Wet spring delays progress on new lift

The new Orient Ridge Quad’s lifeline almost exactly opposes the current Morrissey lift. SPIN Photo.

Driving up the future lift line of the Orient Ridge quad chairlift (no official name has been announced yet) at the end of July, water can be seen dripping down drainages and over clearings, a lingering reminder of the June weather that challenged crews clearing the way for the newest lift at Sun Peaks. Despite delays, crews (both contracted and from Sun Peaks and Dopplelmayr) have made headway and the lift should open before Christmas.

“Water was a problem for sure,” said Erik Meertens, mountain operations manager for Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR). “It’s just staggering how much water is here…It was a wet June but we caught up in July.”

Since learning just how much water is on the slopes, drainage has been a focus for snow melt in the spring, ensuring freshet will drain into appropriate areas instead of soaking into the ground.

Now back on track, SPR is completing the clean up of cleared areas and ensuring road access to each tower site in advance of concrete work, the next step in the project. Cleared logs were taken to Tolko mills in Heffley Creek and Armstrong, B.C. Some debris has been piled to dry before burning; other debris was carefully buried in places that won’t be developed in the future.

Work has also begun at the base of the future fixed grip lift (the same style as Elevation). The drive station will be where the Umbrella Cafe currently sits. The cafè and adjacent bathrooms are in the process of being dismantled and shifted east towards the Nordic Centre. P5 will be cleared of equipment storage and prepared for additional parking to support increased traffic in the area. Surface water in the area is also being diverted through culverts underground to make an even surface around the lift.

The location of each of the 14 towers has been carefully plotted. The first two come before the overpass, the third through fifth will line the “lookers left” side of the golf course and the remainder work their way up the mountain to a final elevation of 1531 metres.

Work will begin from the top down in case of inclement weather in the fall. Towers will arrive around October with the majority, if not all, flown into place with a helicopter.

“Weather is our biggest enemy,” Meertens said. “It really was tough in June.”

In addition to the lift line, which promises to be a fun route down the mountain, two new runs have been cut. From the top terminal, one branches left, across the mountain to tie into Rambler between Three Bears and Peekaboo. This green run cuts through the trees, the width carefully managed to avoid early melting in the sun, and maintains easy grades but a no less than a two per cent grade so snowboarders can hold an edge. Turn right when you unload and a new run will connect you with Cześć.

The chair, which sits almost exactly opposite the valley to Morrisey’s chairlift, is designed to save those in the East Village time and effort to get into the main village as well as increase the number of skiers in the area by providing more options.

How does it feel to see it come together?

“Ask me in December,” Meertens said with a laugh. “Now it feels good. It’s exciting, it’s a great project.”