Faster Chairs At Sun Valley, Jackson Hole Aim To Ease Congestion

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Two of the West's most recognizable ski and snowboard mountains will be replacing a pair of aging chairlifts with swifter versions during this year's summer work season.

The projects at Sun Valley and Jackson Hole are elements in multi-year improvement plans that have been approved by the U.S. Forest Service, from whom the resorts lease use of public land.

At Sun Valley, the last five construction seasons have been about upgrading chairlifts all over the 2,000 acres that sit under Bald Mountain. They took care of the Warm Springs side of the mountain -- far skier's left -- with new and realigned chairs. Now it's time to fix up the other side.

This summer, installation crews will turn their attention to Seattle Ridge, an all-green pod on far skier's right off Bald Mountain. Since 1993, more and more skiers and riders looking for gentle, quiet terrain have ridden 4.5 minutes on the high-speed Seattle Ridge quad.

Now, this summer, Sun Valley crews will put up a six-pack detachable chair, which will allow 600 more folks per hour to get onto Seattle Ridge's collection of easy-going trails.

Management hopes this project will reduce wait time in one of Bald Mountain's busiest intersection along the Broadway runout. The Seattle Ridge high-speed shares loading space the 50-year-old fixed-grip Mayflower triple that heads up to the 9,150-foot summit of Bald Mountain.

Next up in 2025 construction season will be replacement of the detachable Christmas quad with a six-pack "chondola," creating a base-to-summit gondola route and hopefully moving people more readily through the busy mid-mountain Roundhouse area.

About 450 miles to the east, Jackson Hole got the go-ahead from the USFS in January for replacement of the fixed-grip Sublette four-seater. For nearly 40 years, Sublette has been the way to get skiers and riders into a trio of bowls just below famed Rendezvous Bowl.

For the 2024-2025, Sublette riders will feel the speed with a new detachable quad that will cut riding time down to about four minutes. Unloading area will be enlarged, and a new traverse will run under the tram to Tensleep Bowl.

This project follows on the heels of making Thunder chair a detachable quad that brings skiers and riders from the bottom of the Headwall amphitheater back up to the ridge at Laramie Bowl. It also is the only new lift included in Jackson's six-year plan to realign trails, modify visitor venues, develop a full menu of summer activities, and mitigate avalanche danger.

 

 

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Powder Mountain Set To Put Up Four Chairlifts This Summer

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This summer is expected to a busy one in northern Utah, but all the work will be concentrated at Powder Mountain.

In terms of lift- and 'cat-served terrain, Powder is the nation's largest ski and snowboard resort at 8,464 acres. Some 2,800 acres can be had right off a chairlift. Another 1,200 acres can be reached via shuttle bus, and 4,000 acres only via snowcat tour or hike.

Since opening in 1971, its lift network has been expanded sporadically, so the mountain has built a strong reputation for off-piste powder stashes served by 'cats, hiking/skinning and a shuttle.

New ownership has said that running lifts into areas that don't have direct access is one main goal; a second is to set aside a portion of the mountain for homeowner's only. To that end, this summer's work will focus on upgrading a couple of aging lifts, plus putting in two high-speed quads on new alignments.

The fixed-grip triple Paradise chair, which has hauled folks out of lowest point on the hill since 1999, will be replaced by a high-speed quad. The new lift is expected to cut the previous 12-minute ride time in half. In conjunction, a new Timberline fixed-grip chair, now with four seats, will go up to more efficiently connect lower mountain with mid-mountain base area.

A pair of newly aligned chairs will go on opposite sides of the mountain. At skier's left, the Lightning Ridge fixed-grip quad will run up its namesake ridge out of the base area, providing lift access to steep chutes off the ridge and intermediate slopes in Shugir Bowl. Its part of a plan to put a lift in Wolf Creek and DMI canyons, upslope from Lightning Ridge, that is now advanced terrain reached by hiking or snowcat tours.

At skier's extreme right, a new Raintree fixed-grip will anchor the bottom of the new homeowner-only terrain in and around Cobabe Canyon. Existing Mary's and Village chairs at top of canyon will also be closed to the public.

Earlier this season, ownership said Powder will become semi-private by roping off 2,000 acres around Mary's and Village chairlifts that serve Lefty's Canyon and Mary's Bowl, and terrain off new Rain Tree high-speed for homeowners. Ownership hopes the move will bolster its real estate portfolio, which has long targeted the ultra-wealthy who treasure their privacy.

 

 

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Washington, Oregon Resorts To Bulk Up Lift Systems This Summer

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After four new lifts debuted last season in Washington and Oregon, crews will put up three more this summer at Summit at Snoqualmie and Mt. Ashland.

Boyne Resorts, owners of Summit at Snoqualmie, is in the second year of a five-year push to upgrade an aging lift system all across the Summit's four mountains. Focus has been on reducing lift lines and moving skiers and riders more efficiently around the terrain.

At Summit West, the prime learning area on Snoqualmie Pass, the 60-year-old Wildside triple will be taken down and replaced with a modern, new fixed-grip quad. With the loading terminal swung over next to the base area, the new Wildside will be much easier to ride next season.

At Alpental (823 a., 2,280 vert.), the outlier of the Summit complex, a major overhaul of its lift system is underway. Last year, crews added another chair to make the Armstrong Express a four-pack, and replaced the 56-year-old Sessel double chair with a fixed-grip triple. Running 1,790 feet up the same footprint, the new chair got more folks out of base more quickly. And, Sessel had its top terminal moved higher to intersect with a new chair going up this summer.

That new chair on a new line will be the new triple International chair that will climb from mid-mountain up to the backcountry boundary for the Back Bowls -- right in the midst of Alpental's renowned cliffs, chutes and bowls.

Previously, it took a ride up Armstrong high-speed, another much slower ride on the fixed-grip Edelweiss double along the upper ridge, and a hairy dead-drop down Upper International.

Ownership has plans in place to replace the ridge-running Edelweiss -- one of the originals when Alpental opened in 1967 -- with a triple that would be ready for the 2025-2026 season.

Down at the Oregon-California sits Mt. Ashland (240 a., 1,190 vert.), a non-profit locals' hill where crews are putting up a new chair that has old roots.

Mt. Ashland has always had a cozy yet clunky learning area behind the main lodge. First by a rope tow, then a platter and now the Sonnet double, the learning center gets the new Lithia chair -- named in honor of the nearby hot springs -- that will run the same line as a former platter that was taken out in 1987. Skiers and riders will no longer have to hike out if they take old Poma run, further streamlining a learning center that is modernizing.

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A Pair Of New Lifts Add Uphill Capacity At Santa Fe, Red River

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After a better-late-than-never storm cycle in New Mexico, the 2023-2024 ski and snowboard season is heading to the finish line, but it's never too early to look at the new lifts planned for next season.

Once the snow melts, crews at Ski Santa Fe and Red River Ski Area will begin work on replacing a pair of chairlifts that are more than 30 years old. These upgrades follow a trend among resorts in the West to increase uphill capacity as more and more skiers and riders than ever line up to ride lifts.

At Ski Santa Fe, the day-trip mountain will be its first high-speed chairlift. The workhorse Super Chief Quad -- one of two fixed-grip chairs that get folks out of the base area with access to the steeper upper mountain -- will be succeeded by a detachable quad along the same footprint.

In replacing the fixed-grip four-seater, mountain officials say that the ride will be cut from 10 minutes to four minutes. Serving the popular blues and greens on the mountain's west side, the new lift is expected reduce lift lines that plague the locals' mountain on busy days -- and provide quicker access to a crossover to the mountain's two upper chairlifts that rise to above 12,000 feet elevation.

Built in 1988, the Super Chief remained Ski Santa Fe's newest lift until 2005, when the upper-mountain Millennium triple was installed. The mountain's other three chairlifts are pre-1990 models.

Up north at Red River (209 a., 1,600 vert.) another old faithful chair will come down this summer. The two-seat Copper Chair went up in 1993 as Red River expanded to its eastern edge. The lift loaded in the middle of town, right behind what is now the community center, and helped mitigate lift lines on the only other bottom-to-top chair, the Platinum lift.

After 30 years, a new triple fixed-grip chair will go up along the same footprint. It's the first new lift at the northern New Mexico resort since the Platinum got reworked into a triple in 2016. The rest of Red River's lift fleet serves either the dedicated learning Goldrush area or the steep stuff around the 10,030-foot summit ridge.

 

 

 

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Two Of Bogus Basin's Older Chairlifts To Be Spruced Up This Summer

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A couple of new fixed-grip chairlifts are expected to get installed this summer at Bogus Basin, as Boise's nonprofit-operated home hill continues to bulk up.

The Bitterroot fixed-grip double is expected to get two more seats and modern innards to haul more folks in and out of the Bitterroot Basin area. And, the novice-area fixed-grip Coach also adds two seats to become a quad.

As Idaho's third largest ski and snowboard mountain, Bogus Basin's 2,600 acres split into two areas -- with the base lodge and amenities on the dividing line. Above on the front side, a compact network of blues and a few blacks spill off under Deer Point (7,070 ft. elevation). A high-speed quad and fixed-grip double do the dirty work there.

The other half is The Backside, the largest hunk of skiing and riding real estate that pitches off below the main base -- and most of the serious vertical drop. It's chockful of steeps, trees and off-ridge slashes with double-black, black and blue ratings. Three basins link up to spread from the parking lots across to the Upper Nugget boundary.

They've been served by one of the newer lifts on the mountain in the high-speed Superior Express (2011); the second oldest in the Bitterroot fixed-grip double (1973); and a 'tweener in the Pine Creek Express (1999) that does the heavy lifting off Shafer Butte to skier's far right.

Until now, the Bitterroot double only ran on weekends and holiday. By adding seats and modernity, management may be able to spin Bitterroot more often.

The new Coach four-seater replaces a 28-year-old fixed-grip double on the beginner slopes. Combined with high-speed Morningstar that went up in 2019, traffic is expected move around more readily into and around the base lodge environs.

Because of its proximity to Boise -- fifth-fastest growing city in U.S. -- Bogus Basin has experienced been forced to upgrade to thin out crowding. The 16 miles and 172 turns of the access road from the Boise area take about 40 minutes, but still close enough to drop off the kids after school or take a few morning laps before work. Extensive night skiing is very popular.

The non-profit operators have to raise money for new lifts, so improvements move along at a measured pace. They rely on natural snow with only portable patch snowmaking units.

 

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 Vail Unveils Its Future Full Of New, Upgraded And Realigned Lifts

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With a new and approved master plan in hand, Vail Mountain officials now have a blueprint for overhauling their massive lift sytem to unclog main base areas and streamline everyone's ability to get around Colorado's biggest mountain.

No dates have been put to any of these upgrades, as each new lift will have to be OK'd by Forest Service officials, on whose domain 5,317-acre, 21-lift Vail Mountain operates. But with emphasis in the plan on getting guests up and out of Vail's five base villages, skiers and riders should expect to see the first construction on the lower front side.

When looking maps of the aggressive plan, skiers and riders can hardly find a spot on the frontside of Vail Mountain that won't be affected if this plan reaches full fruition.

The plan aims to reduce lift lines out of Vail Village with an already-approved six-pack Trans Montane chair to Riva Ridge run, and an upgraded workhorse Eagle Bahn gondola from eight to 12 seats -- with new a mid-station next to the top of the Born Free Express, which is soon to be a six-pack as well.

Perhaps the biggest game changer will be Riva Bahn Express gondola out of the Golden Peak base. It will be Vail's first lift to deliver folks from the bottom to the Back Bowls in one fell swoop. Now a high-speed quad that winds its way up to the base of Northwoods chair, River Bahn will become a 16,000-foot-long gondola -- with a mid-station -- that runs all the way up to the ridge that overlooks the Back Bowls.

On the opposite side of the bottom, the fixed-grip Cascade Village chair -- one of Vail's first lifts -- can get upgraded to a high-speed quad.

On the mountain, Vail will add seats all over the front side, including ridge-reaching pair Wildwood and Mountaintop high-speeds and the busy Avanti Express. Even the short (1,000 ft.) fixed-grip Little Eagle that serves upper mountain learning areas is planned to be a high-speed quad.

On the backside, the most significant upgrade is a new Mongolian Express that will give new life to Mongolian and Siberian bowls. Previously served by a high-speed quad and a long traverse, the skier's left sector will have a new high-speed chair right in the middle of the action. And, both Teacup and Orient high-speeds get two more seats.

Vail officials insist that the updated plan does not try to get more skiers and riders on the hill (they "manage to" a 19,900 capacity right now). Instead, they say that it will create a more efficient lift system that will spread them out all around the mountain.

 

 

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A Couple Of New, Revitalized Chairlifts Streamline Skiing, Riding In Oregon  

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With an even dozen ski areas within its borders, Oregon tends toward the low-key and local vibe at its winter resorts that, because of new operators and new money, continue to upgrade.

From top, the 34-year-old Skyliner high-speed quad at Mt. Bachelor had have major repairs in 2022 in order to operate last season. So mountain management has replaced it with a new Skyliner with six pack.

The new chair -- the first six-seater on the 4,100-acre mountain -- should give relief to base-area workhorses Pine Marten and Sunrise chairs, located on either side of the new Skyliner. It also will deliver more carver-dudes to the central mountain cruisers, and more park-rats to the resort's substantial cadre of Woodward terrain parks.

Over on Mt. Hood Meadows, another six-pack replaces an aging four-seater. A new Mt. Hood Express went in this summer to upgrade the original high-speed, installed in 1994. Increased capacity should help, since the new chair is one of three that haul skiers and riders out of the main base and onto the upper mountain. The resort has also gone cashless this season.

And up at year-round Timberline, there's a new conveyor to help develop a new learning area off Bruno's run.

New operators debuted this season at Willamette Pass, and the mountain will be open seven days a week for the first time since 2007. The Power Pass combine dropped cash on snowmaking and grooming, and expects to reopen the Midway chair. Squeezed between the Eagle Peak Accelerator high-speed and Twilight fixed-grip triple, the Midway last spun in 2015 to pull folks out of the base.

At Mt. Ashland, the nonprofit local hill has added a third night of twilight skiing and riding on Saturday and, in conjunction with that, now sells of Twilight Skiing pass. There are more snowcats in the fleet.

In the future, Mt. Ashland is set to revitalize the beginner area around the base lodge with a new chair that will run where the former Poma lift did. With it, skiers and riders won't have to hike out or use Comer lift to get back.

And, now at Hoodoo, kids ages 10 and under get free skiing and riding all season. Oldsters get a break, too, with $49 ticket for those 75 and older. Night lights got an upgrade.

 

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New Mexico Resorts Focus On More Snowmaking For This Season

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In northern New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley continues to upgrade its chairlift fleet, while other ski and snowboard mountains work to offset climate change with more and more snowmaking.

New Mexico's resorts string along the Sangre de Cristo range at the southern edge of the Rockies. The Sangres contain 10 peaks above 14,000 feet and 13 over 13,000 feet. Despite this high ground, snowfall can be moderated by the southerly, warmer-climate latitude.

As such, snowmaking is critical to the well-being of New Mexico nine skiing and riding areas. This season, more than half invested in snowmaking upgrades. Red River put in 10 new automated snowguns. Pajarito finally got its snowmaking system going by refilling its mountaintop reservoir. Ski Santa Fe jumped its snowgun capacity to 46 nozzles. And Angel Fire stepped its snowmaking capacity up a notch.

As for infrastructure upgrades, Taos Ski Valley makes the headlines. A new high-speed quad has gone up on the backside, replacing a 31-year-old fixed grip chair. Running from Phoenix lodge to Kachina Basin, the lift will service the mountain's main intermediate terrain with more efficiency.

At the main base, the Pioneer beginner chair has been moved to the other side of the regraded learning slope. The alteration. will open up space for an anticipated base-to-base gondola.

Nearby Sipapu has cut a new trail, Dysfunction, that extends the eastern edge of the trail map farther into the trees. And, Sipapu's decidedly old-time overnight cabins got a remodel this summer.

It's the future for Ski Santa Fe, as owners announced that the first high-speed chair will be installed next season. The first new lift since 2005, the detachable quad will replace the 35-year-old fixed grip Super Chief out of the busy base area.

And, above Albuquerque, dormant 300-acre Sandia Peak has new operators -- the same ones that sell the Power Pass and own  Pajarito and Sipapu -- with expectations of spinning chairlifts after a two-year hiatus if the weather cooperates.

Way down south, Ski Apache puts down manmade snow on one-quarter of its slopes, while Cloudcroft hopes temps stay low enough to fire up its guns.

Lift stats courtesy of liftblog.com

 

  263 Hits

Colorado's Front Range Heavyweights Keep Pace With Upgrades

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Folks who head up I-70 from the Denver area this winter know that they are entering one of the most renowned and diverse skiing and riding regions in the nation.

Each year, five famous resorts compete not only to be the first to open but also to be first on the list of where Coloradans and visitors go. This season is no different, with new lifts, terrain and facilities going in this summer.

At Loveland, the boundaries of snowcat tours have been expanded into previously hike-to terrain. The pay-to-ride, guided full-day tours into 580-acre Dry Gulch, located in the upper northwest corner of the Colorado mountain boundaries and north of Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70, supplement Loveland's existing free snowcat service in the same area at the top of Lift 9.

Running from the top of Lift 8, 16-person snowcats with a backcountry guide will make up to two trips a day into the area. Skiers and riders can expect 5-7 runs off the ridgeline of Mt. Trelease into the gulch each trip. Backcountry hikers can still get in there on their own.

Arapahoe Basin has paused after a busy couple of offseasons putting in new lifts and high-alpine restaurant. What's new at A-Basin is in the future: Expanded parking, a lot-to-base gondola, and a remastered Wrangler beginner area on east edge of the mountain.

Over at Copper Mountain, crews cut new beginner and glade runs in the Western Territory as part of Copper's multi-year effort to open up easy terrain to skier's far left. They also opened up a couple of new traverses in that same sector, hoping to make it easier to get around the mountain. And the Aerie eatery opens at the top of the American Flyer.

Keystone finally got its Bergman Bowl project completed, after several fits and starts. A new high-speed six-pack rises 1,078 vertical feet out of the gully below North Peak to 12,282 feet elevation in the snowfields of Bergman Bowl. Unusual is that the new above-treeline terrain is mellow, all blue and greens. Steeps can be had off the lift in Erikson Bowl, or by hiking the ridge.

And at Breckenridge, fixed-grip double Lift 5 came down this summer, after more than 50 years of taking skiers and riders out of the Peak 8 base area. In its place with a new six-seat detachable chair called 5 Superchair -- another step in a Peak 8 makeover.

In the same area, a complete re-do of the Park Lane terrain park on lower Peak 8 is due to open. The park's features link into the banked slalom lower down, all off 5 Superchair.

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New Chairlifts Top Off-Season Upgrades At Idaho Big Mountains

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Getting busier by the year, a trio of Idaho's ski and snowboard resorts continued a recent trend of modernization this summer with four new high-speed lifts that aim to ease lift line congestion and get folks up and around the mountains more readily.

The Ikon Pass folks have bought Schweitzer, and the first move is to dramatically upgrade the easy slopes below the main base area. Gone is the 32-year-old Musical Chairs fixed-grip double, and up and running is the new high-speed quad Creekside Express. The detachable chairlift will triple capacity and cut ride time to 3.5 minutes between lower Fall Line parking and main lodge -- the mountain's only green-rated runs.

The new lift is a glimpse at what's to come in Schweitzer's easy-going area. The existing Creek Village housing area will get a new day lodge, expanded beginner and intermediate terrain, easy access from the upper mountain -- and much more parking.

The first investments by a reinvigorated ownership at Brundage Mountain (1,920 a.,1,921 vert.) arrived for this season, in the form of a much-needed second high-speed quad on the front side. The old Centennial triple has been replaced by a detachable four-seater that will nearly double capacity and cut time on the lift from 16 minutes to six -- dramatically reducing lift lines.

Next up for Brundage will a new guest service's center at the base, and the expansion of the main lodge -- both planned for the next couple years.

In the past couple of seasons at Sun Valley (2,457 a., 3,400 vert.), mountain planners worked to rectified traffic flow on the frontside. This summer, crews headed to the side-mountain Warm Springs area. Two new high-speed chairlifts that run side-by-side are ready to run. The base-to-top Challenger six-seater adds 50% capacity and a mid-station before the 7.5-minute ride to Lookout Restaurant.

The other new lift, a four-seater called Flying Squirrel, replaces the 35-year-old Greyhawk quad. It runs up the same route to the divide, where skiers and riders can dump into Frenchman's and other frontside sectors. A steep black section has been added as Lower Flying Squirrel, alongside newly opened Little Scorpion glades to put more variety into the runs back to the Warm Spring base.

Other improvements at Idaho ski and snowboard mountains this season include:

  • A major overhaul of the Shoshone Lift beginner area at Grand Targhee.

  • Glade clearing and trail regrading at Lookout Pass.

  • Reinvigorating the long-ignored snowmaking system at Soldier Mountain.

  • A new "family friendly zone" and terrain park beginner area at Tamarack.

 

 

 

 

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A Couple Of New Chairlifts Highlight New Season In Utah's Cottonwood Canyons

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Few places in the West have more deep powder cachet than the four resorts in the Cottonwood canyons above Salt Lake City, where double-digits dumps are the norm at Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton.

So what's new this season? Solitude and Brighton in Little Cottonwood Canyon each debut brand-new chairlifts. Solitude (1,200 a, 2,494 vert.) has added two seats to the Eagle Express high-speed. Running out of the busy Moonbeam base -- where the bulk of public parking resides -- the new six-pack is anticipated to reduce morning and midday congestion.

The Eagle Express serves the south side's blues and blacks, and a few pitches into lower Honeycomb Canyon -- as well as being the first of three rides to the serious steeps off the summit from the Moonbeam base. It's the first new lift at Solitude since 2015.

Up the road at Brighton (1,050 a., 1,745 vert.), the new six-pack detachable chair named Crest6 replaces 32-year-old Crest Express four-seater to ease congestion out of the base. Park dudes can get onto the upper mountain's jibs, kickers and booters more often, while backcountry lovers get a headstart to hike Preston Peak and Pioneer Ridge.

Over in Little Cottonwood, Alta (2,624 a., 2,538 vert.) can now brag that novices have a place among the mountain's renowned steeps.

The old Albion is gone, and the Sunnyside high-speed six-pack hustles folks into the bottom of the backside in the Patsy Marley area. It also provides a shortcut to the Devil's Castle-Supreme tough stuff on the back side. Five remote avalanche control towers went in this summer along Castle Peak ridgeline.

And over the ridge at Snowbird, more remote avalanche control towers are in. Visitors might notice construction underway on the replacement of the oldest lift on the hill, the Wilbere double, with a new fixed-grip quad due to open in the spring.

All four resorts encourage riding buses up and, to discourage driving, they impose parking restrictions. At Alta, pay reservations needed Friday-Sunday mornings. Snowbird has an "optional advanced" reservations system, with some free first-come first-served spaces. At Solitude, all parking costs on holidays and weekends except vehicles with four occupants. And at Brighton, reservations required Friday-Sunday, and parking fees charged for vehicles carrying three or fewer.

 

 

 

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Brian Head To Add Terrain, Incorporate Adjacent Development

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Add another Utah ski and snowboard resort to the expansion list, as Brian Head is set to initiate construction that will eventually transform the modest-sized ski and snowboard area into a large-scale new resort.

The project calls for building a gondola to connect an existing layout at Brian Head with newly developed Aspen Meadows resort on 2,000 privately owned acres just over a divide. The Brian Head-Aspen Meadows linkage joins the recently announced Deer Valley-Mayflower marriage that promises to vastly alter the future Utah ski and snowboard landscape.

Languishing for more than three decades, the reactivated Aspen Meadows master plan calls for a third base area for the southern Utah mountain, more than doubling its skiable terrain, and adding seven new lifts, including a two-stage gondola to link the two areas. More parking and new lodging and residential areas are in the plans.

Mountain officials have not set a timeline for the development but have indicated that full build-out of lifts, new skiable terrain, and residential structures could take 30 years.

In 2019, Colorado-based Mountain Capital Partners acquired Brian Head as an element of a spending spree that began in 2015 with Purgatory in southwest Colorado, and now includes 11 ski and snowboard mountains, one snowcat tour service, one dedicated mountain bike park, and two golf courses.

Once in the fold, the Durango company has made it a habit to immediately put money "onto the hill" in the form of snowmaking, lifts, grooming and terrain. So Brian Head regulars and visitors can expect to see on-mountain improvements in the next couple of seasons.

Brian Head has long been a hidden gem on the Utah ski map. Its both the southernmost mountain in the state and the highest base elevation (9,600 feet). Cedar City lies 40 minutes away I-15, and Las Vegas is three hours' drive.

Currently, the trail map encompasses 650 acres with 1,548 feet in vertical drop. Two high-speed quads join with six other chairlifts to deliver skiers and riders around the mountain. The skiable terrain divides up neatly between green-blue Navajo Mountain, and blue-black Giant Steps Mountain.

Sitting on the extreme southwest corner of the Rocky Mountains, Brian is well-situated to catch the leading edge of storms that come up from the southwesterly direction. Also, a number of national parks near Brian Head draw visitors to southern Utah.

 

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Bear Mountain-Snow Summit Interconnect In The Works

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Loyal Southern Californians who travel up the hill each winter to ski or ride at Big Bear Lake's two mountains may have reason to rejoice when a pair of chairlifts bring the two trail maps together.

The ownership of both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain has filed a master plan for expansion that would physically join the two mountains via two new chairlifts for the 2023-2024 season. If so, the family-oriented crowd at Snow Summit will be able to readily unleash their wild side on the terrain parks at Bear -- and vice versa.

The proposed pair of chairlifts will be the first new lifts at either winter resort in 25 years. Situated two miles apart and separated by a small valley, the two mountains have remained discrete -- save for a short drive or shuttle ride -- since they joined forces in 2002 as Big Bear Mountain Resort.

It has been cumbersome to differentiate the offerings of two unconnected hills while trying to market them as a single resort. In 2014, Mammoth Mountain bought the whole resort and, three years later, newly formed Alterra Mountain Co. purchased Mammoth Mountain and brought Big Bear Mountain Resort into the Ikon Pass fold.

Now, if the U.S. Forest Service approves, a pair of chairlifts will team up to ferry skiers and riders between Bear Mountain and Snow Summit to link their trail systems. If all goes without problems with the USFS comment and review periods, construction could begin as soon as next May.

Going in opposite directions, the two chairlifts will rise out of a low point between the two mountains to deposit skiers and riders at their respective summits -- at top of Big Bear Mountain Express and Summit's Lifts 6 and 7. A compact system of new trails -- more challenging on the Big Bear side and more connectors on Summit side -- will run down to the base of both lifts.

Snow Summit opened in 1952, just in time to cash in on the the sport's post-war growth in the L.A. basin. About two hours' drive from the city, it quickly became the go-to day-trip destination in Southern California for the next 17 years.

Then, next door, Goldmine Mountain started up in 1969 and soon was dubbed Big Bear. For the next 33 years, they both competed for the L.A. market. In 2002, Snow Summit ownership purchased Big Bear, changed its name to Bear Mountain, and brought them both under the Big Bear Mountain Resort brand. And late last season, Alterra took nearby Snow Valley under its Ikon wing.

 

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Summer Work At Brundage, Schweitzer To Debut New High-Speeds

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A pair of Idaho's big mountains have decided to heighten their uphill capacities by replacing 1990-era fixed-grip chairlifts with detachable quads during the summer construction season.

The lift replacement projects at Brundage and Schweitzer continue a trend all over the West of putting up faster chairlifts with more seats in order to handle an increasing number of skiers and riders. The past three seasons have seen the first significant hike in skier-visits (60 million in 2021-2022) since the mid-1990s, and resorts have moved quickly to accommodate.

More than a dozen new lifts went in on skier and snowboard mountains in the West last summer, and this summer promises to see another 20 or so installed.

At Brundage, the 32-year-old Centennial Triple will be retired and, in its place, a high-speed four-seater. The new Centennial Express will cut riding time to cover 1,616 vertical feet from 14 to 6 minutes -- lower parking lot base to the 7,600-foot-high summit ridge.

Since the 1990s, the Centennial chair has shared uphill duties with the Blue Bird Express as the only ways to get to the bowls, glades and chutes of Brundage's high ground -- including backside Lakeview. The addition of a second high-speed on the hill will increase capacity by 15%.

Having two high-speed quads in the base area gives us more flexibility and redundancy for moving people up the mountain, which is especially important on busy days and holidays, and during challenging weather conditions,” said Brundage's Ken Rider.

Up in the pandhandle, Schweitzer begins a multi-year focus on its lower mountain with a new high-speed quad to replace the 32-year-old Musical Chairs fixed-grip. The new chair will drastically increase uphill numbers on the primary novice terrain that spreads out above the lower parking lot.

The new high-speed is Schweitzer's first step to building a second village around the mountain's base, including expanded parking and a new base lodge.

Not only will it be easier for beginner skiers and riders to load and unload, the new lift will increase capacity to 2,400 guests per hour, allowing guests to upload and download safer and more efficiently," said Schweitzer's Rob Batchelder. "It will also provide the opportunity to transport foot passengers without skis or snowboards to and from the village, even in summer.”

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Four Pacific Northwest Mountains Go For Replacement Chairlifts

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For those who head the resorts of Oregon and Washington this summer, some will see the footings, towers, haulropes and chairs of new lifts going up on four ski and snowboard mountains.

All of them address the crowding that comes with the popularity of skiing and riding over the past couple of seasons by adding uphill capacity and making it easier to move around the hill.

At Mt. Bachelor, the workhorse four-pack Skyliner Express that loads next to the second parking lot goes into retirement, to be replaced by a new six-seat high-speed chair. The Skyliner has done the heavy lifting on that busy side of the mountain since 1989.

Now, it will fit six on each chair as it rises 1,300 feet in a mile to treeline -- like most Mt. Bachelor chairs. The dome of the resort's namesake peak looms above.

For Summit at Snoqualmie, the Alpental area gets the first of three planned lift replacements underway by with a new Sessel chair -- now, a three-seater. Like the original Sessel, it will run up into the wide-open meadows just above the base area.

Summit at Snoqualmie has committed to build another two chairlifts by the 2024-2025: A third seat on a new ridgetop Edelweiss fixed-grip, and a triple up a brand-new line from mid-mountain into the gnarly cliffs of Upper International.

This summer, Mt. Hood Meadows goes for more uphill capacity with the installation of a new Mount Hood Express. By adding two seats to each chair, the new high-speed six-pack will put a third more folks on the hill than before -- giving more help to the oldest lift on the front side, the fixed-grip Blue double.

Stevens Pass will take down Kehr's, a double fixed-grip that was one of the oldest chairs on the mountain (1964). In its place will go a fixed-grip quad, doubling the capacity on the Big Chief side of the hill.

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Chairlift Projects In Utah Heat Up For Summer Construction Season

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This summer, the two ski and snowboard resorts atop Big Cottonwood Canyon will replace aging high-speed chairlifts with more modern versions, while Utah's only private resort will continue to add to its uphill fleet.

Most recent projects up both Cottonwood canyons center on better handling of crowds that swarm up from the Salt Lake basin, especially on weekends and powder days. Up Little Cottonwood, Alta has upgraded access to backside learning terrain, while Snowbird expanded its tram and added more chair seats to ease stress on Gad Basin.

Now it's Big Cottonwood's turn. Solitude Mountain will add a third more to the capacity of the high-speed Eagle Express this summer. The mountain's four-seater workhorse has been delivering skiers and 'boarders from the main base up into the rest of Solitude's lift network since 1989. Now, a new detachable six-pack will take over, increasing capacity by 30% onto Eagle Ridge.

Up at Brighton, the Crest Express becomes the Crest 6 with two additional seats. Spinning over the terrain park-heavy mid-section of the busy 1,050-acre mountain, the new Crest 6 and its additional capacity will undoubtedly please freestyling skiers and riders who flock to Brighton's renowned six terrain parks -- all located on 200 acres in that area of the hill.

Resort owners had originally planned a four-seater to replace Crest Express, but opted for a six-pack to further increase uphill capacity. In the summer, bike-friendly Brighton will put three bike clips on each chair.

Privately owned and member-only accessible, Wasatch Peaks Ranch will increase its uphill reach next season with its fourth chairlift. Secretive and aimed at what Ski Area Management magazine called "one percent of the richest one percent," Wasatch Peaks will put in an 8,000-foot long high-speed quad. The first three are bubbles with heat. Original plans called for nine lifts on the mountain that is 40 miles northeast of Salt Lake City on the east flank of the Wasatch Range.

And, as previously published by SnoCountry, Snowbasin is adding the Demoisy Express to better serve the Strawberry area and make it easier to return to the base area.

 

 

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New Lifts Will Facilitate Moving Around Sun Valley And Snowbasin

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This summer, the longtime owners of Sun Valley and Snowbasin will make major upgrades at each mountain to smooth out flow and reinvigorate portions of their resorts.

Idaho's Sun Valley has two separate base areas that serve two distinct sides of the mountain -- the main one integrated into the town of Ketchum and the other 12 miles to the west in the Warm Springs settlement. In 2014, a forest fire above Warm Springs took out the Flying Squirrel fixed-grip double chair, making it cumbersome to get into a pair of popular powder stashes from that side of the mountain.

One aim of the Warm Springs project this summer will be to make it easier to get into the Little Scorpion and Frenchman's powder stashes from the Warm Springs base, and to rejuvenate the skier's right portion of the east side of the Sun Valley trail map. A new high-speed quad chair called Flying Squirrel will restore that access by delivering skiers and riders to a ridge top above them.

The other part of the project is a new Challenger chair -- the heavy-lifting high-speed quad from the Warm Springs base up 3,000 vertical feet to the summit ridge line of Baldy Mountain (9,150). Previously, the Challenger shared ridership with the 35-year-old Greyhawk high-speed quad that unloaded halfway up. That chair will be dismantled, and the new six-seat Challenger will have a mid-station.

At Snowbasin in Utah's northern Wasatch Range, the expansive Strawberry Peak area and its eight-seat gondola has become a more and more popular loop for advanced skiers and riders since expansion in 1998.

However, the 1,000 or so acres there is separated by a long ridge from the main mountain and base area -- making for long runouts at the end of the day. So, the new six-pack Demoisy Express is set to go up this summer to ease both congestion and make the return run easier to catch.

The new high-speed will load next to the gondola and rise nearly 2,000 vertical feet to a sheltered dropoff point just short of the top ridge. From there, trails lead to and from the frontside Middle Bowl Express, and skiers and rider get a choice of the alpine terrain of Diamond Bowl or the Strawberry treeless steep slopes.

 

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Colorado Resorts Gear Up For Summer Lift Construction

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When outdoors enthusiasts head to the Colorado Rockies this summer, they will be a sneak peak at a half-dozen new and replacement lifts that are expected to be ready to go for the 2023-2024 ski and snowboard season.

Beginning in the north, the multi-year makeover at Steamboat culminates this summer with the second-leg of Wild Blue gondola and a new high-speed quad to open up Mahogany Ridge.

The first leg of the 10-seat gondola began spinning this season, topping out at a regraded "terrain-based learning" terrain now named Greenhorn Ranch. Ski school headquarters moved up there, served by four moving carpets and a new high-speed quad to make Greenhorn Ranch an encapsulated learning center.

This summer, the Wild Blue gondola will be extended to the 10,384-foot ridgetop Sunshine Peak. The new quad will serve new terrain on the east boundary in Fish Creek Canyon.

At Winter Park, the out-of-the-way Vasquez Ridge trail network will get a faster ride as the 37-year-old four-person Pioneer Express will be replaced by a six-seat detachable chair. A mid-station will improve access of the lower moderate terrain and the more gnarly upper bump runs.

In Summit County, Keystone is scheduled to finally put up the high-speed Bergman Express six-pack to open up heretofore hike-to upper mountain terrain. Postponed last summer, installing of the new chair gives intermediate skiers and riders a taste of alpine bowl skiing, while provide lift access to steeper Erickson Bowl next door.

At Breckenridge, an upgrade at Peak 8 base will replace fixed-grip Lift 5 -- put up in 1970 as one of the resort's first lifts. The new high-speed quad Lift 5 will swish novices higher onto the mountain, as well as give prime access to the long Park Lane terrain park.

Up on Aspen Mountain, the long-awaited Pandora expansion will get its new chairlift this summer. As Aspen's first boundary expansion since it opened in 1946, adding the Pandora snowfields off the summit means 153 acres and a new high-speed quad to skier's right off the summit.

Finally, at Silverton Mountain, crews will install a second fixed-grip chair for its guided powder-stash terrain. Located east of the existing double chair, the new chair will let skiers and riders lap the steeps off Velocity Basin without having to return to the base.

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New Terrain, Upgraded Chairlifts Highlight Spokane-Area Openings

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A quartet of Inland Northwest ski and snowboard mountains within a couple of hours' drive from Spokane have new offerings as the 2022-2023 season gets underway.

The Lookout Pass trail map got longer this summer with the Eagle Pass expansion on the western edge of the mountain. New is nearly 500 more acres with the new Eagle Pass fixed-grip quad, reachable by a leisurely green run off the resort's main summit. Terrain includes mostly blue runs, plus a long lift-line black and a few other expert pitches.

Straddling the both the Idaho-Montana border and the Mountain and Pacific time zones, the expansion nearly doubles the ski and snowboard area's size to 1,023 acres, and it raises the mountain's vertical-foot drop to 1,650. Also this summer, crews regraded the Success beginner area and tweaked the base lodge, rentals and parking. Its season pass links with eight Western resorts, including Bluewood and Mission Ridge in Washington state.

Staying up north, Schweitzer expansive Outback Bowl got an upgrade with the Stella high-speed adding more chairs to reduce the ride time to acres of glades and blue groomers. The chairlift anchors the skier's right portion of the large basin on Schweitzer's back side.

Down below, the children's center got an upgrade, and a new spa has gone in next to the base Selkirk Lodge. Schweitzer honors the Ikon Pass for seven free days.

At 49 Degrees North (named for its latitude), the big news came last season with the opening of the mountain's first high-speed quad chair. The base-to-summit Northern Spirit takes skiers and riders to the high ground in seven minutes, clearing out base area clogs and improving access to the wide variety of trails off the 5,774-foot Mt. Chewelah summit.

Along with the Sunrise Basin and Angel Peak expansions in the recent years, 49 Degrees North has jumped from 1,500 to more than 2,300 acres. Its season pass reciprocates with Bluewood, Mission Ridge, Loup Loup and White Pass in the state.

Northern Idaho's Silver Mountain has opened more powder-stash terrain this season by pushing the ski boundaries off Chair 2 . Named South of the Border, it adds about 20 acres of glades and powder meadows -- plus a new trail back to the base of the lift.

On the other side of the mountain at the Chair 4 mid-station, Silver has opened up a new Jackass Snack Shack to commemorate the resort's first name, Jackass Ski Bowl. The resort is now a member of the Powder Alliance. And, Silver is the only mountain in the West that connects to town (Kellogg, Idaho) via a gondola.

 

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Overhaul Of Sundance Mountain Continues With New Terrain

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Over the past two years, Sundance Mountain Resort has quietly undergone a major overhaul that has smoothed the flow for skiers and riders around the 467-acre mountain.

Nestled in the southern tier of the Wasatch Mountains, this summer Sundance installed its third new chairlift in two years, and cut new trails for 40 acres of brand-new novice/intermediate terrain. Located at mid-mountain on a southern wing of the trail map, the Wildwood area has a new fixed-grip quad that delivers skiers and 'boarders in five minutes to some 10 new blue and green trails.

The new Wildwood section fits conveniently at the top of Jake's Lift that serves the bulk of the green and blue runs on the lower, front half of Sundance. From the top of the chair, skiers and riders have another way to get to the mountain's backside Flathead chair (reportedly slated to be Sundance's next new chair soon) and all its black chutes and bowls.

Since actor Robert Redford sold the resort in 2020, the new ownership has poured cash onto the mountain and into the base area. Formerly all fixed-grip chairs, Sundance now has a high-speed Outlaw that reaches to the false summit on the front side, and a short, 1,000-foot Stairway triple that simplified getting from the front to the back -- and opens up about 15 acres of modest terrain as well.

Down below, the base lodge has gotten a remodel, and a trio of carpet lifts went in for a dedicated beginner area. There's more room for parking, and a higher capacity of snowmaking -- all aimed to make Sundance a more efficient and easy-to-use mountain.

Ticket-wise, Sundance is a partner with the Power Pass and its three-day reciprocal lift tickets with the southwest Colorado-based consortium of eight resorts, including Utah's Nordic Valley.

The 16 ski and snowboard resorts in Utah now welcome millions to their slopes every winter. The vast majority of them either head up the Cottonwood canyons to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude or Brighton, or hop on I-80 in Salt Lake for the half-hour drive to Park City and Deer Valley.

In essence, the 2,150 vertical feet and 515 acres of skiing and riding at Sundance seems to slip beneath the radar of most Utahns and visitors who flock to the state for its "greatest snow on earth." Yet it's only 50-minute drive from Salt Lake to Provo and then up into the hills to Sundance.

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