Over the past few years, ski resorts have absolutely exploded with new investments. And this upcoming season is perhaps the craziest one yet—across the North American ski scene, more than 30 major ski resorts are in for some sort of serious upgrade.
But not all upgrades are created equal. So which ones are solely “nice-to-haves”, and which ones are true game changers? In this piece, we’ll go through the scheduled upgrades at each of these mountains for the 2023-24 season, and we’ll detail the implications if you’re planning a trip there.
To break everything down, we’ll tier each suite of improvements into four different categories:
Minor Investments: smaller-scale changes that aren’t intended to have huge front-facing experience impacts
Noteworthy Investments: important changes that aren’t the most prominent, but have the potential to bring palpable experience improvements
Substantial Investments: changes that we expect most guests will prominently notice
Game-Changing Investments: changes that will not only be noticed, but have the potential to expand the resorts appeal to a meaningful new clientele
And if we didn’t cover a mountain, it means that no serious investments have been made for the upcoming season—or at least as of this recording, haven’t been announced yet.
Tier 1: Minor Investments
Starting out, we have some more under-the-radar investments that won’t exactly make a splash, but are intended to keep resorts operating to their fullest potential for the foreseeable future. And there are a ton of resorts getting these small-scale upgrades.
General Upgrade Initiatives
Before we jump into specific projects, we want to highlight a few general upgrade initiatives that have made their way to dozens of resorts around the continent. A large chunk of the North American ski scene has announced investments in snowmaking, employee housing, parking access, and RFID compatibility for the upcoming season, and it’s possible that others are continuing to invest in these areas in an under-the-radar fashion:
NEW EMPLOYEE HOUSING:
Silver Star, British Columbia
NEW RFID ACCESS:
Silver Star, British Columbia
In addition, every U.S. ski resort owned by Vail Resorts has now moved to phone-based access, meaning guests now have the option to load their ticket or pass on their phone and not have to wait in line at the ticket counter.
My Epic Gear
Finally, Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, and Breckenridge will be the first mountains to pilot My Epic Gear, a new Vail Resorts-run subscription program that will allow guests access to the same model of skis, snowboards, and boots throughout the season at any of these four resorts. This idea might sound crazy—and we’re definitely a bit skeptical on how the shared boots will work—but Vail Resorts has a ton of customer data, and it would be foolish to underestimate them here.
Next, we can move on to a few small-scale investments that may be low key, but are still worth calling out individually.
Starting with Deer Valley, this year’s focus is on the mid-mountain Royal Street Café, where the second floor is getting an extensive, après-oriented redesign. Additionally, after a several-year hiatus, the resort has reinstated an in-advance reservation requirement for Ikon Pass holders who want to visit. This high-end Utah resort has been in the news lately for an absolutely insane 3,700-acre expansion project; however, it’s worth noting that the first major new terrain opening as part of this initiative won’t occur until at least 2025.
Red Pine Gondola Cabins
It’s not exactly the biggest year for neighboring Park City either, which had hoped to install two new chairlifts by now but faced high-profile project approvals issues from its town council. However, the resort has replaced the gondola cabins for its Canyons-side Red Pine Gondola, bringing an important update to the main out-of-base lift there. The capacity and mechanics of the lift remain the same, but the old, issue-prone cabins are now a thing of the past, which should effectively increase throughput and bring some lift line relief.
Night Skiing and Other Policy Updates
Continuing on the Utah train, nearby Powder Mountain is making some modest investments too. In addition to some learning zone and snowmaking enhancements, the resort is drastically cutting their night skiing lift ticket prices to $19 per evening—this is a significant drop from last season, when they ranged between $40 and $65. And while minor, Powder Mountain’s snowmaking operations this season will be their first ever, marking a notable step forward for the resort and bringing it in line with other destination ski resorts in the United States. Finally, while not included with a regular lift ticket, Powder Mountain is expanding its guided backcountry terrain by another 500 acres.
Learning Area Revamp
Western Canada’s Revelstoke may be notorious for its expert-oriented nature, but its upgrades for this season are chiefly focused on beginners. The resort is relocating its learning area from the midstation of the Revelation Gondola to the top of the gondola, allowing for operations at an elevation that’s not dependent on snowmaking. The project involves relocating the magic carpet and adding a new ski school facility adjacent to the Mackenzie Outpost lodge.
In addition to the learning enhancements, Revelstoke is increasing the capacity of its Ripper chair by 20% and regrading the green-circle Sally Alley trail off that lift.
Gondola Capacity Upgrade
Moving westward in the Great White North, Silver Star is also bringing a capacity upgrade to a workhorse lift. The resort is doubling the number of cabins on its Schumann Summit Express Gondola, bringing a much-needed throughput boost to what’s arguably its flagship lift.
Learning Area + Freestyle Revamp
Southern Vermont’s Stratton is also spearheading an overhaul of its bunny hill this winter. The resort is adding three new covered magic carpets, making for a total of five carpets at the main base, and regrading the slopes to better orient the learning area for progression. Stratton is also adding a handful of new terrain parks for the upcoming season, including a new boardercross setup on Big Ben.
Trail Network Adjustments
Just a few hours north, Vermont’s Sugarbush is completely redesigning its Reverse Traverse trail, which should make it much easier to get from the helper Valley House Quad lift to the upper mountain Heaven’s Gate and Castlerock lifts. This change probably won’t have a major effect during off-peak times, but it has the potential to make the Valley House lift more appealing when lines for the Super Bravo Express quad get bad, potentially taking some pressure off of that workhorse lift.
Over on the Mount Ellen Side, Sugarbush is officializing its Rob Royce trail off the Summit Quad, a narrow, expert-oriented run to skiers’ right of the lift that’s technically been there since the ‘60s but hasn’t been counted as a formal trail in recorded memory. Sugarbush is also making some renovations to its Lincoln Peak base facilities and reinstating a yet-to-be-announced trail somewhere else on its footprint.
“Windham Mountain Club”
Rounding out this category is New York State’s Windham, which, in a push to move more upscale, has completely rebranded from just plain-old Windham to the Windham Mountain Club.
The rebranded resort is adding several new dining options including an “Italian Alps-style” mid-mountain restaurant, an upgraded food court, and a new Mediterranean option at the base. The resort says lift tickets will be capped to provide “uncrowded” slopes and is now requiring “2-day minimum” lift ticket purchases on peak days.
Tier 2: Noteworthy Investments
Next up, we have the upgrades that have significant potential to overhaul on-mountain resort experiences, although they might not exactly be headliners.
Sessel Triple Chair
Let’s start with Washington State’s Alpental, which is replacing its beginner-oriented Sessel double chair with a modern, fixed-grip triple lift in a slightly longer alignment. This upgrade probably won’t have much of an impact in the upcoming season, given it doesn’t provide access to that much terrain or connect to Alpental’s upper mountain, which hosts the resort’s most interesting and unique advanced and expert runs. But in its new alignment and upgraded capacity, the new Sessel lift plays an important role for future planned upgrades.
In the next few years, Alpental plans to add an infill International chairlift in a completely new alignment, which, combined with the upcoming Sessel chair, will provide the first lift redundancy to Alpental’s upper mountain in the resort’s history. The current Edelweiss double sees unconscionable lines on weekends and holidays, and when the Sessel/International lift route is completed some time around 2025, we expect it to provide substantial relief there.
Elsewhere at Alpental, the resort has added new chairs to the Armstrong Express lift, increasing capacity for the mountain’s only high-speed quad by 20%.
Breckenridge is now three for three in terms of seasons in a row with new high-speed quads, and this time around, it’s replacing its 5-Chair on Peak 8 with the similarly named Five SuperChair.
The new Five means that every out-of-base lift at Peak 8 will now be high-speed, but perhaps more importantly, it also means that all of Peak 8’s beginner terrain is now directly accessible from a high-speed lift, whereas in this past season, guests would either have to stick to the Rip’s Ride bunny hill or embark on a modest intermediate stint off the Colorado SuperChair for high-speed access to green trails. The Five chair also provides the main access to Breckenridge’s terrain parks, and we expect the upgraded lift to take some pressure off the Colorado SuperChair, which is more out of the way but was previously more desirable to ride, as a result.
New Mid-Mountain Lodge
After two seasons of construction, Copper is finally opening a brand new mid-mountain lodge. The previous lodge wasn’t terrible, but with so few facilities in Copper’s backside terrain zones, guests would come from all sorts of areas to stop in here, overloading it on peak weekends and holidays. The new Aerie Lodge looks to provide much improved capacity, and it’s on track to include the resort’s first full-service mid-mountain restaurant.
Copper is also on track to open a few new beginner trails and glades off its Lumberjack lift, which should set this area up well when the ancient Lumberjack triple gets replaced with a high-speed lift in the next year or two.
New Mid-Mountain Lodge
Washington State’s Crystal is also getting a new mid-mountain lodge for the upcoming season, although it won’t be quite as big as Copper’s. The new Midway Yurt is expected to include grab-and-go food, drinks, and retail items. It’s unclear just how big this lodge, which is expected to sit near the base of the Rainier Express lift, will be—but Crystal’s only current large mid-mountain lodge is the Campbell Basin complex at the top of Forest Queen, and the resort certainly won’t be hurt by another option in the area.
Beginner Terrain Overhaul
New York State’s Gore is conducting an extensive renovation of its beginner area. The project chiefly involves removing its Bear Cub platter and replacing it with a fixed-grip quad in a doubly-long alignment. This updated lift will still cater to beginners, but it’s expected to allow novice guests to get on a chairlift without having to ride seven minutes to the top of Sunway—and provide access to a newly opened path down the Bear Cub Run trail.
Black Line Quad
After years of bootstrapped construction, Vermont’s Magic Mountain plans to finally complete its Black Line Quad for the 2023-24 season. The fixed-grip quad, which was bought used from Stratton in 2018 and has been under construction since, will triple capacity to the resort’s summit once complete.
Assuming this project actually finishes, Magic Mountain will likely also increase lift ticket availability during peak weekends and holidays.
Canyon Express Six-Pack
California’s Mammoth is conducting an important life cycle update this season, replacing its aging Canyon Express quad with a brand-new high-speed six-pack. The Canyon lift technically has some redundancies, but as the primary lower-mountain lift for guests coming directly from town, it gets pretty backed up during peak times and could definitely use the extra capacity from a six-place setup. Mammoth’s back side is getting some love too, and the Melt House structure will finally be completed, most notably doubling the number of bathrooms compared to previous seasons.
Skyliner Express Six-Pack
Like Mammoth, Oregon’s Mount Bachelor is conducting a life cycle replacement for one of its aging high-speed quads, and again, is replacing it with a six-pack—the resort’s first ever. But unlike Mammoth’s Canyon project, the new Skyliner six-pack is replacing a lift that was less of a workhorse for the resort, and more a lift that was truly in dire need of replacement.
The outgoing Skyliner high-speed quad had a catastrophic failure in early 2022, and while it was repaired to operate this past season, it was clear the lift’s days were numbered. We expect the new Skyliner lift to provide a much more reliable experience for some of Mount Bachelor’s most popular intermediate cruiser terrain—and one that will hopefully take some of the pressure off of the Pine Marten and Sunrise lifts, which start at Bachelor’s two true base lodges and have historically been much more popular lifts.
Mount Hood Meadows
Mount Hood Express Six-Pack
It’s the year of the six-pack, and you guessed it—Bachelor’s northwest neighbor Mount Hood Meadows is also seeing an aging high-speed quad replaced with a sixer.
The tried and true Mount Hood Express is perhaps the most overworked lift in Oregon, and it’s long past due for a capacity upgrade. And just before its 30th birthday, it looks like that upgrade is coming to pass. We’re doubtful that this project will eliminate lines at the chronically crowded and alpine-constrained Meadows, but we’re hopeful that it will help at least a bit.
Off-Piste Terrain Reopenings
Sierra-at-Tahoe is the one mountain on this list that isn’t adding a new piece of infrastructure. Rather, it’s expected to complete a three-season-long recovery effort after a massive wildfire ravaged the resort in the summer of 2021.
The resort opened most of its terrain last winter, but it wasn’t able to complete all of its tree clearing efforts to ensure the safety of some of its remaining glade terrain. This remaining tree clearing work is expected to be done by the beginning of this season, which should allow guests to explore freely across Sierra’s extensive—albeit now much more open—footprint once again.
Eagle Express Six-Pack
If you’ve been to Utah’s Solitude at any time in the recent past, you might know that the resort’s Eagle Express lift has long been one of the oldest high-speed quads in Utah. And if you had a sense of where this was going based on the other mountains we’ve covered so far, you guessed it—this chair is getting a six-pack replacement for the upcoming 2023-24 season.
The Eagle chair has never been Solitude’s highest pressure terrain zone, but with a 35-year-old design and parts that were getting really hard to source, it was ready to go. We don’t expect the Eagle six-pack to bring huge changes to crowd flow at Solitude—and we’re not even sure whether the new lift will see a capacity upgrade at all—but this upgrade will certainly bring added resiliency to this important terrain pod.
Kehr’s Quad Chair
Washington state’s Stevens Pass is upgrading one of its oldest lifts for the upcoming season. The nearly six-decade-old Kehr’s double chair is on its way out, and in its place will be a brand new fixed-grip quad in a new alignment. The updated lift line is intended to make it easier to transfer to the upper-mountain Double Diamond lift and minimize traversing.
One might wonder why a resort like Stevens Pass wouldn’t add a high-speed quad in this alignment—after all, the resort already has three detachables elsewhere around the mountain. But the Kehr’s lift line is pretty short, so a high-speed investment may not have saved too much time overall. Ultimately, we expect the new lift to provide reliable and slightly more convenient service to this area for decades to come.
Restored Giuseppe’s Restaurant
Last season, Telluride executed one of its most-needed lift projects: a high-speed upgrade for its long, upper-mountain Plunge lift, also known as Lift 9. But one surprising casualty of that upgrade was the resort’s Giuseppe’s Restaurant, which used to sit at the top of Lift 9 but had to be removed as part of lift construction.
Thankfully, Telluride is expected to restore a restaurant in this area for the upcoming season, which should address this thankfully temporary food desert in this increasingly popular area.
Like a lot of the other resorts we’ve covered so far, Whistler Blackcomb is replacing one of its older high-speed quads with a more modern, higher-capacity chairlift. But unlike those other projects, the new Fitzsimmons lift is actually an eight-pack—the first one in Western Canada.
The story behind how Whistler got this lift earmarked for Fitzsimmons in the first place is pretty wild—the lift was originally intended to be installed as Park City’s new Silverlode chair for the 2022-23 season, and all the parts were even shipped there—but the project was cancelled due to local issues at the last minute, and Vail Resorts decided to ship the entire thing up to Whistler instead.
So what should we make of the Fitzsimmons 8? Well, Whistler’s base area has made itself known for explosive lift lines during peak times, and theoretically, it could use all the capacity it could get. But in reality, we still think a good number of guests will stick to the gondolas, given it’s not that easy to get to upper mountain areas from Fitz and there won’t be any bubbles to shield guests on rainy days.
The biggest benefit may be for the bike park, which gets pretty packed and has historically utilized Fitzsimmons as a major lift. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see.
Wild Spur Express Six-Pack
Colorado’s Winter Park is also replacing its oldest high-speed quad next season, and the replacement is—you guessed it—a six-pack. But the new Wild Spur lift, which will replace the Pioneer Express quad, isn’t exactly a one-for-one replacement; instead, the new lift will have a mid-station that will allow guests to avoid a long, flat runout to get to the bottom of the lift and simply lap the more enjoyable terrain above the intersection. We’re hopeful that the increased capacity and added mid-station will help siphon crowds away from other popular lifts such as Olympia and Explorer.
Winter Park is also adding a new tap room in its base village and introducing pop-up food shacks at various junction points, which should make it easier for guests to get the food they want with less hassle.
New Beginner Lift
Southern Colorado’s Wolf Creek mountain is adding a new beginner lift in a brand new alignment for the upcoming season. The Tumbler quad, a fixed-grip lift that will span approximately 900 feet, will begin adjacent to the Alberta Lot and will expand the area of terrain that can be directly accessed by beginners. Unfortunately, this lift does not look to address the fact that there are no green trails to access the beginner-oriented Charity Jane area, but it should at least make the experience a lot nicer for those learning.
Tier 3: Substantial Investments
Next up, we have headliner changes that we expect the vast majority of resort guests to prominently notice.
Hero’s Terrain Expansion
Aspen Mountain, which is the town hill for the namesake Aspen Snowmass complex, is getting its first terrain expansion since the year 2000. This modestly-sized Colorado mountain, known locally as Ajax, is on track to see a 153-acre upper-mountain expansion known as Hero’s. The project will bring a significant focus on intermediate and expert terrain and a brand-new high-speed quad.
One of Aspen Mountain’s biggest drawbacks has historically been how hard it’s been to lap much of its terrain, especially when it comes to expert slopes, so adding such a high number of short but easily lappable double-black trails as part of the Hero’s expansion could seriously change how the mountain skis. We’re not quite sure that this expansion has the appeal to bring new types of clientele to Ajax, but we’re hopeful it makes the mountain a lot more enjoyable.
Summit Lift Replacement
New Hampshire’s Attitash is finally getting what has long been perhaps the most requested lift upgrade in the state: a high-speed replacement for its painful Summit Triple. The brand new Mountaineer high-speed quad will finally bring top-to-bottom high-speed service to Attitash’s main mountain, eliminating a 12-minute lift ride and addressing what is arguably the most undesirable trail pod solely due to lift speed in the state. We’re hopeful this lift upgrade makes this area much more attractive and helps relieve crowds on the historically better set-up Bear Mountain side.
New Lone Peak Tram
Big Sky, Montana’s largest resort, is seeing a replacement for its iconic Lone Peak Tram. The new lift will come with a 200% capacity increase and much lower base terminal, with the tram now directly accessible from out-of-base lifts. We expect the 75-passenger lift to make it much more convenient to lap tram-served terrain and reach the summit from Big Sky’s base.
However, this project comes with a catch. Unfortunately, access to the Lone Peak Tram will continue to be priced as an extra-cost add-on, with the fee moving to a “per-ride” structure versus last year’s “per-day” cost. As a result, guests will have to pay anywhere between $10 to over $40 for every ride up the tram, which partially negates the benefit from realigning the lift to make it more lappable. As a reminder, the Lone Peak Tram is the only aerial lift in North America that is not included in the price of a regular ski resort lift ticket.
The changes at Big Sky are not limited to the new tram, however. The resort is also introducing a new double-blue-square rating, with over half of the existing blue trails moving into the new difficulty category. As part of the change, three single-black trails will become double-blues as well, and a handful of green trails will now be rebranded to single-blues.
New Crest Lift + Mid-Mountain Lodge
Utah’s Brighton ski resort has a pretty massive year coming up. First off, the resort is replacing its workhorse Crest Express quad with a brand-new, state-of-the-art six-pack. The new lift is not only expected to increase capacity at this very congested area, but is also expected to use contemporary technology to allow for faster travel speed than traditional detachable lifts.
In addition, Brighton’s Sidewinder Lodge will be its first mid-mountain lodge ever, bringing much-needed seating without forcing guests to ski or ride all the way down to one of the bases.
It’s also worth noting that Brighton will become the fourth and final Cottonwoods resort to implement a paid parking policy next winter, and with the exceptions of Brighton season passholders and carpools or 3 or more, the resort will charge at least $20 seven days a week at all of its lots.
In tandem, we expect these projects to bring significant crowd management and experience changes across the resort.
South Peak Expansion
New Hampshire’s Loon has some big investments coming to its South Peak side. The resort is expected to expand its lower mountain by over 30 acres, adding a mix of beginner and intermediate trails, and bringing publicly accessible green terrain to the South Peak side for the first time ever. The new terrain will be serviced by the new Timbertown fixed-grip quad, which will also provide lift service from the Escape Route parking lot for the first time, eliminating the need for a shuttle ride to reach the mountain from most of South Peak’s parking.
This project has substantial implications for Loon’s beginner experience and South Peak accessibility, and while the fixed-grip nature of the new quad means it likely won’t become a workhorse lapping pod, we’re hopeful the project takes some of the burden off the much more popular North Peak side.
New Knob Lift
By far the northernmost major ski resort in Canada, Alberta’s Marmot Basin is replacing its highest-elevation lift for the upcoming season. The Knob double chair is no more, with a realigned and lengthened fixed-grip quad taking its place. Notably, the new Knob Quad will increase Marmot Basin’s lift-served vertical drop by approximately 400 feet, and will shorten the hike to the non-lift-served terrain off the resort’s true summit by the same amount.
Beginner + Parking Enhancements
Idaho’s Schweitzer is also in for a substantial investment in its beginner and parking access departments. The resort is replacing its ancient Musical Chairs double lift with a modern, high-speed quad, and extending the lift line downward to provide access from a massive new 1,400-space parking lot. For now, terrain remains pretty much the same, but this area will also eventually include a new base lodge and additional beginner trails.
Schweitzer’s biggest drawbacks have historically been its limited onsite parking and scant, neglected beginner terrain, and while Schweitzer still won’t offer any green runs above its main base area, this development looks to significantly address both of these issues. It’s also worth noting that Schweitzer is moving to unlimited access on the Ikon full and Base Pass products, versus 7 and 5 days of access, respectively, last season.
DeMoisy Express + Lodge and Parking Enhancements
Utah’s Snowbasin has a major slate of upgrades on the horizon for this upcoming season.
The biggest one is the DeMoisy Express six-pack, an infill lift that’s expected to bring much-needed relief to the Strawberry Gondola, which we’d argue is the one true remaining chokepoint on the mountain. The new lift should also allow visitors to get back to the base without going all the way to the top of Strawberry, making it slightly faster to get out from the furthest resort areas, and provide better wind resiliency for that part of the mountain.
Snowbasin is topping this investment off by adding a patio at the base of the Strawberry Lodge, providing new seating and dining options. Other expected improvements include expanded overflow parking and new bathrooms at the main base.
Warm Springs Base Overhaul
This season, Sun Valley is getting perhaps the most-needed lower-mountain lift network overhaul at the resort. The Idaho destination is removing the two lifts out of its Warm Springs base area, Challenger and Greyhawk, and replacing them with two brand-new detachables—one six-pack, and one quad.
The new Challenger six-pack will directly replace both the Challenger and Greyhawk lifts, using the same lift line as the current Challenger lift but featuring a mid-station at the current Greyhawk terminus. The new Flying Squirrel high-speed quad will run in a completely new alignment, starting at the Warm Springs base but mostly replicating the lift line of the long-removed Flying Squirrel lift after that. This project has significant implications for spending time on the Warm Springs side of Sun Valley, making it much faster to get to certain mountain areas and finally providing redundancy out of that part of the resort.
Guests may also want to know that the Christmas and Frenchman’s lifts, which host the only remaining teardrop-shaped lift carriers at the resort, are on track to have them removed and replaced with the old Challenger and Greyhawk carriers. These chairs had a distinctive character to them, and it truly is the end of an era at Sun Valley.
Barker 6 Lift + Merrill Hill II Expansion
Frequenters to Maine’s Sunday River will be ecstatic to hear that the resort is finally replacing its aging, issue-prone Barker Express quad for the upcoming winter. The 35-year-old lift will be replaced by the Barker 6, a state-of-the-art bubble six-pack that’s similar in nature to the Jordan 8 installed at the western end of the resort last season. We expect the new lift, which will have heated, contoured seats in addition to brand-aligned ruby red bubbles, to provide a faster, more reliable experience than the outgoing Barker lift.
Sunday River is also adding a second Merrill Hill triple lift on top of the first one added last year, which will likely add a handful of beginner and intermediate trails, but is mainly intended to facilitate slopeside condo development.
Lift 4 + Pioneer Lift Upgrades
It’s a big year for Taos, which is expected to double its number of detachable chairlifts all the way from one to two. The northern New Mexico resort is replacing its Lift 4 chair with a detachable quad, bringing high-speed lift service to Taos’ back side for the first time. We expect this upgrade to greatly improve the experience for lower-ability Taos visitors; the only existing high-speed quad, Lift 1, is much more expert-oriented, and this project should finally bring high-speed service to a terrain pod that’s designed for beginners and intermediates.
Taos is also replacing its Pioneer beginner lift with another, more modern fixed-grip triple and realigning the lift to run on the other side of the trail for easier village access and better snowmaking efficiency. And to top it all off, Taos plans to add three new trails—two advanced and one expert—and reopen the Martini Tree Bar at the base.
It’s also worth noting that Taos will no longer be included on the Ikon Base Pass for the upcoming season, but that Base Plus and full Ikon Pass holders will no longer have to make reservations to visit.
New Notch Lift
This season, New York’s Whiteface is on track to see its biggest lift upgrade in fifteen years. The resort is installing a detachable quad called The Notch in a brand new alignment, connecting from the Bear Den Mountain base to the mid-mountain Legacy Lodge. The new lift will also have an angled mid-unloading station about halfway up.
While this lift won’t directly add capacity at the often-congested main base, it has the potential to shift considerable traffic to Bear Den instead, providing much-needed relief to the Cloudsplitter Gondola and Face Lift. But perhaps more importantly, the new lift will provide direct access to the mid-mountain lodge, solving a major logistical issue with the resort; currently, the only lift routes to this lodge go too far up and out of the way.
Elsewhere at Whiteface, the magic carpet at the Bear Den base is also in for a realignment to make it easier to access for first timers.
Tier 4: Game-Changing Investments
Finally, we get into investments that have the potential to be true game changers for their respective resorts. All three of these mountains are on track to see truly transformative projects this winter, with upgrades that will not only add new lifts and terrain, but may ultimately change the fundamental character of who these resorts attract.
Bergman Bowl Six-Pack
After an unexpected year-long delay caused by unfortunate construction blunders, Keystone is finally installing its Bergman Bowl Express lift for the 2023-24 season. This high-speed six-pack is expected to bring lift service to Keystone’s high-alpine bowl terrain for the first time, addressing a substantial shortcoming compared to the resort’s other Colorado Front Range competitors. Once complete, the new lift will increase Keystone’s lift-served footprint by 550 skiable acres, access 16 newly defined trails across 550 skiable acres, and extend the resort’s lift-served vertical drop by an additional 300 feet. Notably, the expansion is expected to provide beginner and intermediate bowl terrain on top of the already-existing advanced options; this has profound implications for the Colorado high-alpine scene, likely transforming Keystone from an also-ran in this area into one of the few resorts offering bowl areas tailored to skiers and riders of lower ability levels.
For long-time Keystone guests who have historically hiked the Bergman Bowl, there may be some disappointment regarding the changes and disturbances in this area. However, it’s worth noting that the new lift will also significantly enhance guest access to the resort’s other hike-to terrain, particularly the Independence and Outback Bowls.
New Lifts + Terrain Expansion
It’s an absolutely huge year for Colorado’s Steamboat, with the resort on track to realize two massive projects this winter. First, the resort will complete the second stage of the Wild Blue Gondola, which, in its finished form, will become the longest unicable detachable gondola in North America. Second, the resort will open an expansion into Mahogany Ridge, which is expected to bring 650 acres of lift-served and hike-back advanced and expert terrain.
Steamboat has long struggled with frustrating lift chokepoints and difficult expert terrain access, but these projects promise to significantly alleviate both issues. If Steamboat succeeds in becoming a more ergonomic mountain to spend time on, it stands to become much more competitive against its fellow in-state destinations.
West Mountain Expansion
Maine may not be the most prominent state for skiing on the East Coast, but for this upcoming season, it’s home to what’s the largest lift-served ski resort project this side of the Mississippi since the 20th century. Sugarloaf, which is already the state’s largest resort, is on track to grow another 300 acres by substantially expanding its West Mountain zone.
The investment will add 12 new trails of beginner and intermediate difficulty served by a new high-speed quad. As part of the initiative, the agonizingly long West Mountain double lift will be shortened, eliminating the top 40% of the line. Notably, depending on the final footprint measurement, the new expansion may elevate Sugarloaf above Killington to become the largest ski resort on the East Coast.
We’d argue Sugarloaf’s two biggest downsides are its rather ordinary feeling front side and its fixed-grip-heavy lift fleet, and this project, while certainly geared towards less experienced skiers and riders, looks promising to address both shortcomings. The project isn’t expected to be done until late January or early February, but when it is, it has the potential to really shake up the East Coast ski resort scene.
Well! That’s a whirlwind of upgrades for the upcoming season, with all sorts of projects set for completion across the continent. It’s going to be a huge year for Colorado, Utah, and Maine, and while it’s definitely more of an off-year for Vermont and Tahoe, no destination region will truly remain untouched.
It’s worth noting that five of the fourteen resorts that fall into our Substantial and Game-Changing Investments category are owned by one company: Boyne Resorts. These guys have ambitious master plans for just about every resort they own, and the fruits of their efforts are really starting to culminate this winter. Every Boyne ski resort is on the Ikon Pass, so if you have such a product, make sure to keep an eye out for these guys.
Another fun tidbit: every new lift that’s directly replacing an old high-speed quad this season is either a six-pack or larger. All nine new high-speed quads are either replacing a slow, fixed-grip lift or providing lift service in a brand new alignment. We’d attribute this to two things: the old high-speed quads were already in pretty popular resort areas, meaning a capacity upgrade wouldn’t hurt, and it would be hard to market the new lifts as improvements if to the average person, they looked the same as the old ones.
What do you think about these upgrades? Any in particular you’re stoked to try out? Let us know in the comments below!