Peak Resorts, owner and operator of Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt., hopes to build a new high-speed, detachable chairlift to replace Lift No. 17, the fixed-grip Summit Local.

The project is a work in progress with official announcement of details still to come, but options under consideration include six-passenger chairs.

Cost of the project is pegged at about $7 to $10 million.

The Summit Local serves as backup access to the top of the mountain on busy weekends and holidays, and has a reputation among guests for being excruciatingly slow.

Peak is well through the permitting process for the lift, is finishing design details, and is now working on financing arrangements, the final, crucial piece of the project.

If all goes as hoped, construction could begin in March, and the lift could be up and spinning by next winter.

"These are the plans we're working on, and if everything goes through we'll put it into place," Dave Moulton, Mount Snow's director of mountain operations, told OnTheSnow.

"We are extremely close," Moulton said.

Vinnie Lewis, spokesman for Mount Snow, said, "We can't absolutely say it's going to happen, but if it goes forward then we'll be dismantling 17 (the Summit Local) at the end of March."

Lewis said that timing allows the old lift towers to be slid downhill on snow, with less cost and less environmental impact.

Moulton said Peak Resorts and Mount Snow are talking with Doppelmayr and Poma, two top chairlift manufacturers.

He explained the current thinking on the lift, emphasizing that it is still a work in progress.

He said the new lift is envisioned as a high-speed, detachable chair. The lift will follow the path of the existing Summit Local. Its loading area will be moved uphill closer to the trails, to make more room in the base area. At the top, the chairs will make a 90-degree turn to the left before unloading passengers onto a slight downhill grade leading south or in the direction of Little John. Skiers and snowboarders will turn slightly left to reach Exhibition; make a sharp left and ski back under the lift to reach Cascade; or turn right and ski base the Summit Lodge to reach the North Face.

Moulton said the configuration will relieve congestion that now can occur on the summit, and eliminate the uphill clump now necessary to reach Cascade and the North Face.

There is much speculation about the new lift being a six-passenger lift with bubbles that protect riders from the elements.

The Grand Summit Express, a high-speed, detachable quad that now serves as the main summit access, will become the backup lift for use on busy weekends and holidays.

Lewis said Peak Resorts already has spent $10 million on improvements at Mount Snow since buying the resort three years ago. He said much of that money went into 254 fan guns, which are energy efficient and can make snow in marginal temperatures.

Lewis said the improvements all were intended to make customers happy by providing good snow, and that the lift project is intended to get them on that snow faster and more efficiently.

"Put good snow under people's feet and all is right with the world," Lewis said.

The high-speed, detachable six-pack replacement lift is among several big-ticket items that Peak Resorts is contemplating for Mount Snow.

The wish list includes a replacement for the Sunbrook Quad, a 120-million-gallon snowmaking reservoir, and a new base lodge at Carinthia.

Peak Resorts is taking it one step at a time, with priority on snowmaking, then lifts, planning carefully, and working steadily through Vermont's lengthy permit process.

Peak Resorts owns and operates 12 resorts: Attitash,69 Crotched Mountain, and Wildcat in New Hampshire; Boston Mills, Brandywine, and Mad River Mountain in Ohio; Hidden Valley and Snow Creek in Missouri; Big Boulder and Jack Frost in Pennsylvania; Paoli Peaks in Indiana; and Mount Snow in Vermont.

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