Don’t let the rash of delayed resort openings fool you: There will be a ski season this year and, uncertain snow aside, it’s already shaping up to be a good one in terms of new lifts and expanded terrain. According to a survey of 147 ski resorts by the National Ski Areas Association, projected capital improvements for the current season could top $350 million.
True, none of this year’s improvements are as groundbreaking as last year’s tunnel at Snowbird or next year’s valley-spanning gondola at Whistler (more on that below). Still, if it’s new slopes and faster access you seek, here’s what you’ll find:
Southern California to Western Canada
In California, Mammoth Mountain has replaced Chair 9, an old, slow double chair, with the Cloud Nine Express. The high-speed six-seater will cut the ride time to Dragon’s Back in half.
Up in Tahoe, the Olympic double chair at Heavenly has been replaced with a high-speed quad that will provide improved access to recently gladed woods and three new trails.
At Northstar-at-Tahoe, four new runs in the Village area up the mountain’s stats to 83 trails and 2,490 acres. Timberline, a new triple chair, offers improved access for guests staying in the Big Springs area.
In addition to replacing the Shirley Lake chair with a high-speed six-pack, Squaw Valley will offer guided backcountry tours, moonlit mountaintop snowshoe tours and a superpipe lit for night riding.
At Timberline, on Oregon’s Mt. Hood, the new Jeff Flood Express quad accesses eight new trails in Still Creek Basin and boosts the resort’s vertical drop to 3,620 feet.
In Washington, skiers at Crystal Mountain are salivating over the Northway lift, a fixed-grip double that will offer easy access to 1,000 acres in what used to be the area’s North Backcountry.
Red Mountain, British Columbia’s oldest ski resort, has replaced the Silverlode triple with a quad chair that will access 100 acres of new beginner and intermediate terrain.
Utah, Colorado and the Intermountain West
In Utah, Brighton will unveil the Millicent high-speed quad, aka, Milly Express, which will replace the Evergreen and Millicent chairs. A Magic Carpet beginner lift is also new.
Located in Deer Valley’s Empire Canyon area, the new Lady Morgan Express quad will access 200 acres of new terrain, including eight runs and 65 acres of glades.
At Park City, a new run called Georgeanna offers lower intermediates an easier way down from the McConkey’s lift. More advanced skiers and riders will find expanded glades off the Motherlode chair.
In Colorado, Arapahoe Basin will go big this year, expanding its terrain by 80 percent with the opening of Montezuma Bowl, a 400-acre expanse of advanced terrain on the mountain’s back side.
At Beaver Creek, the Buckaroo Express gondola provides comfortable access to the resort’s ski-school learning area. A second new gondola offers improved transit between Avon and the mountain.
Snowboarders and freestyle skiers score big at Breckenridge, which has created a “park pod” on Peak 8. The multi-level complex features dedicated pipes and terrain parks for all levels of riders.
At Steamboat, the new Christie Peak Express six-seat chair will replace three older lifts and cut the ride time to the top of Christie Peak from 15 minutes to less than five.
This year, Telluride will expand its hike-to backcountry offerings by opening Black Iron Bowl to the general public and expanding onto the north face of Palmyra Peak.
Vail has replaced two chairs (10 and 14) with high-speed quads. The lifts cut uphill ride times in half and provide faster access to China Bowl, Blue Sky Basin and the Two Elk Restaurant.
While development of Winter Park’s new village continues, the resort will also unveil the Panoramic Express, a high-speed six-pack accessing 100 acres of new intermediate terrain in Parsenn Bowl.
In Montana, Big Sky will fire up a new triple chair on the south flank of Lone Peak. It will provide improved access to the Bavarian Forest and Dakota Territory areas.
Meanwhile, Sun Valley, Idaho, has replaced the old Quarter and Dollar lifts on Dollar Mountain with high-speed quads. The new lifts double the capacity on the resort’s dedicated beginner hill.
New in New England
In New Hampshire, Loon Mountain will open South Peak, a new mountain that will feature a high-speed quad chair, fixed-grip quad chair and 50 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain.
Over in Vermont, Smugglers’ Notch will offer additional tree skiing, with new advanced glades off the Doc Dempsey trail and intermediate glades off Lower Drifter and Upper Liftline.
Finally, if none of the above whets your appetite, consider the Peak to Peak Gondola, currently under construction at Whistler/Blackcomb. When completed, the lift will take guests on a valley-spanning, 4.4-kilometer ride between the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler and Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb in just 11 minutes — at up to 1,360 feet above the ground.
Alas, you’ll have to wait until next year to ride it.