New chairlift still on track for opening this winter

The original Crystal Chairlift. Photo SPIN

Work is moving ahead on the chairlift which will replace the current Crystal chairlift. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting plans for new chairlifts at resorts across North America, Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) is moving ahead with plans to complete the new addition in time for this winter. 

On June 27, 2019, SPR officially announced plans to replace the existing Crystal, which is around 40 years old. Through the summer of 2019 the first phase of work began with clearing trees and installing bases for lift towers. 

Aidan Kelly, chief marketing officer for SPR, said the remainder of work will begin in earnest this week now that the majority of components have been delivered. A crew from Doppelmayer is in Sun Peaks and ready to begin. 

One of the biggest challenges isn’t related to the ongoing pandemic, but to the large amounts of snow that fell during the past winter. 

“We actually still have a very deep snowpack up the mountain so we’ve been up there the last couple weeks clearing access roads with snowcats and preparing the site for work to begin, so snow removal has been a big part of things,” he said.

Another challenge is related to electrical considerations, with the pandemic affecting the manufacturing and access to specific parts.

“But outside the electrical stuff everything’s actually looking really really good…for the most part it’s actually proceeding as planned.”

Without any curveballs, Kelly said, they should be on track for their planned opening for the 2020-21 ski season. 

“There’s no guarantees on anything these days, but all signs are pointing in the right direction currently that the lift project’s going to be completed by the fall and all done ahead of winter opening next season…we’re anticipating some challenges along the way but not major challenges that are going to delay the whole project…we’re focused on having that lift operational before next winter.”

As for the original chairlift, Kelly said they will keep it in place as long as possible in case a situation arose where work on the new lift couldn’t be completed. 

“Out of an abundance of caution…because we don’t know what we don’t know…we’re going to do as much of the new lift’s work before we even touch the old lift. The worst case scenario would be we rip it out but can’t finish the new lift.”

Kelly said due to the challenges and costs associated with operating the aging equipment he expected it won’t be sold to another resort. 

“We’re still exploring options but most likely it will be retired at this point.”

What the latest addition will be called when it opens also remains to be seen. Sun Peaks vernacular has dubbed it the “New Crystal” but an official decision has yet to be made.