As the 2017-18 ski season winds down, there’s no shortage of industry news in anticipation of the 2018-19 season. Even after the snow melts, resorts are busy preparing to make the next season even better than the last.
New Lift Construction
This off-season will be particularly active in terms of new lift construction. If ski lifts are your thing, liftblog.com is the best source for news in this arena. Blogger Peter Landsman has been busy recently keeping up with all the announcements. Here are a few highlights.
On March 7, Big Sky Resort in Montana announced construction of the first eight-seater lift in North America. The new “Ramcharger 8” will replace a quad lift coming out of the base area.
Copper Mountain in Colorado plans big changes to the lifts starting in the Center Village. The American Eagle lift, a high-speed quad, will be replaced by an unusual lift that includes both six-person chairs and eight-person gondola cabins. American Flyer, the other main high-speed quad coming out of Center Village, will upgrade to a 6-person chair with bubble enclosures.
Also in Colorado, Winter Park will spend $28 million on improvements for next season. The centerpiece of the upgrades will be a $16-million, 10-person gondola to replace the Zephyr Express quad chairlift.
The Beavers terrain at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado did open this past season. However, the hike-out terrain will be fully lift-served next season with a new quad chairlift to be built this summer.
In the East, Stratton will add a new high-speed Snow Bowl lift. “A new Snow Bowl lift topped our priority list,” said Stratton President and COO Bill Nupp. “Guests were clear on that. This high-speed chairlift will enhance flow, access and reliability. We expect to dismantle the 31-year-old fixed-grip quad it replaces and fly out the towers as soon as the season wraps up, with the new lift ready for the 2018-19 season, pending final permit approval.”
East Finishing Strong
Before lift construction begins, the 2017-18 season must wrap up and it may last a little longer than usual in the East. A string of nor-easters in March dumped unusually heavy snow on resorts throughout the Northeast. For example, Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont had totaled 286 inches of season snowfall by late March. As a result of the strong March storms, several ski areas are still debating about pushing back their closing dates well into April.
Industry Consolidation Shaping Future
Throughout the past season, the talk of the ski industry has been ownership consolidation or partnerships between resorts in order to compete effectively. Alterra Mountain Company was officially created in January. The company’s 12 resorts include Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, plus Mammoth and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows in California.
Meanwhile, Boyne Resorts bought full ownership of six resorts that it had previously just been operating. Announced on March 12, the purchase includes Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine, along with Brighton in Utah.
With more formidable competitors emerging, the nation’s largest resort operator, Vail Resorts, forged new alliances for its Epic Pass with resorts such as Crested Butte and Telluride in Colorado. The company also plans to make $52 million in capital improvements during the off-season at Whistler Blackcomb in Canada.