What’s New at Ski Resorts This Winter?

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Inside information from the country’s most well-informed chairlift operator.

Peter Landsman knows a thing or two about ski lifts. On his simply named Lift Blog, Landsman maintains a database of every chairlift, gondola and T-bar in the United States, breaking them down by manufacturer, year installed, vertical rise and more. He even tracks gondolas and lifts in warm-weather tourist destinations and amusement parks.

Landsman’s fascination with lifts began in childhood, skiing at Snoqualmie Pass and Crystal Mountain, the two resorts closest to his hometown of Mercer Island, Washington. After college, he got a job as a liftie at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming, where he has worked his way up to his current position of lift supervisor.

Among the trends Landsman highlighted for the 2018-2019 season: new gondolas, more access to expanded terrain and faster and bigger lifts to move skiers and snowboarders more quickly. Many of the resorts making upgrades this year are participating in multi-resort passes —like the Epic Pass from Vail Resorts and the brand-new Ikon Pass—so they’re preparing for an influx of powder hounds. “Everyone hopes people will ski a lot more,” Landsman said.

Overall, there will be 54 new lifts added to the U.S. and Canada this year. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

A-Basin added a new quad for this season that delivers skiers to brand new terrain. (Photo Credit: Dave Camera/Arapahoe Basin)

Expanded Access

Several resorts are working to add or expand terrain, as skiers and snowboarders look for more adventure on the slopes. At Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin, a two-year expansion project will add nearly 500 acres to the resort this winter, including a 350-acre zone called The Beavers, once a popular backcountry area accessed from the resort and now inbounds terrain with avalanche mitigation. The new terrain features nearly two dozen runs with steep chutes, open faces and natural glades, all served by a new quad chair also called The Beavers.

Other areas adding new lift-served terrain this year include Washington’s Mt. Spokane, New York’s Hunter Mountain and Colorado’s Wolf Creek.

Big Sky in Montana is adding the country's first eight-person chairlift. (Photo Courtesy of Big Sky Resort)

Bigger, Better Chairlifts

Montana’s Big Sky Resort is making a splash this winter by debuting the country’s first eight-person chairlift. The Doppelmayr-manufactured Ramcharger 8 lift features heated seats, an adjustable loading platform and enclosed bubbles that shield riders from the elements.

Eight-person chairlifts exist at many resorts around Europe, but, according to Landsman, Big Sky’s new lift takes state-of-the-art technology to another level. “Big Sky has basically bought the fanciest chairlift you can buy. They’ve combined a whole bunch of things onto one chairlift that nobody’s ever done before,” he said.

Bubble chairs are also popping up at Killington Ski Resort in Vermont and Colorado’s Copper Mountain this year, but Landsman also said some resorts are removing them due to high maintenance costs. At Killington, the new six-passenger Snowdon Express bubble lift will replace a quad chair that will move to the resort’s South Ridge zone, improving access to an area that’s been without its own dedicated lift since 2011.

Aside from rider comfort, speed is another goal of this year’s upgrades. Loveland Ski Area in Colorado has replaced its beloved Chair 1 triple to a high-speed quad, an upgrade that cuts rider time from seven minutes to three.

Killington in Vermont has a new bubble chairlift to keep riders warm and dry. (Photo Courtesy of Killington Resort)

New Gondolas

Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia is adding three new lifts this season: two chairs and a 10-person gondola that will provide faster access to the upper reaches of Blackcomb Mountain and make it easier to jump from Blackcomb to Whistler and vice versa. It will be the “world’s first three-gondola connection,” Landsman said.

Two resorts—Quebec’s Bromont and Copper Mountain in Colorado—will add combined gondola/chairlift systems that run six-person chairs and gondola cabins on the same line. Sometimes called a “chondola,” the hybrid lift gives skiers and riders the option to wait for a cabin or hop on a chair, where lines are usually shorter.

Other resorts expected to debut new gondolas this season include New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods, Colorado’s Winter Park, British Columbia’s Silver Star and Montana’s private Yellowstone Club.

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