Every year at this time, Snowmass ski area manager Steve Sewell appears before elected officials to provide an update and progress report about on-mountain projects.
Sewell’s updates became an annual event after the Elk Camp Gondola was completed in 2006 and the seeds of a summer trails and activities plan started to be sown. His yearly reports noted the planning and eventual execution of bike trails, the development of a climbing feature, fishing pond amenity and other reasons why guests would want to visit Snowmass in the summer.
Over the decade since the gondola was installed, the Elk Camp restaurant was dismantled and replaced, a plan for a new alpine coaster, zip line tour and challenge course was submitted, reviewed and eventually approved by the U.S. Forest Service; since mid-June, crews have worked doggedly to complete the coaster in time for the winter season.
“For 10 years I’ve been coming before council,” Sewell told the Snowmass Village Town Council on Monday night. “At each one of these presentations, I’ve discussed something coming up on Elk Camp. I’m happy to say I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This may be my last presentation.”
As of Oct. 16, the installation of track and wiring for the Lost Forest coaster, the pinnacle of the resort’s on-mountain upgrades, was “99.9 percent complete.”
“It’s been a challenging project to say the least but it’s coming together very well,” he said.
Sewell added that the next four to five weeks will be used to complete “finishing touches” on the ride, which starts close to the the top of the gondola and continues up about 450 vertical feet to near the intersection of the Gunner’s View and Bear Bottom trails.
He also noted the location was “by the Hunter Thompson shrine,” but allowed that he wasn’t sure if that shrine was still intact. Several of Snowmass’ more prominent on-mountain markers, or shrines, including one that paid homage to the greats of the golfing world, were removed this year though SkiCo has said previously it wasn’t at their direction.
In addition to the coaster, which SkiCo hopes to debut around Dec. 21 and operate during the winter following inspections and licensing from the Forest Service and the state’s tramway board, substantial progress has been made to both the new challenge course and the canopy tour that includes nine ziplines, seven of which are contained within tree stands, he said.
Snowmass’ bike park received a new beginner trail this year, as well as a steep and rocky route to the top of Elk Camp and the first section of a top-to-bottom trail that will require a full two summers to build. The foundation for the climbing wall is also underway, but will soon be covered up for winter and completed in 2018.
“Now that the end is in sight for these activities, I’m really confident these activities are going to be a game changer in the summer,” Sewell said.
He was joined during the council meeting by SkiCo’s president and CEO Mike Kaplan and Christian Knapp, vice president of marketing. They discussed progress of the Limelight Snowmass and some of the rationale behind their new marketing campaign, which has been mostly, but not universally, well received by SkiCo guests, they inferred.
Knapp, who was asked about pricing of the summer amenities, said the cost of the coaster hasn’t been established yet but that the attraction would be packaged competitively and when compared to other resorts it could seen as “a very good value.”
Another construction project that will be completed on schedule is the new ski patrol building at Sam’s Knob that replaces a trailer meant to be in place only for a short while.
“We have a shiny new building,” Sewell said about a 1,600-square-foot structure to replace “temporary” digs that have been used by patrol for about 10 years.
Newly installed fiber optic lines will also improve connections and service from Two Creeks to Sam’s Knob, he said.