Dec 1, 2003 | Marmot, Summer 2003

Will Christmas Bring a New Chair Lift to Mount Washington?

Mount Washington Alpine Resort General Manager Peter Gibson is playing his cards close to his chest these days when it comes to announcing any ski terrain expansion.

Skiers are waiting impatiently for the Alpine Resort to announce plans for its newest lift into the Outback – the McKay Lake area on the “other” side of the mountain. The lift line was cut last October, prep work has been completed in the load and unload areas, a revolutionary chair configuration has been chosen – now all the Resort needs is a successful season financially.

“We’re hoping that if we have a good Christmas we can make a positive announcement in January,” Gibson hedged.
“We’ve signed a contract for the lift, but Advanced skiers and boarders anticipate access to ‘The Outback’, advanced terrain in the McKay Lake area.

We have a clause in the contract that, if we have a bad Christmas, we have the right to delay it,” he said. “Behind the scenes, the wheels are turning.”

“We have a plan for it; we don’t want to be hasty about it,” Director of Public Relations Dave Hampshire said. “We’re going to take a look at our financial picture as the season begins. We’d like to see the chair open in December 2004.”
The new chair – a fixed-grip quad — would open up another 500 acres of terrain for double-black diamond skiers: a first for the 25-year-old Alpine Resort.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Hampshire said. The chair is revolutionary in that it will be a double-loading chairlift. A station will be located at either side of “Little Washington”, the peak leading down into McKay Lake. Skiers will take a lift to the top of Little Washington. Another lift on the other side will bring skiers back up to the peak.

The double-loading idea also solves a power problem. All the electrical power at Mount Washington is on one side of the resort. The original plan for the lift, Hampshire said, was to extend the Eagle to the top of the mountain and ski down to the Outback. “One of the employees suggested this double loading. It’s very novel,” he said.

The new configuration also means skiers will be able to get into McKay Lake on adverse weather days when the Eagle chairlift is down, Gibson said.

The Outback lift will be longer than either the Eagle or the Hawk (both high-speed detachables) in terms of combined length. The load area for the new lift will be at the 4,400-foot mark on the face, and 3,600 feet on the McKay Lake side – the same elevation as the load for the Green chair.

The ride time coming out of McKay Lake is seven minutes, with another two minutes coming out of the Hawk. The chairs on the new lift will be spaced 12 seconds apart, which is double the spacing on the Hawk.

“Each side will carry 1,200 skiers an hour for a combined 2,400 coming in at the unload area,” Gibson said. It won’t be necessary to carry skiers more quickly, to ease congestion at the bottom of the lift, because there won’t be the volume of skiers on the double-black diamond runs that there are on others.

“It is a shorter ride, but combined, it’s bigger. The terrain is what (skiers) want, and a fixed chair is half the price of a detachable.”

The Resort has completed an extensive avalanche study in anticipation of the new lift, and this year purchased an “avalancher” gun – already installed in a tower in the McKay Lake area – to help de-stabilize snow in avalanche areas. Gibson said this method is safer for ski patrollers, because they won’t have to ski out on a cornice and launch a charge.

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