It's been a busy summer at Colorado's Steamboat, and skiers and riders -- especially beginners and novices -- will bear the fruit of those labors this winter.
On the mountain, there's now a quick and easy way to get to the mid-mountain Rough Rider/Bashor Basin beginner area: The first stretch of the Wild Blue Gondola is expected to begin spinning in late December.
Loaded at the main base area, the new 10-seat gondola takes less than four minutes to deliver folks to a regraded "terrain-based learning" terrain -- now named Greenhorn Ranch -- on the far northeast side of the lower mountain. The headquarters of Steamboat's ski school moves up there, too. Four moving carpets and a new high-speed quad (replacing Rough Rider chair) aim to make Greenhorn Ranch a completely encapsulated learning center.
Down below, many won't recognize the Steamboat base area as it continues to be transformed into a modern, multi-purpose plaza. A new skating rink anchors the Steamboat Square complex. Skiers and snowboarders will find a clear-cut entrance with escalator and new stairways. There's a food-and-beverage court with a second story, and an outdoor performance stage -- plus plenty of seating and railing for non-skiers to check out the lower mountain slopes.
The Preview chair and mountain coaster have been removed to make room for the new gondola loading area, and the base terminal of the existing Christie Peak Express has been moved for the same reason.
New owners Alterra Mountain Corp., purveyors of the Ikon Pass, bought Steamboat in 2017 and immediately embarked upon a $200 million makeover. The clunky decades-old base area got the initial attention with the Steamboat Square development, followed by the gondola and learning area. Snowmaking has been upgraded all over the hill.
Next summer, the gondola will be extended up from Greenhorn Ranch to the 10,384-foot ridgetop Sunshine Peak. New terrain in Fish Creek Canyon is scheduled to be opened on the far skier's right past Pony Express with a new chairlift.
After a replacement of the upper basin Supreme chair last season, the backside Albion Basin side of Alta continues to be revamped. This season, a new high-speed six-pack is expected to replace the fixed-grip Sunnyside chair at the Ikon Pass partner resort, although supply-chain slowdown may delay its opening.
The new chair will both deliver skiers and riders more quickly into the basin's network of novice green-rated trails, and provide back-door access to the chutes and bowls off Supreme and Sugarloaf lifts. Concurrently, the old Albion chair has come down.
The Corkscrew trail on Collins side has been widened, more avalanche control towers put in on the East Castle high ground, and more snowmaking has gone at Wildcat base.
In a continuing effort to reduce traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta will require an online parking reservation for Friday-Sunday for $25.
In neighboring Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude turned its attention to the first terrain park on the mountain. Summer crews installed two groups of boxes, rails and other features. A beginner-level park will sit on upper Main Street, accessed off either Apex Express or Moonbeam chairs. And, a more advanced park can be had on the steeper North Star trail, served by the Sunrise chair. An Ikon Pass gives unlimited skiing and riding at Solitude.
Over at Deer Valley, a new short-line Burns Express chair has gone in to join the main base Snow Park teaching area with the greens and blues of lower Little Baldy Mountain. Linking to the Deer Hollow green trail, the new lift will also make it easier to move from the Jordanelle Gondola base to the main mountain. Deer Valley is a seven-day Ikon Pass partner.
Next door at Park City Mountain, owner Vail Resorts (Epic Pass) has paused on major projects for this summer. Instead, the Canyons base Red Tail Grill has gotten a new deck. To reduce crowding, the resort will limit day ticket sales and continue paid parking.
At Palisades Tahoe, the much-anticipated base-to-base gondola will open this season. Long a dream of resort owners, the 2.4-mile-long eight-seat gondola will take skiers and riders from the former Squaw Valley base area to what was once Alpine Meadows base.
Alterra Mountain Co., the parent company for the resorts and Ikon Pass purveyor, says the new lift will cut down on traffic in the area by eliminating the need to drive or take a shuttle on the six miles of roadway between the resorts.
The gondola runs from the base of the newly upgraded Red Dog chair at the main Olympic Valley base area up and over the ridge to the backside base area. The ride takes about 16 minutes depending upon length of stops at the top of the KT-22 Express on the front side. Lift capacity would approximately be 1,400 people per hour in both directions.
Since taking over the two California ski and snowboard areas in 2018, Alterra has begun to spend the $17 million it pledged to upgrade and link the two distinctly different mountains -- the Olympic Valley front side with its cliffy steeps and glades, and the back side with expansive powder bowls.
The merging of the two areas will expand Palisades Tahoe's skiable terrain to about 6,000 acres, making it the second largest U.S. resort behind Park City Mountain (also a combination of two mountains).
At Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, the focus this summer has been on the Lakeview zone of the mountain (skier's left). Replacing the fixed-grip Lakeview chair, the replacement high-speed chairlift will deliver skiers and riders to the resort's high ground in less than half the time -- unloading higher up than the previous top terminal.
The new detachable quad will bring novice skiers and 'boarders to some of Mt. Rose's best blues and green runs, including its longest Around the World at 2.5 miles. Also, as the name suggests, the new chairlift will afford skiers and 'boarders a classic view of Lake Tahoe.
It's going to be a busy construction season this summer at the Wasatch Range ski and snowboard resorts, as five new-replacement chairlifts go in, and the only tramway in Utah gets new cabins.
Summer visitors to Colorado ski and snowboard mountains will see plenty of construction going on, as seven resorts across the state string new lifts for the upcoming season.
Since hedge-fund manager Louis Bacon bought Taos Ski Valley in 2013, skiers and riders who favor the New Mexico resort have seen something new each season: infrastructure, chairlifts, overnight accommodations, even paved parking lots, and all-mountain cell service.
Vail Resorts' portfolio includes five New England and Middle Atlantic resorts that will see new lifts going up in the next summer's construction season.
After closing for this season, a group of smaller ski and snowboard hills along the northern tier of the U.S. Rockies will work toward making improvements that range from new lifts to base area upgrades to snowmaking.
What various ownerships over the last three decades envisioned may finally see the light of day as Tamarack Resort has filed plans with the Forest Service to reinvigorate the Idaho ski and snowboard mountain.
The network of Mountain Southwest resorts under the Power Pass season ticket continues to grow, and ownership has built a reputation for putting out money for upgrades.
Believe it or not, there are actually some "what's new" news emanating from Colorado ski and snowboard resorts that aren't related to precautions and adjustments for Covid.
Though a "normal" future appears distant these days, three Western ski and snowboard resorts have gotten a clearer look down the road with U.S. Forest Service go-ahead for expansion projects.
The COVID-19 pandemic's impact has spread across the ski and snowboard industry in the West, and one of its victims has been plans for new lifts. But a quintet of resorts are pushing ahead with plans, while others take a pause.
The creator of the Ikon Pass will invest more than $200 million this summer to further upgrade some of the 15 resorts it owns for skiers and riders in the 2020-21 season.
Alta Ski Area has cleared a critical hurdle in its effort to enlarge parking and restaurants, and to upgrade lifts to improve flow around the mountain – including a tram to the top of Mount Baldy.