In 1981, Breckenridge installed a detachable high-speed lift, the Quicksilver SuperChair. Clipping along at over twice the speed of conventional fixed-grip lifts, this chair was the first of what would become the ski industry standard.
This summer is seeing a bonanza of new high-speed ski lifts in Colorado and Utah.
Here’s a quick rundown of where you can expect to find faster (and more comfortable) chairlifts next winter.
New Lifts & More in Colorado
1. Powderhorn Mountain Resort, Colorado
Powderhorn is a Colorado secret that deserves to be better known. I grew up skiing at Powderhorn, and while I’m loyal to this small resort’s amazing glades and often-deep powder, I’ve been complaining about the slow main lift for at least a decade.
This summer, the resort is installing a new Leitner Poma high-speed quad. The new lift will cut ride time from around 13 minutes to just 6 minutes, providing faster access to Powderhorn’s 600+ acres of groomed and 1600 acres of total skiable terrain.
The new lift will also have bike haul, and the resort is cutting trails for Summer 2016. View Powderhorn Mountain Resort lift tickets.
2. Purgatory, Colorado
A southwestern Colorado favorite, Purgatory (formerly known as Durango Mountain Resort) has a new owner with new plans. Local businessman James Coleman purchased the resort on February 25th and immediately restored the original Purgatory name and logo in honor of the resort’s upcoming 50th anniversary.
Just a few weeks later, Purgatory made plans to replace Chair 8 on the backside with a new high-speed quad. The old fixed grip lift, with midway loading, was a favorite with resident grey jays, or “camp robbers,” who would eat from skiers’ and snowboarders’ hands as they rode the slow lift.
Serving some of Purgatory’s best glades, steepest faces and signature ripping rollers, the new lift is guaranteed to be popular with guests, if not with birds. View Purgatory lift tickets.
3. Snowmass, Colorado
Thirty years after installing the resort’s first high-speed lift (Coney Glade), the Aspen Skiing Company is replacing one of Snowmass’ few remaining fixed grip lifts with a high-speed model. The new ride time for the High Alpine lift will be 5.6 minutes, down from 11 minutes.
Uphill capacity will remain the same and the new lift will be realigned to improve mountain circulation.
“With the realignment and the additional trail work and glading, our guests will have a vastly improved experience in the High Alpine pod on Snowmass,” said Steve Sewell, Snowmass General Manager.
“The new alignment will allow guests to ski from Rock Island, AMF, and the Cirque without dropping to the lower mountain to access the High Alpine area. Additionally, skiers and riders can now easily access Upper Green Cabin without a long flat traverse…especially important for snowboarders.” View Aspen/Snowmass lift tickets.
Other Colorado Upgrades
While new lifts are always exciting, families will enjoy the new 7,000 square foot Kids Center at Arapahoe Basin. Powered with solar energy, the sustainable building houses rentals and lessons for kids, an indoor play area and the ski patrol. View Arapahoe Basin lift tickets.
Major Upgrades in Utah
1. Park City, Utah
When Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort open next fall, together they’ll have the most skiable terrain in North America with 7,300 acres. The two resorts will be linked by a new Interconnecting Gondola that will run from the base of the Silverlode lift at PCMR and end at the Flatiron lift at Canyons. New trails linking the resorts are being cut as well.
Two popular Park City lifts are also being upgraded. The Motherlode lift, currently a fixed grip triple, will be replaced with a new detachable high speed quad, while the King Con lift will be upgraded to a six person high speed lift.
All told, Vail Resorts is investing $50 million this summer on these two resorts. Look for new and improved restaurants and lodges, as well as more snowmaking for next season.
2. Solitude, Utah
In late April, Solitude Mountain Resort (located in Big Cottonwood Canyon) was purchased by Deer Valley Resort of Park City. Immediately, people began wondering how the two would be connected. Just a few miles apart as the crow flies, in winter the mountains are an hour apart by car.
The short answer? They won’t be connected. Although they are now sister resorts in the same family, Solitude and Deer Valley will continue to stand alone.
Still, important changes are coming to Solitude. The Summit double chair will be replaced with a realigned high-speed quad. A new ski run will link the top of the Apex Express chairlift to the bottom terminal of the realigned Summit Express chairlift, making it easier to access the resort’s extreme terrain in Honeycomb Canyon. The Moonbeam lodge is also being upgraded for next season. View Solitude lift tickets.
Other Utah Upgrades
While Park City and Solitude are the only Utah resorts thus far to have announced major lift investment, Paul Marshall from Ski Utah is stoked about the upcoming season.
“It’s hard to put it into words on how excited we are for next year,” he shares.
“With the merger of Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons resort, Utah will have the biggest ski resort in the US. Sundance is opening the 3rd longest zip line in the United States. Deer Valley now owns and operates Solitude. Brighton is celebrating their 80th year and Snowbird will be opening the Hidden Peak lodge.
Just one of these capital investments is exciting, to have them all in once season will make 2015/16 one of Utah’s biggest seasons ever.”