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When ‘Burning of the Snow’ Smoke Clears New Hi-Speed Lift Coming To Sugar Mountain

Sugar Mountain Resort announced huge changes to the slopes on Monday morning.
Sugar Mountain Resort announced huge changes to the slopes on Monday morning. Photo by Randy Johnson

By Randy Johnson

Sugar Mountain Resort just celebrated its ritual “Burning of the Snow” to end the ski season yesterday but there won’t be time to rest. Starting immediately, the resort will start installing a new Doppelmayr high-speed, six-passenger detachable chairlift to the summit of the mountain.

In time for next ski season, the brand-new modern lift is expected to reduce the ride to the top from thirteen minutes to five, said Sugar Mountain Resort owner Gunther Jochl early on Monday morning. Jochl said Sugar was “way overdue to put in a new lift to the top,” and that the new lift will make it “easy and comfortable to reach the summit.”

“That’ll be the main draw,” Jochl said, adding that the new lift “won’t just be an improvement, it’ll really be an improvement.”

That change is only one of many that promise to reinvent the ski experience at Sugar for next season. The new detachable will be placed where the Old Summit Lift # 1 is now, and the existing lift will be refurbished and relocated to take skiers from the bottom of the new Gunther’s Way slope to the top of the mountain where the existing Summit Lift # 2 now tops out. Summit Lift # 2 will in turn be shortened to take skiers from the bottom to its current upper mid station.

The changes will create three dedicated beginner lifts on the lower half of the mountain—Big Birch, Easy Street, and the shortened, former Summit Lift # 2. Perhaps most exciting is that slope changes across that part of the mountain will integrate all three lifts, permitting skiers to reach the new Gunther’s Way summit lift from all of those lower chairs. Jochl pointed out that the change will retain Sugar’s ability to get people to the top, even if one of the summit lifts has mechanical difficulties. The new lift and relocations should streamline traffic flow, reduce congestion, and increase Sugar’s capacity by 2,000 skiers per hour.

In addition, the elimination of upper stations on the older Summit Lift # 2 will permit the widening of Flying Mile, eliminating the narrow cinch-point where the upper and lower slopes meet at the base of Oma’s Meadow.

No price tag for the changes was announced but Jochl said the success of ski season 2014-’15, due in part to the extremely positive response to the Gunther’s Way slope, was making the expansion possible.

Jochl said the changes will make it “simpler” to ski at Sugar. Beginners will have dedicated chairs serving easier runs “without having to try to get off of the summit lift at the upper stations. The more stations like that there are the more problems there are,” he said.

The installation will start immediately with taking all the chairs off of the two summit lifts.

“That’ll be a lot chairs,” Jochl said. “I’m not sure where we’ll put’em all.”

Jochl attributed the decision to install the lift in part to the fact that the U.S. dollar has increased more than 10% in value recently against the Euro – one reason travelers to the continent this summer will find their vacations much cheaper.

The changes will require further alterations to the snowmaking system beyond the 30 percent increase in capacity added before last season that included replacing a lot of older and smaller water pipes.

“A lot of stuff like that is pretty old at Sugar,” Jochl said. “What are we going to do, hodge podge it again? It’s time to stop hodge podging.”

Jochl points to the success of Gunther’s Way as a key step in the mountain’s ability to so quickly move on to other major improvements. Jochl heard countless skiers praising the new slope.

“It turned out to be much more than we expected,” he said. “Turned out to be a fantastic run, and a great race slope. People really enjoyed skiing here more.”

Jochl said the new run’s connections to the rest of the mountain “were a little cumbersome, but the new lift plan will eliminate that.”

As a result of the improvements Sugar will not offer summer lift rides or host SugarBrew. However, expect both to be back on the schedule in 2016. The Sports Shop will open for the annual fourth of July sale on July 4 and 5 and Oktoberfest will be held the second weekend in October, October 10 and 11.