By Rachel Goff
This spring, Sugarbush plans to start replacing its Valley House lift.
Earlier this month, the United States Forest Service approved the ski resort's permit application to replace the existing double with a fixed-grip quad, which will cut the lift's ride time by eight minutes and increase its uphill capacity from 748 to 1,800 passengers per hour.
In replacing the lift, the resort will move its top terminal down the mountain to improve upon a "tricky" intersection on the Valley House Traverse trail that leads to the Upper Snowball trail, Sugarbush director of planning and regulatory compliance Margo Wade said. That portion of the Valley House Traverse trail will also be widened.
As part of the project, the bottom terminal of the lift will also be shifted down the mountain to the base area, "And we're hoping that will help improve the flow of skiers," Wade said, especially if the ski resort's main quad, Super Bravo, is on wind hold.
Replacing the Valley House Lift "will really take the pressure off the base area on busy days," Sugarbush president Win Smith echoed.
In addition to the forest service, Sugarbush has submitted a permit application to the Act 250 Commission and is awaiting hearing dates. Because the lift replacement project includes reconfiguration of the base area, it will also require approval from the town of Warren.
Moving forward, "If I can get all of the permit ducks in a row, hopefully we'll start in April," Wade told the Mad River Valley Planning District (MRVPD) Steering Committee at their meeting on Thursday, March 19.
The first step of the construction process will be widening the traverse trail, and once it begins, access to Valley House Traverse, Stein's Run, Lixi's Twist, Moonshine, Spring Fling, Snowball and Gadd Peak trails will be mostly shut down, Sugarbush said in a press release on March 24. Instead, the designated spring skiing routes for the remainder of the season will include Birdland, Organgrinder, Jester, Ripcord and Domino.
The lift replacement project required approval from the forest service because the top of the lift is located within the Rochester Ranger District of the Green Mountain National Forest.
According to a memo published by the forest service, widening the traverse will require removing individual trees along the trail and "blasting is expected to be necessary for the tower foundations and top terminal, and for widening a portion of the [trail]," the memo reads.
That being said, mitigation measures included in the project's approval state that the resort cannot cut trees or brush between May 1 and August 1, the migratory bird nesting period, and require that Sugarbush submit an erosion control plan for review and acceptance prior to starting construction.
Replacing the Valley House Double is expected to cost around $3 million total.