With aspens shedding their leaves and snow guns blasting, skiers and riders are focused on the Colorado high country for the definitive sign of winter's arrival: the race to be season's first resort to open.
The two traditional Continental Divide contenders -- Arapahoe Basin and Loveland -- will welcome skiers and riders with replacement lifts. The third competitor, Keystone, will show off a mountain-top restaurant expansion.
At A-Basin, the mid-mountain Lewanee chair gets an upgrade from a 21-year-old fixed grip quad to a high-speed six-seater. The new faster, heavier chair is expected to give some relief to a choke point on front-side and reduce wind delays.
The Lewanee lift, known as "Len", serves much of A-Basin's expert, alpine terrain from East Bowl to top of Beavers cliffs. It also gets hungry skiers and riders more quickly to the Steilhang eatery, and the remodeled and enlarged Il Refugio atop the ridge.
Over at Loveland, a replacement lift on the main mountain and a new base lodge at Loveland Valley are set to go. The 45-year-old Chair 6 at Loveland's mid-mountain will add a seat to become a new fixed-grip triple to deliver more skiers and riders to the blues, greens and terrain parks on the south flank of the 1,800-acre mountain.
The brand-new base lodge at beginner-friendly Loveland Valley expands by 14,000 square feet the space for ski school, rentals, ski patrol, and a bar and restaurant. With more parking put in last season, Loveland Valley has upped its services for beginners and novices as they improve their skills before moving up the hill to the main mountain.
And just off the Divide above Dillon, much of the news from Keystone was what didn't happen this summer. The Vail-owned mountain was set to debut intermediate-friendly Bergman with a new chairlift, but boundary issues with the National Forest put the project on hold. However, Epic Pass holders can get on the mountain one hour earlier than others.
Instead, skiers and riders who frequent the 3,149-acre mountain will have more space to sit and relax with a 6,000-square-foot expansion of the Outpost Restaurant atop North Peak.
Unauthorized road construction by Vail Resorts' contractors has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to force a delay of opening the much-anticipated Bergman Bowl at Keystone until to the 2023-2024 season.
Work had already begun this spring to prepare 550 acres of intermediate alpine terrain for the coming 2022-2023 season. That work including installation of a new high-speed six-pack chairlift.
However, in July, the Forest Service discovered that crews had built a temporary construction road beyond permit boundaries, and issued a cease-and-desist order until damage to fragile treeline and above-treeline tundra was repaired.
In hopes of keeping the much-touted project on schedule, Keystone officials quickly worked up a restoration plan to remove damage done by the road and reclaim a stream crossing that had been filled in by crews.
Despite saying the restoration project was one of the best they had ever seen, officials of the White River National Forest said further environmental review was necessary before work on the lift could resume.
That led Vail Resorts to announce that Bergman Bowl, long a hike-to and snowcat favorite off the top of North Peak, will remain as such until next summer's construction season. Other parts of the project, including expansion of the Outpost restaurant atop North Peak, placing snowmaking equipment in the area and doing trail work will continue this summer.
The nation's largest ski and snowboard resort conglomerate and purveyor of the Epic Pass, Vail Resorts continues to work on several other lift installation projects. At Vail Mountain, a new high-speed four-pack is set to run from the base of High Noon Express to the ridge-top Wildwood Restaurant. On the front, Game Creek Bowl enthusiasts will get up quicker with a replacement detachable six-seater on the same line as the old lift.
In neighboring Summit County, Vail-owned Breckenridge will give beginners and ski school-ers more runs to lap out of Peak 8 base with a replacement of Rip's Ride fixed-grip with a high-speed four-pack.
At Vail-owned resorts around Lake Tahoe, skiers and riders who go to Northstar California should expect to see a six-pack replacement of the four-seater Comstock Lift at the busy mid-mountain. And, visitors to Heavenly Mountain should be able to get to the top of North Bowl in almost half the ride time with a new high-speed chair.
However, Park City Mountain visitors and loyalists will have to wait for two replacement chairlifts at a busy juncture near the crossover to the Canyons area, as local citizens convinced the planning board to reevaluate the project. Vail Resorts has said it will appeal.
Park City Mountain regulars and visitors will have to wait at least another season before riding replacement chairlifts that were designed to reduce crowding at the base and on the mountain.
Therefore, skier and riders at one of America's largest ski areas will have to be content with the workhorse Eagle chair that is one of the main ways to get onto the mountain from the base area, and the Silverlode Express which loads at the crossover junction between Park City side and The Canyons side.
On June 25, the Park City Planning Commission agreed to allow an appeal by a quartet of Park City residents that installation of the two chairs didn't align with the resort's 1998 master plan. In addition, the commission said that resort ownership needs to update its parking plans around the busy base area to align with current carrying capacity estimates.
In essence, the appeal halts any plans for replacement lifts this summer at the 7,300-acre ski and snowboard resort. And, the appeal puts more pressure on owners Vail Resorts to sort out vehicle parking options that have been a sore spot for years, and further exacerbated by a Provo company's plans to cover one primary parking lot with commercial development.
Before plans were waylaid by the appeal, the 30-year-old fixed-grip triple Eagle was to replaced by a six-pack detachable chair to double uphill capacity and cut riding time to get to the Thanes Canyon area. Plan also called for the six-pack high-speed Silverlode Express to become the resort's first eight-person chairlift. Uphill capacity would nearly double to get skiers and riders out of what has become the busy Miner's Camp mid-mountain junction where people either stay on the Park City side or take a gondola to The Canyons side of the resort.
Vail Resort's officials opposed the appeal but have said that construction of the two replacement chairlifts is on hold, at least for this summer's construction season.
A quartet of Colorado resorts in the Epic Pass system is set to show off improvements as the 2021-2022 ski and snowboard season gains momentum.
Having paused lift construction in the 2020-2021 season, Vail Resorts unleashed its financial wherewithal to make it easier to move around a half-dozen of the 19 of its ski and snowboard mountains in the Rockies and the Sierra.
Plans unveiled by Vail Resorts for next season have chairlifts opening new terrain at Beaver Creek, upgrading flow at Breckenridge, and replacing an old with a new at Keystone.
The ropes were dropped on and the lifts were spinning Oct. 12 at Wolf Creek Ski Area, signaling the beginning of another ski and snowboard season across the West.