New Master Plan Outlines Big Snowmass Upgrades

The Forest Service has accepted an updated Master Development Plan for Snowmass, the second largest ski resort in Colorado. Lift projects include everything from new teaching surface lifts to a two mile long 10 passenger gondola and multiple six place chairlifts. Aspen Skiing Company partnered with SE Group to craft the plan, which identifies incremental upgrades to an already well-balanced mountain with significant excess trail capacity.

Likely coming sooner rather than later out of necessity is the proposed Coneygame lift. The name is a portmanteau of longtime lifts Coney Glade and Burlingame. Coney Glade stands tied for the oldest operating high speed quad in the country (the other is Sunshine at Telluride.) Burlingame was a Riblet double that serviced the Fanny Hill slope and was removed in 2014. As the name implies, Coneygame would be a detachable six pack loading near the Snowmass Mall and unloading at the top of the existing quad. Due to private land ownership, the new lift would require a slight angle change near the Lynn Britt Cabin. It has not been decided whether deflection would be accomplished with a full station or an Alta-style bend with sheaves. At more than 7,000 feet long with an hourly capacity of 2,800 skiers, Coneygame will be a major project regardless.

Aspen Skiing Company also plans to replace the Village Express chairlift with a gondola. The 10 passenger model would include an unloading mid-station with an expansive cabin storage and maintenance space. The gondola would improve year round access to Sam’s Knob and increase out-of-base capacity by 25 percent. As part of the Village gondola conversion, A 750 foot platter lift is proposed that would carry early and late season skiers from high alpine terrain on Big Burn to Sam’s Knob for downloading on the gondola.

The Burnt Mountain expansion remains in long term plans for Snowmass. First approved in 1994 but not implemented, Burnt Mountain includes a 2,700 vertical foot detachable quad. Once built it will immediately become the highest vertical high speed quad on the continent. The Burnt Mountain detachable will also span a remarkable 11,596 feet with an hourly capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour. It would increase the comfortable carrying capacity at Snowmass by 1,340 skiers with expansive glades and access to advanced and intermediate trails.

A number of replacements are also proposed. The popular Cirque Poma would see its capacity double and turn removed when swapped for a modern model. Both the 1993 Alpine Springs and 1995 Elk Camp high speed quads are earmarked for replacements with six seat lifts. Newer Sheer Bliss may eventually get the same treatment. The SkyCab pulse gondola is also identified for replacement with a detachable gondola. Aspen Skiing Company does not own that lift, however and any replacement would be up to Snowmass Village owners.

While Aspen Skiing Company is focused on the Pandora’s expansion on Aspen Mountain this year, the 2022 master plan makes clear Snowmass will be a focus in years to come. With upgraded lifts, the largest of Aspen’s four mountains could comfortably accommodate a whopping 15,000 skiers.

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