Stowe Mountain Resort installing 6-pack chair lift

Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 5:03 PM EDT
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STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) - Crews are working at Stowe Mountain Resort this week installing a new lift on the eastern side of the mountain to help make this ski season go a little smoother.

In the summer heat, crews are working to improve winter fun at Stowe.

“As equipment arrives, we’re going to be starting in the next few weeks actually erecting the terminals at the top and bottom,” said the resort’s Bobby Murphy.

The Sunrise Chair, a 6-pack, high-speed lift, will replace the old mountain triple, which services the beginner and intermediate terrain. It includes 13 towers, 81 chairs, and will run at 1,000 feet per minute as it works its way up a 4,200 vertical slope.

“Our plan is to be operational by about the second week in December -- so, right before our busy time -- and we’re pretty excited about that,” Murphy said.

Scott Reeves, senior director of mountain operations at Stowe, says the lift will be much easier to access as they bump the loading terminal down to avoid stairs up from the parking lot. He says the chairs are detachable so they slow down for loading unlike a gondola or fixed chair. “When you’re loading, it’s much easier to load. And when you’re unloading, it does the same thing, it detaches from the line and goes at a much slower pace,” he said.

But Murphy is looking forward to it because he thinks it’ll improve skier spread on the mountain. “One-hundred percent more capacity but also the speed at which the lift moves, right? So, it’s a high-speed lift getting more people to the skiing quickly,” he said.

And he says it makes beginner and intermediate trails more accessible and attractive thanks to the quick ride up. He also says this lift will be slightly more protected from wind, so skiers and riders can expect it to run in harsher weather than their others can handle. “It’s also part of the mountain that’s not skied as often because of the slower lifts that we used to have. This is going to open up more options,” Murphy said.

Other resorts in Vermont have already embraced the six-person chairs as opposed to doubles, triples, or quads, and they’re more cost-effective than eight-seaters or gondolas. Stowe wouldn’t share a price tag, but Ski Vermont’s Molly Mahar says these usually run around $7-to-$9 million and that chair lifts are a pretty big area for capital spending. “It’s also keeping up with your competitive set. If you know skiers are looking at your competitors, you want to stay current with them,” she said.

Despite the high price tag, Mahar says additions like these draw in visitors, and visitors help local businesses thrive. “The ski industry brings in about 950 million on visitor spending on an annual basis and it’s also is an economic driver for a number of other businesses in those rural areas where most of the ski areas are located,” she said.

Vermont resorts Last year bounced back from the pandemic, with 3.8 million skier visits, a 6.5% rebound from the previous year, but still 6% under the 10-year average. With a little extra snow, officials are hopeful they can get back to normal numbers.

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