15 Ski Resort Upgrades to Check Out This Winter

There are numerous ski resort upgrades underway across the country, from minor restorations to major expansions. Big moves include Vail Resorts investing $320 million to build 19 new lifts at its resorts, all in time for the 2022-23 ski season. With these ski resort upgrades, Vail Resorts hopes to significantly reduce wait times and increase uphill capacity. In total, the project includes:

  • 12 new high-speed chairlifts
  • A new high-speed cable car
  • Six new stationary chairlifts
  • A new lift area
  • An expanded restaurant
Vail Resorts have big improvements planned for 2022-23, including new chairlifts at several of their resorts.

Vail Resorts isn’t the only company working on ski resort upgrades, nationwide. Here’s our running list of resort developments scheduled to be completed in time for the winter 2022-23 season.

Rocky Mountain Resorts

Vail (Colorado)

The back bowls at Vail are being upgraded with a new high-speed quad that runs from the bottom of Chair 5 (The Noon Express) to the Wildwood restaurant at Sun Down Bowl. Skiers and drivers can bypass the Sun Down Bowl without crossing the Noon Express.

Game Creek Bowl will have a 45% increase in uphill capacity as high-speed six-packs replace long-running four-packs.

Buttermilk (Colorado)

Aspen Skiing Co. has invested $23 million in new and remodeled facilities at the base of Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, home of the Winter X Games. An aging facility called the “Green Building” in the middle of the base has been scrapped and replaced with a one-story, 9,300-square-foot structure to house the ticket office, ski and snowboard rentals, ski school, public bathrooms, and a large lobby.

Breckenridge (Colorado)

Vail Resorts replaced the Rip’s Ride Lift at Breckenridge with a high-speed 4WD, a double with a fixed grip. This will increase uphill capacity by nearly 70% and help reduce congestion in the Peak 8 base area. This lift mainly serves ski schools and beginners’ areas. The new lift, which follows the opening of the Freedom Superchair for the 2021-22 season, will help improve circulation in the mid-mountain range between Peaks 6 and 7.

Christie Peak Express has also relocated to a new base between Steamboat Gondola and Wild Blue Gondola.

Keystone (Colorado)

The Outpost Restaurant, the popular Bavarian-style eating space on the top of the North Peak at Keystone, is expanding by 6,000 square feet, adding 300 indoor and 75 outdoor seats.

Steamboat (Colorado)

Winter 2022-23 brings the second phase of Steamboat’s sprawling master plan to completion. This phase includes opening the new Greenhorn Ranch Learning Center, Range Food and Drink Hall, and Skeeter’s Ice Rink. The ice rink will become an active lawn during the summer.

Wild Blue Gondola’s lower leg will open this winter. It takes just five minutes from the base area to the mid-station at Greenhorn Ranch. Wild Blue is the longest 10-passenger gondola in North America.

A sketch of the reimagined Steamboat base area. (Rendering courtesy of Saunders Construction.)

Purgatory (Colorado)

Purgatory Ski Resort announced a $1.5 million investment in snowmaking upgrades, infrastructure and operations. The biggest upgrade will be the expansion of snowmaking coverage. It will include the lower Paradise to the midway loading of Needles Triple (Lift 6). The coverage will permit the early opening of higher-elevation runs if temperatures are too warm for skiing top to bottom. Snowmaking upgrades improve snowmaking capacity, quality and reliability through rebuilt water pump and air compression systems, energy-smart solutions and top-tier snowmaking equipment.

Deer Valley (Utah)

The first phase of Deer Valley’s massive Snow Park Village renovation project, the new Burns Express Gondola, will debut this winter in the Wild West Learning District. The lift provides direct access from the bottom of the snow park to Little Bald Mountain. Ski schools will benefit from access to additional beginner terrain, and off-base capabilities will generally increase.

Snowbird (Utah)

Snowbird began operating its new blue tram car on July 16. The new tram has floor-to-ceiling windows, a rooftop balcony, and a 3-foot-by-3-foot glass floor with extraordinary summer mountain views.

After 50 years and more than 790,000 miles of service, Snowbird announced last spring that it would retire its iconic red and blue streetcars at the end of the season. The original plan called for two new cars to be installed by June 2022. However, the project hit a snag when the new red car fell during installation and was damaged beyond repair. Currently, Snowbird has reinstalled the old red tram as a counterweight. Its controls are not compatible with the new system.

Northstar (California)

Northstar has dramatically improved ski flow with a significant upgrade to the popular Comstock lift. The current Zhongshan four-person group will be replaced by a high-speed six-person group lift, nearly doubling the uphill capacity and reducing congestion in this busy area.

Heavenly (California)

Heavenly replaced the stationary triple North Bowl lift with a new high-speed four-wheel drive. The new lift will increase capacity by 40% and reduce the travel time for the Boulder and North Bowl chairs. The new lifts are designed to reduce wait times for stagecoach and Olympic lifts.

Palisades Tahoe (California)

The inter-base cable car at Palisades Tahoe will open in November 2022. The towers for the new gondola are in place, and work continues at each base area to complete the project. The eight-seat cable car transports 1,400 riders per hour from the Olympic Village to the Alpine base in 16 minutes. Riders can choose to disembark at the K-22 midway stop for access to the terrain.

Palisades Tahoe replaced the historic Red Dog Triple with a new detachable six-person chair. Red Dog is one of the resort’s original chair lifts, used during the 1960 Olympic Games. The new Red Dog will open for winter 2022-23.

The Canadian Rockies

Whistler-Blackcomb (British Columbia)

Vail Resorts will use new, faster eight-passenger lifts instead of six-passenger lifts, increasing the creek’s off-base uphill capability by 35% at Whistler. Vail Resorts replaced the high-speed quad Big Red Express with a high-speed six and increased uphill capacity by nearly 30%. As part of the Big Red upgrade, guests can now get a modern Zhongshan experience from the Creekside area. Construction work should be completed in late 2022.

Since acquiring Whistler in 2017, Vail Resorts has invested $127 million to upgrade the resort, including the Blackcomb Gondola, three new and upgraded lifts, and an expansion of the Roundhouse Lodge restaurant.

ski resort upgrades
Resorts in the Canadian Rockies, Rocky Mountains, and on the East Coast are gearing up for another season of big powder.

East Coast Resorts

Stowe (Vermont)

Vail Resorts has replaced the classic fixed-grip triple lift with a six-person high-speed lift and extended it to the Mansfield Base Lodge at Stowe. This doubles the ascent capacity and eliminates the hike to the base lift. Access to lower-level terrain will improve for beginners and intermediates.

Mount Snow (Vermont)

At Mount Snow, Vail Resorts is installing a high-speed six-pack lift to replace the fixed triple lift Sundance, and Tumbleweed lifts installed in 1984 and 1997, respectively. New lifts have increased uphill capacity by 70% and reduced congestion in the main base area.

Additionally, the Sunbrook Lift was first installed in 1990 and upgraded to high-speed four-wheel drive. Sunbrook has long been a slow nine-minute ride, making the area relatively uncrowded. The new lift trip will be just over four minutes and provide better shelter from the wind. The move creates an opportunity for Mt. Snow to reshape Sunbrook Base Lodge.

Magic Mountain (Vermont)

Continuously improving the guest experience, Magic Mountain has become one of New England’s premier independent ski resorts since Ski Magic LLC acquired it in 2016. These improvements continue with the finishing touches on the new “Black Chair” (aka the Summit Quad). Neighboring Stratton Mountain purchased the gondola in 2018. However, operations were delayed due to the pandemic, mechanical failures, and supply chain issues. Finally, the resort appears to be preparing to flip the lifts in winter 2022-23.

Sunday River (Maine)

One year after Loon Mountain opened Kancamagus 8, billed as the fastest gondola in North America, Sunday River launched its eight-pack. The Jordan 8 will replace the former Jordan Express, increasing the ascent capacity from 2,100 skiers per hour to 3,200. Jordan 8 will serve as the gateway to the newly created “Western Reserve,” thousands of acres owned by Sunday River for future trail development.

Sunday River has reconfigured the Kansas Trail to provide access to the Jordan Peak base area. So far, several sections have gone uphill, causing traffic jams and difficulties for many guests.

Long-Term Projects

Many more projects won’t be completed this season but should be up and running soon. Eight other major projects are planned for the next few years:

Aspen (Colorado)

A big project for Aspen Skiing Co. is phase one of the Pandora’s terrain expansion on Aspen Mountain. Crews will be clearing timber for a new chairlift and trails on the upper east side of the mountain. The chairlift will be installed in summer 2023. The 153-acre expansion will open for skiing and riding in 2023-24.

Keystone (Colorado)

Keystone is about to get a major terrain expansion – just not this year. The Bergman Bowl expansion will no longer be open for the 2022-23 season. On July 8, third-party builders built an unauthorized road in the sheltered high-altitude tundra and stopped construction. The U.S. Fire Department asked Keystone to provide a recovery plan to resume construction. The project was approved, but on Aug. 4, 2022, Vail Resorts announced that it would not be able to complete construction for the next season. The Bergman Bowl is only within walking distance for the upcoming season.

Winter Park (Colorado)

The master plan for Winter Park calls for six new lifts, including a 10-person gondola, connecting the resort to the town of Winter Park. The resort announced plans to expand Mount Vazquez.

Mayflower Mountain Resort (Utah)

Potentially the first new full-service resort in the U.S. in 40 years, Mayflower Mountain Resort’s proposal would combine 1,000 acres of skiable acreage, 15 ski lifts, a gondola, up to 825 hotel rooms, 68,000 square feet of an entertainment center and up to 250,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. Wasatch National Council received an update in late July 2022. New York-based real estate firm Extell Development Company is building 14 ski runs and 11 hiking trails.

Deer Valley (Utah)

Utah Resorts announces significant renovation and expansion of its snow park base area at Deer Valley in 2023, including new ski service facilities; new, modern food, beverage, and drink options; expansive ski beaches; integrated transportation and transportation hubs; underground parking spaces; and retrofitted gondolas.

Big Sky (Montana)

The final phase of the ski resort upgrades at Big Sky program will see the construction of the new Lone Peak tram and gondola connecting the base area to the tram base station. Trams will open for the 2023-24 season, with cable cars opening later.

Mammoth Mountain (California)

New high-speed six-passengers chairs will replace Canyon Express and Broadway Express chairs at Mammoth Mountain. Groundbreaking is set for 2023. In the longer term, Mammoth has announced a massive rebuild of its main lodge, creating a new “gateway to the mountains.”

Taos (New Mexico)

Taos Ski Valley unveiled a $300 million master plan that includes various lift upgrades — notably a base-to-base gondola that connects the front and rear base areas. The program consists of new dining options and an expanded summer program.

Crystal Mountain (Washington)

Crystal Mountain has launched a $26 million in ski resort upgrades to build a new 25,000-base hotel called Mountain Commons. The new hotel is the centerpiece of a project worth more than $100 million over the next few years, scheduled to open in the 2023-24 season.

Sugarloaf (Maine)

Key to Sugarloaf’s 2030 plan is the West Mountain expansion project, including a new gondola and significant trail development. The plan will expand the resort’s primary and intermediate terrain and ease traffic on the Super Quad.