That’s because the mountain’s newest chairlift, the Bluebird Express, is just about complete. The six-passenger, bubble-covered chairlift is the mountain’s newest addition, and it promises to offer a whole new experience. For the first time in almost 25 years, skiers and snowboarders will once again be able to enjoy a covered ride to the summit.
Earlier this week, crews were putting the finishing touches on the lift. The lifts cable, or haul rope, had been hung on the towers and spliced together. The chairs had all been hung in the storage building, aptly named the birdhouse. The birdhouse itself was nearly complete, with just a few pieces of siding and roofing remaining to be added to the structure.
What makes this lift different from the gondolas and bubble chairs that populated Mount Snow in the ‘70s and ‘80s are the sheer technological advances of chairlift design and construction. Greater uphill capacity and greater wind resistance are just two things that separate this high-tech lift from its predecessors.
One thing that enhances the wind resistance of the chairs is their weight. According to Mount Snow’s Dennis Bills, the average chair on the Summit Express weighs 400 pounds. The new chairs weight over 1,200 pounds each. That additional weight, says Bills, means the lift will be better able to withstand wind gusts, which means the new chairlift should be able to operate in more extreme weather conditions. That was something the previous incarnations of covered lifts were unable to do very well at Mount Snow. State inspectors were scheduled to be at Mount Snow on Wednesday to observe the critical “load test” that every chairlift in Vermont needs to pass before it can be declared operational. As of press time, results of that load test were not known.
Also not known at press time is when exactly Mount Snow will open for skiing. The warm weather that has allowed Mount Snow’s crews to complete their projects in relative comfort has not been conducive to good snowmaking. Crews were able to make a small amount of snow on the upper portion of the main mountain. But in general, the mild weather has not allowed for snowmaking of any great magnitude, and the forecast isn’t calling for a significant change anytime soon.
“This kind of weather is just cruel,” said Mount Snow general manager Kelly Pawlak. At press time, about six inches of wet snow had fallen at the mountain, but Pawlak said it was just not enough to open the slopes for skiing. “I can assure you that we want to open just as much as you and this is a tough pill to swallow,” she wrote on her blog Wednesday morning.
There is a chance to win a little piece of Mount Snow history. The mountain’s 50th anniversary golden chair from the Summit Express is being raffled off as a fundraiser for Tropical Storm Irene relief efforts. Tickets are still available until the winning ticket is pulled Saturday afternoon. So far, over $6,200 has been raised.
Regardless of when the mountain opens for skiing, Mount Snow has a plethora of activities planned for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Not to be missed on that list would be tours of the new lift and the birdhouse, slated for Saturday at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm. For a schedule of weekend events see related article on page one or visit mountsnow.com.