By Ben Olson
Schweitzer officially opened its 2019-2020 ski season Friday, Nov. 29, with the Basin Express Quad servicing Midway. The mountain will open more terrain as soon as Mother Nature kicks it into high gear; but, in the meantime, now is as good a time as any to discuss exciting new developments.
Summer 2019 was especially busy at Schweitzer, with two major construction projects keeping crews busy. Snow Ghost (or Chair 6, depending on how old school you are) has been replaced by two new chairlifts serving the North Bowl, now known as the Outback Bowl. The new chairs include a Lietner Poma detachable quad chair dubbed Cedar Park Express, providing access for intermediate skiers and riders. A complimenting triple chair from Skytrac called the Colburn Triple will take advanced and expert skiers and boarders to the summit of the mountain to more quickly access the steeper terrain in Lakeside Chutes. Both lifts have been completed and will be in service for the 2019-’20 season.
“The construction this summer went extremely well,” said marketing manager Dig Chrismer. “Because we replaced the lifts, another thing we’re really excited about is the logging and brush cutting that we did back there.”
Chrismer said more than 200 acres were logged and gladed to open new terrain.
The addition of the new lifts also added seven cut runs to the resort, though the official number of named runs still comes in at 92 after the managers consolidated some names.
“We went through the trail map and some runs had a dual name that was redundant, like making Upper Pend Oreille and Lower Pend Oreille just Pend Oreille,” Chrismer said.
The other major construction project undertaken this season is a new 30-unit boutique hotel in the village. The hotel will offer a 50-seat restaurant, bar and outdoor patio. The building will also include a small co-working space, exercise area, communal “living room” and outdoor spa. While the initial round of construction began in summer 2018 with water, sewer and gas infrastructure taking shape — along with concrete foundations for underground parking — Schweitzer expects the construction to finish in time for an opening at some point in 2021.
Getting up to the mountain improved over summer, with the Independent Highway District resurfacing the main roundabout and about 6.5 miles of access road. Intermax Networks also installed fiber-optic cables running from the valley to Schweitzer, which will improve the bandwidth for all internet and wireless users at the resort.
Schweitzer spent an additional $1.6 million on maintenance projects in summer 2019, including the purchase of a SS Extreme Ski Steer Mulching Mower. The new purchase has enabled crews to mow through thick alder and vegetation, as well as consume tree stumps without needing an excavator. Translation: more defined ski areas without thick brush. Workers brush cut almost 60 acres of terrain on Little Blue Ridge Run, Vagabond, Snowghost, Have Fun, Zipdown, Cathedral Aisle, Springboard and Stella’s Run.
In addition to the badass mower, Schweitzer also purchased a Prinoth Bison winch snow cat and a new Techno-Alpin T8 snowmaking machine.
“The new technology makes it more efficient to make snow,” Chrismer said. “Water is a precious resource, so the better the machines and the newer the technology, the better we are at efficiently making snow.”
Schweitzer also did some feng shui work on the Outback and Lakeview lodges, with a partial enclosure of the deck at the Outback. The resort also transformed the area beneath the Taps Bar deck to provide more seating. A new snowsports yurt will serve as a warming hut and focal point for kids’ programs near the Musical Carpet and a larger awning was built to protect guests at the main ticket windows. Finally, flooring at the Lakeview Lodge was upgraded and the rental department acquired a new fleet of adult Rossignol rental skis.
“I can’t wait to stand at the bottom of Cedar Park and talk to people about what they just skied, all that new terrain,” Chrismer said. “Just looking at the pictures and being out there this summer, I can say the mountain is the best it’s ever been. Now we just need the snow!”
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