What happens when the biggest ski resort corporation in the world buys your local mountain? That's the question Seattle's ski and snowboard community was asking this summer when Vail Resorts, Inc. purchased Stevens Pass, a beloved ski area about two hours east of Seattle on Highway 2.
Today locals got their first hint at what a Vail-owned Stevens Pass will become, with the company announcing that they will spend millions on renovations over the next two years, including two brand new lifts for the next ski season.
Jennifer Smith, a spokesperson for Vail Resorts, said the company plans to replace the aging Brooks and Daisy chairlifts before the 2019-2020 season begins, pending approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
"Pending final approvals, the Brooks lift, which is currently a double lift, will be upgraded to a high-speed, detachable quad chairlift. The Daisy lift, which is currently a triple, will be upgraded to a fixed-grip quad chairlift," Smith said. "Both of the new chairs would significantly increase the number of guests we can move uphill per hour and will decrease lift wait times."
Smith declined to specify how much the upgrades would cost or how much money the multi-billion dollar corporation would spend on Stevens Pass. The work at Stevens Pass is part of a two year, $35 million plan to bring upgrades to four recent resort purchases made by the company.
Smith said the two new lifts would not expand the skiable area at Stevens Pass but she said that could happen in the future.
"If approved, this investment will make a tangible difference to the way our guests move around the mountain. The planned upgrades address certain pinch points and would allow us to better access under-utilized terrain," Smith said. "We will continue to assess the needs of the resort, including possible expansion, but are currently committed to strategic, thoughtful investments and improvements."
Vail's acquisition of Stevens Pass is part of an international arms race between the Colorado company and its biggest competitor, Alterra Mountain Company, which is also based in Colorado. Both corporations have been purchasing ski resorts in markets across the world, from Japan and Europe to South America and the American Midwest. Three weeks after Vail announced its acquisition of Stevens Pass this summer, Alterra announced that it had bought Washington's largest resort, Crystal Mountain.
Two new chairlifts will certainly make some people at Stevens Pass happy. We'll see how the locals take it.