More carving at Winter Park with new gondola. (Winter Park/Facebook)
Winter Park Resort has announced that it will replace the mountain’s workhorse Zephyr Express chairlift with a gondola – a move aimed to upgrade the mountain’s infrastructure and to shorten weekend and holiday lines.
The $16 million project is the first salvo fired by new operator Alterra Mountain Company, based in Denver, which has committed to pouring cash into the 12 resorts it controls to upgrade them over the next five years – including operations at Winter Park that it bought from Intrawest.
The City and County of Denver still owns the resort, but Intrawest operated the lift and facilities until 2017, when Alterra bought those rights.
The new 10-seat gondola cars will load at the base and drop off at the 10,700-foot summit at the Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge. Officials say lift lines should reduce by about 15 minutes – a welcome relief to Winter Park regulars who have been frustrated at times by the morning bottleneck at the mountain’s base.
From the top of the new gondola, skiers and riders can spread out on any of Winter Park’s seven distinct “territories” over more than 3,000 acres within the ropes.
Along with the first on-mountain lift project since 2007, the resort’s owners plan to begin a massive overhauling of the mountain’s 42-year-old snowmaking system, purchasing new snowcats and cutting 21 acres of glade skiing in the Eagle Wind area on the backside.
The Winter Park upgrades are a part of Alterra’s five-year plan to spend $555 million on the 12 resorts it acquired in the last year. Financed by the Crown Family -- owners of Aspen-Snowmass – and equity fund KSL Capital Partners, Alterra is stepping right into its multi-resort competition with Vail Resorts, which owns 15 resorts around the globe. The most visible is the head-to-head battle for season pass sales with Vail’s Epic Pass and Alterra’s Ikon Pass.