A helicopter carries chairlift tower parts in late July as part of Vail Mountain's replacement of its Avanti Express lift. (photo: Vail Resorts/Andrew Taylor)

Colorado Ski Resorts Elevate Their Offerings for Winter 2015-16

Denver, CO – To build on their already established status as the most visited ski state in the nation, Colorado’s ski and snowboard resorts are investing in guest-facing infrastructure and amenities that will further enhance the skier and snowboarder experience this winter, from major investments in new chairlifts and terrain enhancements to improvements to on-mountain dining and culinary offerings.

 

Arapahoe Basin

Arapahoe Basin is remodeling its ticket office into a complete Guest Services center. The season pass office will be expanded to accommodate a higher volume of guests, and the ski area will establish a call center to handle snowsports reservations and guest inquiries over the phone. Guests will also be able to enjoy a new stage and music venue that will be on the ticket office steps, which will allow A-Basin to expand its music offerings in winter and summer.

Aspen Snowmass

Aspen Skiing Company will replace and realign the High Alpine lift at Snowmass Ski Resort, install snowmaking equipment on two existing trails, and implement additional trail and glade construction projects after receiving U.S. Forest Service approval for the plan in April.

The new alignment of Snowmass' High Alpine lift. (image: ASC)
The new alignment of Snowmass’ High Alpine lift. (image: ASC)

The new High speed quad has a ride time of 5.6 minutes, down from an 11-minute ride on the old chairlift. The estimated cost of this project is nearly $8 million.

“With the realignment and the additional trail work and glading, our guests will have a vastly improved experience in the High Alpine pod on Snowmass,” said Steve Sewell, Snowmass General  Manager. “The new alignment will allow guests to ski from Rock Island, AMF, and the Cirque without dropping to the lower mountain to access the High Alpine area.  Additionally, skiers and riders can now easily access Upper Green Cabin without a long flat traverse…especially important for snowboarders.  This will improve the upper mountain circulation.  There is no change in access to the Hanging Valley and no change in the uphill lift capacity.”

Guests to Aspen Highlands will enjoy a remodel of the mid-mountain Cloud Nine restaurant. The legendary bistro will maintain its unique historic essence while opening up the space in order to improve restaurant flow and service. Improvements will include two functional dining rooms, now adjacent to each other, new restrooms and upgraded features such as a cozy fireplace. The $1.1 million restoration will also include kitchen enhancements. Resort officials indicate that the bistro’s infamous character will remain the same and will continue to offer a selection of wine, champagne and cocktails, as well as the fondue and raclette that the restaurant is best known for.

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek’s commitment to superior snow surfaces further expands this season.  Last season, the resort’s Gold Dust Trail was equipped with 24 fully automated fan guns. This winter, 23 fully automated fan guns will equip Red Tail and Centennial trails, two of the most popular intermediate runs on the mountain.  Snowmaking guns will also be added to enhance the “Snowmaking Refresh” fleet and tasked to add a dusting of snow atop the groomed trails.

Parent company Vail Resorts has upgraded its EpicMix™ smartphone app with EpicMix™ Time, which will allow guests at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone to access real-time lift line wait times via crowd sourcing, enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience. EpicMix Time will calculate and display up-to-the-minute chairlift and gondola line wait times across 55 core lifts and gondolas, as well as 13,600 acres of skiable terrain in Colorado.

Breckenridge

Breckenridge has laid a mile of new snowmaking pipe on its Lost Horizon and Barton Breezeway trails on Peak 6. Adding snowmaking to this lower-mountain terrain is critical to get the popular new area open in the early season regardless of natural snowfall.

Parent company Vail Resorts has upgraded its EpicMix™ smartphone app with EpicMix™ Time, which will allow guests at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone to access real-time lift line wait times via crowd sourcing, enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience. EpicMix Time will calculate and display up-to-the-minute chairlift and gondola line wait times across 55 core lifts and gondolas, as well as 13,600 acres of skiable terrain in Colorado.

Cooper (Ski Cooper)

This season, Cooper is expanding Katie O’Rourke’s, an Irish-themed pub which features a full wait-served menu and plenty of microbrews, including Cooper’s own “Kerrigan’s Irish Stout.”  A new door will lead from the current bar area outside onto the deck, where clear wind screening panels will be installed to ensure a calm atmosphere, and propane umbrella heaters will keep guests warm and cozy under Colorado’s bluebird skies. This expansion will nearly double the current size of the pub, adding about 450 square feet of seating area with great views of the slopes. 

Copper Mountain

Copper continues to update its geo-targeted mobile application, Sherpa. Sherpa tracks a user’s runs, speed and vertical feet covered during their day on the mountain. New for the 2015-16 season, Sherpa offers trail recommendations. The app looks at data from a user’s previous skiing or riding patterns and recommends new terrain based on that user’s habits. This information is then sent via in-app notifications and/or email, based on the user’s preference. Users will also have the option to set when they want to receive this information – whether it’s mid-day, end of day or beyond. Sherpa allows this feature to be turned on or off whenever users please, allowing for a customizable experience. This will allow for guests to explore more of the mountain within their ability level.

In addition, Copper will have several new food and beverage options for the 2015-16 season. A full-service Starbucks Coffee is set to open on the first floor of the resort’s Mountain Plaza building. This location’s proximity to the American Eagle lift and convenience of Center Village will make it a perfect pit stop to and from the hill. Mahi Fish Tacos, located in Center Village adjacent to the Covered Bridge, will specialize in many different kinds of fish, but also features salads and quesadillas. Belgian Bean is relocating on-hill to the location formerly known as Flyer’s Soup Shack. Located just below the top of the American Flyer lift in between the trails American Flyer and the Moz, the new Belgian Bean will offer “grab and go” service with Belgian waffles and a variety of coffee beverages. 

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Crested Butte

New for 2015-16, Crested Butte is building a culinary outlet at the Ten Peaks area. Surrounded by 360-degree mountain views, Ten Peaks will host a bar covered by a 34-foot retractable umbrella and walled by glass. The new restaurant and bar will have a 2,400 square foot deck and a 700 square foot bar area, there will be plenty of space to enjoy the sunshine and views along with food and drink.

In addition, the resort’s WoodStone Grille will have a new look and new menu. Guests can enjoy an alpine menu featuring custom stone oven pizza, pasta, signature grill items and Colorado draft beers. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, après, and dinner in the Grand Lodge. Crested Butte is also teaming up with local partner Montanya Distillers to bring some beach lifestyle to the deck at the Paradise Grill, with Hurricanes made with Montanya’s craft rum and Huli Huli ribs added to the menu.

Last winter, Crested Butte opened roughly 50 acres of skiing in an extreme terrain area known as Teo 2. The area sits within the resort’s current ski area boundary and by building an egress road and doing snow safety work in the area, the resort received approval to open it to skiers and riders for the 2014-15 winter season. Teo 2 is part of a proposed expansion at the resort that will hopefully add more than 200 acres of both advanced and intermediate skiing, along with two new lifts, on the far eastern side of the mountain. The final form of Teo 2 will be determined after a comprehensive multi-year environmental review and public input process. 

Echo Mountain

The big story at Echo Mountain this season is that it will reopen to the general public after three years as a dedicated race training facility. The closest ski area to the majority of Denverites, Echo Mountain’s lift tickets are priced at $49, with season pass prices starting at $159. Management will dedicate a new focus to beginning and developing skiers and riders, starting with a new Terrain Based Learning system.

Keystone

The Keystone Lodge and Spa has undergone its own rejuvenation where the hallways will have a new feel after being re-carpeted and the woodwork and room doors being replaced. In addition, the guest rooms on all six floors will be upgraded with new soft goods (pillows, bed spreads, etc.).

Parent company Vail Resorts has upgraded its EpicMix™ smartphone app with EpicMix™ Time, which will allow guests at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone to access real-time lift line wait times via crowd sourcing, enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience. EpicMix Time will calculate and display up-to-the-minute chairlift and gondola line wait times across 55 core lifts and gondolas, as well as 13,600 acres of skiable terrain in Colorado.

Loveland

Loveland Ski Area will re-align its Chair 2, the main chairlift at the base of Loveland Basin. The original chairlift will be shortened to drop skiers and snowboarders off at the base of Chair 6. The newer upper section will serve the Bennett’s Bowl and Ptarmigan Roost areas.  

Monarch Mountain

The 2015-16 season marks the 25th anniversary of cat skiing at Monarch Mountain, with 1,000-plus acres of expert terrain featuring wide open bowls, steep chutes, beautiful glades, and a few friendly drops. For this winter, Monarch is installing a new yurt in the base area and will house the mountain’s cat skiing operations. This 700-plus square foot yurt is locally made in Colorado and will host cat skiing guests for their morning briefing and for lunch. Cat skiing guests at Monarch ski up to six hours per day and get an average of 8,000 to 10,000 total vertical feet.

Monarch is also expanding the area in the lodge used by large ski groups. With the additional space, Monarch’s team of group hosts will be able to better help groups get ready to hit the slopes in a designated room, including outfitting groups with rental equipment, processing lift tickets and answering any questions the group may have in a group-only area. Groups of 10 or more get special discounts on lift tickets, lessons and rentals. 

Powderhorn

New for 2015-16 Powderhorn will unveil the Flat Top Flyer, a Poma high-speed quad chairlift replacing the Take Four lift. The new lift, with an initial capacity is 1,800 riders, will cut ride time in half to approximately six minutes while offering comfortable seats and footrests for lift riders as they ascend 1,600 vertical feet. The bottom terminal will be lowered by approximately eight feet to create much easier access to the lift loading area.  

Purgatory

Purgatory is installing a new high-speed detachable quad chairlift to replace the original Legends Lift 8 located on the backside of the ski resort. The new lift is being installed this summer and will cover a vertical rise of nearly 1,500 feet in just under a mile, taking skiers and riders to the summit of Purgatory in just five minutes. Lift 8 provides access to intermediate, advanced and expert terrain, including gladed tree skiing trails located on the backside of the mountain.

Additional terrain is being added in conjunction with the lift project, including two advanced trails to the west of the new high-speed quad. These trails will feed into Ray’s Ridge at various locations along the trail. The top of Lift 8 will be re-graded to widen the unloading area and a new Legends Switchback will provide improved access to the bottom of Lift 8. The existing mid-way loading area of Lift 8 will be removed, creating a faster non-stop ride to the top. Snowmaking equipment will be installed at the bottom of the lift, providing more consistency and better coverage at the bottom terminal. 

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Silverton

To capitalize on the deep snow the El Niño pattern has traditionally brought to southwest Colorado, Silverton Mountain will be upgrading and expanding its demo fleet of K2 ultra-fat Powabunga powder skis. Silverton will also issue all mountain staff the fattest K2 powder boards possible to prevent injuries from wading through waist deep snow all season. 

Sunlight

Sunlight is remodeling its restaurant interiors and upgrading the kitchen with new appliances. Guests will enjoy customized, made-to-order cuisine and be able to order food from the bar area. Also, Sunlight’s retail shop is expanding to allow easier access to and movement though the facility.

Additionally, Sunlight has upgraded the power supply to its chairlifts, improving dependability and creating the possibility for a mountaintop restaurant in the future.

Steamboat

Steamboat is doing extensive improvements to several of its on-mountain food and beverage facilities. Gondola Joe’s, Steamboat’s most popular grab and go destination for breakfast and lunch in the base area, will be expanded to offer more space for eating in, as well as more behind-the-counter space to offer newly created menu options. In addition, the Four Points Lodge will receive upgrades to the back of the house providing more space for Steamboat’s chefs and provide faster service for customers during lunchtime hours. The Rendezvous Lodge on the Sundown side of the mountain will receive a facelift with a new exterior design and interior upgrades.

In addition, Steamboat will incorporate RFID technology into its lift tickets, multi-day passes, and season pass products using the QuickTrax card, which will be reusable over multiple seasons and can be reloaded online or over the phone, allowing guests to bypass the ticket office. All guests will also have the option to sign up for Resort Charge, which eliminates the need to carry cash or a credit card on the mountain. Resort Charge allows guests to make purchases at any resort operated restaurant, rental and retail location, ski and ride school, and more by attaching a credit card to their pass or QuickTrax card.

The RFID system will initially be installed in Steamboat at the gondola, Christie Peak Express, Preview, and Thunderhead Express chairlifts.

Telluride

Telluride Ski Resort is adding new tower mounts to Hoot Brown Park, the resort’s largest terrain park, that allow the resort to easily relocate snow guns from other areas of the mountain for improved snowmaking within the park. The park is also getting a few new custom made features. Also, the resort is updating its snowcat fleet with the addition of a new PistenBully 600 snowcat that moves snow more efficiently and economically to better prepare for opening. 

Vail Mountain

A helicopter carries chairlift tower parts in late July as part of Vail Mountain's replacement of its Avanti Express lift. (photo: Vail Resorts/Andrew Taylor)
A helicopter carries chairlift tower parts in late July as part of Vail Mountain’s replacement of its Avanti Express lift. (photo: Vail Resorts/Andrew Taylor)

A new Avanti Express Lift (#2) will open for the 2015-16 winter season at Vail. The current lift is being replaced with a detachable six-passenger lift similar to the Mountain Top Express Lift (#4) and will also include a loading conveyor and gates to improve efficiency and increase capacity by up to 30 percent. The Avanti Express Lift (#2) is a primary lift on the front side of Vail Mountain, serving intermediate and advanced terrain and dispersing skiers and snowboarders from Lionshead to mid-mountain. The new lift will reduce wait times and improve skier and snowboarder circulation. The current lift – a Doppelmayr detachable quad – was installed in 1989.

In addition, parent company Vail Resorts is increasing its minimum wage for entry-level positions throughout the company to $10 an hour effective later this month, $1.77 higher than Colorado’s minimum wage. The company will continue to adjust its minimum wage going forward based on inflation.

“We are taking this step because it is incumbent on us to do the right thing for our employees as well as remain competitive as an employer,” said Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz.

Finally, Vail Resorts has upgraded its EpicMix™ smartphone app with EpicMix™ Time, which will allow guests at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone to access real-time lift line wait times via crowd sourcing, enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience. EpicMix Time will calculate and display up-to-the-minute chairlift and gondola line wait times across 55 core lifts and gondolas, as well as 13,600 acres of skiable terrain in Colorado.

Winter Park

New for the 2015-16 season, Winter Park is introducing RFID technology into its lift tickets, multi-day passes, and season pass products using the QuickTrax card, which will be reusable over multiple seasons and can be reloaded online or over the phone, allowing guests to bypass the ticket office. All guests will also have the option to sign up for Resort Charge, which eliminates the need to carry cash or a credit card on the mountain.

RFID installation at Winter Park includes the Zephyr Express, Arrow, Gemini Express, Challenger and Super Gauge Express chairlifts. 

Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek’s most notable on-mountain project for the upcoming season is completing the Race Hutch building, which is integral to the operation of the Wolf Creek Fun Race Series. Electrical conduit has been trenched along the side of the course providing power for the timing equipment, cameras and speakers. The Hutch has an observation area for the crew to view the racers and storage for poles, gates, safety fencing and banners.

Improvements are also being made to the ski and snowboard rental department with the introduction of a fleet of premium demo skis, snowboards, boots and an online reservation system that is dedicated specifically to this class of rentals.

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