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These Ikon Resorts Are Getting the Biggest Upgrades Next Season

Alterra’s $500 million in added infrastructure will bring eight new or upgraded lifts, two new base lodges, and more.

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If you’re on the fence about your season pass purchase for next season, Alterra Mountain Co., parent company of the Ikon Pass, just announced infrastructure plans at its resorts, and some of these upgrades might sweeten the deal, especially if Steamboat, Crystal, Winter Park, or Mammoth are on your go list.

Greenhorn Ranch Steamboat
A dual conveyor lift serves the new terrain-based learning area at Steamboat’s Greenhorn Ranch. (Photo: Courtesy of Steamboat Resort)

This comes on the heels of major investments at Palisades Tahoe (Base to Base Gondola) and Steamboat (Greenhorn Ranch and first stage of Wild Blue Gondola), two major upgrades that were completed for the current season.

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For the 2023-’24 season, Alterra will replace or upgrade eight lifts, invest in snowmaking, add skier amenities, focus on technology to improve the guest experience, and pour $50 million into employee housing projects. Here’s how it breaks down.

New Lifts and Base Lodges

Mountain Commons Crystal
Crystal’s Mountain Commons will add several new dining and retail options. (Rendering: Courtesy of Crystal Mountain)
  • Steamboat Resort, Colo.
    The massive, multi-year Full Steam Ahead project will be completed in time for next season. The final phase includes 655 additional acres of expert terrain and the second leg of the 10-person Wild Blue Gondola, which will be the longest gondola in North America. Wild Blue will increase skier capacity from the base from 6,000 to 10,000 people per hour, and make the top-to-bottom ride in 13 minutes. The new terrain, located in Mahogany Ridge, will be glades served by a new high-speed quad. This terrain expansion bumps Steamboat from fifth-largest to second-largest resort in Colorado.
  • Crystal Mountain, Wash.
    A much-needed new base lodge, Mountain Commons, will debut next season. The 25,000-square-foot facility will serve up new dining options including a pizza place and a BBQ joint, and guest services such as ticketing and retail. Mountain Commons will be flanked by a new snow beach featuring fire pits and patio dining with mountain views. There will also be a grab-and-go café on the first level for a quick bite on your way out to the lifts. Don’t miss the new Bootpack Bar for après, located inside the Smokehouse BBQ restaurant.
  • Winter Park, Colo.
    In what will be a meaningful upgrade for the Front Range resort, Winter Park will replace the Pioneer Express, the main lift that serves the Vasquez Ridge terrain, with a six-pack, and will also add a mid-station where skiers can load at the intersection of the Big Valley and Pioneer Express runs. This means that skiers who want to lap the expert glades and steeps in Vasquez can skip the green runs on the lower portion of the slopes that lead back to the base of the chairlift.
  • Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
    Lift 17, also known as the Canyon Express, will be upgraded to a high-speed six-person chair from a quad, which will increase capacity by 25 percent and let the lift reopen sooner after weather holds.
  • Snowshoe Mountain Resort, W.Va.
    The Powder Monkey triple will become a fixed-grip quad, which will increase uphill capacity out of the Basin terrain pod and make it easier to get to the expert terrain in the resort’s Western Territory. This will be the first lift upgrade at the resort in over 15 years and will help thin out congestion on the frontside of the mountain. The resort will also get a new base lodge replacing the dated Shaver Center, which will offer skier services and new dining and après options.

Free NASTAR Race Courses

Next season, all Alterra mountains will offer free NASTAR courses. Photo: Dave Camara/Camara Photography

In a new partnership with Mikaela Shiffrin, Alterra is adding free NASTAR race courses to all of its resorts for the 2023-’24 season. The hope it to increase access to, and interest in, ski racing in North America. Currently, the existing courses at Deer Valley, Solitude, Palisades Tahoe, and Sugarbush are free and open to the public through the end of the current ski season.

Innovative Terrain-Based Learning Areas

Steamboat’s Greenhorn Ranch sets the standard for how to teach beginners, using terrain-based learning on shaped slopes. Alterra will expand the concept to other resorts next season, including Deer Valley, Stratton, Snowshoe, and Big Bear.

Enhanced Snowmaking

While not the sexiest upgrades, investing in more efficient snowmaking equipment and repairing aging systems is one of the most meaningful places Alterra can spend money, ensuring as-early-as-possible resort openings and quality early-season coverage over the Christmas holidays. Resorts getting snowmaking attention next season are Winter Park, Steamboat, Palisades Tahoe, Sugarbush., Snowshoe, and Mammoth.

Employee Housing Additions

Another behind-the-scenes upgrade that greatly affects efficiency on the slopes is a resort’s ability to attract and retain staff. Affordable employee housing is a huge piece of that puzzle. Alterra plans to double its employee housing over the next five years, and will add 500 beds next season alone at Palisades Tahoe, Stratton, Tremblant, and Winter Park.