Roundup of Vail Resorts’ Epic Lift Upgrades

Gregg Frantz | | Industry NewsIndustry News

It is the one thing no skier or snowboarder looks forward to skiing or riding down a slope and then getting to the bottom of the mountain and seeing a packed lift line. Most skiers or riders are “ok” with waiting ten or even fifteen minutes in line. However, when you start pushing 30 minutes or more, most of us begin to get a little impatient.

In early February 2020, Vail got hit by a snowstorm that dropped significant amounts of snow on the mountain within 48 hours. That snowstorm would bring out many people the next day to hit some fresh pow.   Skiers and riders reportedly arrived at the mountain two hours before when the first lifts started spinning, hoping to get first tracks on the mountain. The result was huge lift lines, now infamously known as the “Lift line apocalypse,” with guests waiting over 30 minutes and some claiming they waited over 75 minutes for a chairlift.

Vail Resorts made a statement after the incident and apologized to guests for the long lift lines and any inconveniences guests may have experienced. Vail claimed it was fully staffed and had worked all night to get the mountain ready and safe for their guests’ arrival the following day. It was a lesson Vail wished they did not have to learn, but a lesson they did learn from and are committed to never letting it happen again.

Vail Resorts owns and operates 41 mountain resorts throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. It is a vast operation, and Vail is aggressively trying to improve and enhance their guests’ experiences while visiting their resorts. In 2022, Vail invested over $320m in on-mountain experiences, with some money going to building 67 new lifts or upgrading existing ones.

Vail, CO: Game Creek Express Lift

Replacing the current 4-person chair with a new high-speed 6-person lift will increase capacity by nearly 50%. Game Creek Bowl is the easiest to access of Vail’s seven Back Bowls & provides over 200 acres of skiable terrain and is known for its wide-open green trails for beginners and its challenging glades terrain for more advanced skiers to hit as well.

Photo Credit: Vail Resorts

Whistler Blackcomb, BC, Canada: Creekside and Big Red Express Lifts

The new high-speed Creekside-10-passenger gondola increases uphill capacity by 35%, and the new Big Red Express is a high-speed-6-person lift, which increases its uphill capacity by 29%. The two new lifts are on the same side of the mountain, with Creekside providing access to the lower part of the mountain and Big Red Express accessing Whistler’s upper section of the mountain. While both lifts follow the same paths and speeds as the previous lifts, the additional seating capacity allows lines to move faster.

Photo Credit: Vail Resorts

Northstar Resort, Truckee, CA: Comstock Lift

A new high-speed 6-person chair will replace the existing mid-mountain 4-person chair and increase uphill capacity by nearly 50%. The new Comstock lift will reduce the time skiers and riders take to reach the summit and will have access to hit all areas of the mountain from the new lift.

Photo Credit: Vail Resorts

Heavenly Resort, CA: North Bowl Lift

The North Bowl Lift replaces the existing fixed-grip triple with a high-speed 4-person chair, increasing uphill capacity by more than 40%. The new lift will reduce wait times at the Stagecoach and Olympic lifts and hopefully provide skiers and riders with better access to some areas less used at the resort.

Photo Credit: Vail Resorts

Stowe, VT: Mountain Lift

The replacement and extension of the existing fixed-grip triple to a high-speed 6-person lift will increase uphill capacity by 100%. The new lift will make it easier for skiers and riders to access beginner and intermediate trails and protect them from the harsh winds that other lifts might not be able to operate in. Stowe also hopes it incentivizes skiers and riders to hit terrain not usually skied before because of the previous lift’s history of being known for being slow.

Photo Credit: Vail Resorts

Attitash, NH: East & West Double-Double Replacements

Replacing the East and West Double-Double chairs with one fixed-grip 4-person chair will improve reliability and enhance the overall guest experience at Attitash. To New England skiers, this is something they have been looking forward to for a long time. Attitash’s lifts are known for being old and unreliable and were probably the most disliked lift system in the Northeast. At this point, anything Vail does to the lift systems at Attitash will be an improvement.

Photo Credit: Vail Resorts

Jack Frost/Big Boulder, PA: Multiple Lift Replacements

Replacing and consolidating multiple lifts at both resorts will improve reliability and enhance the overall guest experience. Jack Frost and Big Boulder (JFBB) are 2 Pocono Mountain resorts that have been staples in the region for a long time. Their lifts have also been there for a long time, and it was time for an upgrade, and Vail is building a total of 5 new-quad-lifts to the two mountains. This should dramatically increase lift capacities at both resorts, which have primarily relied on double-chairlifts at their mountains for many years.

Photo Credit: Vail Resorts

Boston Mills/Brandywine, Ohio: Multiple Lift Replacements

Boston Mills will get a new 4-person chair replacing the Lift 5 double, and Brandywine will get a new 4-person chair replacing the Lift 3 triple. Boston Mills and Brandywine are sister resorts located in northeastern Ohio and are family-oriented resorts. The resorts plan on the new lifts to increase their guest’s experience by reducing time on the lifts and more time skiing and riding.

Vail’s plans for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons were to improve the overall on-mountain experiences for their guests by providing higher speed and occupancy capacities to their lift systems at their resorts. Fourteen of Vail’s resorts are planned to receive new chairlifts or gondolas that will make it easier and faster for guests to get up the mountain and spend more time skiing existing terrain or checking out new terrain offered by the new lifts.

Photo Credit: Vail Resorts

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