A great Powder day

Opening of new high-speed lift at Powderhorn latest improvement at resort

Ken Gart and his son, Jeremy Gart, on right, get on the Flat Top Flyer lift on Saturday, the first day the new high-speed lift opened. The new lift whisks riders to the top of the runs in 6-8 minutes.

Three of the owners of Powderhorn Mountain Resort, from left, Andy Daly, Ken Gart and John Gart participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new high-speed lift, the Flat Top Flyer.

Santa got a few runs in at Powderhorn Mountain Resort on Saturday before he headed to the North Pole to load up his sleigh.

Carter Nesheim, 4, gets a snowboarding lesson from his dad, Troy, Saturday at Powderhorn Mountain Resort.

A trio of snowboarders approach the bottom of the hill to head back to the lift on Saturday at Powderhorn Mountain Resort.

Jeremy Gart’s smile was as bright as the sunshine that blanketed Powderhorn Mountain Resort on Saturday morning.

The 13-year-old was one of many smiling faces on a special day for the resort.

Jeremy and his dad, Ken Gart, were among the first skiers and snowboarders to hop on the Flat Top Flyer and be whisked to the top of the mountain.

Earlier, the resort’s owners — Ken, and his brothers John and Tom Gart, and Andy Daly — participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new high-speed lift.

“What’s so special is this resort is so special,” Daly said after the ceremony. “The commitment of the Grand Valley and everyone who skis from the surrounding areas, they’ve been waiting a long time for this.

“This is a small regional resort and we intend to make it the best small resort in the United States, and this is a good first step for us,” he added.

The Flat Top Flyer is part of a $5 million capital improvement project for the resort. After the resort was sold to the new ownership group in 2011, the plan moving forward was to reinvest and make improvements to the resort.

“That’s all we’ve done is reinvest and now we’ve borrowed money too,” Daly said with a smile. “We’re totally committed, let me tell you.”

Ken Gart said there’s a big upside for Powderhorn.

“It’s a very unique community, everyone is so excited about the potential of outdoor recreation and what we’re doing here,” he said. “We’re excited to be part of that community and part of that future.”

Dusti Reimer, the resort spokesperson, said season pass sales were up this year and with the early opening on Dec. 4, Powderhorn is anticipating a good year.

“We were able to open two weeks earlier than expected and with unusually high early season snowfall at the resort, we’re expecting to see strong numbers through New Year’s Day and the rest of the year,” Reimer said.

The resort currently has 51 percent of the mountain open.

Even with all the publicity surrounding the new lift, it’s still been a thrilling surprise for many.

“A lot of people are really quite surprised at how fast it’s running,” Reimer said. “With this new lift, people are able to log more runs and in less time.”

The ride to the top takes between 6 and 8 minutes now.

Adding more than 8,000 feet to the existing snowmaking system was another part of the improvement project at the resort. This year, the snowmaking system was nearly doubled and now covers 42 acres.

“I guarantee that we would not have been able to open early without the new snowmaking system,” Powderhorn Mountain Resort General Manager Sam Williams said at the ceremony.

With a new lift and other improvements, Reimer said the resort upped its marketing budget to help get the word out.

“We are expanding our marketing efforts to include out-of-state destination skiers and snowboarders for this year,” she said. “We recently received, in partnership with the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau, a matching grant from the Colorado Tourism Office, to expand our marketing efforts to specific markets outside of Colorado.”

But Powderhorn will always be a local gem, Reimer said.

“Our marketing strategy for this season is to continue to build and grow our local community market through new and expanded partnerships, growing our learn to ski and snowboard programs within the community and surrounding school districts,” she said.

The opening of the new high speed lift and other improvements have been a long time coming, Daly said.

“We thought the economy in the Grand Valley would recover sooner than it has. Now, we’re seeing the need for greater diversification in that economy and outdoor recreation is prime,” he said. “Both summer and winter there are so many opportunities.”

Before heading up the mountain to enjoy a day on the slopes with his son, Ken Gart talked about the goal of making Powderhorn a year-round resort. Part of that is the ongoing development of new mountain-bike trails, including 12 to 15 miles of singletrack, expected to be completed late next spring.

“It really has the potential to be one of the top (mountain biking) destinations in the country,” Gart said.

Gart’s cycling connections are well known. He’s been involved in securing a strong future for the USA Pro Challenge cycling race and is also leading Gov. John Hickenlooper’s $100 million “Pedal Colorado” plan to improve bike and pedestrian pathways across the state.

Gart said the goal is to keep making the resort a special destination.

“This is a family resort and family is what’s important,” he said.


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