Chair 4 – Snow Ghost Express
Friday, Dec. 30, 2022
The moment we’ve all been waiting for is here! The Snow Ghost Express is open to guests after several years of planning and six months of construction.
The new high-speed six-pack chairlift began shuttling skiers and snowboarders from the Base Lodge area to the top of Inspiration Ridge this morning.
A small ribbon-cutting ceremony featured relatives of George Prentice, who founded the resort with Ed Schenck 75 years ago, and relatives of Whitefish skiing pioneer Lloyd “Mully” Muldown, who led the Hell-Roaring Ski Club beginning in the 1930s. The first guests in line to ride the new lift received commemorative neck gaiters made by BlackStrap.
We couldn’t be happier to see this project completed before the new year. The final steps included load testing, ensuring all electrical systems work and training our staff to operate the new lift, all of which took place over the past week.
This was a massive undertaking that presented plenty of challenges, but we know it will have a big, positive impact on the way folks experience this mountain and that makes it all worthwhile.
To recap: The Snow Ghost Express provides better access to terrain on the front and east sides of the mountain that previously was underutilized. It also enables guests to reach the upper mountain from the Base Lodge more quickly, without a layover between Chairs 6 and 1. That, in turn, reduces traffic on other lifts as well as beginner terrain, improving the experience for guests of all ages and skill levels.
We appreciate everyone’s patience as we moved this project across the finish line. Now it’s time to get stoked and ride the thing! We can’t wait to see all your smiling faces cruising up the hill on the Snow Ghost Express. Come on up!
Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022
The latest on the construction of Chair 4: The ropeway has been successfully spliced, all 89 carriers have been placed online, and the Leitner Poma crew is working its way through Acceptance Testing with the USFS. That process involves running the lift for a significant amount of time on both backup power and electric top drive.
The lift engineers are also going through the process of testing all 25 lift towers’ “tower fault” system. Last is the “Load Test” part of the process in which we will load chairs with 1200lbs of weight on each chair to simulate full chairs of skiers and riders.
During that portion of the process, engineers will ensure all the safety instruments perform properly under stress. This portion will also require us to close down the entire lift line from skiers and riders.
We anticipate that happening in the next 24-48 hours, so please keep a look out for partial day closures as we perform this critical element of the Acceptance Test.
Once that process is complete, our lift operations team will be trained on the new lift, build top and bottom ramps, lay out the maze and soon after open to the public.
As of writing this, we anticipate that to happen within the holiday break.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Whitefish Mountain Resort!
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022
After hitting a few supply chain snags, we’re finally splicing the haul rope!
This is one of the final steps in the long process of building a chairlift. The heavy steel cable is looped around the bullwheels so the two ends meet. Then the ends are untwisted and strands are removed before a crew of dozens of people carefully weaves the cable back together, forming a continuous loop with no bumps, bulges or errant wires. The rewoven portion of the cable spans a whopping 190 feet!
It takes a lot of time, skill and attention to detail to do this work, so give a round of applause to the crew!
Now, with opening day right around the corner, you’re probably wondering when you can take your first ride on the shiny new Snow Ghost Express. The short answer is that we’re aiming to open the lift before Christmas!
We tried our absolutest hardest to get this thing done before ski season arrives, but international manufacturing and shipping times are hard to predict these days.
So, after the haul rope is spliced and tensioned, we’ll hang all 89 of the six-seat carriers. You might see the lift spinning while we test a backup diesel motor, but that doesn’t mean it will be ready to move people. Finally, Leitner-Poma is scheduled to perform load tests — weighing down each chair to ensure the lift is safe — the week of Monday, Dec. 19.
The load testing will take up to three days and require us to close all the terrain surrounding the lift line, including Russ’s Street, so we ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation during that time. Work will stop if any guests are seen in the construction zone, so don’t duck the ropes! This is for everyone’s safety.
In other news, we’ve received well over 4 feet of snow at the summit and solid blanket across the whole mountain! This, along with our snowmaking operations, will enable us to open way more lifts and terrain than we’d typically expect on opening day.
As of this dispatch, we’re planning to open Chairs 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 11, as well as T-Bar 2, on Thursday! Expect lots of open runs down the front side, but beware of early-season conditions and share the slopes with those around you.
Chairs 8 and 9 and the Big Easy Conveyor Carpet won’t be far behind. Please note: Due to terrain conditions and ongoing work on the new lift, beginner terrain will be very limited to start the season.
That’s all for now. Get stoked!
Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022
Turkey Day is almost here, and we have lots to be thankful for!
Not least is that the haul rope for the new Chair 4 has finally arrived. After some supply chain challenges, a few of us were biting our nails worried the cable wouldn’t show up before ski season starts.
But all’s well that ends well. This giant piece of steel came spooled up on a flatbed truck Monday morning, ready to be pulled up the mountainside. Would you believe it weighs 47.5 tons?!
We’ll string up the cable and splice the ends together sometime after the holiday. The project remains right on track!
As a safety reminder for those who like to skin up the mountain, please heed all closures and instructions from resort employees and the construction crew.
Happy Thanksgiving from Whitefish Mountain Resort!
Friday, Nov. 18, 2022
Please be aware of some temporary closures!
If you plan to hike, ski or ride the mountain this weekend, you’ll need to refrain from crossing any part of the Snow Ghost Express lift line — including at Russ’s Street and the Heep Steep-Corkscrew area.
Today through Sunday, the crew from Leitner-Poma will be stringing up the pilot line that will eventually be used to pull the new lift cable up the mountain.
This is more dangerous than it may sound! The pilot line will be resting on the slopes with significant sagging in some areas. Changes in tension can cause the heavy cable to move rapidly, causing serious injury to anyone in its way.
The crew also will be tensioning overhead communication lines on the new lift, an additional hazard.
Crews are placing bamboo, ropes and signage around the lift line. Please heed all closures and instructions from resort employees and the construction crew. This is for your safety and ours.
Thanks, as always, for your patience!
Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022
We wish we didn’t have to say this, but…
It’s come to our attention that some skiers have engaged in dangerous behavior in and around the Snow Ghost Express construction zone, with at least one individual climbing atop the new upper lift terminal.
Safe uphill travel is permitted and encouraged on Big Mountain. However, entering the clearly marked construction zone is strictly prohibited and may result in consequences, up to and including the revocation of season passes.
Whitefish Mountain Resort President Nick Polumbus had this to say about it: “We don’t enjoy issuing warnings like this, but it’s absolutely crucial that folks follow the rules, use common sense and make safety their No. 1 priority. Most of our local uphill community acts responsibly, but this chairlift project poses some new and different challenges and we want everyone to be aware and safe.”
We crafted our uphill policy in consultation with the U.S. Forest Service. Rules vary throughout the year and the 14-day pre-season period will begin Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24. Details can be found at skiwhitefish.com/uphill.
We know you’re excited for the new lift, but please, admire it from afar — just for now!
Monday, Oct. 31, 2022
Happy Halloween! You’re in for a treat.
This weekend’s storm delivered well over a foot of snow to the summit of Big Mountain, giving us hope for the winter season ahead! Look up from town and you can see the slopes near the top are still blanketed in white.
Even better, all that snow didn’t stop our amazing crew from putting in another hard day’s work on the upper terminal of the Snow Ghost Express. With the help of a crane and a few flatbed trailers, the crew installed the bullwheel, the motor and several more roof pieces!
Pretty soon we’ll be splicing the cable, attaching the chairs and sending the first group of six skiers and riders up this incredible new addition to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Nothing scary about that!
Monday, Oct. 17, 2022
The top and bottom lift terminals are taking shape!
After installing the bullwheel and roof pieces on the lower terminal on Thursday, the crew drove a crane up to Inspiration Ridge to assemble much of the upper terminal on Friday. It was impressive to see such heavy machinery moving tons and tons of metal around the mountaintop!
Next we need to install the bullwheel and motor in the upper terminal, which will be no small feat!
If you haven’t already, check out Leitner’s website to learn about their quieter, more efficient DirectDrive motor. It’s the next big thing in chairlift technology, and we’re stoked to see it in action!
Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022
You wouldn’t believe how fast the new lift towers went up on Saturday!
The chopper was airborne from the morning ’til the afternoon, plucking the 25 towers and crossarms from the parking lots and hauling them up the mountainside, where waiting construction crews were ready to bolt them into place — like a symphony!
And now — in case you had any doubts before — you can see all the main physical features of the Snow Ghost Express coming together. The project is on track, and this awesome new lift will be ready in time for the upcoming ski season!
But, we’re not done yet. Next we anticipate some crane work to finish up the bottom terminal, and then a flatbed truck will haul the upper terminal to the top of Inspiration Ridge by way of Taylor Creek Road. Before long it’ll be time for cable splicing and load testing!
Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022
And there it is in big, bold letters: “Snow Ghost Express,” printed across the side of the newly installed bottom terminal!
The terminal structure was hauled into place near the Base Lodge over the weekend. It’s still awaiting a piece that will sit on top, but it’s exciting to see another big portion of this project come together. Cheers to the construction crew!
In other big news, the Black Hawk helicopter is scheduled to return again this Saturday, Oct. 8, to carry the lift towers and crossarms into place!
For everyone’s safety, all trails on the mountain will be closed for the day, including the Bob Cedar Trail that connects the resort to the Whitefish Trail. The chopper will have to be grounded if any hikers or bikers are spotted in the area, so please heed all closure signs and instructions from resort employees!
Pray for snow and get stoked for ski season!
Friday, Sept. 23, 2022
See it with your own eyes! The Leitner-Poma crew has begun assembling the crossarms that will crown each tower of the new Snow Ghost Express.
The horizontal crossarms hold rows of wheels or rollers, known as brittle bars, which in turn hold the chairlift cable. Soon the assembled towers will be flown into place on the mountain!
We have less than three months before the ski season starts, and we can’t wait to break in this new lift!
Friday, Sept. 9, 2022
The concrete base of the new Chair 4 upper terminal is complete! It’s a 20-foot monolith perched atop Inspiration Ridge that will support the bullwheel and form part of the “landing zone” where skiers and riders will get off the new lift to go about their merry ways.
Now that an extraordinary amount of concrete and rebar is in place, our hardworking crew has been busy moving an equally impressive amount of dirt!
With a bulldozer and other heavy machinery, the team is regrading the area around the terminal so the ground will be flush with the top of the concrete base. The fill material is being moved from the area where the old Chair 5 used to deboard. It’s a huge project!
In related news, the lift operator’s shack at the bottom terminal is nearly complete, and the helicopter is scheduled to return once again this month to drop the new lift towers into place!
This is when the rubber hits the road and we can really start to see the fruits of all this labor. Construction will ramp up as we head into the shoulder season, and before long we’ll be cruising up the mountain in the style.
Get stoked, and stay tuned for updates!
Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022
Good news! The helicopter is still slated to return next Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 29-30, to carry more concrete for the lift tower footings. But we’ve managed to plan a new flight path and the Zip Line Tours will stay open on both days!
Please remember all other activities, including hiking, mountain biking, Scenic Lift Rides and the Summit House, will still be closed on both days. The only open activities will be in the Chair 6 area — the Alpine Slides, the Aerial Adventure Park, Spider Monkey Mountain and the Strider Bike Park.
Thanks again folks!
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022
More changes are a-comin’ as the new Chair 4 takes shape.
Work on the lift line will impact our nearby Zip Line Tours. For everyone’s safety, we’ll need to close the second zip line on our six-line tour starting Monday, Aug. 15.
The zip lines will be accessed via Chair 9 instead of Chair 10. And we’re lowering prices to account for the slightly shorter tour. The window price will go down to $75, and the group rate will be $60 per person.
The second zip line will be closed for the remainder of summer 2022. But don’t worry — this change isn’t permanent. All six lines will be open next year!
Oh, and another thing: The Black Hawk helicopter out of Sandpoint, Idaho, is scheduled to return Aug. 29-30 to carry more concrete for the lift tower footings. This will result in full-day closures for most of the mountain, including all hiking and biking traffic between the village and the summit.
The only open activities will be in the Chair 6 area — the Alpine Slides, the Aerial Adventure Park, Spider Monkey Mountain and the Strider Bike Park.
As always, the timing of this work is subject to change, so please check our site and social media before coming to visit!
Thanks once again for your understanding.
Friday, July 29, 2022
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Big news: The helicopter is slated to return tomorrow morning to haul more concrete into place!
For everyone’s safety, we’ll again have to pause some activities and close sections of the mountain throughout the day.
Here’s what to expect:
- The chopper is scheduled to start flying around 6 a.m.
- No uphill traffic — hiking or biking — will be allowed until the midafternoon, approximately 2 p.m.
- No mountain biking or Scenic Lift Rides will be permitted until approximately 2 p.m.
- All Zip Line Tours for the day are canceled.
- The Summit House will open at approximately 2 p.m. with a menu limited to grab-and-go items. The bar will be open as well.
Please note the timing of this work is always a moving target. We’ll do our best to keep you updated.
Thanks again for your patience!
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
You probably don’t think much about the inner workings of chairlifts. Or maybe you assume they’re the simplest of machines. A motor, some gears, a long cable — is it really more complicated than that?
Well, not all chairlifts are created equal. Whitefish Mountain Resort has several fixed-grip lifts and several with detachable chairs, which automatically release from the tow cable at each terminal, slowing down for easy loading and unloading.
However, all our lifts do have one thing in common: a complicated gearbox connecting the motor to the bullwheel, which moves the tow cable. This system generally works great, but maintenance and repairs can be a pain!
That’s one reason we’re stoked about the new Chair 4. The lift will feature Leitner’s new DirectDrive technology, with a quieter motor connected directly to the bullwheel, eliminating the need for a gearbox!
The company says this technology is “unrivaled and unique in the world” and touts its “almost soundless operation and incomparably low maintenance requirement.” More than 200 ropeways in over 25 countries are equipped with the DirectDrive system, Leitner says.
Check out Leitner’s website for more details on this cool new technology.
P.S. You might have noticed the timing of the helicopter work has been a moving target. It takes a lot of coordination to make it happen! Thankfully, the chopper made it back for a second day of work last weekend, and the project remains on track for completion before the next ski season. We appreciate everyone’s patience!
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
Change of plans! The second day of Chair 4 work involving a helicopter is now planned for this Thursday, July 14. This work was scheduled to occur a day later, but we had to shift gears due to scheduling conflicts.
Thursday’s work is slated to begin at 6 a.m. and should be completed by the time most mountain activities open for the day. The chopper will be moving concrete forms from the Fir parking lot to several tower placements on the mountain.
Please note: For everyone’s safety, no uphill traffic will be permitted on Big Mountain while this work is taking place, including hiking on the Danny On Trail and mountain biking up from the Base Lodge area. If the work takes longer than anticipated, there may be slight delays in opening our bike trails and zip lines, the Summit House, and Chairs 1 and 10.
Chair 6, the Alpine Slide, the Aerial Adventure Park, Spider Monkey Mountain and the Strider Bike Park should not be affected and should operate during normal hours on Thursday.
We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to make this mountain better than ever!
Friday, July 8, 2022
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Construction crews are making fast progress on the new lift!
The next step will involve using a helicopter to haul wet concrete and concrete forms to the top of the ridge, where it will be poured to form the foundations of three lift towers. This work will take place on Friday, July 8, and Friday, July 15.
While this is exciting news, we’ll unfortunately will have to close a large section of the mountain on those days. The chopper will have to be grounded if any hikers or bikers are spotted in the area, so please heed all closure signs and instructions from resort employees!
Here’s what to expect over the weekend:
- Chairs 1 and 10, the Summit House, Zip Line Tours, the Danny On Trail and all mountain biking trails will be CLOSED to the general public on Friday, July 8.
- The Alpine Slide, the Aerial Adventure Park, the Strider Bike Park, Spider Monkey Mountain and the Base Lodge will remain OPEN.
- Chair 2 will be open ONLY for participants in the Northwest Cup mountain biking race from Friday, July 8, through Sunday, July 10.
- Chair 10 mountain biking will reopen Saturday, July 9, along with the Summit House, Zip Line Tours and the Danny On Trail.
Finally, some more good news: Chair 1 mountain biking trails for advanced and expert riders are scheduled to open Monday, July 11! Chair 2 mountain biking will close as soon as Chair 1 trails are open for the summer. Intermediate trails from the summit will require significant reroutes and will open as soon as possible, but likely not until August!
June 20th, 2022
Construction has begun on our first high-speed six-pack chairlift!
Starting next winter, the new Chair 4 will shuttle an estimated 2,200 guests per hour from the Base Lodge area to the top of Inspiration Ridge, providing a much-needed alternative route to the upper elevations of Big Mountain.
The builder, Leitner-Poma, already has poured concrete foundations for some of the 25 towers that will support the new lift, and crews have been hard at work prepping the ground for the top and bottom terminals.
The new lift will replace the old Chair 4, a much smaller lift that we recently removed. The old Chair 4 was installed back in 1978, before the Base Lodge existed.
More recently, however, the Base Lodge has become the primary portal to the mountain, and it’s where most of our parking area is located. In order to reach the upper mountain terrain, guests have had to take Chair 6 from the Base Lodge, followed by either Chair 1 to the summit or Chair 2.
The new Chair 4, which we’re dubbing the Snow Ghost Express, will provide direct flights to the upper terrain without that layover, and help alleviate traffic on those other lifts. It should also improve the skiing experience in the beginner area.
A trip on the new lift will last just seven minutes and cover 2,200 vertical feet! From the top, you’ll be able to shred some front-side runs or rip it down to Chair 5.
We’re stoked, to say the least! Keep an eye on this page for periodic updates, photos and videos of the project.