Vail Resorts rolled out a $50 million improvement plan for its Utah ski areas—Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons. The result would catapult the pair into in the biggest destination ski resort in the U.S. and take Utah one step closer to One Wasatch.
The plan will link Park City and Canyons into one resort by the 2015/16 ski season. Together, they will include 7,300 acres for skiing and riding. While the size falls short of topping Whistler Blackcomb’s 8,171 acres, the acreage usurps Big Sky Resort’s 5,750 acres and Vail’s 5,289 acres to become the largest U.S. ski resort.
While the slated improvements target various infrastructures at both resorts, the proposed Interconnect Gondola over Pine Cone Ridge would physically combine the two ski areas. By next winter, Vail Resorts intends to operate the two ski resorts as one connected mega-resort using the moniker “Park City Mountain Resort” while “Canyons at Park City” will denote the Canyons base area.
“It’s big news for us,” says Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah. “When Vail Resorts purchased Park City this fall, they alluded to significant investments. But around town, there was a big debate about what it would look like. No one knew where the connection between Park City and Canyons might be.”
When Vail Resorts released a map of the plans to connect the two resorts, it fueled the gleam in skiers’ eyes. “When we looked at the map, it’s right there for skiers to start plotting out routes between the two resorts,” Rafferty reports, summing up the buzz throughout the Utah ski community. “This is great for Utah. The entire state benefits from such significant changes.”
The Interconnect Gondola will link Park City and Canyons via Pine Cone Ridge.
Copyright: Vail Resorts
The $50 million in improvements to Park City and Canyons sets a historical precedent for ski resort upgrades. The proposed improvements package targets mountain infrastructure enhancements beyond linking the two resorts.
“This comprehensive capital plan for Park City and Canyons is one of the most ambitious and impactful plans undertaken at any resort in industry history,” says Blaise Carrig, president of the mountain division for Vail Resorts. “The improvements offer skiers and riders more terrain and upgraded lifts to enhance the guest experience and reduce crowding and lift lines, new and upgraded restaurants, more snowmaking and an overall ‘touching up’ of all aspects of the resorts.”
The high-speed, two-way Interconnect Gondola will whisk skiers in eight-passenger cabins over Pine Cone Ridge connecting the base of Park City’s Silverlode Lift to Canyons’ Flatiron Lift. A top unloading station will allow skiers and snowboarders to plunge via gates into Thaynes Canyons on the Park City side or drop down two new trails to reach Iron Mountain at Canyons.
This aerial shot of Park City Mountain Resort shows Pine Cone Ridge on the right where the new Interconnect Gondola will link with Canyons.
Copyright: Park City Mountain Resort
Two Park City lifts will be upgraded with high-speed detachable chairlifts to alleviate lift lines and crowds. The King Con Lift will convert from four-person to six-person chairs, and the Motherlode Lift will change from three-person to four-person chairs.
Three restaurants will undergo renovations. At Park City, a new Snow Hut Restaurant to seat 500 diners indoors will go up at the base of the Silverlode Lift adjacent to the new Interconnect Gondola station. A Summit House Restaurant makeover will improve the flow of diners and increase seating. At Canyons, expansion of Red Pine Restaurant will add 250 indoor seats.
At Park City, the new Interconnect Gondola station will be installed near the Silverlode lift and the new Snow Hut Restaurant.
Copyright: Park City Mountain Resort
Other improvements include additional snowmaking in the Iron Mountain zone of Canyons and a backlog of various maintenance projects at Park City.
Combining Park City and Canyons also makes One Wasatch a closer reality. One Wasatch is the concept of connecting seven central Wasatch ski resorts with trails, lifts and a single ticket for 18,000 acres of fused resorts, even though they may be under different ownerships. “That’s one-third of the remaining connections needed for One Wasatch,” Rafferty points out.
Alta and Snowbird are already connected via Albion and Mineral Basins, and Solitude and Brighton link via the Sol-Bright Trail. The pairs of resorts also offer joint lift tickets. But uniting Park City and Canyons will go one step further: They will be the first pair connected under the same ownership, branding and standards.
Vail Resorts still has a few hurdles to surmount before all elements of the proposal can come to fruition. The corporation will be working with county and city constituents to make the resorts into the largest in the U.S. by next winter.