Mar 14, 2022Liked by Stuart Winchester

Sunlight is an awesome mountain and a perfect fit for the Indy ethos. I'm familiar with a number of the northeast Indy mountains and anyone who skis there would be very comfortable at Sunlight. While its a bit of a hike out of Denver, for not only the price to ski Sunlight, but the prices in Glenwood, someone looking to go west from the East Coast gets a pretty good deal, even if you have to buy some additional ski days beyond the Indy's two days + 25% off the 3rd. Not to mention you can easily stop at Loveland for a day (as long as you can deal with the elevation!)

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Feb 16, 2022Liked by Stuart Winchester

One ski area that continually surprises me by not being on the Indy Pass, is Willamette Pass in Oregon. They've been struggling for years and have even been looking to sell their Eagle Peak Accelerator high speed six pack lift and replace it with a cheap fixed grip quad. They also mothballed their Midway chairlift a number of years back (it's also for sale) and stopped providing Snow Tubing. They also run the Eagle Peak Accelerator at nearly fixed grip lift speeds despite an incredible design speed of 6 M/S (1,200fpm) to save power, and it seems to have an unusually bad rusting problem for a lift that isn't terribly old, having been constructed in 2002. And whenever I've gone to Willamette Pass, they never seem to have anything remotely close to a crowding problem, otherwise they wouldn't have mothballed Midway which runs parallel with Twilight, and they'd have lift queue management. The mountain is known for being super uncrowded, just read local news articles or reviews about Willamette Pass - a couple extra Indy Pass visits would have absolutely zero effects on the lift lines, snow and parking. I've been there three times over the years, once in the summer and twice in the winter and the resort was absolutely empty. It honestly felt busiest in the summer!

Willamette Pass would not be an isolated Indy Pass option either - it's not far off the Interstate 5 corridor which provides access to Mt. Ashland in southern Oregon, Mt. Shasta Ski Park in Northern California, plus Hoodoo Ski Area on US 20 is also not far away at all... if anything, Hoodoo and Willamette Pass split the Eugene area skier and snowboarder population. Oregon also borders Washington and Idaho, which are Indy Pass paradises!

Willamette Pass might be struggling but they're by no means an abysmal ski area. 1,563 foot vertical drop, annual snowfall average of 430 inches, 555 acres of terrain, affordable lift tickets, and 80 years of history!

It would also be bad if they got rid of their Eagle Peak Accelerator because not only would it significantly negatively impact the winter experience, but it would negatively impact summer operations as well. They put eight person gondola cabins on the lift in the summer and it is used by mountain bikers, sightseers and hikers. But a fixed grip chairlift is just way less ideal for mountain bikers and pedestrian riders than a gondola...

Willamette Pass strangely is the only ski area in Oregon to have a six pack chairlift, although Mt. Hood Meadows will be getting one later this year. There was a time when Willamette Pass had tons of visits, hence the sparkling brand new, super fast high speed six pack/8 person gondola in 2002 and the Twilight lift having Midway running right next to it, plus tubing. I attribute a lot of Willamette Pass's coming and going of popularity to when Powdr Corp took over Mt. Bachelor in 2001 and absolutely ruined it for over a decade, causing a huge diversion of Central Oregon skiers & snowboarders to Hoodoo, Willamette Pass and Mt. Hood ski resorts.

But Mt. Bachelor being treated a lot better by Powdr Corp after they lost Park City UT (there's still a lot of room for improvement though), and Willamette Pass failing to keep up with its competitors (they don't even have a single reciprocal on their season pass!) has sent it into some unfortunate times. But they're a great little area, they fit the Indy Pass bill perfectly and they'd only gain from it!

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That's some really good background. I had no idea about any of that, including that the place had a sixer. I'll have to look into that one a bit more. Thanks for summing that up.

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Feb 15, 2022Liked by Stuart Winchester

I'm continually surprised Granby Ranch and Echo haven't joined Indy yet. Both are ski areas that recently went through bankruptcy, got new owners as a result, and yet have no partner ski areas (neither reciprocal partnerships nor a multi-pass). Granby Ranch would be a great candidate for the "resort" experience to draw more destination travelers too---ski-in/ski-out lodging, a high speed lift accessing their groomed cruisers, etc.

Echo's night skiing sure is sweet though: a $35 ticket ($99 season pass if you go 3+ times), open 5 days a week with most of their terrain available, and close enough to Denver to make post-work trips possible. Common in the East and Midwest, but extraordinarily rare in Colorado.

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