Orange is the new Green Mountain chairlift color, as Okemo Mountain Resort‘s new six-passenger, high-speed chairlift has an orange bubble cover. Stratton and Stowe both unveil brand-new gondola cabins this season. Ragged in New Hampshire debuts a high speed quad up Spear Mountain, and Maine’s Sunday River spruces up the Spruce Peak triple with a new conveyor loader. That’s just a sampling of what’s new in New England skiing.
Okemo goes orange this season, launching a stylin’ new high-speed six-pack lift. “The Sunburst Six” represents the biggest East Coast expenditure, replacing its old NorthStar quad with a Leitner Poma lift complete with heated seats and orange covers for skiers to lower during the 6.4 minute ascent from mid mountain to summit.
Okemo’s sister resort Sunapee in New Hampshire gets a new lift too. Sunapee’s Sunbowl Quad has been replaced with a new high-speed Poma, cutting the ride to the summit in half – to 4 minutes. The installation of the Sunbowl Express kicks off an upcoming series of lift and trail improvements, which will also include upgrading the North Peak triple to a quad and installing a triple from the base of the Sunbowl to North Peak.
Stowe Mountain has completely renovated its classic bright red gondola up Mt. Mansfield, so skiers and riders will have a cushy new ride, with snowboard racks on the outside, on this scenic 2,000-foot vertical lift. A new Meadows Quad graces the gentler slopes of Spruce Peak, replacing two doubles. In Spruce Peak Village, a new ice rink and adventure center are in the works in front of the posh Stowe Mountain Lodge.
Stratton Mountain launches 58 fancy new 12-passenger gondolas with carpet, flip-down seating for your 8-minute ride, and outside ski and snowboard holders. The load and unload areas have been revamped to accommodate the cabin’s wider footprint, for a total gondola project price of $3 million. Stratton has also bolstered its snowmaking system with 390 lower-energy guns, bringing its arsenal to 900.
Burke Mountain, now owned by Jay Peak, is building Hotel Burke, a 116-suite, ski-in/ski-out hotel modeled after Jay’s Tram Haus. It’s expected to open in November 2015, part of $108 million being spent at Burke–or Q Burke, as it is being branded. (Not sure why the Quiros family wants to move Burke back in the alphabet.) Burke also has plans for an indoor-outdoor tennis and aquatic center. Jay Peak has opened three new slopeside hotels, an indoor water park, an ice house and a tram top restaurant in the past few years.
In Maine, Sunday River will roll out $5 million this season, bringing the total spent on improvements since Boyne bought The River in 2007 to $40 million. Upgrading the old fixed-grip Spruce Triple Chair with a magic-carpet style conveyor load system will allow this key mid-mountain lift to operate 20 percent faster, with less stops and easier loading. Similar conveyor lift systems have made their way to Sugarloaf, Okemo, and Shawnee Peak for about $100 grand–far less expensive than a new high-speed lift. Sunday River will also get more snowmaking and two new groomers. Look for Hollywood at Sunday River, a new 10-acre glade between Agony and Top Gun on Barker Mountain. Sunday River opened for skiing November 3, two hours before Killington.
Ragged Mountain in New Hampshire replaces its old Spear Triple chairlift with a new Doppelmayr Detachable Quad. With this season’s $5 million investment, skiers can enjoy high-speed rides, a quad & six-pack to both Ragged’s ski peaks, and an improved base lodge too.
Pats Peak adds two new trails and a glade to the Cascade Basin Triple area installed last year. Cannon is spending $1 million on Mittersill trail work and snowmaking to ramp up this rustic natural snow area. Cranmore in North Conway is starting construction of its Kearsarge Brook Condominiums at the base of its South Slope.
Throughout New England, resorts are pumping up their snowmaking, especially Sugarbush, Smugglers Notch, Bromley, Mount Snow and Okemo, Cannon, Loon, Pats Peak, and Waterville Valley.
The weather gurus at the Farmer’s Almanac have this to say about the 2014-15 season: “Winter will be much colder than normal, with near-normal precipitation and below-normal snowfall in the East. The coldest periods will be in mid and late December, early and mid-January, and mid to late February. The snowiest periods will be in mid to late November, mid and late December, and early to mid-March.”
We are off to an early start to skiing in New England. Sunday River and Killington opened November 3. #Snowvember. See you on the slopes.
By Heather Burke, photos by Greg Burke