Vail Resorts to Build 19 Lifts at 14 Resorts in 2022

Vail Resorts today announced it will pump $320 million into its mountains coming out of the pandemic, building a whopping 19 new lifts next year. The company’s largest-ever annual investment will include a new gondola at Whistler Blackcomb, the firm’s first North American eight person chairlift at Park City and expansion into Bergman Bowl at Keystone. Vail properties across the Northeast and Midwest will also see new lifts. “Our mission at Vail Resorts is to provide an Experience of a Lifetime to anyone who visits our resorts – and delivering on that mission requires constant re-imagination and investment into the guest experience,” said Rob Katz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vail Resorts. “Our teams have been hard at work identifying significant opportunities to improve the guest experience and have produced an initial list of exciting lift upgrades, a restaurant expansion and projects that expand access to incredible terrain for next season, with more to be announced.”

Subject to government approvals, lift projects planned ahead of the 2022-23 season include:

British Columbia, Canada

  • Whistler Blackcomb, Creekside Gondola: A new 8-person gondola, replacing the existing 6-person gondola, will significantly improve wait times and increase out-of-base uphill capacity by 35% in the Creekside area, especially on high-volume days.
  • Whistler Blackcomb, Big Red Express: The replacement of the existing high-speed 4-person lift with a high-speed 6-person chair will increase uphill capacity by nearly 30% and enhance and modernize the guest experience mid-mountain out of the Creekside area.

Colorado

  • Keystone Resort, Bergman Bowl: Enhancements to Bergman Bowl will include a new high-speed 6-person chairlift, increasing lift-served terrain by 555 acres. Additional enhancements include 16 new trails, a ski patrol facility and snowmaking infrastructure. This project unlocks access for novice and intermediate guests and provides expanded entry to expert terrain in Independence and Erickson Bowls.
  • Vail Mountain, Sun Down Lift: The installation of a new high-speed 4-person chair in the Sun Down Bowl from the base of Chair 5 (High Noon Express) to the Wildwood restaurant will materially reduce wait times on peak days at Chair 5 and create the opportunity for skiers and riders to much more conveniently access the trails in Sun Down Bowl.
  • Vail Mountain, Game Creek Bowl: Skiers and riders will see improved reliability and capacity in this popular bowl with the replacement of the current 4-person chair with a new high-speed 6-person lift, increasing capacity by nearly 50%.
  • Breckenridge Ski Resort, Rip’s Ride Lift: The beginner/ski and ride school experience will be enhanced at the highly utilized Peak 8 base area by replacing the current fixed-grip double with a high-speed 4-person chair, increasing uphill capacity by nearly 70% and improving out-of-base circulation.

Utah

  • Park City Mountain, Eagle Lift: A high-speed 6-person chair with a new mid-station will replace the existing Eagle lift, significantly reducing crowding and wait times, and improving the guest experience, especially for beginner skiers and ski and ride school guests.
  • Park City Mountain, Silverlode 8-Person Lift: Vail Resorts’ first-ever high-speed 8-person chair, replacing an existing 6-person chair, will increase uphill capacity by 20% and reduce wait times at a critical spot to circulate guests on mountain.

Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada

  • Northstar California, Comstock Lift: A new high-speed 6-person chair will replace the existing mid-mountain 4-person chair and is designed to reduce wait times at one of the mountain’s most popular lifts and increase uphill capacity by nearly 50%.
  • Heavenly Ski Resort, North Bowl Lift: The replacement of an existing fixed-grip triple with a high-speed 4-person chair will increase uphill capacity by more than 40% and reduce the combined ride time of the Boulder and North Bowl lifts, which is expected to reduce wait times at the Stagecoach and Olympic lifts.

Vermont & New Hampshire 

  • Stowe Mountain Resort, Mountain Lift: The replacement and extension of the existing fixed-grip triple to a high-speed 6-person lift will increase uphill capacity by 100%, eliminate the steep hike to the base of the lift, improve reliability on windy days and offer beginner and intermediate guests with better access to lower-level terrain choices.
  • Mount Snow, Sundance/Tumbleweed Lift: The replacement of the Sundance and Tumbleweed triples with one high-speed 6-person lift will improve access to underutilized terrain and alleviate pressure on other lifts in the main base area, increasing uphill capacity by nearly 70%.
  • Mount Snow, Sunbrook Lift: A new high-speed 4-person chair to replace the existing fixed-grip quad will significantly decrease the current 14-minute ride time by approximately 30% and result in better utilization of the Sunbrook terrain.
  • Attitash Mountain Resort: The replacement of the East and West Double-Double chairs with one fixed-grip 4-person chair will improve reliability and enhance the overall guest experience.

Pennsylvania & Ohio

  • Jack Frost/Big Boulder: The replacement and consolidation of multiple lifts at both resorts will improve reliability and enhance the overall guest experience. Jack Frost will receive two new fixed-grip 4-person chairs (one to replace the B & C lifts and the other to replace the E & F lifts) and Big Boulder will receive a new fixed-grip 4-person chair to replace the Edelweiss Triple.
  • Boston Mills/Brandywine: At Boston Mills, the resort will get a new fixed-grip 4-person chair replacing the Lift 5 double. At Brandywine, a new fixed-grip 4-person chair will replace the Lift 3 triple.

Including this latest capital plan dubbed the Epic Lift Upgrade, Vail Resorts’ total investment is expected to reach approximately $2.2 billion over 15 years. The move comes as Vail enjoys brisk season pass sales. Epic Pass adoption through September 17, 2021 for the upcoming 2021/2022 North American winter season increased approximately 42 percent in units and approximately 17 percent in sales dollars as compared to the same period in the prior year. Compared with pre-pandemic 2019, Epic Pass sales increased an incredible 67 percent in units and 45 percent in sales dollars.

Although no manufacturers were identified for the 19 new lifts, an initiative of this size is likely to include multiple suppliers.

News Roundup: Live Rescue

News Roundup: Dollars and Euros

News Roundup: Visit Numbers

News Roundup: Good Friday

Whistler Blackcomb to Shut Down Again

The largest ski resort in North America is closing for at least three weeks effective midnight tonight. The pause comes as part of a provincial effort to slow the spread of Covid-19 through new restrictions on business and travel. Gyms, indoor dining, and houses of worship are also closing by order of the BC government. Whistler Blackcomb was specifically identified to “address and prevent community spread related to non-essential travel,” according to a news release. Other British Columbia ski resorts are currently allowed to remain open.

“Covid-19 continues to create challenges for people and businesses throughout B.C., and we are grateful for the sacrifices people continue to make to keep one another safe,” said British Columbia Premier John Horgan. “We know that the idea of more restrictions is not welcome news, but we are asking people to rise to the challenge with the confidence that vaccines mean better days are ahead. We are not out of the woods yet, but the provincial health officer’s orders, combined with our vaccines, give us the tools we need to move out of this pandemic together.”

Whistler Blackcomb parent company Vail Resorts recently announced 28.4 percent decline in net income due to effects of the pandemic. Whistler Blackcomb was disproportionately impacted due to the Canadian border remaining closed. Destination visits declined to 15 percent of Whistler Blackcomb visitation this season compared to 48 percent in the same period the prior year. Skier visits across all North American Vail Resorts declined 8.2 percent for the season as of March 7th.

The Whistler Blackcomb closure order is scheduled to last through April 19th, 2021. Whistler Mountain had been scheduled to close April 18th with Blackcomb Mountain planned to remain open until May 24th.

On Monday evening Whistler Blackcomb Chief Operating Officer Geoff Buchheister issued the following statement:

“Throughout the season, Whistler Blackcomb has prioritized the health and safety of our guests and employees. Monday’s order from the Province of British Columbia to close Whistler Blackcomb came as a surprise and we respect the decision and are taking immediate steps to comply. We would like to thank all of our guests and employees for their willingness to adapt to our COVID safety protocols and will update the website with more information on the future of the 2020-21 season.”

By Tuesday, resort officials decided to close both mountains for the season and turn their attention to summer.

News Roundup: Investments

News Roundup: Tough Choices

  • The Italian parent of Leitner and Poma reports record revenue of €1.06 billion, having completed 78 ropeway projects in 2019, though the company expects sales to fall 30 percent in 2020.
  • Public comments are now being solicited regarding Steamboat’s proposed Wild Blue Gondola, Sundown Express replacement and Priest Creek removal projects.
  • Vail Resorts suspends operations at two Australian resorts just three days into the season due to the evolving Coronavirus situation.
  • Even though American Dream and Big Snow in New Jersey are closed, a second American Dream location remains in development in Miami.
  • Vail Resorts-owned OnTheSnow.com and sister websites will shut down Monday due to the challenging financial landscape. A Vail-owned TV station is also closing.
  • Bloomberg speaks with the CEOs of both Alterra and Vail about next winter.
  • Today is the last day to comment on Little Cottonwood Canyon transportation alternatives, including a 3S gondola.
  • Walt Disney World won’t allow unrelated parties to ride together in gondola cabins when the Skyliner reopens.
  • Doppelmayr USA, Leitner-Poma of America, MND America, Skytrac and SkyTrans all received Paycheck Protection Program loans supporting more than 400 American jobs.
  • A key link located on a receding glacier, the Horstman T-Bar at Whistler Blackcomb is no more.
  • Design work continues for Aspen Mountain’s Lift One Telemix and related developments.

News Roundup: Millions

News Roundup: Unboxing

  • Lizards prevent construction of an announced chairlift project in New Zealand.
  • Berkshire East and Catamount owner Jon Schaefer finds success staying away from detachable lifts and acquiring used lifts from across the country.
  • Ikon Pass sales rose 60 percent over last year.
  • Cockaigne, NY will reopen in January after many seasons closed.
  • Frost Fire, ND reopens after a missed season.
  • A 3S gondola to Snowbird and Alta would cost more than $300 million to build and $12 million a year to operate.
  • Vail Resorts looks to build it first D-Line chairlift, not in Colorado or California but at Perisher.
  • The Forest Service green lights construction of a new Big Burn lift at Snowmass.
  • A new version of Eagle’s Rest comes Jackson Hole.
  • A downed tree causes extended stops at Silver Mountain.
  • The one year old Blackcomb Gondola went down Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.
  • Disney Skyliner guests can now call a dedicated phone line for information when gondolas stop for longer than usual.
  • Lift service returns to Tamarack’s Wildwood zone tomorrow.
  • Copper’s Tucker Mountain becomes lift served for the first time today.
  • Regardless of whether Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows build an interconnect gondola, a private ski area may open nearby.