"We're really excited about this project," said Jesse Boyd, VP of operations for Peak Resorts, owner of Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt.
It's easy to understand why. The $8.5-million project will add a state-of-the-art high-speed, detachable, six-seat, bubble chair to the lift infrastructure of this historic Vermont resort, and upgrade the Grand Summit Express as well.
"One of the knocks at Mount Snow has been a little bit on the lift infrastructure. We feel strongly looking at the resort as a whole, what we need the most, what our guests feel is most important, is this lift," Boyd said.
"Technically a lift that long should take 13.5 minutes to get to the top, but a lot of the time it's a 16-to-17 minute ride," Boyd said of the fixed-grip Summit Local that has served skiers and riders since 1978.
"We feel doing this lift, that it's a six-pack and a bubble, it's important to us to give back to people who have been skiing that place for years, and give them what they want. It means families might be able to ski a little bit longer if they can stay warm on the lift. It means they can spend more time skiing and less in line at the bottom. That was the main drive for us, and for our long-term plan at Mount Snow, to provide the best experience for the people skiing and riding there," Boyd said.
He said the new lift would load a little farther uphill, to create more room in the base area, and unload a little higher, to create a slight downhill grade onto the top of Little John, better access to the summit lodge, and a new connector to Cascade.
The chairs will be heavier, and less prone to wind, so the lift will be able to run in higher winds than either the Summit Local or the Grand Summit Express, Boyd said.
The new lift also will have a 10,000 square foot building where the chairs will spend the night.
"A lot of times at Mount Snow we have icing issues. We can spend an entire day deicing chairs, the shiv wheels, and the towers. With the new six-pack we'll run those chairs off line, and creep that cable in an ice event, and that will allow us to open that lift in the morning.
"If the chairs are hanging all night long, we have to spend all that time deicing them. Another thing, if we keep those bubbles inside and deiced, we'll avoid a lot of scratching you can see on the bubbles. A lot of that scratching happens in the morning, when people scratch off frost that forms when the chairs are left outside overnight, so they can see out."
The deconstruction will take about three weeks, Boyd said, and the new lift should be ready for load testing by the middle of November.
"The Grand Summit will be the backup," Boyd said. "During the week the new lift would be the first option. On Saturday the Grand Summit will continue to run all the time, and on Sunday probably half a day. On busy Fridays the Grand Summit might run in the afternoon.
"When we take down the Summit Local, we're going to split it into three different locations at our places in the Midwest and Pennsylvania. One is going to Hidden Valley in St. Louis; another is going to Mad River in Ohio; the third is going to Big Boulder in Pa. There's plenty of cable and plenty of towers and plenty of chairs -- 269 chairs on it currently. The two lifts in the Midwest get 60-to-70 chairs apiece, and Big Boulder gets 100 chairs.
"It's not the only thing we're doing this summer," Boyd said. "Another thing is we're doing an upgrade to lift No. 11, the Grand Summit Express. We're putting a new top on the bottom terminal, and new chairs, and safety bars with footrests. That's always been something our guests have been interested in. We're going to take off the older chairs and replace them with new Poma four-place chairs with footrests."
Boyd said the resort's long-term wish list includes replacing the Sunbrook Quad, which is fixed-grip, with a high-speed detachable.
"The way economic times are, it's not anything we could afford right now, but over time, that's probably the next place we go with a high-speed lift, but we'll be pretty comfortable with our set-up for the near future.
"Now we're going to have three high-speed lifts coming out of main base area, and a fourth one out of Carinthia. It will get us where we want to be with lifts," Boyd said.
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