Last summer, resorts concentrated on getting people up the hill, giving them something to ski on and feeding them when they were through.
Granite Gorge, New Hampshire
Calling itself the longest lost area to reopen (closed in 1977 and reopened in 2003), Granite Gorge Ski Area, formerly known as Pinnacle Mountain Ski Area, embarked on a massive upgrade last summer.
Initially, Fred and John Baybutt bought the property in 1999, worked on the land, and opened for the 2003-04 season with a beginner handle tow from O’Connor, a tubing area, a new snowmaking system and a new lodge. This past summer, a refurbished 1,500-foot double chair went in which allows top-to-bottom skiing on the area’s 17 trails that access the 525 feet of vertical.
The lift is a 1981 Borvig that came from Devil’s Elbow ski area in Bethany, Ontario. The Baybutts wanted the lift to look and operate as if it were new, so great care was put into the refurbishing and upgrading of the parts--even though “John Holmberg, owner of Devil’s Elbow, runs an excellent operation and the lift was in excellent shape,” the owners said. All the towers were shipped from Canada to be refabricated and painted. The Kissling gearbox was adapted with the largest engine it could handle--a 75 hp regen DC drive electric motor from Baldour. The drive assembly, worked on by Hagen Schulz, features all new controls, wiring, drive and engine. The lift also features a mid-station unloading capability with a new depress tower and a number of new sheave assemblies.
The rest of the sheaves were poured over, and new bearings and liners were put in. All-new grade 8 bolts were used for the connection to the towers. Finally, the towers were fitted with new catwalks and lifting frames. The installation was handled by Randy Blenis and Ross Stevens.
With a capacity of 881 people per hour, the new lift brings an old area into the modern world and Granite Gorge guests are sure to be pleased.
This past summer marked a new record in lift construction--the highest chairlift in North America was installed on Breckenridge’s Peak 8. The high-speed quad from Leitner-Poma reaches an elevation of 12,840 feet, which might have made workers a little sluggish.
And passengers of the lift cannot also be counted among the weak--the new lift will serve 400 acres of in-bound double black diamond terrain. The base of the lift is at 11,901 feet and rises 939 feet. With nine towers, the length of the quad comes in at 2,715 feet and will carry 600 people per hour, but is upgradeable to 1,800 pph.
For the more sedate, lower-altitude dwellers, Breckenridge also constructed the Skyway Skiway last summer. This skier bridge serves as a link from Peak 8 to Main Street Breckenridge and the free parking lots. The bridge also provides ski-in access to the Mountain Thunder Lodge and Townhomes. The 2,200-foot bridge was originally scheduled to open next season, but thanks to speedy crews and abundant snowfall, skiers are enjoying the benefits this season. This summer, the resort is taking no chances and installing snowmaking on the Skiway.
And for those of you who would like to know where the highest lift in the world serving skiing is located, that would be at Chacaltaya, Bolivia, which operates a surface tow up to 17,785 feet. The second highest is a gondola in Gulmarg, India that reaches 14,403 feet.
Burke Mountain, Vermont
The new owners of Burke Mountain are benefitting from a spate of new improvements made to the resort this past summer. First up was a major upgrade to the area’s snowmaking system. Burke installed 12,000 feet of pipe, 70 HKD tower guns from Snow Economics and two Floway pumps, increasing overall capacity by 30 percent. The engineering work was handled by Sno.matic and the installation of the pipe, pumps and tower guns was done by Royal Trail Works.
In addition, practically every inch of the base lodge was renovated and a new restaurant was put in to serve hungry Vermont skiers. And for smaller guests, a Sprung structure was added adjacent to the base lodge for children’s programs.
Topping it all off was a 4,389-foot high-speed quad from Leitner-Poma that replaces a fixed-grip double. Traveling at 1,000 feet per minute, the new lift whisks skiers and snowboarders up the 563 feet of vertical in four minutes. The initial capacity is 1,800 pph with a design capacity of 2,400 pph.
Pat’s Peak, New Hampshire
In southern New Hampshire, Pat’s Peak spent last summer upgrading everything in sight, from lifts to kitchens. For nocturnal guests, night lighting was added to the area’s Downdraft trail, upping the lighting count to 20 of 22 trails (the 21st trail will be added this summer).
In the kitchen, recognizing that pub food is a major revenue source, Pat’s Peak renovated the restaurant in order to serve more food, faster. And to better cater to its average 85 off-season events, the ski area added air conditioning to its Valley Lodge to keep summer guests cool.
The Hurricane triple chair benefitted from a new drive from Eurotherm, which replaces an old Avtek. The new drive ties into an overhaul of the braking systems, fully reconditioned electric motor and a gearbox that also received some TLC.
And when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, Pat’s Peak upgraded its snowmaking system, which already covers 100 percent of the terrain. Fifteen new HKD Spectrum guns, two new SMI Polecats, and 5,000 feet of snowmaking pipe were added in key areas, such as the Turbulence terrain park.
It seems a Construction Site can’t go by without some mention of the new kid on the block--Tamarack. But, those folks in Idaho have been extremely busy each summer, adding lifts, housing, snowmaking and terrain, when they are not entertaining President Bush who paid a visit last summer. Here’s what guests were greeted with this season:
Thanks to successful real estate sales, the area doubled its planned lift installations, and put in two Doppelmayr/CTEC quads, one fixed, one a highspeed. The fixed grip provides ski-in, ski-out access to members of the Whitewater neighborhood, and the one-mile-long detachable accesses 140 more acres of advanced trail and glade skiing. The two lifts bring the area’s trail count to 35, up from 25.
Not that Idaho needs it this winter, but Tamarack upgraded a TechnoAlpin snowmaking system that is fully computerized. The resort added seven new guns, bringing the total to 17. To service the guns, 7,000 feet of pipe were added over 40 acres, bringing total snowmaking coverage to 125 acres.