During a mid-day press conference yesterday, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort President, Jerry Blann, announced the replacement of the old, very slow and dated Casper triple chair for the 2012/13 ski season. Its replacement will be a detachable high-speed quad that will nearly double the uphill capacity and cut the ride time to almost a third of what it is now. JHMR will also do some dirt work and rock removal in the Casper area to accommodate the increased skier traffic. I worked on the Casper Chair in my second year as a liftie at JHMR in 1994, and it sure would be cool to be able to get one of those old chairs for the porch.
The new lift will be constructed by POMA and will have a max speed of 1000 ft/min, compared to the 376 ft/min of the current lift. Uphill capacity will bump up to 2000 skiers/hour, verses the 1185/hour of the current triple chair. The lift line will be changed ever-so-slightly (in order to maximize flow and minimized congestion in the Casper Restaurant and South Pass Traverse area) by moving the base station slightly to the south and the top terminal, slightly to the north. The travel time to move up the 1050 vertical feet that is the Casper lift-line, will go from 9.1 minutes to only 3.5 minutes. (Talk about hot laps!!!) About 300 trees will be cut down during the construction, with an estimated 5-6 of them being White Bark Pines.
Included in this improvement, the break-over zone known to locals (and lifties) as the “Waterfall”, will be flattened a bit. At the top and to the south, the Amphitheater Traverse will also see some widening, since to will now see double the number people coming off the lift. The Wide Open run to the north, designed by Pepi Stiegler, will see some dirt work ad rock removal in order to accommodate the increased number of intermediate skiers JHMR is focusing on with this project. Currently, JHMR skiers represent about 30% of the total number of skiers that visit the resort, and is a number they would like to see increase.
The new Casper lift will cost ~$5 million and is another example that shows the commitment the Kemmerer family has to the resort. While they could just keep pocketing all the profits or invest in more condos and hotels at the base area, instead…they are putting those profits back into the infrastructure of the ski area, which is more than I can say for many ski resorts throughout the country.
When asked if JHMR thought about moving the top station of the new Casper lift to the top of the Crags area, Blann stated that the 3-5 year plan does include a new lift located between Casper and Apres Vous that will provide lift service to that area. I think this is a key element in opening up JHMR to more intermediate skiers, as the area between Casper and A.V. often sees little skier traffic.