Winter Improvements in North America
This summer, North American resorts are going to be busy with a huge amount of investment planned to improve customer experience, from new gondolas and chairlifts to reimagined on-mountain dining options.
We've dug through the news to highlight the most significant developments planned, all of which should dramatically improve your time in resort next winter.
Possibly the most significant development for Ski Safari guests (it’s your favourite place to ski!) is the new Blackcomb gondola in Whistler.
The new 10-person gondola will replace the Wizard and Solar chairlifts which are currently used to get up Blackcomb Mountain, matching the Whistler Village Gondola by taking skiers from the base to the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. It will be the first three-gondola connection in the world and will represent a 47% capacity increase, moving 4,000 people per hour.
Whistler Blackcomb is also upgrading two existing lifts – the Family Ski Zone's Emerald Express 4-person lift will be replaced with a new 6-person high-speed lift, increasing uphill capacity by 29% while the Catskinner 3-person lift is getting an upgrade to a 4-person high-speed lift, increase uphill capacity by 56%.
This all means less time queuing and sitting on lifts and more time on the slopes!
The Sun Peaks Grand Hotel is our favourite place to stay in Sun Peaks but, as reflected in reviews from this season, the rooms are starting to look a little tired. Good news then that the resort is investing $7 million CAD to renovate all 221 guestrooms this summer. Due for completion in December 2018, we can’t wait to see what the new rooms look like – if they’re anything like the artist impressions future guests are in for a treat.
The makeover of the Sun Peaks Grand isn’t the only improvement in the resort. $4 million CAD is going towards a brand new four-passenger chairlift which will improve ski-in ski-out access for accommodation in the East Village area as well as provide easier access to under-used family-friendly blue runs and mellow glade skiing in the area.
Other on-mountain improvements include additional capacity on the most popular chair, the Sundance Express and two new PistenBully snowcats to keep the pistes in pristine condition.
“When was the last time someone spent $10 million to show you a good time?” asked Big White’s senior vice president, Michael J. Ballingall as the resort announced its largest investment in a decade.
The main improvement will be the replacement of the Powder Chair with a new four-passenger fixed grip lift. The existing chair is Canada’s oldest triple chair and has provided 15,868,476 rides since being built in 1979 - certainly due an upgrade! The new chair increases uphill capacity by 1,900 passengers per hour.
Other improvements include expanding the skier tunnel on the Hummingbird run to allow for increased skier and foot traffic, grooming and glading of existing runs, a new Pistenbully groomer, resort maintenance and a new on-mountain shuttle bus.
To celebrate the resort's 60th anniversary, Silver Star is replacing the Summit double chair with a new high-speed eight-person Doppelmayr gondola. Featuring floor to ceiling glass for spectacular views, the new gondola will take skiers from Silver Star village to the summit in just four and a half minutes - a third of the time of the existing chair.
Part of Alterra Mountain Company’s $130 million portfolio development, Tremblant’s Lowell Thomas chairlift will be replaced with a high-speed four-passenger detachable chairlift, increasing uphill capacity by 33% and the resort will also be increasing the snowmaking operation.
There are a lot of new lifts being built this summer, but in an effort to outdo the others, Big Sky is building North America’s first eight-seater! The state-of-the-art high-speed chairlift will have all the mod cons including extra-wide, heated seats and “Big Sky blue” bubbles for protection from poor weather.
It’s not the only new chair in Big Sky, with the resort also replacing the Shedhorn double chair with a high-speed quad which will shorten the uphill ride by nearly two thirds. Alongside the lift development, the base area will be getting bigger as the eight-seat chairlift will be placed 50 feet uphill from the current lift.
Off the slopes, the Mountain Village also has improvements planned including a renovation of the upper level of the Mountain Mall to create a modern ski lodge food hall and 700 capacity venue. Alongside new coffee, wine and beer bars, expect new food options, such as stone-fired artisan pizza, sushi, ramen and crepe stations. The space itself will be more attractive with indoor fireplaces and exceptional mountain views on an expanded, elevated deck.
Winter Park is gaining a new gondola this winter with the Zephyr Gondola replaces the existing Zephyr Express Quad. Switching to a gondola will increase uphill capacity to 3,200 passengers per hour and decreasing queueing times by up to 15 minutes.
Conditions on the slopes are also getting a makeover as the 42-year old snowmaking system is being upgraded with state-of-the-art energy efficient systems. While the resort does receive an impressive 30 ft of snow in an average year, its high altitude combined with snowmaking will allow for a longer season.
Mammoth Mountain’s main day lodge, Canyon Lodge, is being renovated over the next two years, including a new retail space, more user-friendly access rentals and ticket windows, innovative food and drink services and a redeveloped snow beach area.
Following on from the opening of the Sweetwater Gondola in December 2016, Jackson Hole continues to invest in the on-mountain experience for beginners and families with Solitude Station. Located at the Sweetwater mid-station, Solitude Station is a 7,000 square foot facility tailored to beginner skiers with rentals, ski schools and dining, all adjacent to improved learning terrain.
The learning experience is the focus in Park City for 2018/19 with the introduction of the High Meadow Family Fun Zone at Canyons Village. The dedicated learning area will benefit from a new High Meadow high-speed four-passenger lift replacing the existing lift - increasing uphill capacity by 50% and shortening ride time by 70%. The resort is adding additional snowmaking in the area to provide the perfect snow conditions for learning while the new Candy Cabin will be a tempting place to visit for sweet treats and chocolates during rest breaks.
It's not just the kids benefiting from new on-mountain dining options. Park City's iconic Mid-Mountain Lodge is getting a complete makeover (including new dining options) while retaining its historic miners' boarding house feel. The popular Cloud Dine restaurant is also gaining an additional 200 seasons to increase capacity by 60%.
The 400 acres of terrain accessed by the Galaxy chair in Heavenly will skiable again in 2018 after two years of closure as the resort is replacing the out-of-use lift with a new fixed-grip triple chair.
Steamboat’s 2018/19 developments bring good news for foodies. Alongside a complete redevelopment of the popular Bear River Restaurant, keep your eyes peeled for a new snowcat food truck that will roam the mountain.
The Bear River Restaurant, the main bar and restaurant in the base area, is becoming Timber & Torch. Expect expanded indoor seating, a new outdoor heated patio, two bars, an exterior fireplace and a new outdoor BBQ.
We’re even more excited about the new “Taco Beast”, an on-mountain, roaming snowcat serving up carne asada, al pastor trail tacos, breakfast burritos, esquites and Mexican-style beer. You’ll be able to track the Taco Beast’s location for a unique take on on-mountain dining. The popular Cloud Dine restaurant is gaining an additional 200 seasons to increase capacity by 60%.
The 'Beast of the East' is getting a $16 million upgrade for 18-19, including new lifts, improved intermediate terrain and an upgrade to the K-1 Express Gondola. The combined lift upgrades will increase uphill capacity in Killington to 48,000 riders per hour.
A new 6-person high-speed bubble chairlift will replace the Snowdown chair, which is being refurbished and moved to the South Ridge area which has not had lift service since 2011.
The K-1 Express Gondola has received numerous upgrades over the past few years. This season, all the cabins will be replaced with brand-new 8-person cabins alongside some other infrastructure improvements.
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Book Now for 2018/19
To learn more about any of the resorts above, or to book, request a quotation online or call our North America ski specialists on 01273 224060.
One of the handful of non-skiers before joining Ski Safari, I've now skied in North America, Europe and Asia and can't imagine a winter without at least one ski trip!