It’s a long way to the top

Whitewater Ski?Resort is installing a new chairlift to provide access to the backside of the mountain

by Trevor Crawley
person skiing down a hill

Access amazing powder with the new Glory Ridge chairlift — Photo courtesy Whitewater Ski Resort

Whitewater Ski Resort is making one of its hidden treasures more accessible by installing a new chairlift to service the area referred to as the Backside.

The Glory Ridge chairlift will cover just over 1.5 kilometres of slope length and pushes the vertical drop of skiable terrain to more than 2,000 feet.

According to Anne Pigeon, manager of indoor operations and marketing, this feat thrusts the resort onto a world-class stage.

“It just jettisons us into another marketplace so we’re looking to gain more international attention and more destination market opportunities than we had before, which is something that will benefit the local community,” she said.

Whitewater bought the lift from the renowned Vail resort in Colorado and contracted Fernie-based Summit Lift Company Ltd. to do the installation.

The Dopplemayr triple lift can haul 2,400 people up the mountain in an hour and one trip takes roughly 11 minutes.

“We’ve always thought that we would use reconditioned lifts previously enjoyed (by skiers), just from an economical perspective and suiting the culture of our mountain," Pigeon said.

The Glory Ridge chair was identified as the first priority chairlift expansion because the snow conditions and terrain lured adventurous skiers and snowboarders to the backside area of the mountain, which was technically out of bounds.

“From a marketing perspective, so many people are familiar with that area and have fond memories of skiing back there so it made our job easier,” said Pigeon.

The backside has developed a reputation as an area with deep powder and challenging terrain and, over time, attracted more and more backcountry enthusiasts.

“It offers a good fall line and some good powder opportunities so people were skiing on the backside, then dropping out on our main access road and hitchhiking back up again,” Pigeon said.

In the beginning, it wasn’t a problem but as more people migrated to that area of the mountain, it became a safety hazard.

The goal is to make 303 hectares (749 acres) into a mixture of 18 gladed, treed and groomed runs over two years designed for the intermediate and expert skiers and boarders.

The chair is slated to be operational by December and will service eight runs that are planned to be finished this season, with the remaining 10 completed for the following season.

The addition of the new chairlift is part of the recently updated master plan, released in June, which focuses on developing ski terrain and outlines proposals for more lifts and real estate development. 

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