It’s official: this winter will be the last for Pioneer Express at Winter Park, tied for oldest high speed quad in the nation. The mountain’s fourth six place chairlift will debut on Vasquez Ridge next winter, increasing capacity from 1,900 skiers per hour to 2,800. A new mid load station at the intersection of Pioneer Express Trail and Big Valley will eliminate the need for many guests to ski all the way to the bottom terminal along a flat run out. The mid-station will sit near the current tower 7 with no angle change. With the retirement of Pioneer, Coney Glade at Snowmass and Sunshine Express at Telluride will remain tied for oldest detachable quad in America at 37 years.
The Forest Service already approved Pioneer’s replacement, the seventh lift project announced by Alterra Mountain Company for next year. Others are at Mammoth Mountain, Snowshoe, Solitude and Steamboat. A manufacturer for the Winter Park project was not announced, though the mountain operates a large fleet of Leitner-Poma detachable lifts.
Alterra-owned Winter Park Resort is poised for major growth as outlined in a proposed master development plan for the next 10 to 15 years. Key elements include a three-gondola connection from downtown to the village, new lifts on Vasquez Ridge and replacements for six existing chairlifts. Many projects are unfinished holdovers from Intrawest’s 2005 master plan but other elements are being proposed for the first time.
As the fourth largest ski area in Colorado, Winter Park already encompasses more than 3,000 acres with a comfortable carrying capacity (CCC) of just over 15,000 skiers. The resort enjoys a large regional bed base and can be accessed by train from Denver to avoid I-70. If accepted as proposed, the 2022 Master Plan would see Alterra develop 358 acres of new terrain and make upgrades around the mountain to accommodate up to 22,375 skiers a day. The total lift count would increase from 23 to 29 with a mix of additions, removals and replacements.
A long-envisioned link from town would come in the form of a 10 passenger gondola with a top terminal at Cooper Creek Summit. This station would include a skier services building and summer activity hub with ski access to six different chairlifts. One chair would unload here, carrying skiers returning from the Pioneer zone. A second, 8 passenger gondola would connect Cooper Creek Summit to a new learning center near the current Discovery and Endeavour lifts. From here, the 8 seat gondola would continue to the Village, replacing the current Gemini Express.
The three gondola sections would form a nearly three mile chain connecting four different stations. Analysis estimates 28 percent of Winter Park skiers would access the resort from town via the new gondola. As such, a robust hourly capacity of 3,600 is planned for the Town Gondola and 2,000 guests per hour for the Cooper Creek to Village gondola.
The planned Vasquez Mountain zone would be transformative, featuring two six packs and a high alpine T-Bar. This terrain would be accessed from the current Pioneer Express and new gondola via a short connector chairlift. A runout from Vasquez Mountain to the Town of Winter Park would require a short surface lift part way down. The Vasquez zone is so large it would include new lodges at the base and summit along with a dedicated lift maintenance facility.
As for lift replacements, the long-planned Pioneer six place remains a priority. That project has already been fully approved and would include a mid-station for loading.
At the reimagined learning center, Endeavor would become a detachable quad and Discovery a fixed quad to improve the beginner experience. Three new conveyors would be built nearby.
The lone big change at Mary Jane is a six place chairlift replacing both Iron Horse and Pony Express. The upgraded lift would feature a mid angle station for unloading about two thirds of the way up. Full stats for the complete proposed lift fleet are below.
Winter Park has not yet submitted the 2022 master plan to the Forest Service and is soliciting public feedback by email at 2022MDP@winterparkresort.com. Once the Forest Service receives and accepts the final plan, environmental analysis of individual projects can begin.
The rest of Australia’s resorts are cleared to reopen, though some have already called it a season.
The towns of Telluride and Mountain Village are evaluating three options for the aging gondola: gradual incremental upgrades, a major overhaul or total replacement with a decision targeted for next fall.
Last summer, we examined the names of our trails and lifts, and recognized that the name “Eskimo” is considered derogatory and offensive by many. Through research we learned people in many parts of the Arctic consider Eskimo a derogatory term because it was widely used by racist, non-native colonizers. Many people also thought it meant eater of raw meat, which connoted barbarism and violence. Brands with longer histories than Winter Park’s have also decided to abandon the term. The iconic Eskimo Pie dropped the name in 2020, and the Edmonton Canadian football team announced it would no longer use the name as well.
Winter Park is a place for all people to Venture Out, to escape and retreat, to transform and trailblaze. Winter Park is an inclusive place and that’s why we moved to change the name of the Eskimo Express Lift to the Explorer Express Lift. The name “Explorer” more accurately represents our resort, our brand, our team, and our guests.
Alterra Mountain Company will spend $181 million on capital improvements at its network of resorts this offseason, $32.3 million of which will go towards new lifts. The announcement comes on the heels of competitor Vail Resorts’ proclamation that it will devote $139 to 143 million to capital projects in 2019, including new lifts for Crested Butte and Stevens Pass.
It's official, after serving the Mary Jane for nearly 30 yrs, Sunnyside has announced retirement… We will replace the iconic lift with a new high-speed, 6-passenger lift as part of $16M investment for nxt season. The new lift will reduce the ride time from 8min to 3.8 min! pic.twitter.com/aaTEEtL92X
At Colorado’s Winter Park Resort, a new Leitner-Poma six-pack will replace the Sunnyside triple, increasing uphill capacity by 800 people per hour and reducing ride time from eight minutes to 3.8. Sunnyside is a 1989 CTEC that provides egress from Parsenn Bowl and often experiences significant wait times.
In California, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will debut the first Leitner-Poma of America LPA detachable to feature an intermediate station. The approximately 5,000 foot quad lift will follow the current Hot Wheels alignment with an offloading opportunity at the current top terminal site. Chairs will continue one minute further to Sherwood Ridge for direct access to the backside of Alpine. The first Leitner-Poma lift at Alpine Meadows will move a total of 2,400 skiers per hour between the three stations and cost approximately $10 million. “The new lift will benefit the Alpine Meadows experience on many levels,” said Ron Cohen, president and chief operating officer at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “Terrain currently served by Hot Wheels is frequently used by learners and ski and ride school as the next progression after the beginner terrain in the base area. A detachable lift will make loading and unloading much easier for these groups, and the ride time will be more than cut in half. Alpine Meadows is a fantastic place to learn how to ski, and I am proud that we are continuing to foster that quality.” Squaw is also adding new rope tow and carpet lifts in the High Camp area to further improve beginner options and skier circulation.
As announced at the beginning of the winter, Doppelmayr will complete the Steamboat gondola rebuild this summer, adding new towers, all new cabins and more. With a speed increase, this key out-of-base lift will feature an increased capacity of 3,600 skiers per hour.
Another significant lift-related investment is RFID access gates and ticketing infrastructure at Deer Valley Resort. Other Alterra properties are getting snow cats, expanded snowmaking capabilities, restaurant remodels and new bike trails. “Alterra Mountain Company’s unique year-round mountain destinations offer skiers, riders and summer visitors of all ages from all over the world special, memorable experiences, and each aspect of our business plays a part in bringing the guest back year after year and inspiring a lifelong love of the mountains,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of Alterra in a company-wide press release. “We are committed to investing in everything from lifts to snowmaking to creative dining experiences, and technology that weaves it all together for a seamless visit.” The privately-held firm has budgeted more than half a billion dollars for capital improvements through the 2022/2023 ski season. All 13 Alterra destinations participate in the Ikon Pass, which starts at $649 and goes on sale tomorrow morning.