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Mountain Capital Partners to Operate Willamette Pass

Durango, Colorado-based Mountain Capital Partners today announced Willamette Pass, Oregon will join its collective of Western ski resorts through a joint venture with current owner Tim Wiper. Willamette Pass becomes the eighth ski resort to join MCP and its first in the Northwest. The company currently operates resorts in four Southwestern states as as well as a lift-served bike park in Texas. “For more than two decades, MCP has strengthened its position in the Southwest, acquiring, building, developing and successfully growing nine resorts in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Texas,” said MCP managing partner James Coleman. “While Willamette Pass Resort’s location introduces a new geographical region to the company, the skiing is fantastic and the opportunity to carry on the tradition of Willamette Pass made the decision an obvious one,” he continued. Willamette Pass will join the Power Pass family of season pass products and current resort leadership is expected to remain in place.

Willamette Pass features a fleet of four Riblet and CTEC chairlifts including Oregon’s first six pack. The mountain also has significant expansion potential in the fast-growing Pacific Northwest ski market. Mountain Capital Partners specializes in building and improving resorts through targeted capital improvements including new lifts and snowmaking. “MCP expects to bring meaningful upgrades to resort operations starting this winter,” said the company’s press release.

Founded in 1941, Willamette Pass offers guests access to 29 trails across 555 skiable acres. “Since this resort’s founding, this has been a family business and, together with our incredible staff, we’ve put in this work for one reason: our love for skiing,” said Tim Wiper, who has owned the resort with his family since 1982. “Mountain Capital Partners clearly shares our undeniable passion for this sport, and they are the right partner to not only lead Willamette Pass Resort into the future but also work together with us to carry on our remarkable legacy.”

Nordic Valley to Debut Six Passenger Lift

The once sleepy ski area in Eden, Utah will grow dramatically this winter with the addition of a high speed lift and new terrain. Leitner-Poma of America will supply the yet-to-be-named six place chair, which will move 2,500 skiers per hour and service approximately 50 acres of terrain the first season.  When completed, the expansion will more than triple skiable terrain with 300 new acres. “The pioneers who started Nordic Valley dreamed of sharing this amazing terrain,” said Brandon Fessler, Nordic Valley general manager. “Our team has worked hard to realize that dream, and we cannot wait to share it with our guests, our friends and our neighbors this winter.” The lift will rise 1,400 vertical feet in just 4.2 minutes with a slope length of 4,213 feet. It will become the first six passenger lift built by Leitner-Poma in Utah.

Fast-growing Mountain Capital Partners took over operations of Nordic Valley in 2018. This expansion project will be located entirely on private property, though more lifts could eventually be added on Forest Service land at higher elevation.

MCP is also partnering with Leitner-Poma to add a base-to-summit Telemix at Arizona Snowbowl this summer.  The two projects combine to form the largest lift investment in North American skiing for the 2020/21 season.  While some resort groups have paused expansion capital due to the pandemic, Mountain Capital Partners and select others continue to forge ahead.

Nordic Valley expects to open the new six passenger lift early this winter, increasing its vertical drop by 65 percent.

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News Roundup: Working Capital

Arizona Snowbowl to Install Combination Lift

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Arizona Snowbowl’s fourth new lift in six years will be the largest yet –  a chair/gondola combo lift rising almost 2,000 vertical feet.  The new base-to-summit workhorse will operate year round for skiers, snowboarders and sightseers beginning next winter.  “Since its inception, Agassiz has been the beating heart of Snowbowl,” notes the resort.  “With the replacement of the lift, we’re ushering in a new era.  More than an upgrade, the new Agassiz lift completely redefines the Snowbowl experience.”

Unlike most combination lifts, Agassiz will feature eight passenger gondolas between every two chairs (usually the ratio is more like one in four or five.)  Agassiz reaches an elevation of 11,500 feet and enclosed cabins will offer guests a comfortable option in inclement weather.  The gondolas will also provide improved access for guests with disabilities and ride time will decrease from 15 minutes to seven.  Capacity will remain a modest 1,200 skiers per hour so as not to overwhelm expert trails off the summit.

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In addition to summer and winter, Agassiz operates all fall for scenic rides.

The Leitner-Poma Telemix will be the third lift in the Agassiz alignment over six decades of history.  The existing Agassiz triple opened in 1986 and is currently inoperable due to a mechanical issue.  The CTEC is expected to be repaired this week and will finish out the remainder of the season.  Once removed, it will be stored for eventual re-installation at a location to be determined.

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Mountain Capital Partners has invested heavily in Arizona Snowbowl since purchasing the resort back in 2014.  Improvements to date include a new lodge, two different fixed-grip quads and a six place called the Grand Canyon Express.  2020’s project will be the largest in resort history and one of the most significant lift additions in North America this year.

Nordic Valley Seeks to Add a Fourth Chairlift

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Mountain Capital Partners no longer plans to build nine new chairlifts and one of the world’s longest gondolas in Northern Utah but a scaled back expansion of Nordic Valley is moving forward.  The previous vision hinged on use of Forest Service lands and received chilly public reception.

The resort recently applied for a conditional use permit to add a new lift on 347 acres of entirely private land south of the current ski area.  The updated project includes 50 acres of new snowmaking coverage and an approximately 4,400 foot chairlift dubbed Lift 5.  Photos included with the application depict Skytrac lifts, indicating the new lift would be fixed-grip.

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Back in 2018, Mountain Capital Partners forged an agreement to operate Nordic Valley, becoming the firm’s first property in Utah.  MCP specializes in modernizing historically under-capitalized resorts across the Southwest.   “The proposed project will allow for an improved guest experience for the surrounding communities and will compliment and improve the existing ski operations at Nordic Valley,” said the Colorado-based company.  “With the addition of snowmaking, Nordic Valley will be able to minimize the impact of low natural snowfalls and offer a more consistent product to its customers.”

Mountain Capital Partners to Add Brian Head Resort

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Mountain Capital Partners, the growing Durango-based resort group, will acquire Brian Head Resort in Southern Utah.  MCP already operates Nordic Valley in the northern part of the state along with ski and bike resorts in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.  “We’re proud to welcome Brian Head Resort and its employees to the MCP family,” said James Coleman, managing partner of the privately-held collective.  “Brian Head’s family friendly vibe and proximity to Southern Utah’s famous red cliffs and national parks greatly enhances our portfolio and supports our mission to make skiing and riding more accessible and affordable.”

Opened in 1964, Brian Head features four newer Doppelmayr lifts along with four classic Yan fixed grip chairlifts.  Just this fall, the mountain completed construction on its second detachable quad named the Navajo Express.  Brian Head’s current ownership, led by its president and majority owner John Grissinger, purchased the resort in 2012 and invested nearly $16.5 million in capital improvements.  “We’re incredibly grateful to John Grissinger and his entire team for their hard work, vision and dedication to the development and success of Brian Head Resort,” noted Coleman.

Power Pass holders will enjoy unlimited, unrestricted access at Brian Head beginning this season.

News Roundup: Super Cool

 

Sipapu Looks to Add Lifts & Terrain

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Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort has submitted a master plan amendment to the Forest Service seeking to expand by 924 acres while adding 51 new trails, four new lifts, a mountain coaster and more.  This should come as no surprise given the resort’s history, current layout and owner – the collective of southwestern ski resorts known as Mountain Capital Partners.  Like with the resort’s accepted 2012 master plan, Sipapu continues to envision two new base-to-summit lifts.  Today, it takes two fixed-grip lift rides to reach 9,295′, well below the actual summit of the mountain.

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Overview of the new winter upgrade plan.

A mile-plus long Sipapu Express would rise from the current base area to a new beginner learning zone at nearly 9,700 feet with a second chairlift and two carpets.  Because it would operate in both winter and summer for a variety of guests, the Sipapu Express is proposed as a chair/gondola combination lift.  Mountain Capital Partners and its managing partner, James Coleman, plan to build a similar lift at Arizona Snowbowl as soon as next summer.  A second detachable lift at Sipapu, the Westside Express, would service intermediate terrain in an entirely new pod beyond the current permit area. “This lift will provide access to the abundant intermediate fall line skiing terrain that has been identified to address the deficiency of intermediate terrain within the existing SUP Area,” the plan notes.  This one would be around 4,400 feet long with a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.  The plan would also see Lift 1 realigned and replaced with a ift capable of moving 2,400 skiers per hour.  Lift 3, one of the last remaining high-speed Pomas in the country, is unfortunately slated for removal without replacement.

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The 2012 plan excluded the summit beginner area and had the Sipapu Express further southeast.

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