With two months left before snowmaking begins in earnest, resorts are racing to finish a flurry of upgrades for 2013-14. While the days of new lifts accessing new trails are winding down — only one resort is expanding ski terrain for next season — resorts are investing heavily in snowmaking, as well as lodging and dining facilities.
Arapahoe Basin dropped $1 million on a remodel of the 6th Alley Bar & Grill and a base-lodge expansion. Beaver Creek is preparing for the 2015 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships with a new 500-seat restaurant at Red Tail Camp. Steamboat's new 13,000-square-foot Four Points Lodge marks its most significant on-mountain improvement in 10 years. Loveland is adding its first on-mountain eatery at the remodeled Ptarmigan Roost Cabin.
Durango Mountain Resort, Eldora, Telluride, Ski Granby Ranch and Sunlight are adding new snowmaking equipment, reducing power costs while expanding capacity. Winter Park is replacing its snowmaking supply pipe.
This year, Breckenridge is the only Colorado resort getting bigger, with its hard-earned expansion onto its 12,300-foot Peak 6, the largest terrain addition for the country's busiest ski hill in the past decade. Peak 6 adds two new lifts accessing 400 acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of hike-to steeps.
Crested Butte is glading existing terrain, adding more tree skiing and kid-specific runs.
Steamboat recently won local approval to add night skiing to the lower portion of the mountain.
Planning on growing
Arapahoe Basin is working on a federal environmental review of its proposed lift-served expansion into the steep backcountry adjacent to the resort known as the Beavers, which, if approved, will mark one of the more significant ski-area expansions of the decade. Eldora, which this season joins Vail's vast Epic Pass, and Monarch also are in the middle of federal reviews of expansion plans.
Wolf Creek recently won federal approval for the new Elma lift, which will eliminate a cross-mountain traverse, as well as new sports center and racing facilities .
New chairs, new apps
Copper Mountain spent $7 million for 2013-14, with a new surface lift replacing the Storm King T-bar and a new West Ridge Platter surface lift reaching the upper portions of the ski area. New this season, Copper unveils "Sherpa," a hands-free "intelligence" app that delivers mountainwide trail tips, directions and basically locals' insight via headphones.
Family-owned Wolf Creek is replacing the Treasure Lift with a new high-speed detachable four-pack chair.
Vail Resorts plans to spend $130 million to $140 million at nine resorts for 2013, and company chief Rob Katz has warned analysts that the 2013-14 capital plan will likely mark the high point for winter investment as the company turns toward improving summer traffic across its multiple-state empire.
At its flagship Vail, the company is replacing the Mountaintop Express Chair with a six-person lift. Across all Vail Resorts hills in Colorado, California and Utah, the company's fourth generation of EpicMix will include online pins and awards for ski-school students.
Silverton Mountain this year expands its heli-operation to include overnight heli-touring for $429 a day. Last year, the southern Colorado ski hill that leans more toward heavy-breathing adventure than coddling debuted heli-mountaineering trips. This season, the heli drops you on a peak with a guide, and you tour several lines before descending to a stocked multiple-person dome tent.
Winter Park is selling $10 passes good for all-season rides accessing the Cirque, a 1,332-acre playground of steep terrain. Loveland will continue its free Sno-cat rides up the Ridge.
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, email@example.com or twitter.com/jasontblevins