Skiing An example of what Mount Snow's new chairs will look like.

Published on November 1st, 2011 | by Paul McMorris

Faster Lifts, Wave Pools, and Undoing Irene | What’s New in Vermont Ski/Ride Areas for the 2011-12 Season

Vermont, the third largest-ski state in the country, rode high with nearly 4.4 million skier and rider visits last season. But then our beloved ski areas got slammed with the horrific onslaught of Tropical Storm Irene.

Cheer up, because although the damage slowed down ski area improvement projects, the good news is, most of them were budgeted and well underway before the storm hit, including three new chairlifts and a surfing pool.

Here are the new and exciting goods waiting for all of us this season.

No willing buyer stepped up to the lift-loading platform as of publication, so the facilities remain in hibernation—except for the hotel—for yet another season. However, historically mothballed ski areas the size of this mountain typically are resurrected in one form or another by angel investors or co-ops. Not this season though. Wanna buy a ski area, anyone?

Speaking of resurrected ski areas, this place was down for the count back in the late 1990s, but is charging ahead today with the pumping-up of its snowmaking infrastructure efficiencies and the welcome addition of a brand-new grooming machine. Skiing and riding under the lights, proximity to Burlington, elevation, and the resorts’ commitment to Nords helps this place rock on.

Close to a cool million dollars were spent on the new 3,000-square-foot children’s facility, and a makeover of the learning area last summer, including a new covered carpet lift. Up on the mountain, Orion, a black diamond glade, was cut between Havoc and Pushover on East Side. Another $70,000 was spent on new rental gear and a new Burton learn-to-ride program for this season.

A new Leitner-Poma detachable quad chair, the Mid Burke Express, went in to whisk riders uphill seven minutes faster than the stalwart Willoughby Chair. To go along with the new chair, five new trails have been cut from the summit—Upper Lift Line, Upper and Lower Lift Line, Jester (terrain park) and Rerun. To help power up the new chair, a 300,000-kilowatt-hour-capable wind turbine will be spinning on the summit.

On the mountain 104 new HKD tower guns have been installed along with a new air-after-cooler unit to drop the compressed air system’s cooling time for faster snow droplet formation. For teaching, a 300-foot covered carpet lift is ready to roll. But the biggest news here is that $27 million was spent on the Pump House, a 50,000-square-foot indoor waterpark with an average winter temperature of a balmy 86 degrees. The new La Chute Aqua Loop, a 40 mph free-fall drop slide capable of scaring the bejesus out of young and old alike, and the Double Barrel surf riding attraction should be big après-ski hits this season.

Wow. Irene was not kind to this jewel of the eastern skiing and riding scene. The Superstar Pub up at K-1 was literally torn off its foundation, courtesy of the raging Roaring Brook. Not to worry, all should be skier/rider ready for the opening day bell. Expect some welcome changes though:

  • A heated K-1 Gondola waiting area.
  • Four new Prinoth grooming machines.
  • A tubing park across from the Grand Hotel. A non-skier alternative venue.
  • More than 200 new snow guns and major system efficiency upgrades.
  • Tearing down of the aging Peak Lodge. A new and improved version is slated for late December next year. Estimated cost is in the $7 million range.
  • Last but not least, a new heated Umbrella Bar with live entertainment to replace the washed-away Superstar Pub.

A new heated, 15-passenger standup-only gondola is replacing the beloved single-seat chairlift this season. No. Not really. Although this icon of extreme skiers-only mountain is not spending big bucks on capital improvements this year, they are keeping the place real, safe, and true to its historical roots. Check it out if you get a chance this year—after a snowfall.

Talk about a comeback. Many ski area industry pundits wrote this place off years ago, yet they didn’t consider the possibility of its recreation as a partial, cooperative entity. This season, not only is this favorite among tree and steep terrain fans humming along with the invaluable help of a small cadre of willing, sweat-equity, glade-cutting, and lift-painting volunteers, but it is expanding its co-op membership as well. The area’s late visionary founder Hans Thorne would be proud of his resurrected ski area—particularly with the free labor component. Be sure to check out the new glade cuts this year.

An example of what Mount Snow's new chairs will look like.

How’s a new six-pack detachable chair ride to the summit sound to ya? What if the new Bluebird Express comes with a pull down polycarbonate bubble to keep riders protected on those frosty mornings? It’s been a long while since this place has had a covered lift of any kind. This new Leitner-Poma lift replaces the old Summit Local fixed-grip triple chair and is the first one of its kind in the country. Watch for new LED trail status monitors around the mountain and a new burger eatery, 1,900-foot Burger in the old Timber House.


The signature Clock Tower plaza received a needed makeover this fall; 15 new HKD snowguns were installed along with miles of new pipe, rebuilt pumps and motors for the system. Over at Jackson Gore, a new Adventure Zone area with mini-golf and bungee trampoline jumping was installed for warm weather fun.

A new and improved, next-generation Burton Riglet Park has been built on Sir Henry’s Learning Hill to keep the young ones entertained. The center-ring attraction is a treehouse component with ramps, a balance skills area, and a practice chair to help teach safe lift practices.

Yet another new detachable quad chairlift is going in this season; that’s three new chairs for the Green Mountain State. This one replaces the venerable FourRunner chair with a new and improved model.

To help insure a snow white Jubilee Anniversary year, resort management has installed 300 new tower snowguns and added two new grooming machines to the fleet. Over in the Sun Bowl, two new trails have been cut along with a new terrain park on the Big Ben trail. Speaking of sun, there are four new interesting “BigBelly” solar-powered trash compacters at the mid-mountain lodge to cut down on garbage runs down the mountain.

After its decade-long evolution process from the American Skiing Co.’s reign, the resort’s current owners are unveiling the completion of the Lincoln Peak base area transformation project this season. From the Clay Brook slopeside hotel and residence, to a plethora of dining options, and a retail and guest services buildings, the resort has become more of a self-contained, destination venue. Like many destination western North American ski resorts, multi-day guests can spend their entire stay on resort property if they so desire, or venture into nearby Waitsfield for more dining, shopping and lodging options.

After hosting a summer series of aging rocker concerts with the likes of Levon Helm (of The Band fame), the wrath of Irene tore up the parking lot. No worries, though; tons of gravel were brought in and were smoothed over; the lifts were inspected, the trails were mowed and are ready to ski and ride.

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About the Author

Paul McMorris of Taftsville has covered the national and international ski and ride scene for more than two decades, for a wide variety of publications.

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