Winter Recreation

New high-speed chair lifts flown into place at 2 Idaho ski areas

We’re still months away from the start of ski season, but two Idaho ski areas already have started preparing for winter in a big way.

This week, Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area and Tamarack Resort installed new high-speed chair lifts. Both lifts were installed by the same helicopter and ground crew, Highlander Lift Construction, according to Nate Shake, director of mountain operations at Bogus.

The Boise-area mountain replaced its aging Morning Star lift on Wednesday. The previous lift, which was removed in the spring, was a fixed-grip chair lift that seated three riders. It was last updated in 1999, Shake said. Crews installed the framework for a high-speed detachable quad lift, which not only seats more riders at once but also reduces the ride time significantly.

“The ride time will go from about 9 minutes down to about 3 minutes,” Shake said.

The lower terminal of the revamped lift, which has been renamed the Morning Star Express lift, will be at Bogus Basin’s Simplot base area. The lift takes riders up 700 vertical feet to Morning Star Junction east of the Pioneer Lodge. When officials announced the project last March, they said the improved lift should help cut down on wait times and offer access to beginner runs on the front of the mountain, as well as more challenging runs on the back.

The lift, which was built by Austrian equipment manufacturer Doppelmayr, cost Bogus Basin about $5 million, Shake said. It’s expected to be functional when the 2019-20 season opens, he added.

On Tuesday, the same crew installed a Doppelmayr high-speed detachable quad lift at Tamarack Resort near Donnelly. The new installation replaces the former Wildwood lift, which was repossessed in 2012 while Tamarack was mired in financial issues.

The new Wildwood lift covers more than 5,300 linear feet and takes riders up 1,600 feet in elevation, where they’ll have access to 200 acres of terrain on the resort’s north side. According to a news release from Tamarack, the lift can carry 1,800 people per hour with an average ride time of 5 1/2 minutes.

“It allows us to really accept more people and not have long lift lines,” Jon Reveal, president of the resort, said in a phone interview. “We should have long runs and short lift lines.”

Reveal said the lift opens up more intermediate and advanced runs, as well as gladed tree skiing.

“This is really going to spread people out as they get on the mountain,” Reveal said.

The Wildwood Express is north of the Tamarack Express lift and farther from the Tamarack Village than the resort’s other lifts. Its base is accessible from West Mountain Road, and its upper terminal takes riders to the Tamarack Run below the Wildwood Bowl and south of the Grove run.

The reinstalled Wildwood lift is the latest in a series of updates at Tamarack, which was purchased by an investment partnership in November 2018 after several years of financial issues and stalled construction.

The new owner, Tamarack Resort Holdings, resumed construction on the Tamarack Village this summer after 11 years.

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