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Vail to invest $50 million in upgrades at Park City, Canyons resorts

Vail to invest $50 million in upgrades at Park City, Canyons resorts


Deseret News
Morgan Jacobsen
Dec. 8 2014

PARK CITY — Park City Mountain Resort will receive a facelift over the coming year, including a gondola that will connect it with the adjacent Canyons Resort, the resorts’ owner announced Monday.

Vail Resorts Inc. plans to spend $50 million on improvements at both resorts, which combined will create the largest single ski area in the country, with 7,300 acres — more than 11 square miles — of skiable terrain, according to Bill Rock, Vail’s chief operating officer.

“I think people have envisioned something like this for many years,” Rock said. “This is an opportunity to take it to a whole new level and continue to garner the well-deserved reputation as a world-class mountain town and resort.”

Central to the plan is the Interconnect Gondola, an eight-passenger, high-speed lift running from the base of the existing Silverlode Lift at Park City to the Flatiron Lift at Canyons. The route will include an unload station at the top of Pine Cone Ridge, allowing riders to ski into either Canyons Resort or Park City Mountain Resort when conditions permit.

A one-way trip in the gondola will span almost 1 ½ miles, taking up to nine minutes, Rock said.

Park City upgrades

Vail plans to increase capacity on the King Con lift from four to six people. The Motherlode Lift will also be upgraded from a fixed-grip, three-person lift to a four-person, high-speed detachable chairlift. Both upgrades will reduce crowding and lift lines, Rock said.

The current Snow Hut restaurant will be torn down and built anew with 500 indoor seats at the base of the Silverlode Lift, next to the Park City terminal for the Interconnect Gondola. Parts of the Summit House restaurant will also be renovated.

The plan also includes almost $5 million in “catch-up” maintenance and upgrades at Park City, in addition to the $5 million in normal annual maintenance of the two resorts, Rock said.

Canyons upgrades

Additional snowmaking operations will be installed on two trails in the Iron Mountain area of Canyons, which resort officials expect will become increasingly central ski terrain because of its proximity to the Interconnect Gondola.

The Chicane ski trail will be widened to improve access to the Tombstone Express and Interconnect Gondola lifts.

The Red Pine Lodge restaurant at Canyons will also be renovated and expanded to accommodate an additional 250 indoor seats.

“Our goal is to have all this done next summer ready for next winter, so it’s a pretty substantial project,” Rock said. “That’s what makes this proposal so unprecedented is no one’s ever done an expansion like this in the U.S. ski industry, as far as we can tell, in one season.”

Rock declined to say whether the upgrades would affect admission prices.

Community impact

Markus Fragassi, manager at Park City Sport Ski & Snowboard Rentals, said the announcement gives answers to questions from locals and visitors wondering what the next step was for Park City Mountain Resort after it changed owners earlier this year.

“The reactions are very excited from guests coming in from out of town,” Fragassi said. “It’s going to be pretty huge after a couple years. It’s going to make the machine roll even faster.”

Fragassi, who works near the Town Lift in downtown Park City, said traffic will likely increase over the coming years, but he hopes the announcement will draw curiosity from new visitors this season.

“It might boost some interest for this season, not just future seasons,” he said. “It’s definitely going to show some local businesses that Vail is here to improve visits and get more people to come to town.”

For the 2015-16 ski season, Vail plans to operate Park City and Canyons as a unified resort under the name Park City Mountain Resort. The Canyons base area will be renamed Canyons at Park City.

Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, said combining the two resorts and making Utah home of the nation’s largest ski resort will “shine a really bright light” on Park City and the state.

“I think it’s really hard to overstate what a big thing this is for our industry,” Rafferty said. “I think it’s safe to say Utah will be one of (Vail’s) featured products for next year with so much going on out here.”

The project must gain approval from Park City and Summit County officials before construction can begin at the conclusion of the current ski season. But Park City Mayor Jack Thomas expressed enthusiasm for the proposal’s “commitment to the community.”

“Any improvement in the infrastructure on the mountain is a very positive thing because Park City Mountain Resort, Canyons Resort and Deer Valley Resort are really the economic engines of the community,” Thomas said. “So when they rebuild their engines, we’re excited about it.”

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