The chairlift is as fundamental to modern skiing as snow and mountains. In fact, if it weren't for chairlifts, skiing would likely have a following the size of caber tossing's. With high-speed quads, six-packs, and gondolas replacing rickety old fixed-grip doubles and triples, today's people movers mean more skiing for the cost of your lift ticket. Almost 50 lifts are going in for the upcoming season; here are the ones that will have the biggest impact.
The Lift A yet-to-be- named eight-passenger gondola.
Why You Care The gondola should greatly improve Heavenly's ski-and-gamble experience by connecting the downtown casino area with the ski area itself. The loading station will be just west of the state line on Highway 50¿within a quarter mile of 5,000 hotel rooms¿and the 12-minute ride will terminate just below the Tamarac chair, about two thirds of the way up the mountain. The gondola is the first phase of the Park Avenue Redevelopment, a four- to five-year project that will eventually amount to a new village in town.
MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, CA
The Lift Eagle Express, a high-speed detachable six-pack.
Why You Care The Eagle Express will replace chairs 15 and 24, a fixed-grip double and fixed-grip quad, respectively. Designed to be converted into a gondola in the future, the lift's main purpose will be to transport skiers from the Juniper Springs Lodge, Mammoth's newest slopeside resort. The Eagle Express moves at double the speed of the old chairs.
The Lift An as-yet-unnamed high-speed detachable quad.
Why You Care The chair opens 200 acres of new advanced terrain on North Lookout Mountain, comprised of four cut runs and loads of tree skiing with an average pitch of 35 degrees. Northstar will be "Flatstar" no more.
SQUAW VALLEY, CA
The Lift Far East, a high-speed detachable six-pack.
Why You Care While Intrawest is building the new Village at Squaw Valley, the entire west end of Squaw's parking lot will be a muddy, crane-filled mess. The six-pack will replace the Papoose double and will combine with a new skier-services facility (lift tickets, ski school, etc.) to make the east side of the lot a place where skiers can start their day.
The Lift An as-yet-unnamed high-speed detachable six-pack.
Why You Care The lift replaces the slow-as-molasses Ruby triple chair, which had created a bottleneck for skiers returning from the Outback and North Peak, Keystone's most interesting terrain areas. Besides carrying twice as many skiers per chair, the new lift is twice as fast.
The Lift Pete's Express, a high-speed detachable quad.
Why You Care Pete's Express will serve four new trails in Blue Sky Basin, adding 125 more acres of terrain and bringing Blue Sky Basin up to 80 percent of its planned total skiable acreage.
BRETTON WOODS, NH
The Lift Zephyr, a high-speed detachable quad.
Why You Care The quad replaces the pain-fully slow Mount Oscar double, cutting ride time by two thirds. It will drop skiers on a ridge between the original Bretton Woods area and the more challenging gladed terrain of the West Mountain area. Plus, the new loading terminal will be closer to the base lodge.
The Lift The North Peak Express, a high-speed detachable quad.
Why You Care The chair is named for the peak that it opens. The North Peak Express, Ascutney's first high-speed quad, will serve five new trails, including a steep expert run.