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Wachusett lift nearing launch

By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / December 8, 2011
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The time’s getting closer for the launch of Wachusett’s new four-passenger Monadnock Easy-Rider Express lift.

The nearly $3 million Dopplemeyer high-speed detachable quad replaces the aging triple, turning what was once a 12-minute ride into a four-minute trip, according to marketing director Tom Meyers.

The 2,500-foot lift services the Princeton mountain’s beginner terrain and is located close to the Easy Rider trail and also provides access to mellow Indian Summer and Sundowner.

“This is going to be easy on, easy off, easy load,’’ said Meyers. “We see it as a softer, gentler high-speed detachable.’’

The lift brings to three the number of high-speed quads at the 22-trail area with 1,000 feet of vertical. The other two are the 4,500-foot Polar Express and 3,700-foot Minuteman Express.

“We look to turn first-timers into long-timers,’’ said Meyers. “This will re-invent the beginner area here and allow for beginners to have a better experience with more fun on the snow instead of riding the lift.’’

The lift is the first phase of a two-year project that includes turning the mountain’s rental/ski school building into a cutting edge service center.

In the interim, a ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for Dec. 18 at 10 a.m.

Skiers and riders will find other new lifts across New England ski country. Stowe replaced the FourRunner lift on Mount Mansfield with a new high-speed detachable quad with the same name. The lift began operations Nov. 23, according to Stowe’s Jeff Wise, and a dedication is planned Saturday at 10 a.m. with Vermont’s governor, Peter Shumlin.

In Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Burke’s new 5,900-foot high-speed Mid Burke Express quad shaves some seven minutes off the ride time, according to the ski area. Look for the lift to run before the holidays and for a grand opening Jan. 14, 2012.

Mount Snow’s detachable high-speed, six-person bubble lift is set to go. Ski area officials were wrestling yesterday with whether to hold the grand opening of the Bluebird Express Saturday or Sunday, because of the weather. “It will be this weekend, that’s for sure,’’ e-mailed communications manager Dave Meeker.

Sugarloaf’s new $3 million Skyline Quad likely will be running soon.

“We finished up load testing on Skyline a couple of week ago and everything checked out great, so we’re definitely anxious to get it open,’’ e-mailed Sugarloaf’s Ethan Austin.

A Dec. 17 grand opening is weather-dependent. The lift, with a conveyor loading system, replaces the old Spillway doubles involved in last season’s derailment.

Setting schedules

Despite a pair of freak fall (Halloween and Thanksgiving) ski country snowfalls, early season warmth and rain have pushed around projected opening days for a number of New England ski areas. But a quick blast of natural snow followed by a large snowmaking window can help more areas open.

“We can have as many as 13 ski areas opening for the season this weekend,’’ said Ski New Hampshire’s Karl Stone. “That will be updated as we move closer to the weekend. But more than anything we are looking forward to an extended period of around-the-clock snowmaking.’’

Stone said ski areas are looking forward to seeing snow on the ground and getting as much terrain open as possible in anticipation of the Christmas holiday.

“We all know the weather in New England,’’ he said. “It varies, but the cold always seems to arrive in time for the holidays.’’

Vermont ski areas average some 130 operational days, according to Ski Vermont’s Jen Butson. “Christmas is typically when business really picks up as far as skier visits and hotel occupancy,’’ she said.

There could be about 11 ski areas open in Vermont this weekend.

Money matters

There’s a $20,000 cash purse on the line at Saturday’s Rails 2 Riches jam on Killington’s Lower Highline . . . Ever think about surfing at Jay Peak? The northern Vermont ski resort is holding a grand opening this weekend for the 50,000 square foot Pump House Indoor Waterpark that features a standing wave for surfing, and LaChute with a 60-foot vertical free fall and upside down loop . . . A slew of manufacturers will be at Stowe Saturday for the Stowefest Demo Day . . . Get half off a Cannon lift ticket Saturday by bringing four non-perishable food items for the Ski for Hunger Food Drive . . . Demo days are scheduled for Sugarloaf this weekend. Also at Smugglers’ Notch, with Saturday dedicated to telemark gear . . . Don a full Santa suit and ski free Dec. 18 at Bolton Valley. The Vermont three-mountain area has $25 lift tickets ($5 Nordic) Dec. 19-25 . . . Stratton Mountain is looking ahead to World Snowboarding Day Dec. 18. There’ll be a flash mob at 9 a.m., and free group lessons.

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