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To say that Vail Resorts has big plans for the 2022-’23 ski season is a bit of an understatement. These plans are so big, the company decided to announce them ahead of the upcoming season, so we have even more to be stoked about: VR intends to build or replace a massive 21 chairlifts across 14 of its North American resorts by the start of next season.
The $325 million capital investments include 12 high-speed lifts, one gondola, and six fixed-grip chairs at resorts that span the East to the Left coasts. According to VR, the big push around lift infrastructure is aimed at increasing uphill capacity, decreasing lift lines, and, in some cases, such as the long-awaited expansion into Keystone’s Bergman Bowl, create even more lift-served terrain.
“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,” said Vail Resorts chairman and chief executive officer Rob Katz. “At some of our mountains, this means new high-speed lifts that will double how fast we can move people out of the base areas, and at others, the projects are all about making it easier for people to explore different sections of the mountain.”
Maybe all of this will go a ways toward assuaging pass holders’ worries about crowding—especially after VR peddled its Epic passes at a generous 20-percent discount for the coming season. Or maybe the company is giving some much-needed love to a handful of resort infrastructures that have been patiently waiting for updates. Perhaps it’s a little bit of both.
Either way, lift additions and upgrades are pretty exciting news around these parts, so here are the highlights of what skiers visiting Vail-owned or -operated resorts have to look forward to in the not-so-distant future.
Keystone Resort, Colo.
One of the most exciting updates is planned for Keystone with the addition of a lift in Bergman Bowl, formerly only hike-to or snowcat-served terrain. A high-speed six-person lift will serve up 16 new runs—that’s 555 acres added to the resort’s existing 3,148—plus a patrol facility and snowmaking infrastructure. VR says that this area will have green and blue runs in addition to expert terrain, getting more skiers back into this pristine area. The new Bergman terrain will also provide expanded access to Independence and Erickson bowls’ expert powder fields.
Not lift related, but the Outpost Restaurant at North Peak will be expanded by 6,000 square feet, making room for 300 more indoor and 75 more outdoor seats for guests.
Vail Mountain, Colo.
Anyone remember the viral photos of a lift line a hundred people deep in Vail’s Back Bowls a couple seasons ago? That lift was the High Noon Express (Chair 5), and this upgrade addresses that cluster with a high-speed quad from the base of High Noon to the Wildwood restaurant that will reduce crowding on Chair 5 while simultaneously providing easier access to Sun Down Bowl.
Also planned is a high-speed six-pack to replace the current quad in Game Creek Bowl, which will double the rider capacity.
Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.
Whistler is getting two upgrades that are dually designed to improve the experience out of the Creekside base area. The Creekside gondola will be replaced with a new high-speed eight-person gondola (it’s currently equipped with six-person cabins) that will increase uphill capacity by 35 percent. And where the new gondola deposits skiers roughly halfway up the mountain, a new high-speed six-pack will pick up the slack, replacing the Big Red Express quad and ferrying skiers the rest of the way to below Glacier Bowl and Little Whistler Peak.
Park City Resort, Utah (on hold)
In addition to being the recipient of VR’s very first eight-person chair, Park City is the also the first of its resorts to send a six-pack, well, packing. The 25-year-old Silverlode six-seater, a common congestion point at the lower elevations of the Park City base, will now be the location of an eight-person lift that will increase lift capacity by 20 percent.
The beginner Eagle lift will be upgraded to a high-speed six-seater, which is expected to ease lift lines at another traditionally congested area, one that serves ski school and novice skiers, to boot.
The popular mid-mountain Comstock Lift gets bumped from a four- to a six-person high-speed lift, which will result in a 50-percent capacity increase in one of the most congested spots on the mountain.
A high-speed quad will take the place of a fixed-grip triple in the resort’s North Bowl pod, augmenting the skier experience by cutting wait times at nearby lifts such as the Stagecoach and Olympic lifts, as well.
Stowe Mountain Resort, Vt.
The first new lift at Stowe since Vail bought the resort in 2017, the Mountain Lift will get a meaningful upgrade from a fixed-grip triple to a high-speed six-pack that will increase uphill capacity by 100 percent, plus help take some of the pressure off of the congested FourRunner Quad. Even better, the new iteration of the lift will be extended to eliminate the steep hike to the base of the former lift. Hamstrings everywhere rejoice.
Mount Snow, Vt.
Vail acquired Mount Snow in 2019 with its purchase of Peak Resorts, and aficionados have been waiting for VR to invest some cash into the southern Vermont staple. Mount Snow’s planned upgrade replaces two old triple chairs at the extremely crowded base—the Sundance and Tumbleweed chairs—with one high-speed six-person chair. Expect uphill capacity to increase to the tune of 70 percent.
The Sunbrook Chair on the backside will also be replaced by a high-speed quad, decreasing the ride time on the 900-vertical-foot lift from 14 minutes to less than 10.
Attitash Mountain Resort, N.H.
One fixed-grip quad will take the place of the nearly 50-year-old East and West double chairs.
Jack Frost-Big Boulder, Pa.
Jack Frost gets two new fixed-grip quads to replace four existing lifts; at Big Boulder, a fixed-grip four-person chair will replace the Edelweiss Triple.
Boston Mills-Brandywine, Ohio
Finally, two new chairs improve the skier experience at this set of resorts 30 minutes south of Cleveland. Boston Mills will have a fixed-grip quad in place of a slow double, while Brandywine gets a fixed-grip quad in place of a triple chair.