The beloved Snow Ghost double will be retired from Schweitzer Mountain Resort next spring after 47 winter seasons, the mountain confirmed today. In its place, two new chairlifts will service Outback Bowl in improved alignments. A Leitner-Poma high speed quad will climb through the Kaniksu Woods area with a Skytrac fixed-grip triple servicing the Lakeside Chutes vicinity above. “Overall, we expect the two chair arrangement to complement our existing lift system and provide better access to some of the most popular terrain at Schweitzer,” says Tom Chasse, CEO of the north Idaho mountain. Schweitzer completed a similar project on the front side in 2007, replacing 5,500 foot Chair 1 with the Basin Express and Lakeview lifts.
The detachable quad chair will offer a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour and rise 1,447 feet in just over five minutes. The triple chair capacity will be 1,800 per hour with a vertical of 1,360 feet and an 8 minute ride time. “We’ve seen over the years how a similar two lift system in the South Bowl has been beneficial when we have weather challenges,” said Chasse. “By having the two lifts serving different aspects of the North Bowl, our hope is to combat similar challenges on the backside of the mountain.” As part of the project, Schweitzer will add gladed terrain and four new runs surrounding the new lifts, which have yet to be named.
Two of the five biggest American ski areas without detachable lifts will leave the club this year. They are Loveland and Taos, both coincidentally adding bright blue Leitner-Poma high speed quads to serve as out-of-base workhorses. Along the Continental Divide at Loveland, the newly-named Chet’s Dream is the third chairlift to follow the Lift 1 line, carrying on the legacy of a Heron double and later a Lift Engineering triple. Family-owned Loveland ordered this lift early as 1 is usually among the first in the country to open for skiing in October. “It’s a big deal for both us and our guests,” Marketing & Communications Director John Sellers told me when I visited last week. “This lift will be in operation for the next few decades and we are excited to offer the increased speed and reliability to our customers for years to come.” With towers all flown and the rope going up shortly, the project is right on schedule.
Chester “Chet” Upham, Jr. joined Loveland in the 1950s and was instrumental in building the original Lift One, the third chairlift in Colorado. He bought out his partners in 1972 and the Upham family continues to own Loveland today. Chet’s Dream is the work of former Loveland ski patroller Terry Henningson, who submitted the name as part of a contest this spring that received nearly 3,000 entries. “Chet’s Dream stood out immediately as a way for us to honor a ski industry pioneer and the patriarch of Loveland Ski Area,” said John. I’m told the most popular entry was Lift 1 followed closely by Lifty McLiftface.
Ride time will fall from eight minutes to three and the number of towers is down by four. 49 quad chairs will circulate on the bottom drive lift. “Lift 1 was our workhorse and it had served us well for over 30 years. It was time for an upgrade and it was exciting to learn that our owners were considering a high-speed lift for its replacement,” John told me. Will it be the only high speed ride at Loveland? “Lift 6 will be our next upgrade and that will remain a fixed grip. As for future upgrades and any new potential lifts, we will have to wait and see what happens.”
Steep chutes, natural glades, a couple cruiser trails and wide open faces. When Arapahoe Basin drops the ropes on The Beavers this year, there will be something for everyone. Just under 350 new acres make it the largest lift-served terrain expansion on the continent for 2018-19, ahead of Mt. Spokane’s backside development and Hunter North. The Beavers debuted for an earn-your-turns preview last season along with the Steep Gullies, totaling 468 acres of new terrain. Installation of a Leitner-Poma fixed-grip quad chair, the Basin’s sixth chairlift, was in high gear when I stopped by yesterday.
Topping out at 12,475′, The Beavers drainage is beyond beautiful and A Basin is taking great care to implement the project with as little disturbance as possible. The quad drive terminal is the closest you can get by road and dozens of workers are readying the expansion by foot, helicopter and spider excavator. Arapahoe Basin opted to do the development carefully over two years rather than rushing it in one, and it shows. The two blue trails were traditionally cut while the rest of the new stuff is either above tree line or was thinned by hand.
When holiday crowds catch a Cabriolet to The Village at Winter Park Resort this year, the second lift they’ll see is the resort’s first true gondola. Capable of hauling 3,600 skiers per hour out of the base area, the new Zephyr lift replaces a 1990 high-speed quad that could do only 2,600 in a perfect hour. Announced in March, the Leitner-Poma system will be similar to Vail’s Gondola One but with something totally new to the North American market: DirectDrive.
Sigma is fabricating 79 ten passenger Diamond cabins with the fresh Winter Park logo unveiled on Monday. The $16 million gondola and new brand are just part of a $28.2 million capital drive this year in cooperation with Winter Park’s operator, Alterra Mountain Company. Amazingly for a resort of WP’s size, this is the first new lift in ten years. Snowmaking is also seeing mega upgrades and a new heated village plaza will lead seamlessly to the bottom gondola terminal. The old Zephyr had 20 four passenger cabins used for restaurant access at night but the new version will be fully ADA accessible and operate day and night.
Days before the deadline for public comments, Sunshine Village CEO Ralph Scurfield pens an op-ed criticizing Parks Canada’s proposed site guidelines that would eliminate three future lifts from consideration.
Come November 6th, Aspen residents will vote for Governor, U.S. House, and likely whether a ski lift should return to the original base of Aspen Mountain. SE Group and the City of Aspen today posted 61 pages of study on the new Lift One with a focus on where to site the bottom terminal, a question which has lingered since 1972. Goals include retaining the historic structures of the first Lift One, threading the needle between two new developments, and improving skier flow. An aggressive proposed timeline begins Tuesday with review by the City Council that could culminate with a new gondola-chair combination lift spinning by late 2019. That would be 48 years after a shortened SLI-Riblet double dubbed 1A eliminated easy access for much of the town to Shadow Mountain.
The current lift starts about four towers higher than the 1946 single chair did and, like its predecessor, has reached the end of its useful life following decades of service. The International Ski Federation makes no secret the obsolete machine is a big reason why Aspen does not host World Cup skiing as often as some of its peers.
But things are finally looking up – or actually down. SE Group analyzed nine chondola, chairlift, surface lift and funicular options and ones dubbed Option 1 and Option 7 were identified for detailed study that commenced in February. An A and B variation were added to alternative number 7, leaving four scenarios in play to bring the lift back into town. Option 1, shown above, would put the bottom terminal level with Gilbert Street between the old Lift 1 terminal and the “new” one. Because of space constraints with Aspen Skiing Company’s preferred Telemix (chondola in Poma parlance), the lift would likely be a straight gondola or possibly a detachable chairlift. Skier access from above would be excellent but the public would have a 40-foot vertical climb to get to the load point from town. Furthermore, the developer of the proposed Lift One Lodge would have to give up an entire building worth of units. The historic lift terminal and remaining towers from the first Lift One could be retained, which is an important community objective. This is deemed a viable, but not best option.
A 16 minute flight between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows took a jump forward this morning as the Truckee National Forest and Placer County released the draft environmental impact statement for the California Express gondola. The big three stage lift was first proposed by the owner of both mountains, KSL Capital Partners, more than two years ago and is now being championed by Alterra Mountain Co. At 808 pages, the EIS required under the National Environmental Policy Act outlines three possible alignments which could unite the steeps and village at Squaw Valley with the beginner and intermediate paradise of Alpine Meadows.
Two of the alternatives are new while the other two should be familiar to readers of this site. Other concepts such as a pulse gondola, expanded shuttle service and even an underground train were eliminated as part of the preliminary review, which was completed by SE Group and Ascent Environmental of Sacramento. Alternative 1 is the required no-action option, which would keep Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows separate but equal. Shuttle buses would continue running every 30 minutes between the two mountains, which already share a common lift ticket.
The lift would move 1,400 skiers per hour in 8-passenger cabins painted white to blend in with the winter environment. It would operate from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm with skiing allowed from the mid-station(s) when conditions permit. There would be separate drive systems and separate cabin parking facilities at each end so two sides could operate independently. The middle section of the lift would operate as part of the Alpine Meadows side and approximately 40 percent of the cabins would be stored at Squaw Valley with the remaining 60 percent at Alpine during storm events and the summer.