Inflation, labor shortages, supply chain issues be damned — ski resort construction is on pace to be the most since we began chronicling major construction projects at North American ski resorts two years ago. Vail’s Epic Lift Upgrade, a $320 million capital project, is the company’s largest single-year investment into the mountain experience and a major contributor to this season’s construction volume. Below, we highlight 14 transformative resort construction projects scheduled to complete in time for Winter 2022 – 23.
The number of new chairlifts arriving for this season is the most in recent memory. Image courtesy of Sunday River.
14 transformative projects for Winter 2022 – 2023 (click the resort name to jump to a specific project):
- Snowbird, UT. New tram cars.
- Palisades Tahoe, CA. Building a new gondola to connect the Olympic and Alpine base areas
- Steamboat, CO. Completion of Master Plan, Phase II with a reimagined base area.
- Keystone, CO. Development of new skiable terrain and lift infrastructure in Bergman Bowl.
- Sunday River, ME. Installation of the new Jordan 8 — the fastest lift in North America.
- Whistler Blackcomb, BC. Replacement of several lifts including a new 8‑person Creekside gondola.
- Vail, CO. Expanded access to the back bowls with two new lifts.
- Breckenridge, CO. Increasing lift capacity from the Peak 8 Base Area by 70%.
- Deer Valley, UT. New Burns Express lift to expand terrain access for beginners.
- Stowe, VT. A new 6‑pack doubles capacity and eliminates a hike at Mountain Lift.
- Magic Mountain, VT. A new quad summit chair is the latest major upgrade for the independent resort.
- Mount Snow, VT. Upgrading uphill capacity with two new high-speed lifts.
- Northstar, CA. Doubling uphill capacity with a new 6‑pack Comstock lift.
- Heavenly, CA. Upgrading North Bowl lift to increase capacity and alleviate congestion.
Vail’s Epic Lift Upgrade
The Epic Lift Upgrade covers 19 new lifts across 14 Vail-owned resorts for the 22 – 23 Season
Vail is investing $320 million into 19 new lifts across 14 Vail-owned resorts, all in time for the 22 – 23 Season. Vail’s major objectives are to significantly reduce wait times and increase uphill capacity. The project includes 12 new high-speed chairlifts, a new high-speed gondola, 6 new fixed-grip chairlifts, new lift-served terrain and an expanded restaurant. We’ve included details on 8 of the largest Epic Upgrades below.
1. Snowbird, UT – New tram cars
A modern update to the country’s most iconic tram ride
The new blue tram car is ready for action! Courtesy of Snowbird.
Snowbird began operations of its new Blue Tram Car on July 16. The new car features floor-to-ceiling windows, a roof-top balcony and 3×3′ glass floor panels that offer extraordinary mountain viewing opportunities during the summer.
Two generations of tram cars will run next to each other this summer only. Courtesy of Snowbird.
After 50 years and over 790,000 miles of service, this past Spring, Snowbird announced that it would retire its iconic red and blue tram cars at the end of the season. Initial plans called for two new cars to be installed by June 2022. Plans, however, hit a snag when the new red car fell during installation and was damaged it beyond repair. For now, Snowbird has reinstalled the old red tram to function as a counterweight. Its controls are not compatible with the new system. Doppelmayr is committed to having a new Red Tram ready in time for the 2022 – 23 winter season.
2. Palisades Tahoe, CA – Base-to-base gondola
Connecting the Olympic and Alpine base areas
Planned route for the new gondola to connect Palisades and Alpine Meadows.
The base-to-base gondola is on track to open in November 2022. Towers for the new gondola are in place, and work continues at each base area to round out the project. The 8‑person gondola will transport 1,400 riders per hour from Olympic Village to the Alpine base area (or vice-versa) in 16 minutes. Riders will have the option to disembark at the K‑22 mid-station to access K‑22’s legendary terrain.
Palisades Tahoe is also replacing the historic Red Dog Triple with a new, detachable 6‑pack chair. The Red Dog was one of the resort’s original chairlifts and used during the 1960 Olympics. The new Red Dog is on track to open this Winter. Follow live updates on the construction here.
3. Steamboat, CO – Master Plan Phase II
A completely reimagined base area for a Colorado icon
The reimagined Steamboat base area. Courtesy of Saunders Construction.
The second phase of Steamboat’s gargantuan Master Plan is set to complete for Winter 2022 – 23. This phase includes the opening of a brand new Greenhorn Ranch Learning Center, the Range Food & Drink Hall, and Skeeter’s Ice Rink. The Rink will transition to an events lawn during the summer months.
The lower leg of the Wild Blue Gondola is also on track to open this Winter. The lower leg will offer access from the base area to the mid-station at Greenhorn Ranch in just 5 minutes. Wild Blue is the longest 10-person Gondola in North America.
In addition, the Christie Peak Express has shifted to a new base location between Steamboat Gondola and Wild Blue Gondola. For more on Steamboat’s extensive Master Plan, click here.
4. Keystone, CO – Bergman Bowl expansion & upgraded Outpost Restaurant
Building a high-speed 6‑pack to service 555 acres of new terrain in Bergman Bowl
Development of Bergman Bowl offers a major expansion to beginner and intermediate terrain. Courtesy of Keystone.
Editor’s note: As of July 8th, Keystone has announced that due to an error by a 3rd-party construction crew, the Bergman Bowl chair will be delayed until the 2022 – 23 season. The crew mistakenly built a service road through protected high alpine tundra, which Keystone was required to submit a restoration plan for before construction of the chair could resume. The plan has now been approved, but unfortunately not in time for construction to be completed for the upcoming season.
Major terrain expansion is coming to Keystone. A new high-speed 6‑person chair will expand lift access to 555 acres of terrain and 16 new trails in Bergman Bowl. Much of this terrain will cater to beginners and intermediates. Experts will benefit too as lift-access will expand to previous “hike-to” terrain in Independence and Erickson Bowls. The investment also covers a new ski patrol facility and new snowmaking infrastructure in the area.
The Outpost Restaurant, the popular Bavarian-style Stube at the Summit of North Peak, is expanding by 6,000 square feet, adding 300 more indoor seats and 75 more outdoor seats.
5. Sunday River, ME – Jordan 8, the fastest lift in North America
Increasing capacity to 3,200 skiers/hour & serving as the gateway to the Western Reserve
It’s déjà vu all over again on the East Coast! Just a year after Loon Mountain opened the Kancamagus 8, billed as the fastest lift in North America, Sunday River is set to introduce an 8‑pack of its own. The Jordan 8 will replace the Jordan Express and increase uphill capacity from 2,100 skiers/hour to 3,200. The lift is alleged to run at ~19.5 ft/sec, barely edging out the Kanc 8 at 18 ft/sec. In reality, the difference in speed is nominal, but the fact is that Boyne Resorts continues its streak of major lift investments!
The Jordan 8 will serve as the gateway to the newly coined “Western Reserve,” an area of several thousand acres, owned by Sunday River and prime for future trail development.
Sunday River has also reconfigured the Kansas trail, which provides access to return to the base area from Jordan Peak. To date, several sections of the trail went uphill, causing traffic jams and creating difficulty for many guests. These uphill points have been eliminated, so get ready for a much smoother ride. Snowboarders rejoice! You can find the latest updates on this project here.
6. Whistler Blackcomb, BC – Increasing out of base capacity
A new 8‑person gondola at Creekside & replacing Big Red Express
Whistler’s Creekside Gondola will be replaced with a new, 8‑person gondola. Courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb.
Vail will increase Creekside’s out-of-base uphill capacity by 35% with a new, faster 8‑person Creekside Gondola in place of the 6‑person gondola. Vail is also replacing Big Red Express, a high-speed quad with a high-speed 6‑pack and improving uphill capacity by nearly 30%. As part of the Big Red upgrade, guests will now have a modernized experience from mid-mountain out of the Creekside Area. Construction is set to complete in time for this Winter.
Since acquiring Whistler in 2017, Vail has invested $127 million in upgrades to the resort including the Blackcomb Gondola, three new and upgraded lifts and the RoundHouse restaurant expansion.
7. Vail, CO – Improving access to Sun Down & Game Creek Bowls
New high speed quad in Sun Down Bowl & upgrading Game Creek to a 6‑pack
Vail will expand access to the back bowls with two new lifts. Courtesy of Vail Resorts.
Vail’s back bowls are getting an upgrade with a new high speed quad running from the base of Chair 5 (High Noon Express) to Wildwood restaurant in Sun Down Bowl. Skiers and riders will now be able to lap Sun Down Bowl without traversing from High Noon Express.
Uphill capacity in Game Creek Bowl will also increase by 45%, thanks to a high-speed 6‑pack replacing the long-standing quad.
8. Breckenridge, CO – Increased out-of-base & mid-mountain capacity
Upgrading Rip’s Ride Lift and increasing it’s uphill capacity by nearly 70%
Breckenridge will increase uphill capacity from the Peak 8 Base Area by nearly 70%. Courtesy of Breckenridge.
Vail is replacing Rip’s Ride Lift, a fixed-grip double with a high-speed quad. This will increase uphill capacity by nearly 70% and help to ease congestion in the Peak 8 base area. This lift primarily services the ski school and beginner terrain. This new lift follows the opening of the Freedom Superchair for the 2021 – 22 season, which has helped to improve mid-mountain circulation amongst Peaks 6 and 7.
9. Deer Valley, UT – Burns Express Lift
Expanding beginner access to a wealth of teaching terrain
The new Burns Express Lift will offer beginner access to Little Baldy Mountain.
The first phase of Deer Valley’s extensive Snow Park Village Transformation project, the new Burns Express Lift, will debut this Winter in the Wild West learning area. The lift will provide direct access from Snow Park base area to Little Baldy Mountain. Ski school will benefit from access to additional beginner terrain and out-of-base capacity will improve, generally.
10. Stowe, VT – New Sunrise Lift to Replace Mountain Lift
Replacing fixed-grip triple with high-speed 6‑pack will double uphill capacity
Stowe will double uphill capacity and eliminate the hike to the base of the mountain lift. Courtesy of Stowe.
Vail is replacing the classic fixed-grip triple, Mountain Lift, with a high speed 6‑person lift and extending it to the Mansfield Base Lodge. This will double uphill capacity and eliminate the hike to the base of the lift. Access to lower-level terrain will improve for beginner and intermediates. Plus, the lift will become more reliable on windy days.
11 . Magic Mountain, VT – The Black Chair
A new summit quad for the fiercely independent resort
Once the “Snow Bowl” quad at Stratton, the chair will make its debut as Magic’s Black Chair this winter. Courtesy of Unofficial Networks.
Magic Mountain has continually improved its guest experience and established itself as one of the best independent ski resorts in New England since being acquired by Ski Magic LLC in 2016. Those improvements continue with the final touches on a new “Black Chair” – a.k.a. the summit quad. The chairlift was purchased from neighboring Stratton Mountain in 2018 but operations have been delayed due to Covid-19, mechanical difficulties, and supply chain issues. Finally, the resort appears poised to spin the lift for winter 2022 – 23.
12. Mount Snow, VT – Two new high-speed lifts
A high-speed 6‑pack and a high-speed quad will increase capacity and cut ride times
The Sundance & Tumbleweed triples will be upgraded to a single, high-speed 6‑pack. Courtesy of Mount Snow.
Mount Snow will feel very different with big upgrades to its aging lift infrastructure. Vail is installing a high-speed 6‑pack to replace the Sundance and Tumbleweed lifts, both fixed-grip triples installed in 1984 and 1997, respectively. The new lift with increase uphill capacity by 70% and alleviate crowding in the main base area.
The Sunbrook Lift, initially installed in 1990, will also be upgraded to a high-speed quad. The Sunbrook has long been a slow, nine minute ride, leaving this area relatively uncrowded. The new lift ride will be just over four minutes long and better shielded from the wind. This will also create opportunity for Mt. Snow to re-invent the Sunbrook Base Lodge.
13. Northstar, CA – Comstock Lift
A new 6‑pack lift will reduce wait times and increase capacity by nearly 50%
Northstar will nearly double the capacity of the popular Comstock Lift. Courtesy of Northstar.
Northstar is vastly improving skier flow with a major upgrade to the popular Comstock Lift. The current mid-mountain quad will be replaced with a high-speed 6‑pack lift, nearly doubling uphill capacity and alleviating congestion in this busy area.
14. Heavenly, CA – North Bowl Lift
A new high-speed quad will increase capacity by 40%
Heavenly will increase the capacity of the North Bowl Lift by nearly 40%. Courtesy of Heavenly.
Heavenly is replacing the fixed-grip triple North Bowl lift with a new, high-speed quad. The new lift will increase capacity by 40% and decrease the combined ride time of the Boulder and North Bowl chairs. The new lift is also expected to reduce wait times at the Stagecoach and Olympic lifts.
Longer Term Projects
We’ve just scratched the surface with projects that are on track to open this season. Here are 8 additional major projects planned for the next few years:
- Big Sky, MT: The final phase of the Big Sky 2025 plan will see the construction of a new Lone Peak Tram and a new Gondola connecting the base area to the bottom terminal of the tram. The tram is due to open for the 2023 – 24 season, with the gondola to follow at a later date. > View Big Sky Guide
- Mammoth Mountain, CA: Debuting in 2023, the Canyon Express and Broadway Express chairs will be replaced with new, high-speed 6‑pack chairs. Longer term, Mammoth has announced a massive redevelopment of its Main Lodge that will create a new “Gateway to the Sierras”. The project is due to break ground in 2023. > View Mammoth Mountain Guide
- Crystal Mountain, WA: Crystal has begun a $26 million project to build a new, 25,000 base lodge dubbed “Mountain Commons.” The new lodge is the centerpiece of over $100 million in projects over the coming years, and is due to open for the 2023 – 24 season. > View Crystal Mountain Guide
- Deer Valley, UT: The Utah resort has announced a major renovation and expansion of its Snow Park Base Area, including new skier services facilities; new, contemporary food, beverage and après options; an expansive ski beach; an integrated transportation and mobility hub; underground parking facilities; and chairlift reconfiguration. The project is due to break ground in 2023. > View Deer Valley Guide
- Taos, NM: The resort has unveiled a $300 million Master Plan which includes a host of lift upgrades – most notably a base-to-base gondola connecting the front and backside base areas. The plan also includes new dining facilities and expanded summer programming. > View Taos Guide
- Winter Park, CO: Winter Park’s Master Plan outlines 6 new lifts including a10-person gondola between the resort and the town of Winter Park. The resort has also announced plans for expansion onto Vasquez mountain. > View Winter Park Guide
- Sugarloaf, ME: The main cog of Sugarloaf’s 2030 plan is the West Mountain expansion featuring a new chairlift and significant trail development. The plan will expand the resort’s beginner and intermediate terrain and alleviate traffic at the Super Quad. > View Sugarloaf Guide
- Mayflower Mountain Resort, UT. With the potential to become the first new full service resort in the United States in 40 years, the proposal for Mayflower Mountain Resort envisions 1,000 skiable acres, 15 ski lifts, a gondola, up to 825 hotel rooms, a 68,000 square foot recreation center, and up to 250,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. The Wasatch Country Council received an update in late July 2022. NY-based real estate firm, Extell Development Company is moving ahead with construction on 14 skiing and 11 hiking trails.