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.
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.
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-gripquads 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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
The retired Al’s Run quad from Taos is headed to Texas to anchor the state’s first lift-assisted bike park, Spider Mountain. Mountain Capital Partners is behind project and will host a preview mountain bike race on September 29th. Skytrac is installing the lift, which will open sometime next year. “There is a much larger plan for the property and bikes are just a part of it,” says a poster on Bike Mojo involved in trail building. Spider Mountain sits just outside Burnet, Texas and has a 350 foot vertical rise with views of Buchanan Lake.
MCP Managing Partner and CEO James Coleman is a University of Texas at Austin alum and Spider Mountain is about an hour away from the fast-growing city. His company currently operates ski resorts in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. This project brings the number of new chairlifts and gondolas outside of ski country to eight this year. From bike parks to theme parks, fairs and urban transport applications, ropeways are proving their usefulness around the country.
The new operator of Utah’s Nordic Valley, Mountain Capital Partners, has high hopes for what is currently the littlest ski resort in Utah. MCP is the fast-growing Durango, Colorado-based outfit led by James Coleman that now operates six ski resorts in the four corners region. Less than three years after acquiring Purgatory and Arizona Snowbowl, Mr. Coleman entered into an operating agreement with Nordic Valley’s owners in April. Now we know one of the reasons why he went to Utah.
The centerpiece of master plan released this month is a 4.3 mile gondola stretching from North Ogden to a summit elevation of 8,100′ before descending into Nordic Valley’s base area near Eden. It would be the third longest gondola system in the world and some 6,000 feet longer than anything in the United States today. “In addition to offering direct-to-resort access in a scenic 12-minute ride, the gondola will also help cut down on canyon traffic and vehicle emissions,” notes the recently-launched nordicvalleyproject.com website. A similar gondola was once eyed to connect Ogden to Snowbasin and the proposal reminds me in some ways of the successful Silver Mountain Gondola project which transformed Kellogg, Idaho.
Nordic Valley has attempted to expand upward and outward multiple times over its 50 year history but never before had access to the kind of capital needed to undertake what is now mapped. The plan includes nine new chairlifts surrounding the new gondola, which would likely be built in two sections. “We’re passionate about the ski industry, and about giving families and individuals the freedom and opportunity to experience the outdoors,” MCP notes. “With an improved guest experience, the new Nordic Valley will be better positioned to grow the ski industry, compete with other area resorts, and bolster Ogden’s status as a first-rate recreation destination.”