Improvements in snowmaking, faster chairlifts, and refurbished base areas highlight the many new wrinkles being added to ski areas and resorts across New England this season.
Killington will debut its long-awaited K-1 Lodge, while Saddleback will open its new mid-mountain lodge. Stowe, Waterville Valley, Magic Mountain, Attitash, Sunday River, and Mount Snow will all unveil new lifts, each dramatically increasing uphill capacity. And Jay Peak, at long last, has a new owner, putting its future in more certain hands.
Here’s a rundown of everything new to expect this winter when you make your first turns in Vermont.
The chatter surrounding Stowe Mountain Resort might highlight the implementation of paid parking ($30 per day), but there are also improvements on the hill to note. At the top of the list is the brand-new Sunrise lift, Stowe’s first six-passenger chairlift. The lift will replace the current Mountain Triple but will originate lower, down alongside the Mansfield Base Lodge, to alleviate the need to climb the stairs. This lift will service some of the resort’s best intermediate terrain, including the Family Adventure Zones (introductory, gladed terrain). Sunrise is scheduled to start spinning in mid-December.
Mount Snow will replace a pair of triple chairlifts with one high-speed, six-person chair. Uphill capacity will increase by 70 percent. The Sunbrook Chair, located on the back side of the mountain, will also be replaced by a high-speed quad, decreasing ride time to less than 10 minutes.
At Killington, the K-1 Base Lodge is scheduled to make its debut early this season. This state-of-the-art structure is nearly three years in the making. Covering 58,000 square feet (nearly twice the size of its predecessor), it features three floors, accessed by elevator and one of the only escalators in the state of Vermont. With nearly 900 seats available between the food court and multiple bar areas, this new facility will transform the way Killington’s guests start their day at the resort.
Killington also continues to improve and upgrade its snowmaking capabilities. This past summer, the resort added a more-efficient, electric air compressor and added some new pipe on Bear Mountain, where the base lodge now has a new deck ready to welcome après sunbathers come spring.
Sister mountain Pico, meanwhile, is in the midst of a multi-year, $6 million snowmaking improvement project. This past summer, snowmaking was added to A-Slope, a project made possible largely by fundraising efforts of the Pico Ski Education Foundation. “They have been hard at work to improve the race training facility accessed by the Little Pico Triple, and with the newly regraded A-Slope cut off, there will be more space to train this season,” Pico spokesperson Brooke Geery said. “We’ve also replaced snowmaking pipe and regraded the base area of Bonanza, and great news for those very cold days, this summer we fixed the base lodge chimney, which will allow the crackle of a fire to roar once again.”
Nothing so dramatic at Mad River Glen, where offseason improvements included minor maintenance projects. The co-op ski area is continuing its limited capacity model this season, with caps on season passes and day tickets. “This is to ensure a uniquely Mad River Glen ski experience where skiers can feel more connected with nature, not fighting for parking spaces, jockeying for position in overcrowded lift lines, or skiing defensively to avoid other skiers,” Mad River spokesperson Ry Young said. Burke Mountain is introducing a midweek lift ticket deal where anyone, any age, can ski or ride for only $45.
Sugarbush Mountain Resort saw its largest capital dollars influx in years this summer, the majority of which has been dedicated to a multimillion dollar snowmaking expansion. These snowmaking projects include pipe and snow gun replacement. Other improvements include new groomers and an eight-passenger cabin cat.
Magic Mountain made $1 million in snowmaking improvements, including the long-awaited debut of the quad summit lift. The lift will double Magic’s uphill capacity. What’s old is new at Jay Peak this season. The re-opening of the Canadian border, post-Covid, means a return to 50 percent of Jay’s business that was the norm pre-pandemic. The resort also has a new owner, as Pacific Group Resorts, Inc. purchased the resort for a reported $76 million. PGRI also owns Ragged Mountain, in New Hampshire.
Stratton Mountain Resort is debuting “Next Step Lessons” this season, a beginner rental and lessons package to reach beyond the first-time skier or rider. This lesson package is geared towards those who have been on the hill a few times already and are looking to grow their footprint in the sport. A new climbing wall will debut in the Stratton Village mid-winter, and three, new public resort transportation buses and two, new shuttle buses for the Black Bear Lodge will enhance inter-resort travel.
The ski area formerly known as Suicide Six officially has a new name — Saskadena Six — one that pays tribute to the “original inhabitants of the land and the mountain’s multi-generational legacy and values of community, inclusion, adventure, discovery, and fun.” Saskadena, the Pomret, Vt. area, owned and operated by the Woodstock Inn and Resort, is a name that honors the ancestral land of the indigenous western Abenaki people. The word, “saskadena” means “standing mountain,” symbolizing a deep connection to the original inhabitants and the land. “The time has come to change the name of our historic ski area to better reflect its rich tradition of family fun,” Courtney Lowe, president of the Woodstock Inn and Resort, said in a release. “We embrace the need for the increasing awareness of mental health and share the growing concern about the insensitivity of the word and the strong feelings it evokes on those in our community who have been touched by the tragedy of suicide.”
Eric Wilbur can be reached at [email protected].