Ramcharger 8’s roomy bucket seats will zoom skiers and snowboarders up Andesite Mountain in comfort, shortening the current ride by two-thirds. According to Boyne Resorts President Stephen Kircher, each chair weighs 2,200 pounds and “costs more than a Porsche.” Photo Courtesy Big Sky Resort

North America’s first eight-seater chairlift, night skiing coming to town

Big Sky Resort announces the latest in its 10-year plan

Before announcing Big Sky Resort’s official upcoming moves in its 10-year plan, Taylor Middleton, Big Sky Resort general manager and president Taylor Middleton touched on another recent milestone - for the first time in its 45-year history, Big Sky Resort will exceed 500,000 skier visits by the end of this season.

“I remember when I first came to this resort, 37 years ago. I wondered if it would make it,” Middleton said, glimpsing at a projection of the resort’s annual visitation graph which rose year by year. “And only about 20 years ago did I recognize that this town would exist forever. And now, I think for the first time in my history, we can recognize the potential that this community and this resort have to offer.”

Boyne Resorts President Stephen Kircher then took the stage, announcing plans to replace the current four-person Ramcharger chairlift on Andesite Mountain with North America’s first-ever eight-seat, heated bubble chairlift, opening to the public by early December 2018. “The vision, at least I have, and several others, is creating America’s Alp,” Kircher said, later noting this is the first eight-seater on our continent, but that there are a number of eight-person chairlifts at ski areas in Europe.

“This is a pretty big moment in time for North America, it’s a pretty big time on the planet, honestly, with what is coming here,” Kircher said of the lift, to be called Ramcharger 8. The state-of-the-art D-line Doppelmayr eight-seat chairlift will be the first D-line ever installed, anywhere. 

Its bucket-style seats will be two inches wider than Powder Seeker lift, and inside the bubble there will be an in-chair communication system that can convey lift status information. There will be a rising loading carpet for kids, a child locking system, and the lift can tolerate higher winds than the current one. There’s also a plan to add VIP gondola chairs.

The new lift’s line design will eliminate several towers and its terminal will be located 50 feet further up the mountain, opening up room to load Swift Current lift from both sides of the lift line. “It’s a huge impact to freeing up our base area as we’re growing,” said Kircher. 

The bubble chairs also open up the long-discussed opportunity to offer night skiing on Andesite Mountain, likely to begin by the winter of 2020. “Which will activate the village, keep people up here, engaged, and teenagers occupied, et cetera. We are really excited about that,” Kircher said. 

There’s even a bit of ski lift “circle of life” taking place. Twenty-five years ago the original Ramshead lift was replaced by Ramcharger, and the old Ramshead two-seater was ultimately moved to Shedhorn. Now, the existing Ramcharger lift will replace the infamously slow-moving and wind-held Shedhorn two-seater. It’ll shorten lift time my more than half. “Hopefully a lot more people will want to ski Shedhorn with a high-speed lift there,” Kircher said. 

Another upcoming “immediate next step” is the re-imaging of the upper level of the Mountain Mall. Think a more open, modern food hall and event venue, complete with fireplaces, open beamed ceilings and an expanded outdoor seating area. Cuisine will expand on “fast casual,” offering healthier options, a coffee bar, wine and beer bar, stone fired pizza, and sushi bar, ramen station and more. The remodel will likely be completed by 2021.

In addition, in the next year or so the Montana Club development – a 1000-plus-acre ski-in, ski-out residential area with views of Lone Mountain and the Spanish Peaks will be launched.

Twelve lifts throughout the resort, from Lone Moose to Headwaters, are planned to be moved or upgraded by 2025. The final phases of the plan will also include replacing or upgrading the Lone Peak Tram, and the resort is looking at adding a small, on-mountain eatery at the top of Lone Mountain. Other on-mountain restaurants are also being discussed. 

“With the growth that’s going on, and the success that this community is seeing, we think this is possible,” Kircher said of the 2025 completion goals. 

Two years ago the resort laid out its 2025 Plan – a vision for the next 10 years of capital investment, talking about what the resort could look like, what would be next. The plan also looked at the “now.” Since then the old Triple Chair and Challenger lifts have been replaced with larger, faster versions. Additionally, Everett’s 8800 opened on Andesite expanding on-mountain dining options, and employee housing was expanded to accommodate 450 more people.

To learn more about the Big Sky 2025 plan, visit www.bigsky2025.com

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