Featured, Local News

Okemo capital improvements include second six pack

Courtesy of Okemo
Upgrades to the Quantum Four and Green Ridge Triple chairlifts will increase uphill capacity and give skiers and riders better access to the summit of Okemo Mountain from Jackson Gore Peak by connecting the Green Ridge Triple chairlift to Mountain Road.

Resort will close April 4 to facilitate construction

By Karen D. Lorentz

Skiers and riders at Okemo Mountain Resort will benefit from a new six-seat chairlift and a highspeed bubble quad replacement of the Green Ridge Triple for the 2021-22 season.

The new Leitner-Poma detachable six-pack, manufactured in Colorado, will replace the current Quantum Four lift at Jackson Gore. It will provide greater and quicker skier access to the upper Jackson Gore area, which boasts several expert trails and the popular Tuckered Out classic long, winding New England trail. The lift capacity for the new highspeed six pack is rated at 2,900 rides per hour, based on optimal operating conditions, Communications Manager Bonnie MacPherson said. (This lift will not have a bubble.)

The Quantum Four bubble lift will replace the fixed grip triple chairlift, giving quicker access to Okemo’s main Summit area (a.k.a. the Northeast Summit), elevation 3,150 feet. The existing triple, which was installed in 1986, has an optimal capacity of 1,800 whereas the Quantum Quad bubble lift has a capacity of 2,180 rides per hour.

A new short connector trail off Mountain Road will give access to the Quad’s loading station for those coming from Jackson Gore, reducing the time it takes to access the main summit and also the South Face area. It will also offer a good alternative to the Sunburst Six bubble express lift for those who want to ski or ride Timberline, Sapphire, Tomahawk, and Jolly Green Giant Trails – all upper mountain blues – and thereby reduce lift waits at the popular Sunburst Six, which was installed in 2014. The Quad’s bubble will also afford a more comfortable ride during windy cold days.

Leitner-Poma is dismantling the Green Triple and relocating and installing the entire Quantum Quad there as well as installing the new six pack at Jackson Gore. Both lifts will follow existing lift footprints, and the load lines, where guests get on the chairs, will be the same. Okemo staff will be doing site work at the base and summit and subcontracting the blasting of ledge. (The Green Ridge Triple will be going to another Vail Resorts ski area in Pennsyl Silver Team- photo by S. Collett vania.)

Because both upper lift elevations exceed 2,700-feet-above-sea level, work cannot be done there after May 15. That is when the breeding/nesting season of Bicknell’s Thrush, a rare migratory songbird, begins.

To allow for the upper elevation work to take place before May 15, Okemo will close for the ski-and-ride season on its target date of April 4 as noted on its website, MacPherson said. Vail Resorts extended the season at its Mount Snow and Stowe Resorts in Vermont to April 18, but stuck to the original closing date for Okemo due to the extensive and transformational capital improvement projects, MacPherson explained. She noted Epic Pass holders can also take advantage of extended seasons at nearby Mount Sunapee or Wildcat (in New Hampshire) with closing dates of April 11 and April 18, respectively.

Highlights of fiscal business report

In Fiscal 2021 Second Quarter Results remarks on March 11, Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) CEO Rob Katz called the Okemo projects which were postponed last year due to Covid-19 “transformational,” noting the company was committed to completing the $35 million in upgrades slated for the three Triple Peaks ski resorts acquired in 2018. That plan also includes an Okemo main base area improvement project yet to be scheduled.

Katz also noted the publicly traded company’s season pass approach is a successful and significant business strategy, benefiting both stockholders and skiers.

“Our season pass unit sales growth of 20% for fiscal year 2021 created a strong baseline of demand heading into the season across our local and destination audience and will be one of the most important drivers of our performance and relative stability for this season. For the fiscal 2021 second quarter, 71% of our visitation came from season pass holders compared to 59% of visitation in the same period in the prior year,” Katz said.

“Our growth in pass holders this past year also positions us well as we head into the 2021-22 season. We remain even more committed to the benefits advanced commitment [on the part of pass purchasers] offers our Company and intend to remain aggressive in providing the best value to skiers and riders who purchase in advance of the season,” Katz said, stressing “continuing our strategy to move lift ticket purchasers into our pass program.”

During comments on the impact of Covid-19 on Vail Resorts, Inc. business, net income was reported down 28.4% to $147.8 million for the second fiscal quarter of 2021 compared to the second fiscal quarter of 2020. Season-to-date total skier visits were reported down 8.2% and total lift revenue was down 8.9% through March 7, 2021 compared to the prior year season-to-date period through March 8, 2020. Ski school, food and beverage, and retail/rental businesses were reported as “significantly impacted by the significant capacity and operating restrictions associated with Covid-19.”

The company also issued guidance for the nine months ending April 30, 2021 and expects Resort Reported EBITDA to be between $560 million and $600 million assuming that levels of demand and normal conditions persist through the spring, consistent with current levels.

Vail Resorts reports “significant liquidity with $1.4 billion of cash on hand as of Feb. 28, 2021 and $597 million of availability” under credit facilities.

For a full business report, visit Investor Relations at VailResorts.com.

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