Sunday River Resort’s 15th chairlift will be installed next summer, one year earlier than originally planned. The Doppelmayr fixed grip triple will service Merrill Hill, a community of 23 home sites located between South Ridge and Aurora Peak. The lift will load near the existing Dream Maker run and service three new trails. Nine of the lots surrounding the lift remain available for sale.
Merrill Hill will become the third lift addition in five years for Sunday River following construction of the Spruce Peak triple in 2017 and the Alera Group Competition T-Bar in 2019. Parent company Boyne Resorts also plans to add Doppelmayr lifts at Big Sky Resort and Loon Mountain in 2021.
With ambitious improvement plans recently crafted for Big Sky and Loon Mountain, Boyne Resorts has turned to updating its capital spending vision for Sunday River, Maine. Spanning eight peaks in the beautiful Mahoosuc Mountains, Sunday River offers more than 50 miles of trails and a beast of a snowmaking system. Though the terrain and scenery are top notch, many lifts were installed during the American Skiing Company boom years and are showing their age. The plan prescribes replacing at least six lifts and building a lift-served real estate development on a ninth mountain called Merrill Hill over the next ten years.
Lift wise in the short term, the two biggest priorities are Barker Mountain and Jordan Bowl. The former is no surprise as the Barker Mountain Express was originally built by Lift Engineering and converted to a quasi-Poma high speed quad decades ago. While no specific model was specified, I expect the replacement will be a six or eight place signature lift. The Jordan Bowl Express is newer, built by Doppelmayr in 1994, but also ripe for up-gauging given the vast amount of terrain it services. Another near term project is the Merrill Hill lift, providing access to a new ski-in, ski-out neighborhood near North Peak. During this phase, the White Cap quad is slated to gain a loading conveyor to increase speed and efficiency.
After those projects, Sunday River is targeting the White Cap and North Peak lifts for replacement. The former is a 1987 Yan fixed grip quad with a ride time in excess of 10 minutes. North Peak is a 1997 Doppelmayr detachable quad.
Near the end of the 2030 plan, the Aurora Peak and South Ridge lifts would be addressed. Aurora is another Yan fixed grip that moves very slowly. It’s newer than White Cap, having been installed in 1991 as one of Yan’s last-ever installations. South Ridge is one year newer and was built by Poma. Not all of these installations will necessarily be brand new machines. Boyne plans to shuffle lifts within and between resorts in the coming years, including the outgoing Swift Current from Big Sky and Kancamagus at Loon Mountain. The company also wants to purchase the bubble six place lift from the Hermitage Club, which would go to one of Boyne’s three northeast mountains.
The Sunday River 2030 vision includes more than just lifts. RFID ticketing technology will be implemented resort-wide. An observation deck on North Peak and mountain coaster are planned. At the top of the already spectacular Jordan Bowl pod, a signature summit restaurant is envisioned.
Looking at the history of Sunday River, it’s quite remarkable how many lifts and terrain expansions Les Otten was able to complete before American Skiing Company ran out of cash. Otten purchased 18 different chairlifts and grew the resort from 40,000 skier visits to more than a half million annually. Boyne’s plan will build on that success, replacing up to six lifts and adding another peak. “We are incredibly grateful for our guests, our team, and the Boyne Resorts family for helping to guide and determine our future,” noted Sunday River President and General Manager Dana Bullen. “The next decade will be one of the most transformational in our 60-year history, assuring that Sunday River will remain one of the top resorts in the Northeast.”