News Roundup: Race to Open

News Roundup: Formal Proposal

  • Sierra at Tahoe reports more fire damage than initially thought with a large amount of vegetation burned, six lifts damaged and a vehicle maintenance shop lost.
  • A GoFundMe has been established to support Sierra at Tahoe employees who lost personal property in the Caldor Fire.
  • Jay Peak is “actively engaged” with multiple potential buyers and reports improving finances, though both Jay and Burke Mountain both still operate in the red.
  • Sunday River will spin the new Merrill Hill triple select days this season with a full opening pushed to winter 2022-23.
  • With a new lift on the way, Kelly Canyon begins disassembling the Stony Mountain double.
  • A vaccine requirement for indoor entertainment venues in British Columbia won’t apply to gondolas.
  • Also in BC, the Zincton formal proposal is out and includes five chairlifts plus a gondola.
  • The New York Times does a feature story on green urban transportation including gondolas.
  • James Niehues announces his retirement from trail maps though he will continue painting.
  • Catamount continues construction on two new quad chairs, one of which will start out as a triple.
  • Skytrac flies towers at Howelsen Hill.
  • Snow King Mountain enters the home stretch on a $20 million summer and looks for public help to name new lifts.
  • Speaking of Snow King, towers went up last weekend for both lifts.

Eight Seater Coming to Sunday River’s Jordan Bowl

Doppelmayr will build the fastest eight place chairlift in North America for the 2022-23 season, a Sunday River Red bubble chair in Jordan Bowl. Dubbed Jordan 8, the lift will feature the world’s first red-colored bubbles along with heated seats, a loading conveyor and direct drive. Jordan 8 will spin a blazing 6 meters a second, shaving a minute off the ride time of the current Jordan Bowl Express and transporting 3,200 skiers per hour. “We are proud as a team and so excited to bring the latest Doppelmayr technology to Sunday River,” said Stephen Kircher, CEO of Boyne Resorts. “With each milestone in the Sunday River 2030 plan, Boyne Resorts is enhancing the experience across the board with major investments in infrastructure.”

The current Jordan high speed quad will be refurbished to replace the Barker Mountain Express for winter 2023-24. Some may wonder why Jordan for a D-Line lift rather than Sunday River’s original peak with an older detachable quad. The answer lies in Jordan Bowl’s popularity with guests, the amount of wind and snow it sees as well as the fact Sunday River owns thousands of acres next door. The Jordan/Oz peaks and future terrain beyond will be known henceforth as the Western Reserve. “The Jordan 8 is a significant jumping off point for the Western Reserve, creating a portal that could double our skiable terrain in the coming decades,” said Dana Bullen, President of Sunday River. “This lift also acts as an immediate catalyst for upcoming renovations to the Jordan Hotel, new activities and amenities.” Both Jordan 8 terminals will feature glass weather protection, allowing all 60 chairs to be parked without a separate storage building. Each chair weighs 2,262 pounds, making the lift wind resistant during storms.

Jordan 8 is the third major lift project announced by Boyne Resorts for 2022. Also in New England, the company is relocating the former Kancamagus detachable quad at Loon Mountain to replace Seven Brothers. Last week, Boyne Mountain unveiled plans for Disciples 8, the Midwest’s first eight passenger chairlift. When Disciples 8 and Jordan 8 open next winter, Boyne Resorts will operate eight seat chairlifts at four of its nine mountains and 80 percent of all the eight seaters in the United States.

News Roundup: A Long Time Coming

Five Mountains Readying Terrain Expansions for 2021-22

Despite an 18 month pandemic, supply chain challenges and continued uncertainty, a handful of US and Canadian ski resorts are putting finishing touches on expansion projects set to debut this winter. Two of these were delayed in 2020 and resumed construction this year while others were actually accelerated during Covid. Many of this year’s projects focus on learning terrain enhancements following the pandemic winter when new and lapsed skiers gravitated toward the mountains.

McCoy Park – Beaver Creek Mountain, Colorado

The lone expansion this year featuring two new chairlifts is Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park, encompassing 250 acres of new high alpine terrain. This beginner zone follows in the footsteps of Haymeadow Park and Red Buffalo Park, which both offer dedicated terrain for new skiers and snowboarders with detachable lifts. The new McCoy Park Express will service 17 trails and the Reunion Quad will provide easy exit from McCoy Park to the Upper Beaver Creek Mountain and Strawberry Park Express lifts.

Lower Juniper – Lake Louise, Alberta

Another beginner-focused expansion featuring a detachable quad is underway at Lake Louise. The new Lower Juniper Express is the second new chairlift here in two years. It will access four new low intermediate trails and provide an alternate out-of-base option to access the upper mountain.

Sunny Side – Snow King Mountain, Wyoming

Shadowed somewhat by construction of a new 8 passenger gondola on the front side of the mountain, Sunny Side at Snow King Mountain will also open this winter. This new backside bowl features extensive snowmaking and a Skytrac fixed grip quad.

Buzzsaw – Searchmont, Ontario

Searchmont hasn’t hosted a single day of skiing since March 2020, which makes its terrain expansion even more remarkable. New owner Wisconsin Resorts took delivery of two Skytrac triples last year, one of which replaced an existing Borvig double. The second lift sat in storage last winter and is now being installed to service two brand new beginner trails.

Merrill Hill – Sunday River, Maine

2021’s only New England expansion is a ninth peak at Sunday River. Merrill Hill features four ski trails and 23 new home sites near the South Ridge base area. This low angle zone will be serviced by a new Doppelmayr fixed grip triple, the mountain’s 15th chairlift.

News Roundup: Turning to ‘22

News Roundup: A Landslide

Sunday River Accelerates Merrill Hill Construction

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.

News Roundup: Cold Front

  • Sunday River releases maps of the upcoming Merrill Hill project.
  • Updated stats from NSAA show how many ski areas operated in each state last winter.
  • Las Vegas’ decision to go with Teslas in a tunnel rather than a Doppelmayr automated people mover may have been short sighted.
  • Jay Peak President Steve Wright discusses joining the Indy Pass, limited winter tram operations and potential future lift upgrades.
  • Mission Ridge begins erecting terminals for the new Liberator Express, which load and unload inside buildings.
  • Whiteface’s new beginner quad will be called Owl Express.
  • A new lift at Sun Valley will also get a fresh name, to be announced soon.
  • Gunstock burns down an old T-Bar station for firefighter training.
  • An Ontario ski area worries about lift safety following a rash of vandalism.
  • With the launch of a gondola up Hoonah Mountain next year, an Alaska Native corporation sees new opportunities for development.
  • Despite a 30 percent drop in business last winter, at least two New Zealand resorts plan to build new lifts this offseason.
  • As Smartwool moves headquarters from Steamboat to Denver, the company gifts $1.5 million to Howelsen Hill for a new Barrows chairlift, to be built by Skytrac.
  • A Michigan ski area with 12 lifts won’t make snow and will operate weekends only due to Coronavirus.
  • Mont-Sainte-Anne is no longer certain its base-to-summit gondola will be functional by December.
  • Big Sky wraps up a busy season of preparation for the Swift Current 6 top terminal and carrier storage facility.

News Roundup: 2020 and Beyond