While you were hiking, biking and sippin’ margs by the beach this summer, the hard-working lads and lasses repping your favorite ski resorts were going all-in to ensure your next visit(s) will be better than ever. From terrain expansions to new lifts and lodges, there’s much to celebrate this season. We’ve highlighted the most noteworthy improvements and investments, below.
Jackson Hole, WY
If you ever felt like waiting in line for Jackson Hole’s famed tram was akin to standing outside the midnight premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you know something had to give. Indeed, JHMR high-er-ups heard your calls and have come to the rescue. Relief comes this season in the form of a shiny new gondola, which replaces the old Sweetwater Triple Chair. The new gondi accommodates eight passengers per car,and moves over 2,000 people per hour. Ascending 1,276 vertical feet, the Sweetwater Gondola deposits skiers and riders just above the Casper Restaurant.
In addition to alleviating uphill capacity stresses, the new gondola provides easy access to the year-old Teton Lift. This chair allows easy access to the Crags—a venue where early-morning pow turns are almost always on the menu. Learn more about Jackson Hole, here.
Whistler Blackcomb, BC
For 2016-17, the long-hailed gold standard of North American ski resorts has rolled out an improved learning area complete with two new magic carpets and 25 new energy-efficient snow guns; added an umbrella bar and 6,000-square-feet of deckage to the Roundhouse Lodge and renovated the Garibaldi Lift Company patio, one of our go-to après spots. Fantastic as these $8-million changes are, it’s all merely a fraction of what’s to come.
On the horizon is another $345 million (CAD) worth of upgrades. Yeah, you read that correctly. The three-phase Renaissance Project will bring about a 163,000-square-foot indoor water adventure center, upgraded lifts, night skiing zones, a day lodge, 55-65 ski-in/ski-out townhomes, a luxury hotel and loads more. Based on approvals, the project is designed to make Whistler Blackcomb the ultimate four-season destination once completed in six to seven years.
If the 2016-17 upgrades and the unveiling of the Renaissance Project weren’t enough, it was announced in August, 2016 that Whistler would be acquired by Vail Resorts in a $1.1 billion dollar deal. You can read more about that, here.
Mount Snow, VT
Mount Snow, located in southern Vermont, is in the midst of rolling out major upgrades to the Carinthia section of the resort over the next two years. The 2016-17 season will see upgrades to the Grommet terrain park with the addition of a 400-foot-long SunKid conveyor that will increase uphill capacity by 50 percent for the little rippers.
Additional changes implemented over the summer of ’16 include nearly 1,700 hours of trail work. With new access points and ski lines being cut through the glades, the tree skiing will be better than ever.
The biggest update comes online for the 2017-18 season when Mount Snow opens a new 38,000-square-foot, three-story lodge at the Carinthia base area. The new digs will replace the dated, 10,000-square-foot lodge and house a full-service cafeteria, restaurant, two bars, a coffee counter and other retail outlets, too. A rental shop, lift ticket and ski school sales office and a kids’ activity room will round out the offerings. Read more about Mount Snow, here.
Arapahoe Basin, CO
“The Legend” just checked off another box from its 2012 master development plan, pouring $1.3 million into base area improvements over the summer. This cash injection brings about a makeover and expansion for the Arapahoe Sports retail shop—it’s now two-and-a-half times larger—and a completely re-graded base area.
Additionally, issued in August 2016, an Environmental Impact Statement from the White River National Forest (WRNF) has the A-Basin faithful fired up: The WRNF announced initial approval for the ski area to add 338 skiable acres to its boundary. If given the green light, the famed Beavers and Steep Gullies backcountry zones will become lift-accessible as early as the 2018-19 season.
Grand Targhee Resort, WY
Wyoming’s Grand Targhee is known for its steep and deep terrain. The resort has maintained its rustic appeal by staying mostly unchanged for years, but when it comes to enhancing the skier experience, there are some things you just can’t say “No” to. That’s why Targhee loyalists and visitors alike will now find a new fixed-grip quad where the old Blackfoot double chair used to be.
The iconic Blackfoot double was installed in 1974 and moved up to 960 skiers an hour, over a 12-minute ride. The new Blackfoot quad will nearly double the lift’s uphill capacity and cut the ride time almost in half. The chair accesses the same 500 acres and 1,200 vertical feet of terrain that the old chair served—a network of expert bowls and chutes. In addition to enhanced uphill capacity, the new chair will now run on diesel power if the power goes out, you know, in case the power lines can’t handle the weight of all that snow.
Big Sky Resort, MT
Big Sky Resort, featuring the largest contiguous lift network in the Western Hemisphere, is stepping up its game for the 2016-17 season. The old Challenger Double has been replaced with an all-new fixed-grip triple and the ol’ Lone Peak Triple has been ousted in favor of a high-speed six-pack; the changes cost the resort $9 million.
The new-and-improved Lone Peak chair will provide quicker access to the Lone Peak Tram, which services the Bowl—regularly filled with dreamy pow. The Lone Peak chair becomes North America’s sixth chairlift to feature protective bubbles and heated seats. Furthermore, the new six-pack will span 3,000-plus feet, have a vertical rise of approximately 800 feet and cut the previous ride time in half—down to three minutes.
The new Challenger fixed-grip triple features a loading carpet and will spin 500 feet per minute, cutting the ride time down from 12 minutes to under 10. These upgrades are part of “Big Sky 2025,” the resort’s decade-long, $150 million project to turn the Montana icon into “The American Alp.”
Taos Ski Valley, NM
This winter marks the much-anticipated opening of The Blake at Taos Ski Valley, a luxury hotel situated smack in the heart of the resort’s base area. The Blake is the centerpiece of an ongoing $350 million (!) base area redevelopment.
The new 65-room, 15-suite hotel offers ski-in/ski-out access to Lift 1 and maintains an appearance that remains true to the resort’s New Mexican-European-fusion aesthetic. The Blake is on its way to being LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, i.e. it’s resource efficient, utilizing low amounts of water and energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also features a state-of-the-art spa and wellness center as well as a wine and tapas bar, providing an alternative to beers and schnitzel at The Bavarian—an après legend in its own right.
In addition to the opening of The Blake, Taos is upping the ante on the hill. A clean-up effort in the glades should bring about many smiles in the hike-to Wild West area, on Ernie’s Run and on North American. The Ernie Blake Snowsports School is known for world-class instruction but there will be new emphasis on telemark, steeps and bumps, women’s-only and racing specialty clinics.
Mt. Bachelor, OR
One of the Pacific Northwest’s premier resorts, Mt. Bachelor will debut its first terrain expansion in 20 years this December. Namely, 635 acres of skiable terrain have been added to the map on the east side of the mountain. This expansion is made possible thanks to the installation of the brand-new, high-speed Cloudchaser quad—a $6 million project.
The terrain expansion ups the resort’s skiable acreage to 4,318, making it the fifth largest ski area in the States. The Cloudchaser quad will climb 1,448 vertical feet, move 2,400 people per hour and add over six miles of new groomers to the Mt. Bachelor experience. Read more about the expansion, here.