On Monday, Alterra Mountain Company announced that Winter Park Resort’s venerable Zephyr Express chairlift will be replaced by a new 10-person gondola, part of $28.2 million in capital improvements for the 2018-19 winter season. Other additions include the first phase of a complete overhaul of Winter Park’s snowmaking system, increased lift maintenance, snowcats, and 21 acres of logging in Eagle Wind Territory to improve glade skiing.
The Zephyr Hi-Speed Quad replaced the aging Triple Chair, “The Flying Couch” in 1990-91 season and has served the mountain well for 28 years. The new, yet to be named, gondola will increase uphill capacity from 2,600 to 3,600 guests per hour, decreasing wait times by 15 minutes during peak season while “swiftly and comfortably delivering guests to the Lodge at Sunspot” according to Communications Director Steve Hurlbert. Preparatory work will begin as soon as the area closes and the new gondola is expected to be operational in time for the 2018-2019 ski season.
The $16 million Leitner-Poma gondola project will feature a cutting-edge energy saving direct drive system, making it environmentally sound as well as efficient. The regulatory approval process for the new gondola is currently underway. The gondola will be Winter Park’s first on-mountain lift installation since the Panoramic Express was added in 2007.
According to Hurlbert, The footprint for the new Gondola will be approximately the same and should not disrupt the summer activities in and around the base area. “The Private Lesson Center, summer programs, and putting course will not be significantly impacted.” The footprint may shift some things around slightly but all the base activities will be open.Business as usual.
“Trestle Bike Park will be 100% open for the summer.” The biggest change obviously is to get to the top. Riders will take the Gemini and then the Eskimo to access the bike park. Olympia Lift will be open 7 days a week beginning July 1 so riders won’t have to come down to the base and can just do laps on the upper portion of the mountain “where most of the fun stuff is anyway”
The Resort has chosen to postpone the Colorado Freeride Festival, a signature mountain bike event, for one year while they go through the renovation process.
In addition to the new gondola, Winter Park will upgrade its antiquated 42-year old snowmaking system with new energy efficient components, pipe replacement, and high-tech snowmaking guns. The $4 million for system improvements will ideally allow Winter Park to open additional terrain earlier each season. Much of the budget for the new system is to replace the aging compressors. The Resort has replaced several thousand feet of new piping in the last couple of years. Hurlbert added, “Trails should not be impacted by any of the snowmaking system work.”
Winter Park also plans to invest heavily in maintenance with significant earmarks geared for lift upkeep, grooming equipment, and efficient snow guns. Sky Foulkes, President and Ceo of Winter Park Resort said, “When Alterra Mountain Company purchased Intrawest the new leadership group pledged to invest in its resorts and this is an emphatic demonstration of that commitment. A singular investment of $28.2 million is rare throughout the ski industry, let alone at Winter Park, and we’re looking forward to providing an enhanced guest experience not just next year, but for years to come.”
Chris Seeman, Winter Park Town Council said, “It is exciting to have a new partner at the mountain. They are a company of skiers and outdoor enthusiasts, a contrast to the historical banking philosophies of Intrawest.”
Ongoing logging operations will also be conducted throughout the summer with an additional 20+ acres of the Eagle Wind Territory. This thinning will enhance the guest gladed skiing experience in the area while also contributing to the overall health of the forest by removing dead and dying timber while promoting forest revegetation.
Putting in lifts are big ticket items but the investment is addressing some areas behind the scenes that have been on the backburner. Foulkes added, “We appreciate Alterra for recognizing the areas of Winter Park’s operation that could use improvement and then decisively working with us to achieve solutions that better serve our guests.”
Winter Park is the beneficiary of the commitment by Alterra Mountain Company to continually improve the guest experience at each of its 12 mountain destinations. Over the next five years, Alterra has pledged more than half a billion dollars in capital improvements, spending $130 million.