Winter Park to replace Pioneer Express lift in summer 2023

The Pioneer Express lift provides access to the Vasquez Territory in this 2016 file photo.
Lance Maggart/Sky-Hi News archive

The only lift in Winter Park’s Vasquez Ridge Territory, the Pioneer Express, will run for the last time this season. The resort announced Dec. 5 the lift will be replaced over the summer in 2023, after 37 years of taking skiers and riders to the top of Vasquez Ridge’s 10,703 feet of elevation.

The new lift will have six-person chairs, an increase from the current four-person ones, and a mid-station for loading at the intersection of the Pioneer Express Trail and Big Valley. Winter Park spokesperson Jen Miller said the green trails at the bottom of the Pioneer lift influenced the addition of a mid-station.

“For people who want to ski that pod of (expert) terrain over there in Vasquez Ridge, every time, you have to come down and take that sort of flatter beginner area,” Miller said. “The new lift is going to have a mid-lift loading station that will allow people to bypass that beginner terrain.”

Larger chairs and a new mid-lift station will make the lift’s uphill capacity 2,800 people per hour. Miller said the lift’s chairs will go from the top station to the bottom and lift operators will coordinate how to load chairs at the bottom based on lines at each loading station. 

“It’s basically just like any other lift, but in the middle there is another place for people to load,” Miller said. “It will slow down and it’ll have the gates and all that stuff.”

While not Winter Park’s oldest, slowest or lowest-capacity, the current lift was identified in the resort’s master plan as one to replace soon due to age and usage, Miller said. The resort will determine the cost closer to the summer, according to Miller.

Groundbreaking and completion have not been scheduled, but Miller said the lift is expected to be completed in time for the 2023-24 winter season. Winter Park will auction off the 116 current four-person chairs, as they did with old chairs from the Sunnyside and Timberline lifts.

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