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.
More than sixty inches of snow buried the Tetons since I last visited Grand Targhee, but that didn’t stop team Doppelmayr from making a ton of progress on the new Blackfoot lift. Timberline Helicopters assisted flying towers on October 20th and the haul rope was spliced November 12th. With comm-line installation last week, the new quad chair is almost finished.
New Blackfoot marks a huge change from the center pole chairs and wooden ramps of the classic Riblet. Both the load and unload areas were re-worked over the summer and are way more spacious. The new quad will move 840 more skiers per hour (to 1,800 from 960) with a minute faster ride time. A Tristar-model drive station features an auxiliary engine capable of running the lift at nearly full capacity during a power outage. Although it’s a bummer Targhee had to delay opening last week, the recent nice weather no doubt helped crews finishing the new lift. This week’s forecast looks solid so hopefully we’ll be lapping Blackfoot soon!
Work on Grand Targhee’s fourth quad chair is in full swing this weekend with new stations and towers arriving for the all-new Blackfoot quad amid fall foliage and fresh snow. The first shipment of steel from Doppelmayr included 13 towers and the support structure for the bottom station, which is in a new location uphill of the old Riblet. Still to come are the CTEC-style operator houses, bullwheels, motor room, haul rope and chairs. Concrete is in the ground and towers are nearly assembled for when the weather cooperates to fly them. Although Grand Targhee is scheduled to open Nov. 18, Blackfoot usually doesn’t usually open until December.
The new Blackfoot will utilize a Tristar-model drive/tension station at the bottom with a fixed bullwheel on a concrete mast up top, the same setup as Challenger up the road at Big Sky. We’ve now seen at least three different return station styles and four drive station models on this year’s new Doppelmayr fixed-grips, including the Alpen Star (Wilmot, Red River); Tristar (Big Sky, Caberfae, Targhee); and Eco (Mont Bellevue). I find it interesting how many different station models Doppelmayr continues to offer when their competitors each have basically just two.
Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks from Arizona Snowbowl, Big Sky, Jackson, Powder Mountain and Sundance as the snow flies and this year’s crop of new lifts is completed.
Last time I stopped by Grand Targhee, I could still ski down Chief Joseph Bowl as the Blackfoot double was being deconstructed to make way for a new Doppelmayr quad chair. Three months later, workers have finished removing the last of the old Riblet and prepped both station locations for modern terminals. The new Blackfoot will move up to 1,800 skiers per hour 1,200 vertical feet in seven minutes. When completed, Grand Targhee will operate four Doppelmayr and CTEC quad lifts, all built after 1996, with a third high speed quad coming soon.
The new Blackfoot will start a little higher up and further north, though it’s tough to tell where the old base stood with how much dirt has been moved. The new top station is just about in the same spot as the previous one. Lots of rock is getting pushed to make a large unload area in place of the steep wooden ramp at top of Blackfoot since 1974. This week Doppelmayr is tying re-bar for towers and both terminals. The project is still in its beginning stages but will ramp up over as concrete gets poured and steel arrives this fall.
New lifts are coming to both sides of the Tetons this summer and that means three old lifts are coming down. At Grand Targhee, the Blackfoot double is being replaced with a Doppelmayr fixed-grip quad. All 20 towers have been removed along with the top terminal. Blackfoot had wooden ramps at both ends that will be burned down once all the steel is out of the way.
As rumored for weeks, Grand Targhee confirmed yesterday on Facebook it will replace the aging Blackfoot double chair with a fixed-grip quad over the summer. The Doppelmayr-built lift will increase capacity by 40 percent and run in an improved alignment, although it will be slightly slower than the old lift. Targhee’s Director of Marketing said in a release, “The entire resort team is excited to replace and upgrade the Blackfoot chairlift. The resort ownership is committed to reinvesting in the resort with ongoing improvements that enhance the guest experience. This is the largest and most visible of many recent capital investments.”
Blackfoot is a Riblet center-pole model that’s faithfully served skiers for 42 years. The lift is 3,236 feet long with a vertical rise of 1,200′ and hourly capacity of 1,300. A non-profit in Valdez, Alaska is hoping to buy the lift to create that region’s first lift-served ski area. With a new Blackfoot, Grand Targhee will have four modern quad chairs. The resort also plans to add a third high speed quad in the near future on Peaked Mountain in the area currently used for cat skiing. Removal of Blackfoot begins this week although Targhee will spin its other lifts through April 24th. With this announcement, new lifts in North America are pacing above last year, with 30 projects already announced and hopefully many more to come.