Noah Person figures word will get out soon enough, so he didn’t hesitate to share what he thinks will soon be his new favorite lunch spot at the Summit at Snoqualmie.
“I can see myself sitting here and enjoying a beer while looking up the hill,” said Person, his arms outstretched as if he could embrace a panorama that included a snow-free ski run and the Silver Fir chairlift.
Person wore an orange hard hat and stood in front of the massive windows in the corner of the new Silver Fir Lodge’s bar. Person, who runs Summit Central’s rental program, is among the many resort employees helping construct the ski area’s first new lodge since 1986.
The two-story, 10,000-square-foot structure could be open to the public as soon as Dec. 26.
“Then I think the secret (of Summit Central’s Silver Fir terrain) is going to get out,” Person said.
The lodge has been taking shape during the past two years and could change the way people use the state’s most popular ski area. With 16,000 visitors per weekend, Justin Howard, the ski area’s food and beverage director, says the Summit turns into a small city.
While this can mean crowds everywhere, Summit Central’s main base area gets especially crowded.
The Silver Fir area, just east of Summit Central behind a band of trees, sometimes gets overlooked and can provide relative solitude. While some Silver Fir regulars have expressed concern the lodge will bring more people to the area, it could also reduce crowds at Summit Central while giving more options to skiers at Summit East.
“I think people will really notice at lunchtime,” said Guy Lawrence, the Summit’s marketing director. Instead of the masses trying to cram into the Summit Central lodge, they can ski over to or stay at Silver Fir.
Lunch in the Silver Fir Lodge will offer many options. The restaurant will serve brisket, Cubans and other sandwiches. Large electric woks will supply the Asian food station. “And, of course, you have to have burgers and fries,” Howard said.
Cafeteria-style seating is available, but on nice days guests are sure to spill out onto the heated plaza where they can eat next to a gas fire just a few yards from the lift line.
Downstairs, visitors will find a fleet of K2 and Burton ski and snow rental gear that, Person says, will be higher end than what visitors will find at the ski area’s rental centers, designed for people new to the sports.
Silver Fir also will have the Summit’s first demo center in more than a decade, Lawrence said. This will allows visitors to try various types of new equipment.
“I think Silver Fir could become a destination akin to Alpental,” Person said.
Unlike Alpental, however, Silver Fir won’t be packed with expert terrain and gates to the backcountry. But Silver Fir and its easy access to Summit East will offer plenty of runs for those comfortable on slopes that are intermediate and advanced while getting away from the largest packs of beginners.
“It’s a place where I’ve had some of my best days,” Person said.
The Silver Fir Lodge is just one of several new amenities around the Northwest this winter. Here is a look at some of the others:
JUPITER PICKS UP THE PACE
John Gifford, president of the Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association, says “the Summit’s new lodge and the new lift at Stevens Pass are probably the biggest highlights this year” for Washington skiers and snowboarders.
Anybody who enjoys venturing out to Stevens Pass Ski Area’s Mill Valley knows the wide range of terrain has a downside: long lift rides.
The ski area aims to change that this season with the arrival of the new high-speed quad called Jupiter Express. This lift replaces the Jupiter fixed-grip quad.
Gifford, Stevens Pass’ former general manager, says this faster lift could lure more people to “an underused area.”
Mill Valley is packed with runs ranging from groomed intermediate trails to double-diamond steeps.
As part of the upgrade, the resort expanded terrain in the Corona, Pegasus Gulch and Orion areas of Mill Valley. “People will be able to ski more of the area now,” Gifford said.
TWO NEW LIFTS IN WHISTLER
Ski guide Mark Hornby slid to a halt on a flat cat track on Blackcomb Mountain and pointed up the mountain.
“They’re putting the new lift here,” Hornby said on a pleasant January morning. “Skiers are really going to appreciate this.”
The new Crystal Ridge Express replaces an older, slower fixed-grip lift improving capacity by nearly 1,000 skiers per hour. The lift also climbs 519 more vertical feet.
But that’s not what Hornby, who has skied Whistler Blackcomb for 12 years, was most excited about.
He says the new lift will dramatically change the way skiers and snowboarders use the Crystal Ridge terrain, an area he says is often a good place to visit when weather isn’t ideal.
Because the lift stretches farther down the mountain than its predecessor, skiers can skip Excelerator Express and access the terrain with one lift ride instead of two.
This also means quicker access to the Horstman and Blackcomb glaciers higher on the mountain.
Next door on Whistler Mountain, the resort put in a new lift in an effort to shrink one of its longest lift lines. The new Harmony Six high-speed lift will stand in the same footprint as the Harmony Express lift, but will move 1,200 more skiers per hour.
Both new lifts service intermediate and expert terrain.
NEW RUNS AT SILVER MOUNTAIN
Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho, cut two new runs for this season.
Skier’s Right of Moonshine and Bootlegger are intermediate runs that will bring the ski area’s total number of runs to 74.
Silver Mountain expanded Gold Pan Alley, a new children’s run.
RECORD SETTING UPGRADE
Idaho’s Sun Valley Resort is famous for being the first United States ski resort and home of the original chairlift. This season it plans to add the nation’s largest super pipe.
The half pipe will be 620 feet long with 22-foot-high walls. The pipe will be added to the vast terrain park scene on Dollar Mountain.
PREPPING FOR THE FUTURE
Visitors to Crystal Mountain might not know quite how to react to the resort’s most expensive upgrade this season, but it’s an important step in its master development plan.
The new $2.5 wastewater treatment plant will improve the quality of water released into the drain field and protect nearby Silver Creek, resort general manager John Kircher said.
The plant went online in July, replacing its 39-year-old predecessor. The upgrade is an important step in the resort’s plans to add a hotel.
Tiana Enger, Crystal’s marketing director, says the hotel is “hopefully a few years down the pipeline.”
The state’s second-largest ski area also is looking toward the future this season. After adding a new chairlift last season, 49 Degrees North near Chewelah will meet with U.S. Forest Service managers this season to plan the expansion of its lodge.
And in Oregon, Mount Bachelor has started work on its first terrain expansion since 1996. The 646 acres of glades and bowls will be serviced by a lift that is “at least a year away” according to the Northwest ski association.
The fun, however, doesn’t have to wait this long. A catchline has been constructed so the mostly ungroomed terrain can be accessed this season for those willing to make the estimated 20-minute hike.