New chairlifts being planned for Northstar | SierraSun.com

New chairlifts being planned for Northstar

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

Development at Northstar-at-Tahoe is not relegated only to real estate construction at the base of the mountain.

The resort is also moving ahead with extensive plans to add and update the mountain’s ski lifts to make room for visitors who are coming to the resort’s new village, lodges and condos.

The resort has immediate plans to add two new lifts currently under review by Placer County.

“As we expand the lodging, the plan is to either expand terrain or just improve circulation,” said Julie Maurer, vice president of resort manager Booth Creek Resorts.

By this summer or next, Northstar plans to pull out the Arrow and Comstock lifts, and put in a single, high-speed chair that will take skiers from the mid-mountain lodge to the peak of Mount Pluto.

The project will use the existing lift towers on the lower portion of the mountain, but add new towers and a new terminal at the peak.

Those plans could be approved at the Placer County Planning Commission meeting Thursday morning in Auburn.

“It offers much quicker access to the top of the mountain,” said Maurer.

A second lift project ” adding a detachable, high-speed quad, a new ski trail and new snow-making equipment to the backside of the mountain ” was scheduled to be heard at the same meeting, but will now be delayed because of comments by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Allen Breuch, supervising planner for the Tahoe area of Placer County.

The project will be reviewed by the county as soon as the water board’s comments are addressed.

The resort also has its sights set on a new lift at Sawtooth Ridge, a portion of the mountain that has been accessible only through a backcountry gate, but offers beautiful skiing, said Maurer.

“It really is beautiful skiing terrain,” said Maurer. “It’s pretty steep and there are some lovely rock outcroppings.”

While the resort has not nailed down specific dates for the lift projects, the work is projected to be conducted as construction of lodging, condominium and new retail spaces in the Village continue.

“The whole mountain improvement project is meant to be commensurate with development,” said Maurer. “We are working to not make the mountain feel overly crowded.”

The financial outcome of this year’s ski season, which so far has been dry, may affect the decision to build lifts this summer or wait one more year, she said.

Development has already begun on the Ritz Carlton hotel, and nearly 1,500 condos at the nearby Highlands development are expected to follow.

More condominiums and retail spaces are also opening up in the second and third phases of the Northstar Village.

2003: Northstar opens the Lookout Mountain Express on Lookout Mountain

2004: Northstar opens the Village Express, a chairlift that runs alongside the resort’s gondola

2006: Northstar opens the Tahoe Zephyr, a six-person chairlift to replace the two-person Pioneer lift.