Photos courtesy of Carl Frey  Winter Park Resort

The snow is piling up in the Colorado high country and spring break is fast approaching, but Winter Park Resort already is thinking ahead to next year.

The ski resort said Monday that it plans to spend $16 million on improvements for the 2019-2020 season, headlined by a fast new lift.

The new six-person chairlift, expected to cost $6 million, will replace the existing three-person Sunnyside Lift installed in 1989 in the resort’s Mary Jane territory.

“It’s an older lift,” Winter Park spokesman Steve Hurlbert said. “The new lift will take pressure off that area of the mountain.”  The Sunnyside is currently an eight-minute ride and a high speed chairlift will cut down that time considerably while moving twice as many people.  Hurlbert said, “on a windy day if the Panorama closes that area stacks up and this lift will help alleviate the congestion in that area.” The last lift project at the Mary Jane was in 2007, with the addition of six-person Panoramic Express.

The Sunnyside replacement is part of the $181 million in offseason improvements planned by Denver-based Alterra Mountain Company (AMC), in and around its collection of Resorts throughout the country.

Winter Park also will spend $1 million on additions for summer visitors, including an indoor/outdoor climbing wall, two ropes courses and expanded hiking trails to accommodate more users. The resort is revitalizing some of the the base amenities. Hurlbert said, “We are making some changes around the base area that fit the mountain lifestyle.”

The Gondola offers easy access to the top of the mountain. “We want to capitalize on that experience.” Hurlbert said, “We want to offer more beginner and intermediate hiking opportunities that people can easily enjoy right off the Gondola.”

Our summer visitation is up and many people want to hike the mountain. One of our goals this year is to have options at the top of the mountain for a variety of experience levels. “It will really enhance the overall guest experience.”

The resort also plans to spend $250,000 at Trestle Bike Park to expand its intermediate downhill biking trails off the Olympia lift.  “The Bike Park crew has been developing trails off the Olympia the last couple of years and will continue to improve on that area of the mountain.”  According to Hurlbert mountain biking continues to grow and “it makes sense to increase capacity throughout the Trestle Bike Park.”

This summer the Resort will be hosting the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals, July 23-28                        The event was at Snowshoe Mountain last year. Hurlbert said, “We are looking forward to hosting the event and showing the riders, spectators, families and support crews our mountain and community.”   As for the Colorado Freeride Festival, it may find new life in 2020 but hard to say at this point.

Rounding out the $16 million in project funding, Winter Park will put $7 million into lift maintenance, enhanced food and beverage offerings, snowmaking and other projects in and around the resort.

“Over the last two years, AMC has invested $50 million into Winter Park, showing the commitment to the Resort and the potential they see at Winter Park.  Hurlbert said. “They’ve certainly lived up to their promises of improving the overall (experience).”

Hurlbert said Winter Park has had a 7 percent increase in visitation year to date. Given this season’s more significant snowfall, he said, it’s hard to know how much to credit the launch of the Ikon Pass. But he said the resort has had an increase in out-of-state visitors.  This season is the first for the Ikon Pass, Alterra’s multi mountain season pass, which competes with the Epic Pass that Vail Resorts has offered for years.

Alterra Mountain Company plans to invest $181 million in capital improvements across its 14 North American mountain destinations for the upcoming year. Marquee 2019/2020 projects aimed at enhancing the guest experience include new high-speed lifts at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and Winter Park, direct to lift access at Deer Valley Resort, an expansive renovation of the Bobbie Burns lodge at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, and an upgrade of Steamboat’s gondola.

This year’s $181 million plan includes $32.3 million towards improved gondolas and lifts, a $27.1 million investment in innovation to offer customer-friendly technology, $8.3 million towards state-of-the-art snowmaking, $6.2 million dedicated to expanded dining experiences, $6.3 million in summer activity investments, and nearly $10 million in planning efforts to unlock future potential terrain and lift expansions, base area developments, new dining facilities, and four-season activity offerings.

These capital projects are part of an ambitious improvement plan totaling more than half a billion dollars through the 2022/2023 season, focused on elevating the guest experience at all destinations, after an initial $170 million investment for the 2018/2019 season.

“Alterra Mountain Company’s unique year-round mountain destinations offer skiers, riders and summer visitors of all ages from all over the world special, memorable experiences, and each aspect of our business plays a part in bringing the guest back year after year and inspiring a lifelong love of the mountains,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer, Alterra Mountain Company. “We are committed to investing in everything from lifts to snowmaking to creative dining experiences, and technology that weaves it all together for a seamless visit.”

With over 250 inches of snow on the ground and March and April looking to bring a river of moisture through the western US,  Winter Park has extended the season at Mary Jane to May 12th. The Ikon Pass for next season is on sale now. Vail Resorts hasn’t yet released when the Epic Pass will go on sale.