Last year, the Summit at Snoqualmie announced major changes/improvements for Alpental as part of the Summit 2030 project. These improvements include increased lift capacity, upgraded avalanche control systems, and new/repositioned chairlifts. However, some long time Alptenal skiers and riders may not like the changes. Read on for the details.
Short Term Forecast
Construction is already underway on the Alpental side of the Summit 2030 Project, known as "The Alpental Aspect". This project's goal is to improve access to their legendary terrain. The handful of resorts near Seattle can get pretty crowded on weekends, holidays and and pow days, so more adding more lifts, faster lifts, and increased capacity is in important endeavor.
The most fascinating part of these upgrades is the International Lift, which will potentially change the decision making process on a pow day. Prior to these changes, it was quite an effort to access Lower International, Felsen, Snake Dance, and some of the backcountry gates, as well as Upper International, Adrenaline, and the Nash Gate.
This is the terrain you want to be first into on a pow day, and in order to ski or ride this terrain, you would first need to ride the Armstrong lift. After you get to the top, you hustle over to the Edelweiss double, which may or may not be delayed depending on conditions. Finally, after you reach the top of the Edelweiss chair, you may have to wait further for avalanche mitigation to be completed before they pull the rope on Upper International. On a deep day this last season, the rope drop occurred at 10:45 AM, nearly two hours after the resort opened. Another deep deep day last season, this terrain opened at 10:20 AM.
Once they drop the rope and you ski/ride down Upper International, you then have access to Lower International, Felsen, Snake Dance, and some of the backcountry gates. With the new International chair, you will be able to access the terrain right off the top of the lift, without following the aforementioned process.
Presumably, the new International lift won't open until the avalanche mitigation is completed in the terrain above it (Upper International). Still though, there remains uncertainty as to which route will get you to the terrain fastest. Will it make sense to take Sessel to International and forego the Edelweiss terrain and Upper International (it's often full of avalanche debris on deep days), and get to Lower International etc. first? Will mountain operations attempt to have the people coming from the Upper International rope drop get to Lower International etc. at the same time as those coming off the International lift?
Image: Current Alpental trail map with new potential routes to access certain areas of the mountain.
You could be faced with a tough choice, as shown in the Alpental trail map above. You may have to decide between:
1. Following the route in the blue arrows, getting access to terrain in the blue box first before the area in the black box opens, or
2. Taking the route designated by the black arrows, with earlier access to the terrain in the black boxes but the area in blue may already be tracked out by the time you get there.
I am very interested to see what the answers to these questions will be, as it may completely change the deep pow day plan of action at Alpental. The exact location of the top terminal of the new International chair, which has not been released yet, will be a factor is well. This is definitely something to watch for the 2024-25 season.
Let's dive into the other details of the project at Alpental.
The first part of this plan involves replacing AND realigning one of the oldest lifts, the current Sessel triple chair. The new, higher capacity, Doppelmayr fixed-grip triple chairlift will be realigned, landing higher on the mountain, and providing quick access to the future International Chair.
Image: New Sessel triple chair projected location.
This upgrade is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2023-24 season, and will provide modern reliability, improved safety, and an easy-loading conveyor. The new triple will have twice the capacity of the old Riblet double, and the loading conveyor will allow it to operate at a higher speed.
Work on phase two, the construction of the International chairlift, is already underway as well. This project has been considered for decades, and will provide a whole new way to access some of Alpental's best terrain. The target opening for this chair is the 2024-25 season.
Image: New International triple chair projected location.
This fixed-grip triple will allow access to Lower International, Snake Dance, Felson, and Back Bowls. The base of this chair will sit just below the new Sessel triple, and will top out somewhere near the start of Lower International, likely to the skier's left of the trail.
The oldest lift at all of the Summit at Snoqualmie resorts, the Edelweiss chair, will be replaced as well. Another Doppelmayr fixed-grip triple chair will replace the old double, providing more reliability and faster access to the adjacent terrain.
Image: Current lift locations and avalanche prone/close areas.
The capacity of the Armstrong chair will also be increased by 20% through the addition of more chairs.
Another focus at Alpental will be the installation of remote-operated avalanche control systems in key locations to open terrain faster during storm cycles.
Alpental is making a lot of improvements over the next few years to enhance the skier/rider experience. It will be exciting to see how the addition of the International chair impacts powder days moving forward.
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