Line gondola will feed skiers/riders through a newly created mid-station adjacent to Bashor Bowl with the final destination of Sunshine Peak. It will feature the first Omega V cabins in the United States. At a total length of 3.16 miles, the new gondola will increase the out of base capacity from 6,000 people per hour to 10,000 people per hour, getting skiers from bottom to top in 13 minutes. The recently re-graded Rough Rider/Bashor Basin area will be home to Greenhorn Ranch, an area dedicated to beginner skiers and riders. It will feature progressive terrain-based learning and a dedicated chairlift.

For winter 2023-24, 650 acres of advanced terrain will open on Pioneer Ridge, making Steamboat the second largest ski resort in Colorado. This expert, gladed terrain will be serviced by a new detachable chairlift.

At Washington’s Crystal Mountain, $100 million will be spent over the next five years. The largest investment ever made at Crystal will focus on greater access, more space and significantly enhanced skier services. Work will begin this spring with $25 million for additional parking and a new 25,000 square foot skier services facility called Mountain Commons. No lift projects were announced but Crystal Mountain President Frank DeBerry has made no secret his wish list includes a replacement for the Rainier Express, a new gondola to the summit and relocation of the current Mt. Rainier Gondola to Campbell Basin.

At Mammoth Mountain, summer 2022 will see ground and infrastructure work to facilitate the replacement of the Canyon Express at Canyon Lodge and Broadway Express at Main Lodge. Doppelmayr initially planned to build these lifts in 2020 before the Coronavirus pandemic postponed the project. The new high-speed six packs are planned to finally debut in winter 2023-24.

New for winter 2022-23 at Deer Valley, the Burns Express chairlift will debut at the Wide West learning area. This high speed chairlift will connect the Snow Park base area to Little Baldy Mountain, offering ski school access to more beginner teaching terrain and providing an additional option for skiers to navigate out of the main arrival area. The $6 million investment to improve the learning area on Wide West will also include enhancements to the existing Snowflake chairlift, installing and reconfiguring surface lifts and grading beginner terrain.

“This historic investment is clear evidence of our commitment to deliver a premier guest experience at our North American destinations and our engagement towards the long-term future of our mountains,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra Mountain Company. “More than ever, we continue to infuse meaningful capital into projects that will transform our base areas while significantly improving our physical and digital on-mountain offerings to ensure that our guests experience the best of the mountains.”

Some previously-approved projects were absent from Alterra’s latest announcement, namely the Red Dog replacement at Palisades, Timber expansion at Tremblant and Pioneer Express upgrade at Winter Park.

News Roundup: A Long Time Coming

So Long Squaw Valley, Hello Palisades Tahoe

This is the last time you will see Lake Tahoe’s largest ski resort referred to as Squaw Valley on the blog. Today Alterra Mountain Company announced Palisades Tahoe will replace the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows brand. After extensive research into the etymology and history of the term squaw, the company determined last year it was widely considered a racist and sexist slur that needed to be retired. Palisades references craggy terrain located near the top of the Siberia Express and Tahoe needs no explanation.

“It is inspiring that after seven decades in operation, a company as storied and established as this resort can still reflect and adjust when it is the necessary and right thing to do,” said Palisades President and COO Dee Byrne. “This name change reflects who we are as a ski resort and community—we have a reputation for being progressive and boundary-breaking when it comes to feats of skiing and snowboarding. We have proven that those values go beyond the snow for us. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be part of Palisades Tahoe and after more than 10 years at the resort, I’m honored to be leading our team into this new era.”

Two chairlifts are in the process of being renamed and elements across the resort will feature a new orange and dark blue color scheme. Nearly 5,000 locations where the existing logo and/or name appear will be swapped out by signage teams and more than 32,000 uniform pieces will be replaced. Finalists for the renamed Squaw Creek triple are Eagle Eye, Highline, Resort, Snow King, Storm Rider and Valley View while Squaw One Express‘s updated name is still pending.

The two historically separate sections of Palisades will be referred to as Alpine Meadows and Olympic Valley going forward. A high speed, three stage gondola is under construction to connect the two sides, though the exact completion timeline remains unannounced. You can bet the new gondola will sport the Palisades brand when it opens.

News Roundup: First Load Test

News Roundup: Dollars and Euros

B2B Gondola to Unite Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will become one this summer with construction of an interconnect gondola to coincide with the renaming of the resort. The innovative three section gondola will follow in the footsteps of other great interconnect lifts: the Quicksilver Gondola unifying Park City and The Canyons, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola linking Whistler and Blackcomb and the Slide Brook Express connecting Mt. Ellen to Sugarbush. Leitner-Poma of America will build the 2.2 mile B2B (base to base) gondola, comprising of four stations, more than 30 towers and two drive systems.

The current Red Dog triple will be shortened to make way for the Olympic Valley station. Cabins departing this terminal will cross over the Exhibition and KT-22 lifts before arriving at the first angle station on Olympic Ridge. This section of the lift could operate independently without the other two segments in operation. At most times, cabins will continue to a middle segment. A second angle station will then redirect cabins toward Alpine Meadows without offering unloading for the general public. Alpine Meadows’ base station will sit near the new Treeline Cirque detachable quad, offering guests easy access to all of Alpine’s base area lifts. The system will transport 1,400 passengers per hour in each direction with a ride time of 16 minutes.

The $60 million project is part of Alterra’s $207 million capital plan announced today for 2021-22. The commitment includes $111 million in significant resort projects, $31 million for enterprise technology systems and $65 million worth of resort maintenance. “This past season has proven that our guests are loyal, passionate and looking forward to the many seasons ahead, and we plan to provide them with a premier guest experience as we focus on the long-term future of our mountain destinations,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra. “Alterra Mountain Company has exceeded our initial five-year goal to invest over half a billion dollars into our destinations, in just four years. We continue to be committed to infusing meaningful capital into on-mountain enhancements, base area development, and advanced technology that will elevate the mountain experience for all who visit.” In addition to the B2B Gondola, the company announced a transformation of Steamboat’s Gondola Square, which will include moving the Steamboat Gondola base terminal. The first section of the proposed Wild Blue Gondola is planned for installation next year, subject to Forest Service approval.

News Roundup: Visit Numbers

News Roundup: RFP