New lifts are coming, while others go private. What’s happening at Powder Mountain?

Only homeowners will have access to Mary’s and Village lifts while resort expands public offering to Lightning Ridge.

(Tristan Sadler | Powder Mountain) Skiers and snowboarders take a slow ride up the Timberline lift during opening weekend at Powder Mountain on Dec. 9, 2023. The resort plans to replace the lift with a fixed-grip quad for the 2024-25 season. The Paradise lift will also be upgraded and the resort will build two new lifts, one for the public up Lightning Ridge and another private lift for homeowners to Cobabe Canyon.

Eden • The first pieces of Powder Mountain’s public-private ski area experiment are about to be put in place.

By this time next year, Powder Mountain operators announced Tuesday, the Ogden Valley resort plans to have installed three new chairlifts. Two of them will replace the Timberline and Paradise lifts — among the oldest lifts in the state. The third will run up Lightning Ridge, providing access to more difficult terrain that had previously only been reachable via snowcat or a roughly 15-minute hike.

While those efforts will open more runs to the public, the resort will also be taking some away. Both the Mary’s Lift and the Village Lift on the resort’s eastern flank will be converted to private lifts. A new, private lift, Raintree, also will be built to access black diamond runs in Cobabe Canyon.

“We have a clear direction, which is we’re going to do this public-private blend,” said Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, who first acquired shares of the resort in April and recently became its CEO. “It’s a win for the public in more lifts and maintaining uncrowded skiing. It’s a win for the homeowners in getting private skiing.

“And then we’ve got to make those both really successful.”

Powder is believed to be the first ski area to attempt the public-private integration, though Homewood Mountain Resort in California also is considering that path. Hastings initially unveiled the public-private plan when took over control of Powder Mountain in September thanks in large part to his commitment of $100 million in improvements. At that time, he indicated all lifts that were already public would stay that way. Upon further inspection, he said, that plan didn’t make sense.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Reed Hastings, the recently retired CEO of Netflix, talks about improvements that are planned for Powder Mountain ski resort on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023. Hastings' public-private experiment at the resort will begin in earnest next summer when it installs two new lifts, one for the public and one for homeowners and their guests. The resort will also upgrade its two oldest public lifts.

“I realized that if we’re going to make the public [experience] better, that the early thing I said, which is the existing lifts stay public and then we do private around the edges, was not the ideal design,” Hastings said. “So what we’re doing is adding a bunch of public terrain ... and then taking out Village and Mary’s, which are the intermediate, new areas around the homes as homeowner lifts.”

Both the Village and Mary’s lifts were installed in 2016, three years after four tech entrepreneurs calling themselves the Summit Mountain Holding Group bought the resort. The lifts were built to service Summit Village, the site of the Skylodge private clubhouse and the hub-to-be for homeowners on the mountain. Only property owners and their guests will be able to ride those two lifts and the new Raintree lift. However, Hastings said those willing to hike to Mary’s Bowl and other terrain serviced by those lifts will still have that option.

“We’re not putting any fences up,” Hastings said. “There’ll just be one or two places where we’ll put signs up, like ‘You’re going to be trapped here.’”

Lightning Ridge, on the other hand, gives skiers and snowboarders more lift-serviced black-diamond options. Those wanting a more untouched experience can still hike to James’s Peak, which at 9,422 feet is the highest inbounds point on the mountain.

Though considered intermediate, the terrain in Mary’s Bowl and off the Village lift provided ample powder stashes last year. Still, Brandi Hammon, an Ogden Valley native who has season passes at both Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, said she thinks the public is getting a fair trade-off.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Sundown Ski Lift at Powder Mountain Ski Resort, on Friday, December 8, 2023. The first portion of the $100 million that former Netflix CEO Reed Hastings promised for upgrades to the ski and snowboard area went to installing a new conveyor lift, snowmaking and a rental yurt at the Sundown base. The second portion, $20 million, will go toward upgrading two lifts and installing two more in time for the 2024-25 season, Hastings announced Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023.

“The powder that you’re missing out on is a bummer because I would do laps on that last year and have a good time with it,” said Hammon, a real estate agent who sells homes on the mountain but is not otherwise affiliated with the resort. “But if you’re going to hike, I think what you’re getting with Lightning Ridge is probably better skiing and way more acreage.”

Paul Fejtek, the vice president of Ogden Valley Adaptive Sports, echoed that sentiment. He and his wife own a home near the Timberline lift, but it is outside the boundaries of the Powder Mountain development. So, he will be among those shut out of the private areas.

“This means we’ll no longer be able to ski in several areas that we have been enjoying for a long time,” he wrote in an email to The Tribune. “That being said, I do appreciate the magnitude of the investment being made in lift infrastructure and other areas of this mountain which I love and call my home.”

The 52-year-old Timberline lift is the oldest triple in operation in Utah, according to Liftblog.com, though it has only been able to carry two people per chair since comfort bars were added several years ago. It will be replaced by a new fixed-grip quad. Paradise, a fixed-grip quad, will be replaced by a high-speed detachable quad. The new lift up Lightning Peak, meanwhile, will be a fixed-grip quad. All lifts will be built by Skytrac or Doppelmayr. (Skytrac is expected to open its recently relocated headquarters in Tooele in 2024).

Last month, Hastings announced Powder Mountain was taking all resort-owned residential real estate off the market while it launched a rebrand. The 25 lots account for about half of the 57-lot Overlook development and are expected to be offered for sale again next summer as part of what Hastings is calling “Powder Next.”

Hastings said in an open letter posted on the ski area’s website Tuesday that he believes the public-private model will help PowMow stay solvent without having to open up its slopes to multi-resort passes like the Vail Resorts-owned Epic Pass or Alterra Resorts’ Ikon Pass. Both have borne the blame for crowding at several ski areas in recent years.

“We believe this blend of public and private skiing secures us decades of exceptional uncrowded skiing for all, funded partially by real estate,” Hastings said in the letter. “To stay independent and uncrowded, we needed to change, and we didn’t want to join the successful but crowded multi-resort pass model (ie, Snowbasin) or sell to a conglomerate (ie, Vail).”

Utah’s 12 oldest lifts

1. Beaver Face at Beaver Mountain, double — 1961

2. Apollo at Nordic Valley, double — 1970

T3. Bridger at Nordic Valley, double — 1971

T3. Timberline at Powder Mountain, triple — 1971

T3. Aerial Tram at Snowbird, tram — 1971

T3. Wilbere at Snowbird, double — 1971

7. Chickadee at Snowbird, double — 1972

T8. Thaynes at Park City Mountain, double — 1975

T8. Flathead at Sundance Resort, triple — 1975

10. Jupiter at Park City Mountain, double — 1976

11. Black Foot at Brian Head, triple — 1978

12. Sunrise at Solitude, triple — 1980

— Liftblog. com

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