The ski industry is in the midst of a transformative period. During the 2022-23 season, $812.4 million was spent on capital improvements at U.S. ski resorts, which is an all-time record.
While watching a short film about Big Sky’s rapid transformation to a major destination resort, I got the idea to analyze which U.S. ski resorts have changed the most over the past decade. Why ten years? Because I feel like you see more measurable change over the course of a decade rather than a shorter five-year span, as demonstrated by these ski resorts.
So here are five U.S. ski resorts that have seen the most change over the past decade.
Arapahoe Basin: Back in 2013, A-Basin was a partner on the Epic Pass, had a smaller skiable footprint compared to today, and its lift network was antiquated compared to its neighbors. A lot has changed since.
Four new chairlifts have been added over the past decade. Pali got replaced by a new double chairlift, the Norway chairlift got removed, the Molly Hogan double chairlift got replaced by a fixed-grip quad, and the Lenawee triple chairlift got replaced by a high-speed six-pack this past ski season.
The other lift that was added was The Beavers, which added a whole new terrain pod. Opened during the 2017-18 season, a new fixed-grip quad chairlift, which opened during the 2018-19 season, services intermediate, advanced, and expert terrain. The other terrain expansion added during the 2017-18 season was The Steep Gullies. This double black diamond terrain off Pali added some of the most challenging runs at all of A-Basin.
In 2019, A-Basin shockingly announced that they were leaving the Epic Pass for the Ikon Pass. The effects on the experience have been profound. While their skier visits last winter were up 9% compared to the 2021-22 season, their numbers are only 75% of what they experienced during the 18-19 season, the last with Epic.
Big Sky Resort: Many changes over the past decade have made the Montana ski resort one of the major players in the North American ski industry.
The first major move came in October 2013, as Big Sky’s parent company, Boyne Resorts, acquired Moonlight Basin, increasing the total skiable acreage of the resort to 5,850.
In terms of lift upgrades, there’s been quite a few. 2016 saw the replacement of the Challenger Double with a fixed-grip triple chairlift, and Shedhorn double chairlift got replaced by the old Ramcharger high-speed quad in 2018. Three bubble chairlifts have been added: the Powder Seeker 6 replaced the Lone Peak Triple in 2016, the Ramcharger 8 opened in 2018, and the Swift Current Six began spinning in 2021. In addition, they added new lifts to their Mountain Village Learning Area in 2017.
Other improvements have included a mountain biking trail expansion, the addition of a significant amount of workforce housing, snowmaking improvements, more parking spaces, the renovation of some of their hotels and restaurants, along with new hotels and restaurants.
These changes, along with the rise of Bozeman as a skiing destination, have led to an increase in crowds at Big Sky. In response, they introduced an add-on cost if you wanted to ride the tram.
Next season will see the tram replaced. This will lead to a larger tram cabin and an updated price per ride of $10-40+. After that, the next major project will be a new gondola, which will travel to the base terminal of the new tram.
Palisades Tahoe: For one, there’s the name change. Once known separately as S**** Valley and Alpine Meadows, they were renamed Palisades Tahoe in 2021. The move was made due to the word S**** being a derogatory phrase towards Native American women.
In terms of new lifts, back in 2019, Alpine Meadows opened the Treeline Cirque chairlift, a new high-speed quad that made a trip to the backside much easier. Previously, reaching the backside required rides on multiple lifts or taking a hike over the High Traverse. The long-awaited Base to Base Gondola came to life this past winter, making accessing Palisades Tahoe and Alpine Meadows possible without taking a vehicle. The 2022-23 season also saw the upgrade of the much-maligned Red Dog chairlift, which was replaced with a high-speed detachable six-pack chairlift.
Park City: Back in 2013, Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons were two separate ski resorts. Park City was owned by POWDR and The Canyons was just taken over by Vail Resorts. Then, in the most epic fashion possible, POWDR fumbled its lease in 2011, and Vail Resorts was eventually able to acquire Park City in 2014. Vail then merged the two together, getting rid of The Canyons name, to become Park City Mountain Resort.
The 2015-16 season saw ginormous changes at the ski resort. The first monumental change was the opening of the Quicksilver Gondola. This connected the Canyons and Park City sides for the first time ever. This included a two-trail terrain expansion, which is accessible by Quicksilver’s mid-station. Other lift replacements from that season included the King Con Express becoming a detachable high-speed six-pack, and the old King Con Express replacing the Motherlode chairlift.
Since then, the other major new chairlifts included the High Meadow chairlift becoming a high-speed quad, and the new Over and Out chairlift, which brought riders back to the Canyons Village from the Tombstone Express.
Infastructure improvements on-mountain have included the Miners Camp building next to Silverlode and the Quicksilver Gondola, and a building for the popular Tombstone Grill. Numerous new hotels and buildings have been added over at the Canyons Village, which has included a large employee housing facility.
There has been resistance at times from locals. The most recent example of this was after the crowd-filled 2021-22 season. Locals successfully stopped the addition of two modern chairlifts for the 2022-23 season. Vail responded by shipping these lifts up to Whistler Blackcomb for installation. Vail also added paid parking to the Park City Mountain Village area for the 2022-23 season, which helped improve the guest experience, albeit at a cost.
New gondola cabins were put into the Red Pine Gondola this summer, and a new gondola could be replacing the Sunrise chairlift in the coming years.
Snow King: Back when JMI Realty bought the ski resort in 2012, not many sizeable changes had been made in years. Enter 2023, where the community ski hill in Jackson, Wyoming looks a bit different.
The major changes began in 2015. The Rafferty Chairlift was replaced by a Doppelmayr fixed-grip quad. For summer activities, The Cowboy Mountain Coaster opened for the first time, and the Treetop Adventure was constructed. In addition, two new base lodges were built. The following years saw new beginner surface lifts, improved night lighting, and more summer activities.
Then 2021 happened. A new eight-person gondola connected the base area to the summit. It replaced the Summit chairlift, cementing Snow King as a year-round destination.
The 2021-22 season also saw multiple terrain expansions. They added a beginner learning area at the summit with multiple surface lifts and added a new beginner/easy way-down run off the summit. The other expansion occurred over on the backside. Referred to as Sunnyside, this was made possible by expanding the USFS boundary by around 100 acres. This Sunnyside expansion added new intermediate terrain to Snow King.
Before the 2022-23 season, Snow King added a summit ridge surface tow, made more snowmaking upgrades, and made enhancements to the Kelly’s Alley & Towers trails, among other changes.
Projects for this offseason include the completion of the summit lodge, finishing the summit planetarium and observatory, a new beginner trail to the base of the gondola, and more. All of these changes have made Snow King a must-visit when you’re visiting Jackson.
What ski resort do you think has changed the most over the past decade?