By Jim Stanford on February 14, 2012
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will invest $5 million on a high-speed quad this year to replace the 38-year-old Casper triple chairlift.
Resort president Jerry Blann revealed plans for the new lift during a press conference this afternoon at Teton Village. The resort also will spend $400,000 on grading intermediate terrain serviced by the lift, Blann said.
The detachable quad will carry up to 2,000 skiers per hour, nearly twice the capacity of the existing lift. The ride will take 3.5 minutes instead of nearly 10.
“It’s a big one for us,” Blann said. “Casper is certainly part of our history.”
The existing chair was built in 1974 and rises 1,050 vertical feet. The new lift will be realigned slightly, following the tree line and landing just to the north of and above the existing top terminal. Leitner-Poma of America will build the lift and have it ready by Nov. 9.
The resort will remove rocks from and regrade the rollover near the top of the existing chair and also will perform extensive grading on the Wide Open run. About 300 trees will be cut, Blann said.
The upgrade in services for intermediate riders makes it more likely the resort will remodel the mid-mountain Casper Restaurant, situated near the base of the chair, in the near future. Farther on the horizon is a long-planned chairlift rising to the Crags. “That one is going to be a ways out,” Blann said.
The resort also is considering a zip line and via ferrata, two amenities made possible by legislation Congress passed last year. U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo, cosponsored the bill, which gives the Forest Service a freer hand in approving such facilities. The agency has two years to write new rules governing this type of recreation, Blann said, and the resort is waiting for that process to be completed.
At this point, Jackson Hole has “nothing specific” planned, he said, although the resort has identified the area atop the gondola as a suitable site for a via ferrata — a series of climbing features embedded in rock. The resort proposed such an amenity several years ago, but the Forest Service denied the request.
The new Casper chairlift and grooming of Wide Open will appeal to intermediate skiers. Thirty-one percent of JHMR guests identify themselves as intermediate, said Chip Carey, marketing director. The resort also has added six grooming vehicles to its fleet since last year.
While the new quad will whisk skiers to the top quickly, many in attendance at the press conference rued the loss of the patient pace of the old lift that allowed time for conversation between runs.
(Casper photo via AllJacksonHole)