By David & Ann Schissler – We recently took a look at press releases and emails from January and February regarding announcements of lift expansion plans for this summer. We decided to reach out and see just which projects were still moving forward and which had fallen victim to Covid-19. This is by no means a complete list but it does provide a valid indication of the magnitude the Pandemic’s impact is having on capital improvements across the continent.
Here’s the good news. Most resorts have decided to continue with their lift upgrades and new installations. Cases in point are:
Arapahoe Basin, CO is a Legend, capital L intended. The Legend at the Legend is the Pallavicini fixed grip double chair. The “Pali” was installed in 1978. Since that time it has earned a reputation for being the toughest double in North America. From the base area it rises 1,329 feet with absolutely stunning views of the Continental Divide, and delivers you directly onto 40-degree pitches encompassing some of the steepest inbounds skiing anywhere in North America. It’s truly world class big mountain skiing. Management says it considered a high-speed quad as a replacement for about a minute and decided to stick with the fixed-grip double. If you’ve ever ridden the Pali, that’s Ok with you. In fact it’s poetic.
Next winter a new era will begin at Arizona Snowbowl. This summer the old Aggazi lift is being upgraded in a big way. The mountain is installing a “chondola”. In this case it’s a combination high-speed six chair and eight-passenger gondola with two chairs for every gondola. There are only six such chairs in North America. It will cut ride time by more than half and climb up 2,000 vertical feet in just 7 minutes. The existing lift has been in place since 1986 and replaced and earlier chair from 1961.
After five years of closure Saddleback Mountain, ME is reborn. New management purchased a HSQ to replace the 57-year-old Rangeley double chair. The new HSQ, also named Rangeley, triples uphill capacity to 2,400 riders per hour and cuts ride time by nearly two-thirds.
Timberline Mountain, WV is moving forward with plans to dismantle and replace the Thunderstruck Triple Chair with a new HS6, the first in the state, and a HSQ. The six-pack will take riders to the summit and the mid mountain quad will provide access to moderate terrain.
The Cons: Some very large projects at some very prestigious resorts will not happen this summer
Keystone, CO planned to replace the venerable Peru HSQ in the Mountain House Base Area with a HS6 but the project has been pushed to next summer. Keystone’s proposed expansion of lift served skiing into Bergman Bowl is the subject of Forest Service hearings as of this date and is expected to be approved. The bowl already offers cat and hike-up access. The expansion includes a new 4,500-foot-long high-speed lift and 16 new intermediate trails, largely above tree line. The adjacent Erickson Bowl will be the site of 40 acres of new glades.
Okemo, VT was to be the beneficiary of the second largest project by Vail Resorts this summer. What was called a “transformational” investment has been pushed into next summer. The plan called for the upgrade of the Quantum HSQ to a HS6 then using the Quantum HSQ to replace the Green Ridge triple. The plan also included renovations and expansion of the dining and ski school areas and improved access upon arrival at the mountain.
Beaver Creek, CO has pushed McCoy Park Expansion. One of the most idyllic alpine meadows I’ve seen in North America is McCoy Park at Beaver Creek. For years it’s been BC’s touring area. Plans to install two new chair lifts, including a HSQ servicing largely green and some blue terrain has been pushed to next summer.
A new High-Speed Quad on Peak 7 in Breckenridge, CO is on hold. It was to increase capacity to moderate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7.
Big Sky, MT has pushed the installation of the Swift Current 6 to next summer. It was intended to replace the existing HSQ and is a key part of Big Sky’s 2025 Vision master plan. The heated six-seater will have a waterproof blue bubble and will be the fastest six-pack in the country traveling at a stunning 1,200 feet per minute. That’s 6 meters or approximately 20 feet per second!
Loon Mountain, NH has postponed the replacement and upgrade to the Kancamagus HSQ with the new Kancamagus 8 pack, the first in the east, until next summer bringing the new lift online for the winter of 20/21. The lift serves the very busy Governor Adams base area which is largely blue terrain. The fear was that the Covid-19 Pandemic would complicate the installation and leave Loon vulnerable to losing the part of the mountain for next season. Dismantling the existing lift and constructing the new lift over this summer was in question.
Timberline Lodge, OR planned to upgrade the Pucci fixed-grip triple chair with a new HSQ but that project has been postponed. Installed as a replacement for the previous lift in 1987, it’s the oldest lift on the mountain.
Mammoth Mountain, CA has delayed the replacement of its two oldest HSQs with new HS6s. The new lifts were to replace the Broadway Express and the Canyon Express, 32-years old and 26 years respectively.
Mont Tremblant, PQ recently purchased a new Doppelmayr HSQ but the mountain has yet to decide if it will move forward or not.