After 23 seasons, Alta finally decided to upgrade its Sunnyside lift in an attempt to reduce lift lines in the Albion base area and improve access to the Sugarloaf and Supreme lifts. This summer they have been working to install the replacement, a new high-speed six-pack lift made by Leitner Poma.
Leitner Poma is one of two companies forming a duopoly on the U.S. lift market. (The other company is Austria’s Doppelmayr.) Speaking in an interview last December with the Colorado Sun, Leitner’s President Darren Cole reported the demand for chairlifts has now come roaring back since COVID shortened the previous seasons. His team is backed up into 2023 with no quick installs for the foreseeable future. Cole goes on to say, “The whole world is changing and next year will be off the charts. It’s kind of amazing how much is being invested right now,” before estimating that $300 million of new lifts will be installed in the U.S. next year alone.
Alta’s new replacement lift is part of a larger summer maintenance program that accomplishes a variety of different duties including trail maintenance, avalanche mitigation improvements, environmental stewardship, and educational activities all while working alongside the U.S. Forest Service and the Alta Environmental Center (AEC). Here is a detailed breakdown of this summer’s activities, according to Alta Ski Area:
1. Tree Removal
Each offseason we remove trees that have succumbed to mountain pine beetles or have been knocked loose by winter storms. We also trim, thin, and remove trees to reduce wildfire fuels and preserve skiing corridors on the mountain. We have also removed a number of trees to accommodate the new Sunnyside lift and terrain improvements in the Sleepy Hollow area. The forest service approves every tree we remove. Downed trees are repurposed into log benches, barricades, trail bridges, boardwalks, and campground firewood.
New this summer, we are using a portable lumber mill to repurpose some of the removed trees into lumber for snow fencing and other projects within the ski area.
2. Trail Crew
Maintenance and improvement of summer hiking trails always keep us busy. You may have seen some of our hard work paying dividends on the mountain this summer.
New signage, ropes, and photo pull-outs in the Albion Basin have been appreciated by many of our summer visitors. These are just a few of the steps we have taken to preserve the overloved fields of wildflowers in Alta.
The rerouted Homerun trail now winds its way through the Albion Meadows instead of straight-lining its way down the mountain. Mountain bikers, in particular, are enjoying the new berms. The Snake Pit trail has been widened and offers some great views while serving as an alternative to the popular Upper Albion Meadows Trail.
3. Avalanche Office
Meanwhile, on Mount Baldy, Alta’s Avalanche Office is working to move Alta’s avalanche mitigation program into the future.
Alta Ski Area is moving towards Remote Avalanche Control Systems (RACS) and away from the use of military artillery. These RACS will increase the efficiency of avalanche mitigation and reduce the risk to our skiers and our employees. RACS is currently in use in East Baldy and East Castle. These tools have proven to be very effective in our ski area and above Highway 210 and the Town of Alta.
The RACS project has created busier skies above Alta this summer as helicopters have been used to access the remote and sensitive locations where the RACS needs to be installed. We recognize that the use of helicopters has brought significant noise to a normally quiet and tranquil setting. Please accept our apology for this inconvenience. The use of helicopters allows us to minimize the impact of construction in these remote and sensitive areas of the ski area. Thanks for your understanding and patience as this project nears its completion.
4. Alta Environmental Center
The Alta Environmental Center (AEC) has been busy working alongside our trail crew and providing Summer Stewardship and Environmental Education events for our community.
Earlier this summer, the AEC received a delivery of over 9,000 native plant seedlings. These seedlings continue to grow and thrive under close supervision in our Wildcat nursery. Last month, the AEC organized our annual Employee Conservation Day. Alta Ski Area’s summer employees enjoyed a great day planting over 500 native plant seedlings on Nina’s in Collins Gulch.
By the end of the summer, all 9,000 plants will have found a new home on the slopes of Alta.