It was a busy off-season, as usual, at local ski resorts, with new lifts being installed, new restaurants being readied, and a range of other upgrades happening behind the scenes.
The biggest mover was Copper Mountain, which spent $20 million to replace its workhorse American Eagle and American Flyer four-person chairs in Center Village with higher-capacity lifts that also provide shelter from adverse weather. The Eagle is now a state-of-the-art hybrid with a combination of six-person chairs and eight-person gondola cabins, increasing uphill capacity by more than 40 percent. Every fifth chair will be a gondola. The Flyer, which locals called American Freezer due to its exposure to stinging west winds, went from a high-speed quad to a high-speed six-pack with bubble enclosures.
“The increase in capacity is really more about ease of access,” says Public Relations Manager Taylor Prather. “We haven’t really been known as a resort that has long lift lines, and we intend to shrink our lines even further with these new lifts. Once people get through the Eagle and Flyer pinch points, they’ll be able to spread out even more, whether they’re accessing beginner terrain to the west or advanced terrain to the east and south.”
Meanwhile, A-Basin unveiled its new four-person Beavers Chairlift, which will serve 339 acres of formerly hike-out terrain that opened last winter (along with the Steep Gullies, pictured, 139 acres of new non-lift-served extreme terrain). Guests can lap the Beavers now—a prospect that Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth raved about before the 1,500-vertical-foot lift was completed, saying, “It’s just phenomenal, mind-blowing tree skiing in there.” Henceroth anticipated that the lift (which debuted on Nov. 26 this season due to an abundance of November snow) will be open by Christmas each winter, conditions permitting.
Loveland Ski Area replaced its venerable Chair 1 with the first high-speed quad in its 80-year history. The new lift, called Chet’s Dream in honor of longtime owner Chet Upham, cuts the ride time from eight minutes to less than three and increases capacity to 1,800 people per hour. Upham, who died in 2008, helped convince Loveland’s early partners to install Chair 1 in 1956. It was only the third chairlift in Colorado at the time.
After installing new lifts last season, both Breckenridge and Keystone focused on upgrading their snowmaking capabilities and adding new dining options this year. Breck replaced more than 50 snow guns on Peak 9 with cutting-edge, high-efficiency guns, and debuted two quick-stop eateries: the Waffle Shop at the Maggie, which offers grab-and-go waffles, and the Coop at Peak 7’s on-mountain restaurant (Sevens), an outdoor express window serving diverse chicken dishes. Breck also is rolling out a ski school program called Go Beyond ($855, breckenridge.com), which pairs groups of up to six capable guests with experienced instructors to tour Breck’s high-alpine terrain and gain behind-the-scenes knowledge about ski patrol’s avalanche mitigation.
Keystone improved its snowmaking along the popular intermediate trail Paymaster, and at the Mountain House base area added Go Big Burger Bar, a family dining option with huge burgers, fries, and milkshakes—and a moniker that handily sums up the ethos guiding the upgrades at Summit’s resorts this season.