RED LODGE - Skiers and snowboarders still have about 18 days left to shred at Red Lodge Mountain before the end of the season.
But once skiing wraps up, mountain staff have a big project on their hands — improving upper Miami Beach.
“For us, this is a pretty big deal. The project is going to be about $2.25 million,” said Spencer Weimar, assistant manager of the ski area.
The big-ticket item is a new high-speed triple chairlift that will replace the current fixed-grip double chairlift.
It was purchased last month from Alta Ski Area in Utah last month and will hopefully be operational at Red Lodge for the 2023 ski season, Weimar said.
The old Miami Beach lift will still turn for the 2022-23 ski season, but after that, it's time for construction.
"Everything you see behind me will be coming out. The towers, the chairs, the bottom of terminal and top of terminal. All of that will be coming out," Weimar said.
The chairlift is currently named Sunnyside at Alta and still has to serve the rest of the season there, but May will be when it starts being disassembled and transported piece by piece to Red Lodge.
"In phase one of this project. We'll be going down to Alta and helping take down the lift and then transporting it up here to make some modifications for our slope that we'll be putting it on," Weimar said.
The new chairlift will take a slightly different route and extend longer up the hill.
This gives more advanced skiers less of a hike to ski down the run called Columbine to get over to the Palisades area.
But by and large, the lift will remain in the same familiar location, Weimar said.
Some other improvements to upper Miami Beach are more tailored to beginners.
The yurt warming hut that has been present at the base area for the past few years will be transported to the top of Miami this summer, Weimar said.
And another conveyor belt-style lift will be added on the north side of the lift this summer.
The conveyor lift will far extend the area that beginners have to ski on.
Miami is also a less-steep slope than the current beginner area located near the base lodge.
Another benefit for beginners of the new lift is a flatter slope to initially exit the chairlift.
The steep ramp off the chairlift can be a detriment to the confidence of new skiers.
”It’s truly about improving the guest experience and creating this overall improved learning experience," Weimar said.
While staff are excited for the construction, some skiers wish the lift would be going to a place that serves more expert terrain.
Weimar said a new high-speed lift to replace a lift like Triple Chair at Red Lodge would cost three times as much as the current project.
“To replace the Triple Chair would be about a $6 to $7 million lift. Thanks to a good deal from Alta, we’re going to be able to do this project, including the yurt move and other lift for two and a quarter-million dollars. If we wanted to put in a brand new high-speed quad in here for this lift that we’re about to do, we’d be at $4 million. So we’ve found an opportunity to improve our experience that we can do on our own without needing significant additional funding," Weimar said.
With all the talk of new equipment, what's going to happen to the old stuff?
Chairs from the old Miami Beach lift will likely be up for sale sometime, but nothing is set in stone yet, Weimar said.
"That is the question everyone wants to know about. Everyone wants to know about the Miami chairs. At some point, we will put them up for sale. We'll kind of work out how we're going to do that. We probably won't make any announcement about that until the lift is actually coming down," Weimar said.
For those who are already thinking about next season, season passes went on sale on Wednesday.
If you pick one up, it's good for the remaining days of the current season, Weimar said. Visit the mountain's website for details by clicking here.