News Roundup: Planning Ahead

Five Mountains Readying Terrain Expansions for 2021-22

Despite an 18 month pandemic, supply chain challenges and continued uncertainty, a handful of US and Canadian ski resorts are putting finishing touches on expansion projects set to debut this winter. Two of these were delayed in 2020 and resumed construction this year while others were actually accelerated during Covid. Many of this year’s projects focus on learning terrain enhancements following the pandemic winter when new and lapsed skiers gravitated toward the mountains.

McCoy Park – Beaver Creek Mountain, Colorado

The lone expansion this year featuring two new chairlifts is Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park, encompassing 250 acres of new high alpine terrain. This beginner zone follows in the footsteps of Haymeadow Park and Red Buffalo Park, which both offer dedicated terrain for new skiers and snowboarders with detachable lifts. The new McCoy Park Express will service 17 trails and the Reunion Quad will provide easy exit from McCoy Park to the Upper Beaver Creek Mountain and Strawberry Park Express lifts.

Lower Juniper – Lake Louise, Alberta

Another beginner-focused expansion featuring a detachable quad is underway at Lake Louise. The new Lower Juniper Express is the second new chairlift here in two years. It will access four new low intermediate trails and provide an alternate out-of-base option to access the upper mountain.

Sunny Side – Snow King Mountain, Wyoming

Shadowed somewhat by construction of a new 8 passenger gondola on the front side of the mountain, Sunny Side at Snow King Mountain will also open this winter. This new backside bowl features extensive snowmaking and a Skytrac fixed grip quad.

Buzzsaw – Searchmont, Ontario

Searchmont hasn’t hosted a single day of skiing since March 2020, which makes its terrain expansion even more remarkable. New owner Wisconsin Resorts took delivery of two Skytrac triples last year, one of which replaced an existing Borvig double. The second lift sat in storage last winter and is now being installed to service two brand new beginner trails.

Merrill Hill – Sunday River, Maine

2021’s only New England expansion is a ninth peak at Sunday River. Merrill Hill features four ski trails and 23 new home sites near the South Ridge base area. This low angle zone will be serviced by a new Doppelmayr fixed grip triple, the mountain’s 15th chairlift.

Lake Louise Announces New Learning Area

Lake Louise owner Charlie Locke shared a hopeful year end message today, detailing among other things construction of the mountain’s eighth lift. Known as Lower Juniper in the Lake Louise Long Range Plan, the quad chair will eventually be joined by a second lift to form a new route from the Whiskyjack base area to the Top of the World. Lower Juniper is expected to transport 2,200 guests per hour and service 75 acres of beginner and low intermediate terrain.

Contract signing for a new lift in 2021 is the latest in a string of good news from Lake Louise, which just debuted West Bowl terrain along with a new Doppelmayr fixed grip quad. The manufacturer for Lower Juniper was not specified.

“As this challenging year draws to a close, we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to all our guests, staff, community members, and healthcare workers of all kinds who have supported us during this difficult time,” said Locke. “We have shown how resilient, creative and collaborative we are when faced with adversity and uncertainty. We are all looking forward to a New Year that will be safe, happy, healthy, and secure for all of us as the light at the end of this dark tunnel becomes ever brighter.”

News Roundup: Merry Christmas

News Roundup: Construction, Construction, Construction

Lake Louise Set to Open West Bowl

Work is underway to add 480 acres of new high alpine, advanced terrain at Lake Louise for next winter. West Bowl will be accessed by a Doppelmayr fixed grip quad replacing the old Summit Platter. This expansion will feature natural, side country-style terrain with gladed trees. The only groomed portion will be a new ski-out trail to the front side of the mountain.

The new Summit quad will be Lake Louise’s first Doppelmayr chairlift. It will run in a new alignment from Top of the World to Mt. Whitehorn. That means a lap will in West Bowl will require three lift rides: Glacier Express or Grizzly Express, Top of the World and Summit. Eventually, a new Upper Juniper lift will eliminate the need for West Bowl skiers to transit the base area and ride three lifts.

Lake Louise plans to replace and make more lift additions in future years as part of its new Long Range Plan in partnership with Parks Canada.

News Roundup: Super Cool

 

News Roundup: Big Picture

 

Lake Louise Pitches New Long Range Plan

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Under a new plan, the long abandoned Eagle chair would finally be replaced along with many other proposed upgrades.

The only regular venue for World Cup alpine racing in Canada is Lake Louise, which also happens to be among the most naturally scenic places one can ski anywhere.  Louise is one of three ski resorts located in Banff National Park along with Sunshine Village and Norquay, which are also considering making major lift investments in the coming years.  Lake Louise hopes a proposed reduction in overall acreage will allow it to add up to nine new chairlifts along with other improved amenities over the next 15 years.  Even though the resort’s permitted boundary would decrease from 5,400 acres to approximately 4,100, comfortable carrying capacity would increase from 6,000 to 9,000 skiers per day.  “The new plan focuses on enhancing terrain, facilities and services for all visitors, during all seasons, and will lead to a better visitor experience,” the project website notes.  “It will allow us to continue to protect local sensitive areas and species, while advancing environmental awareness and conservation goals for future generations.”

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Like at other large mountains with only one portal, out-of-base capacity is a problem.  At Lake Louise, it was compounded by the retirement of Olympic without a direct replacement in 2004.  The four person, Leitner-built Glacier Express would be rebuilt as a six place lift.  A new Juniper high speed quad is proposed load near Olympic and service three new beginner trails.  Another new lift called Meadowlark would board near the Grizzly Express Gondola with detachable quad chairs.  These improvements would bring out-of-base capacity to 9,000 skiers per hour, almost double the current level.

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The standing but not operating Olympic chair was built by Murray-Latta in 1966.

Another high speed quad called Upper Juniper would relieve pressure from the Top of the World ExpressSummit Platter would be removed and replaced with a fixed grip chairlift in completely a new alignment with wind exposure in mind.  The new lift would load at the Top of the World and unload higher near the true top of Whitehorn Mountain.   Also on the upper mountain, a new Eagle chairlift would replace the retired Mueller double with a detachable quad and ease pressure on the gondola.  Sometimes ski resorts go in circles!

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News Roundup: Eruption

  • Move over Epic Pass, Alterra is launching the Ikon Pass.
  • Granby Ranch is officially listed for sale.
  • Aspen CEO Mike Kaplan says snow challenges bring out the best in people.
  • Think your area is busy on a Saturday?  The urban gondola network in La Paz sets a new one day record: 278,621 riders!
  • New York Governor calls previously announced state fair gondola “an exciting idea” but withholds funding for now.
  • More stories surface of the Hermitage Club owing people money.
  • Skier records volcano erupting from a Doppelmayr detachable in Japan. One person was killed and a gondola damaged by rockfall.
  • ORDA, the state owner of Belleayre, Gore Mountain and Whiteface, lost $20.8  million last year.
  • Powder catches up with Alterra President and COO David Perry, who stresses the company will do things differently than Vail.
  • Public comment period opens for Mt. Rose’s Atoma expansion, which would include construction of one or two new chairlifts as early as 2019.
  • The draft environmental impact statement is also out for Steamboat’s expansion, to include a second gondola, Rough Rider chairlift, new Bashor lift and Pioneer Ridge pod with groundbreaking possible by May.
  • Lake Louise and Nakiska are probable venues for a possible 2026 Calgary Olympics. Denver, Reno-Tahoe and Salt Lake also weigh bids.
  • Just upgrading electric infrastructure for Disney’s Skyliner gondola system will cost $3.8 million, around the total price tag of a typical ski lift project!
  • For the first time since I started keeping track, 2018 new lifts are pacing behind 2017.