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.

Snowbasin to Add Second Strawberry Lift

The Strawberry Express Gondola at Snowbasin Resort will get some much-needed relief next season with construction of a new six person chairlift next summer. The Leitner-Poma built DeMoisy Express will load near the gondola and unload along the Strawberry Traverse, providing much-needed redundancy and capacity. The lift will be named after DeMoisy Peak, which sits between Strawberry and Needles. “Through this strategic placement, we will be able to double the uphill capacity of this region, provide multiple options for skiers and riders into the Strawberry area, and allow access to this varied and sought-after terrain more frequently throughout the season,” said Snowbasin’s announcement. The new lift will transport up to 2,400 skiers per hour with a ride time of 10 minutes. “To say that both the Snowbasin staff and loyal guests will be excited about this lift announcement may be the understatement of the year,” said Davy Ratchford, Vice President and General Manager of Snowbasin Resort. “DeMoisy Express has been contemplated as part of our future plans for the resort, and we are thrilled to be moving forward on this incredible addition.”

The DeMoisy Express is expected to open for the 2023-24 ski season and will be the second Leitner-Poma detachable at Snowbasin, following the Middle Bowl Express built in 2021.

Chair Falls from High Speed Quad at Breckenridge

A quad chair detached from Breckenridge’s Peak 8 SuperConnect today as high winds buffeted the Central Rockies region. The below video shows the upbound chair came to rest just below the upper terminal. “At approximately 10:35 a.m. today, a chair dislodged from the haul rope of the Peak 8 SuperConnect as it was reaching the top terminal,” read a statement from the resort. “One guest was on the chair at the time and fell approximately 13 feet. Ski patrol responded immediately. No injuries were reported and the guest declined further care,” the statement continued. According to witnesses, other riders were slowly offloaded from the lift under normal power. Numerous upper mountain lifts were on hold at the time due to wind and cold temperatures.

The lift involved was built by Leitner-Poma in 2002 and connects Peaks 8 and 9 with three stations. There are normally 190 chairs on the line.

“We place the highest value on the safety of our guests and the Peak 8 SuperConnect will remain closed for the rest of the day,” the resort noted. “We are still actively gathering information and the lift will undergo a full inspection prior to reopening to the public.”

This is the second carrier to fall from a detachable lift in North America this season. Earlier this month, an empty gondola fell from Mont-Sainte-Anne’s gondola, an incident blamed on human error after a grip attach fault. Last season, an occupied gondola cabin fell from the Sunday River Chondola in high winds. Prior to that, a chair detachment at Camelback, Pennsylvania injured three people in March 2021.

Park City to Replace Red Pine Gondola Cabins

Despite the recent postponement of two major lift projects, Vail Resorts will press ahead with another major upgrade at Park City next summer. Leitner-Poma of America has been contracted to supply all-new cabins for the Red Pine Gondola, the out-of-base workhorse in Canyons Village. The eight passenger lift dates back to 1997 and currently features 58 CWA Omega cabins with two spares. All 60 cars will be swapped for 55 Sigma Diamond C8S155 cabins manufactured in France. The project is similar to the 2018 upgrade of Killington’s K-1 Gondola, a sister ship to Red Pine built by Poma the same year for American Skiing Company.

“Some incremental re-engineering of towers and terminal rails will be completed to support the change,” said a Park City representative by email. The mountain’s other major lift project, replacement of Silverlode and Eagle, remains in legal limbo and will proceed if and when it gains approval. In the meantime, Vail Resorts and Doppelmayr are working to install equipment originally ordered for Park City at Whistler Blackcomb. In addition to the Whistler and Red Pine projects, Vail Resorts also plans to install new lifts at Attitash, Breckenridge, Keystone and Stevens Pass next year.

Base Camp at Schweitzer to Debut with New High Speed Quad

The most significant infrastructure project in the history of Schweitzer Mountain Resort is underway and will see its first new chairlift next summer. Dubbed Base Camp, the all-new day skier portal will eventually feature a 1,400 parking spaces, a day lodge, access road, three new lifts and trail connections to Schweitzer’s existing terrain. As Idaho’s largest ski area, Schweitzer already offers nearly 3,000 acres of skiing. However, the Inland Northwest region is growing rapidly and guests today funnel through one base area. “To keep up with demand and continue providing an exceptional guest arrival experience, we prioritized looking for solutions that directly affected parking and mountain access,” explained Mountain Operations Director Rob Batchelder. “I’m very excited about this third phase of Master Plan development and believe Base Camp is a unique solution intended to get people on the mountain efficiently,” he continued.

Schweitzer placed a deposit with Leitner-Poma in the spring for a new detachable quad to replace the Musical Chairs double in 2023. The high speed lift will service beginner terrain and provide egress from the future base area to the current village. A skier bridge across Schweitzer Creek will be built simultaneously with the new, longer lift. “The installation of a high-speed detachable quad will be a major enhancement for all of our guests,” said Batchelder. “Not only will it be easier for beginner skiers and riders to load and unload, the new lift will increase capacity to 2,400 guests per hour, allowing guests to upload and download safer and more efficiently. It will also provide the opportunity to transport foot passengers without skis or snowboards to and from the village, even in summer,” he continued. While the new parking lot and lodge may not be ready for the 2023-24 season, the new lift and first new run will be.

Schweitzer’s 2018 Master Plan, which differs slightly from the latest Base Camp plan.

Down the road, a second new detachable will connect Base Camp to the Stella saddle, separating beginner and village-bound guests from other skiers. This nearly 7,000 foot long lift will also allow day skiers to access the backside of the mountain without the need to ride the popular Great Escape Quad. Plans call for additional snowmaking and lifts as buildout continues. “The vision for Base Camp is to become a dedicated area for our day-guests, perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers and riders, with ample parking and additional rental and SnowSports school facilities,” says Schweitzer’s master plan website. “Across the country, ski resorts have continuously faced challenges associated with growth and increased demand. The new Base Camp project is not only a big deal for our growing community, it’s a big deal for the industry, and as of the last independently owned resorts, Schweitzer’s future is very bright.”

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