New lodges at Cannon and Cranmore mountains offer more space for guests to come inside and warm up after hitting the slopes or tubing runs.
The newest lift at Loon Mountain — Kancamagus 8 — will keep skiers and snowboarders toasty with heated seats and a tinted weather shield. It’s the first eight-person chairlift in the East.
Gunstock Mountain and others also have invested in new snowmaking equipment.
These are among some of the major investments made during the offseason at ski resorts across the Granite State. The upgrades come after the industry abruptly shut down in March 2020 and operated with restrictions to keep guests safe during the COVID-19 pandemic last season.
Loon Mountain opened on Nov. 27, but the Kancamagus 8 — or Kanc 8 for short — has yet to operate.
“Right now we are putting on all the finishing touches to the chairlift,“ said Louise Smith, communication manager for Loon. The opening has not been set yet.
Last week, Jessyca Keeler, president of Ski New Hampshire, got a sneak peak of the lift’s parking structure and loading area. Ski NH represents 33 Alpine and cross-country ski resorts across the state.
Typically, several projects stick out every year, she said.
“A lot of projects got put on hold or they got stretched out and completed as it became clear there were ways to do it safely, and (the resorts) would be OK financially,” she said, alluding to the pandemic.
Last year, Alpine skier visits were up 5% compared to 2019-2020 (2,066,011 visits), but down 3% compared to the 10-year alpine skier visits average, according to the organization. Many resorts limited the number of tickets sold because of restrictions on the number of people on chairlifts and use of the lodges.
Many resorts are now just waiting for enough snow to open. Many opened a week or later than they typically do.
The Kancamagus 8 chairlift was supposed to open at Loon last season, but the project was delayed because of COVID-19 related issues with production, shipping and workforce.
The high-speed eight-person lift, which replaces the Kancamgus Express Quad, features ergonomically shaped heated seats and a tinted “bubble,” which can be used during rough weather. The lift can travel 1,100 feet per minute.
“This chairlift is the first eight-place in the East, so there has been a lot of talk around it,” Smith said. The lift is part of a long-term plan called “Flight Path: 2030.”
Part of the plan is more sustainable than with a goal of being carbon neutral.
“We installed the Kanc 8, and it’s looking great,” Smith said. “Then we’ll move onto the Governor Adams lodge itself. That will also be receiving a facelift. Not this season, but in coming seasons.”
Next season will bring new lifts and further upgrades at multiple resorts.
Waterville Valley started construction on a new six-person “bubble” lift set to open in the 2022/23 season, according to a news release. It will replace the White Peaks Express Quad, the first detachable high-speed quad built in the state in 1988.
Vail Resorts will replace the “East and West Double-Double” chairlift with one four-person chair, according to a news release.
Cranmore will undertake a $1 million project to upgrade its high-speed Skimobile Express Quad, which was installed in 1995. The project will increase uphill capacity by 20%.
Artist Falls Lodge is the newest lodge to open at Cranmore and is located near its tubing and mountain adventure park. The new lodge features a ticketing window on the ground level and a new restaurant, The Alpine Café and Bar, on the second floor. The restaurant is set to open Christmas week.
“It has windows that look out into the tubing park,” said Becca Deschenes, marketing director. “It is going to be a really neat place to sit with some nice views.”
The lodge is part of the mountain’s master redevelopment plan, which includes condominiums, base facilities and a future hotel. The resort plans to break ground on the Fairbank Lodge, the main base lodge, this spring.
One feature in the new Artist Falls Lodge will feature wooden tables made by a local woodworker.
The Franconia Ski Club partnered with the Holderness School to open the Mittersill Performance Center, a lodge at the base of the Mittersill slopes of Cannon Mountain. The grand opening took place Saturday, but skiing has yet to begin on Mittersill for the season. Cannon opened on Friday.
For the past seven years, FSC, Holderness School, the state of New Hampshire and the U.S. Ski Team raised nearly $7 million for improvements to Mittersill.
While the 9,200-square-foot center is full of amenities for the ski club like administrative offices and a ski tuning shop, the building is open to the public. It does not include food service.
Large glass windows provide a view onto the training run.
“The rest of the village is kind of traditional ski chalets,” said Rebecca Bell, administrative assistant. “The building itself was designed to stay true to that architecture.”
The new lodge will allow the club to better accommodate world-class races at the mountain.
Loon made outdoor renovations to its Camp III lodge with a heated outdoor patio with glass weather shields
For the first time in 20 years, Gunstock will open with trails that run from the top to the bottom. In the past, lower trails opened first. Opening day is set for Dec. 10.
The mountain installed 30 new snow guns to the slopes. The project included moving some of the piping to make the snowmaking more efficient.
“It gives up the ability to cover the trails faster,” said Tom Day, president and general manager.
The mountain implemented new software called SNOWRIGHT that allows operators to better monitor snow. Also new is a rental building and 225 parking additional spaces.
“We should not have to do any remote parking anymore,” Day said. “Everyone will be able to walk right to the slopes.”
He declined to say how much the investment cost.
“It is well worth what we paid for it,” he said.
Cranmore, which opened on Friday, also made improvements.
“We updated the size of the pipe going up to the summit to maximize the amount of water that is being pushed up there,” Deschenes said.
Unlike last season, Cranmore will not limit the sale of lift tickets. Face coverings are not required outdoors, but guests are strongly recommended to wear them indoors. Lifts will be loaded at normal capacity.
“A lot of ski areas are still asking guests to wear masks inside,” Keeler said. “It varies with some places being highly recommended and for other places it is mandatory.”
Loon will continue to limit day tickets.
“We’ve welcomed people back into the base lodges,” Smith said. Face masks will be required indoors because the mountain is on federal land.
At Gunstock, the lodge will be open 100%, but one food truck and a trailer with restrooms will remain in the parking lot. The resort will also limit tickets.
“Our season pass sales this year were through the roof,” Day said. “We stopped selling them on Nov. 30.”