Category Archives: Outdoor News

What’s New For Ski Areas in 2022/23

Jackson Hole Updates Thunder Lift

Amid crappy snowfall, crowded slopes and customer complaints, the chairs will keep spinning and the resorts will keep investing millions on the dream that the snow will return and skiing will last forever. Here’s what’s new for ski areas in 2022/23!

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to Replace Thunder Quad Chairlift

That slow quad to the top is getting an upgrade. Thunder quad installed in 1994 will be replaced with a new high-speed Leitner-Poma quad this summer. It will transport guests 1,000 feet per minute, 1454 vertical feet, twice the velocity of the original Thunder, and cut riders’ time down to 3.6 minutes. The new lift will have a contour load, similar to the Teton lift, as well as a contour unload.

“The Thunder lift has been the most popular lift on the upper mountain, and it delivers access to some of the legendary terrain JHMR is known for. The new Thunder lift will dramatically cut down on skiers’ and snowboarders’ time spent waiting in line and on the lift,” said JHMR President, Mary Kate Buckley. “This substantial investment is being made to improve lift waiting times and give our guests more time on snow.”

Construction and installation is pending final Forest Service approval but JHMR expects to load test the new Thunder lift in October.

Big Sky Resort

Access to the Lone Peak Tram will still not be included with tickets, Ikon and Mountain Collective Passes, and most season passes. For 22/23, you must do autocharge to ride; no more Access Packs. The lines have just been too long and people have been waiting hours at times. So next season, to ride the Tram on any given day, guests must enable Autocharge on their pass or ticket to be charged when entering the access gate to load the Tram. The price will change depending on the day (holiday, weekend, etc). And once you scan, you are committed to the charge, even if you only get one lap. But hopefully, this sitch is only temporary.

Relief in sight:

Coming by 2025, is an all-new tram that will carry folks from the base, ALL THE WAY to Lone Peak!

Big Sky is replacing the original Explorer double chair with a 10-person, two-stage gondola (ie midstation) that will whisk skiers into Powder Seeker Bowl. At the top, they can transfer to the Lone Peak Tram which will be repositioned next to the gondola station. The new tram breaks ground this summer 2022. This tram won’t just be for winter riders. Foot guests in summer and winter will be able to ride and experience the panoramic views from an all-glass viewing platform at the Peak.

Big Sky skiers will finally have on-mountain dining as well. A new food and beverage hub will be located at the connection point between the gondola and tram; the mid-station of the new gondola will house an the Big Sky Mountain Sports School, dining area, magic carpets, and rentals.


Snowbird is replacing old red and old blue this summer. After 50 years of busting millions of skiers and snowboarders to 11,000-foot Hidden Peak, the resort’s iconic aerial cabins are getting an upgrade. After two years of planning with The Doppelmayr Group, the new Tram cabins are making their way from Olten, Switzerland, to the Wasatch and will be ready for pedestrian transport this summer.

Floor-to-ceiling windows, a rooftop balcony for summer foot passengers and three glass floor panels in each cabin. The summertime rooftop deck will be the first of its kind in the United States, allowing 15 guests to enjoy unobstructed 360-degree views of Peruvian Gulch, Mount Superior and more as an upgrade to their scenic Tram ride. Finally, the Tram drive system will receive a complete technological upgrade. 

“As Snowbird celebrates its 50th Anniversary, we are recognizing both our storied past and making a thrilling upgrade to our iconic Aerial Tram,” said Snowbird President and General Manager Dave Fields.

Epic Resorts’ Plans

We’ve already mentioned what Alterra is doing. Well, here’s what Vail Resorts has planned for 22/23. It’s a given to say that these lift ‘upgrades’ are meant to ease the stress on lines and crowds their areas saw this season.

Keystone‘s Bergman Bowl will get 16 new trails, a ski patrol facility, snowmaking infrastructure, and a new high-speed 6-person chairlift. The Outpost restaurant is adding 300 more indoor seats and 75 more outdoor seats for guests.

Whistler Blackcomb will upgrade the 6-person Creekside Gondola to a high-speed 10-person gondola and replace the Big Red Express with a high-speed 6-person chair.

Northstar’s Comstock Lift becomes a new high-speed 6-person chair.

Heavenly‘s North Bowl Lift will become a high-speed quad.

Vail will introduce the Sun Down Lift, a new high-speed quad to reduce wait times at Chair 5, and the lift in Game Creek Bowl will be upgraded to a new high-speed 6-person lift.

Breckenridge’s Rip’s Ride goes from a fixed-grop double to a high-speed quad at Peak 8.

Over at Park City, the Silverlode Express goes from a 6-pack to a high-speed 8-person chair and the Eagle Lift will turn into a high-speed 6 pack chair with a new alignment and mid-station, replacing the existing lift and hopefully making it easier for guests to access the mountain from the base area.

Stowe is adding a high-speed 6-person Mountain Lift to replace a fixed-grip triple and eliminate the steep hike to the current lift.

Mount Snow will replace two fixed-grip triples, the Sundance and Tumbleweed lifts, with a new high-speed 6-person lift and upgrading the Sunbrook Lift to a high-speed 4-person chair.

Attitash is replacing the East & West Double-Double with a fixed-grip quad chair.

Jack Frost and Big Boulder, PA, are getting five lift upgrades. Three new fixed-grip 4-person chairs at Frost (one to replace the B & C lifts, another to replace the E & F lifts, and the third to replace the East 1&2 doubles), and two fixed-grip 4-person chairs to replace the Merry Widow 1 & 1 doubles and the Edelweiss Triple at BB. 

Boston Mills and Brandywine in Ohio also get some love. BM will get a new fixed-grip 4-person chair replacing the Lift 5 double. At Brandywine, a new fixed-grip 4-person chair will replace the Lift 3 triple.

Alterra Mountain Company Announces Plans for Deer Valley, Mammoth and More

Alterra Deer Valley Base Area

While Vail Resorts’ plans for next season may be a bit delayed as they deal with the great Epic Pass backlash of 21/22, Alterra Mountain Company announces plans to move full steam ahead. They recently announced plans to spend $344 million in “capital improvements” to its 15 North American resorts for 2022/23, all in the name of guest experience. The largest focus of the annual investment will support its five major destinations- Steamboat in Colorado, Palisades Tahoe (aka Squaw Valley) and Mammoth Mountain in California, Crystal Mountain in Washington and Deer Valley Resort in Utah.

“We are thrilled to dedicate a significant investment to Deer Valley,” said Mark Brownlie in an interview with KSL in Salt Lake City. The chief operating officer for Alterra Mountain Company is also serving as the resort’s interim president after the then-president left in a flash at the start of the 21/22 season. “Given Deer Valley’s existing legacy and exceptional reputation for its unparalleled guest service, we look forward to unveiling these innovative developments and reimagined spaces for visitors to enjoy for years to come,” he added. 

Plans get rolling this summer when contractors etch out more mountain biking trails on Deer Valley’s lower mountain—Bald Eagle. Riders will get a new intermediate flow trail and more expert trails between Snow Park and Silver Lake areas. The big redesign of Snow Park Lodge is set to break ground in 2023; however, it’s likely pushback from angry locals tired of endless traffic and congestion in the resort town, might delay this new plaza and its “premiere arrival experience.”

The original master plan was approved in 1977 but they say things have changed since then. “Lower Deer Valley and surrounding neighborhoods have grown and changed significantly in the 45 years since approval. We now have thousands more residents, houses, condos and vehicles. We also have a road system that is limited and stressed with traffic and we probably will be asked to ration water in the near future,” said DV resident Jerry Nolan in his Park Record OpEd piece. In addition to changes in parking and traffic, the new base area would offer new food and beverage options, retail, and an expansive ski beach. 

The on-hill renovations like turning the Burns chairlift into a high speed quad should go more smoothly.

Alterra Mountain Company Announces Plans For Its Other Resorts

Palisades Tahoe, California

Alterra hit a major roadblock last summer in their Tahoe expansion plans when Sierra Watch, a conservation advocacy group, won a legal battle to stop them from building a series of high-rise condo hotels, a 90,000 square-foot indoor waterpark, and a rollercoaster. While that project has pressed pause, the highly anticipated $65 million Base-to-Base Gondola should be ready for the 22/23 winter season. The gondola will connect Palisades and Alpine Meadows for the first time. The combined 6000 acres will make Palisades Tahoe the third-largest ski area in North America. The 16-minute ride will make four stops as it takes riders between the two base areas and climb 2000 vertical feet. Just imagine the views! It should also alleviate road congestion in the region.

Mammoth Mountain, California

The ground and infrastructure work starts this summer to replace Canyon Express (Chair 16) at Canyon Lodge and Broadway Express (Chair 1) at Main Lodge. They’re going from quads to new high-speed six-pack lifts for winter 23/24. Mammoth will also be expanding, and lengthening the tube runs at Woolly’s Adventure Summit and installing a summer tubing surface for year-round fun. Future phases will include the installation of one of the longest mountain coasters in North America and the addition of an adventure ropes courses and a permanent base lodge with food and beverage services. When complete, Woolly’s will become a year-round adventure center for kids of all ages. Also planned for this summer is the expansion of indoor dining at Mill Café. 

If this season in the west has shown us anything, it’s that we can’t count on Mother Nature. To that end, Mammoth will begin a multi-year snowmaking enhancement program that includes higher efficiency equipment to open more terrain faster, early.  Finally, Mammoth Mountain continues to work on the planning and entitlement process for the eventual redevelopment of the Main Lodge and Mammoth Mountain Inn.

Crystal Mountain, Washington

Alterra is dedicating $100 million into Crystal Mountain’s infrastructure over the next five years. The base will be enhanced for greater access, more space, and skier services. They’ll spend $25 million this spring on additional parking and a new 25,000 sq. ft. skier services lodge called Mountain Commons. The two-story building will replace the existing skier services building and include a new guest services and ticketing experience, retail, dining, and an expanded slope-side beach area. The project is expected to break ground this month and open for the 23/24 winter season. The Washington resort will also be adding a summer aerial adventure park, replacing lifts and increasing summer activities. 

Phase two will add a new summit lodge and 100-room hotel at the base. But there’s no particular timeline for these projects. Check out the video announcement and photos below-

Steamboat, Colorado

Phase 2 begins with the relocation of the lower terminal of the Christie Peak Express lift and the first leg of the Wild Blue Gondola, which will take guests to the new Greenhorn Ranch learning center at mid-mountain. A redesigned Bashor learning area will be accessed by the first leg of the Wild Blue Gondola. Steamboat Square will get The Range Food Hall, Skeeters Ice Rink, and slope-side guest amenities, including new and expanded restrooms, lockers, and more. If Alterra gets the approval they need, Pioneer Ridge terrain could see an expansion of 650 acres and making it the second largest ski area in Colorado.  For a complete timeline of Full Steam Ahead projects, visit

Powdr Corp Keeping Park City Presence: Woodward Park City Becomes USSA Training Center

woodward park city aerial view

Woodward Park City just became one of the official training centers of the US Ski and Snowboard Team. Along with Woodward Copper, Colo., Woodward Park City, Utah, will usher our US freeride athletes into the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in Milano, Cortina, Italy.

Jumping at Woodward Park City

Located north of big daddy Park City Mountain. Woodward takes park and pipe seriously… unlike Vail Resorts which chose to massage Park City Mountain into a safe family experience, eliminating night skiing, mountain bike parks and dialing down park and pipe activities.  Woodward stepped up to fill the void in 2019.

When Vail Resorts scooped up Park City Mountain in 2014, the former owner, Powdr Corp., didn’t take its ball and go home. Nope, they focused their efforts on one of their other properties down the road- Gorgoza Tubing Park. They plotted, developed and waited. Four years after losing PCM, Powdr got the green light from Summit County to build a Woodward Camp at the tubing hill.

Woodward opened in 2019 and it didn’t take long for the freeride world to recognize this gem. With endorsements from national sports celebrities like Shaun White, Tony Hawk, Travis Pastrana and Joss Christensen it was only a matter of moments before focus shifted from Park City Mountain to this little-known Interstate-80 sidehill.

woodward terrain map

Just stroll around and see what Powdr Corp has been up to since exiting PCM. In addition to indoor foam pits and trampolines for ski jump and BMX training, there are three types of outdoor terrain venues. There’s the Learning Zone that hosts a “smart park” with rollers, drop-in ramps, small gully “mini-pipes” and a magic carpet all built on a low grade for beginners and three “progressive” parks that build up from small to medium snow and jib features.

In the Experiential Zone, beginner to expert terrain park users can practice berms, rollers, hits, jumps, rails, wall rides and, when ready, move onto the Performance Zone. This area is designed to enable competition-level athletes to hone their skills, tricks and air off of training features like a 22-foot halfpipe and big air jump.

Big Air Jump at Woodward Park City

In fact, Woodward’s halfpipe is one of the few in the world that is dug into the earth as opposed to being constructed out of surface snow.

Woodward Park CIty Halfpipe
Shaun White In Woodward Park City HalfPipe

“It’s been amazing to see Woodward embrace progression and training areas indoors and on-mountain at both Copper and Woodward Park City,” said five-time Olympian and professional snowboarder Shaun White during the 2022 Olympic Media Summit. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the pipes at both places the past two seasons getting ready for the Olympics.” He called Woodward a “consistent and reliable place for high-performance shredding.”

U.S. Ski & Snowboard Freestyle, Freeski and Snowboard Director Jeremy Forster announced in his press release, “We’re thrilled to partner with Woodward to elevate our freeski and snowboard athletes’ training. Woodward’s facilities at Copper Mountain and in Park City will provide key year-round training for our Pro and Rookie Team athletes for years to come.”

Child Learning to Ride At Woodward Park City

Just so you know, Woodward is also a great place to learn to ski and ride. If you already have gear, you can take a two-hour group lesson for just $139 or an all-day group lesson for $279.  The area also offers one of the cheapest intro packages along the Wasatch Front. With the “Take 3 Ride Free” package, beginner skiers and snowboarders get three, two-hour lessons, lift tickets, rentals and a one-month Mountain Park Pass (after completing the three lessons) all for $349.

Alta and Snowbird’s New Avalanche Towers

avalanche tower

Let’s see- we had super early snowfall in October that amped everybody up for the ski season. That was the fluffer. But then, just like the partner who gets a headache, the winter potential rolled over and took a snooze until mid December (now). Guess what all this adds up to? A sketchy avalanche situation for the rest of ski season. There have been 30+ skier-triggered avis in the Salt Lake area since October 14 according to The Utah Avalanche Center.

But luckily at inbound resorts, this isn’t something the average rider needs to worry about. First, it takes highly skilled, highly caffeinated ski patrol to get out on the hill before daylight to assess conditions, evaluate the dangers and start mitigating them. Then those patrol throw explosives into potentially unsafe areas to see if they can get the snow to “release”; better to do it before you open the area of skiing, when no humans could be swept away and buried. Once, things settle, they will ski cut the terrain to make sure it’s safe for the public.

This cut wasn’t made by a patroller but you get the idea-

As you can imagine, ski patrollers are first in line if something goes wrong so any sort of device that can create distance between them and a slide is a game changer. This year, Alta and Snowbird ski resorts installed 13 new avalanche towers.

The towers made by Wyssen Avalanche Control, use a remote control to trigger a blast. “The deployment box contains 12 prepared explosive charges, which can be individually deployed by remote control. When the explosive charge is dropped, two igniters are pulled and the explosion is set off after a time delay. The charge remains hanging from a cord at a pre-set height above the snow cover, which is completely dropped after blasting. To reload explosive charges the complete deployment box is lifted from the mitigation tower by helicopter and brought to a station building or warehouse respectively.”

These avalanche towers may be new to The Bird and Alta but Alta, often considered to be the birthplace of North American avalanche research, was an early adopter of remote-controlled systems. The resort uses Remote Avalanche Control Systems (RACS) along with Avalaunchers, two-pound hand charges and an M101-A1 105 Howitzer to control avalanche-prone slopes around the ski area.

The next time you are scooting across the East Baldy Traverse, look up and check out the alien-spaceship-looking things above you. These O’Bellx’, use a mix of oxygen and hydrogen to create an explosion that generates controlled avalanches.

Alta Ski Areas Obellx Avalanche System
Courtesy Alta Ski Area

Pretty cool, huh? So that’s what’s going to keep you safer in Little Cottonwood Canyon this winter.

Free Sundance Film Festival Tickets For Locals

Sundance Film Festival Marquee
I just picked my Festival films! The program went live this week and the Sundance Film Festival tickets went on sale for Press and Industry today with everything being released to the general public on December 17.

Sundance Film Festival is back with in-person screenings, lectures and gatherings but for those still afraid of catching Covid in a movie theater, the Institute has instituted a variety of protocols that should make you feel safer. They range from mandatory vaccination card presentation and onsite PCR tests to online viewing of just about everything the Fest has to offer. Would you believe that you have to download an app and show it to people at the door to prove you’re infection free? If you attend a party, they will also force you to get another PCR test if you want back in on the public screenings!

And while there are some restrictions on movie choice if you are not in the USA, organizers have made the Festival more accessible than you could ever imagine- and that includes local opportunities.

Sundance Film Festival Locals

The Sundance Film Festival will once again offer locals-only opportunities for the 2022 Festival. The Festival takes place January 20–30, 2022, and as part of its new Local Lens program, they have planned a handful of free in-person and online screenings, ticket discounts, student screenings, and more.

This 2022 version features a lot less opportunities for the public to have a seat at the table- three less theaters, no Music Cafe and more. It’s to “protect the health safety of the community,” said Festival Director Tabitha Jackson.

Following are the Local Lens offerings with details on the specific film screenings. Locals can prepare for the 2022 Sundance Film Festival by registering online at and sign up for Insider emails here. Details for how to get tickets to the free screenings and how to take advantage of the discount offer will be on the locals page (and more on that below.)

In-Person Free Screenings
For residents in and around Summit and Salt Lake counties, the Festival will offer the following free screenings. Thursday, January 27: Two Summit County screenings at the Park City Library and Redstone theaters. One Salt Lake County screening at the Grand Theatre
Friday, January 28: One Salt Lake County screening at the Grand Theatre
Additionally, there will be two free Best of Fest screenings in Park City and Salt Lake City on Sunday, January 30, with each venue exhibiting an award-winning fiction and nonfiction feature from the 2022 Festival. Two films at the Eccles Theatre in Park City. Two films at the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City.

Online Free Screenings
Utahns from across the state can participate in two free Sundance Film Festival feature film screenings from the comfort of their homes.
On Saturday, January 22, catch a film during the first weekend of the Festival on the online Festival platform.
On Saturday, January 29, locals can log back in for a Best of Fest award-winner film.

Free Screenings for Students
The Sundance Institute provides Utah high school students (and their families ;)) with the opportunity to watch three screenings of feature-length films and/or view a shorts program during the Sundance Film Festival, and then have a conversation with the artists who created it about the film’s themes, storytelling, and production. These free screenings engage students with emerging and leading independent filmmakers, introducing them to new perspectives.

The screenings for high school students will be available through the online platform exclusively, allowing young film lovers in grades 9–12 to participate from anywhere in Utah. Educators interested in having their classes attend an online screening should contact

Discounted Access to the Festival
For a limited time only, the Salt Lake City Package can be purchased at an early bird 20% discount ($100 savings) for $400 starting on December 17, 2021, through January 3, 2022, after which the package price will return to $500. Created for Utah residents, this package offers 10 in-person tickets to feature film screenings at all Salt Lake City venues, with early access to ticket selection, and includes all the benefits of our Explorer Pass.

Beginning Wednesday, January 26, the Festival will offer a 25% discount on single tickets – $15 ($5 savings)- for locals for in person screenings taking place on Wednesday, January 26, through to the end of the Festival. Utah residents can receive a $5 discount for up to four single tickets per person, based on availability. Utah residents who have created a Sundance account will receive the discount and tickets can be purchased online or in person at any box office location beginning January 26th at 8:00 a.m. MT.

Sundance Film Festival Venues
Festival venues for 2022 include both theater and non-theater locations. Non-theater venues will host conversations and events (including live music and panels) — an ideal spot for Utah artists to converge. The Sundance Film Festival’s online platform will expand the reach by increasing accessibility for audiences across Utah (and beyond).

Park City
All Park City theater venues will be operating for the duration of the Festival (January 20–30):
The Eccles Theatre, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, UT 84060
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Park City, UT 84060
Holiday Village Cinemas, 1776 Park Ave., Park City, UT 84060
The Library Center Theatre, 1225 Park Ave., Park City, UT 84060
Prospector Square Theatre, 2175 Sidewinder Dr., Park City, UT 84060
The Ray Theatre, 1768 Park Ave., Park City, UT 84060
Redstone Cinemas, 6030 Market St., Park City, UT 84098

Two Park City non-theater venues will be operating from Friday, January 21, to Tuesday, January 25. These venues are free and open to all Festival patrons:
The Filmmaker Lodge, Elks Building, 550 Main St. (2nd Floor), Park City, UT 84060
The Craft, 950 Iron Horse Drive, Park City, UT 84060

Salt Lake City:

All Salt Lake City venues will be in operation for the duration of the Festival as well:
The Grand Theatre, 1575 S. State Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84115
 Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. Broadway (300 S.) Salt Lake City, UT 84101 
Broadway Centre Cinemas (2 screens), 111 E. Broadway (300 South) Salt Lake City, UT 84111
SLC Library Theatre, 210 E. 400 S., Salt Lake City, Utah 84111 

Two Salt Lake City non-theater venues, hosted by Visit Salt Lake, will be open from Friday, January 21, to Saturday, January 29:
Festival Lounge at Copper Common, 111 E. Broadway #190, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
The Queer Lounge at Twist, 32 Exchange Place, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Sundance Mountain Resort
Sundance Mountain Resort Screening Room, 8841 N. Alpine Loop Road, Sundance, UT 84604

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