One Mountain’s Trash is Another’s Treasure

Unlike last year, Park City Mountain’s parking lot was empty over the summer. In advance of the 2022-2023 ski season, the behemoth structure of a new chairlift sat in pieces in the Mountain Village parking lot, awaiting construction as part of the resort’s chairlift upgrades meant to ease on-mountain congestion and increase uphill capacity. Now that chairlift is doing what most of us always wish we could: permanently relocating to Whistler. 

That’s right, two new chairlifts intended to shorten base-area lift lines—a six-pack chairlift slated to replace the little-used Eagle and Eaglet lifts and an eight-pack chair intended to upgrade the frequently slammed six-pack Silverlode Express—are headed to the vaunted British Columbia resort to replace Blackcomb’s Jersey Cream Express and Whistler’s Fitzsimmons Express. 

The story of Whistler Blackcomb’s new chairs started with a successful appeal in 2022 by four Park City residents. The appeal led City Planning Commissioners to determine the resort’s lift proposals were not included in the mountain upgrade plan as part of the resort’s 1998 development agreement. Originally the lift upgrades had been granted administrative approval by former Park City Planning Director Gretchen Milliken, but the planning commission determined upon hearing the appeal the plan didn’t meet the requisite criteria for such approval, rendering the upgrades subject to a planning commission vote. 

“We continue to disagree with the decision the Park City Planning Commission made in overturning our permits for Eagle and Silverlode, and our appeal is currently pending before the district court,” says Park City Senior Manager of Communications Sara Huey. As of publishing, the appeal of the appeal was still awaiting resolution. 

Sitting in limbo, Vail Resorts—owner of Park City Mountain—decided not to let a couple of perfectly good chairlifts go to waste and shipped them north of the border as they iron out the details locally in Park City. One of the primary issues at hand concerned parking at the resort.  The Planning Commission deemed Park City’s outlined paid parking system wouldn’t adequately mitigate the increased demand the new lifts would cause, a point Huey disagreed with based on last season’s implementation of paid parking at the Park City Mountain Village base area.  

  “During the 22/23 winter season, an average of 63% of cars parking in the Mountain Village surface lots had four or more occupants, and that jumped to nearly 70% on weekends. Park City Municipal confirmed that they saw a reduction in overflow and cutting through neighborhoods surrounding our base area. In addition, High Valley Transit reported a 20% region-wide increase in transit ridership over the winter ski and snowboard season,” says Huey. 

The SNAFU hasn’t totally derailed Park City’s lift upgrade plans. Red Pine Gondola in Canyons Village has all-new cabins for this season, a welcome addition as the moribund state of non-functional gondola cabins last season left guests peeved despite cheeky signs promising replacements were on the way. Vail Resorts also reached a joint funding agreement with the Canyons Village Management Association for a gondola with 10-person cabins from the base area to the mid-mountain Red Pine Lodge, replacing the Sunrise double, which had essentially only served to take hotel guests to the base area. 

Canyons Village sits in unincorporated Snyderville, so the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, rather than Park City, will have jurisdiction over this lift upgrade plan. Recent experience with the relatively new Quicksilver Gondola and Over and Out Chairlift suggest the resort won’t run into the same types of delays along the 36-month timeline to get the Sunrise Gondola operational. 

Skepticism surrounding resort plans is often warranted, as changes on the mountain are frequently felt downstream in the community. That said, increasing base area uphill capacity is possibly the most skier-centric move Park City Mountain could make outside of ditching the multi-resort mega pass, which frankly isn’t going to happen. Locals have been clamoring for exactly the type of upgrade the Sunrise Gondola represents, and a similar move at the Park City Base Area would do wonders to help spread skiers out across the resort’s significant terrain. 

More skiers are coming, whether there’s new infrastructure to accommodate them or not. Incentivizing skiers to use public transit while helping them get up on the hill faster on powder days is something the community should seemingly get behind.  

The Sun Rises on a New Gondola

The Sunrise Gondola will whisk skiers 1,100 vertical feet in 10-passenger cabins from the south end of Canyons Village up to Red Pine Lodge at just over 8,000 feet. The new gondola will help alleviate base area pileups that plague powder days while providing additional access to higher-elevation terrain, which is increasingly important for early and late-season operations as climate change encroaches on both ends of winter with higher temperatures.  

Tony Gill
Tony Gill
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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