SANDPOINT — Schweitzer Mountain Resort is peeling back the curtain on a series of capital improvements, which includes plans for two new chairlifts in the Outback Bowl.
“We’re still working out the details at this point,” Dig Chrismer, the resort’s marketing manager, said of the new chairlifts, which are slated for construction in the summer of 2019. But she added, “The plan is in place.”
The two lifts would supplant the resort’s mythic Chair 6, also known as Snow Ghost. The lift provides access to some of the mountain’s best cruising runs and groomed trails, in addition to countless stashes of powder in between.
But that access comes at something of a cost — a 13-minute top-to-bottom chairlift ride. It’s the only double-digit chairlift commute left on the mountain, which can be a blessing for those with worn-out legs, but a curse for skiers and snowboarders who are looking to maximize their productivity on the slopes. The Riblet Tramway Co. chairlift was installed during a 1971 expansion of the mountain’s Colburn basin area, according to Tom Trulock, Schweitzer’s former mountain operations director.
The was repositioned and rechristened Snow Ghost in honor of the rime-coated trees that populate the resort’s slopes in 1986.
“It’s bittersweet in a way. I know a lot of people love Snow Ghost,” Chrismer said of the lift’s eventual removal.
Whatever lifts take its place, they will likely draw inspiration from the Basin Express and Lakeview Triple chairlifts on the resort’s front side. Those lifts replaced vaunted Chair 1, which took riders from the village to the resort’s 6,389-foot summit, and provided more operational flexibility when challenging weather conditions crop up.
Chrismer said the new lifts will emulate the relationship between the Basin Express and the Lakeview lifts.
“If, for example, there’s an issue at the summit we can still access terrain lower down. We really like how that’s worked for our guests so that’s something we’ve been trying to keep in mind as we approach the lift upgrades on the back side as well,” said Chrismer.
Resort officials are eying the Cedar Park trail area above Stella, the resort’s six-pack lift, for the new lower lift’s loading station. It would deposit riders in the vicinity of Chair 6’s existing midway offloading point.
The second lift to the summit will be located in the vicinity of the Will’s Runout and Vagabond trails, although its precise destination has yet to be determined.
“We’re trying to keep it as close as possible to the existing area where you get off of Snow Ghost currently,” said Chrismer.
Chrismer said the resort will be doing some logging and brushing to accommodate the new lifts as they engage with chairlift manufacturers and fine-tune construction plans.
This summer, the resort made $1.5 million in capital improvements, which includes the purchase of a new grooming snowcat, updating electrical lines for the Sky House, carpet and flooring replacements. The resort’s Magic Carpet conveyor lift was also extended from 250 feet to 380 feet and maintenance was conducted on the two of the resort’s workhorse lifts, the Great Escape Quad and Musical Chairs.
The resort also entered into a partnership with Intermax to improve bandwidth and free WiFi access at the resort. In addition, visitors this winter will be able to use the free Selkirk Pend Oreille Transit bus service to connect from the Red Barn parking lot at the foot of the mountain to the village. SPOT will utilize a new fleet of buses specifically ordered for the new Schweitzer Mountain route.
Chrismer said the SPOT buses will operate on the same schedule as the former Schweitzer buses.
“That will stay the same,” Chrismer said of the scheduling.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.