Skiers and boarders with an affinity for the old-but-gold Manning Park Orange Chair will have a season to say goodbye as it is set to be retired and replaced with a new quad chairlift this spring.
Starting at the end of this ski season a new Doppelmayr four-person chairlift will be installed to replace the two-person Orange Chair, which services the majority of runs at the resort. The new chairlift is part of a master plan general manager Vern Schram said he is working on together with BC Parks and local First Nations which also includes a redevelopment of the village and work on existing and new runs.
“What we hope is that this is the beginning of lots of things that are going to happen in the next few years,” Schram said at a Nov. 25 announcement.
The Orange Chair has been in operation since 1970. With 52 chairs running at its top speed, it can ferry around 1,100 skiers and boarders up the hill per hour. The new lift will increase this to 1,400 people up per hour to start, with the ability to add more chairs and increase the speed.
The village where alpine activities start from is also going through a redesign. The new chairlift will have its loading area further down the hill, where the rental shop stands. A new multipurpose building is in the works, to house several guest services including rentals and ticketing.
Changes to the hill itself are also happening.
“There are a few runs that we’ve worked on this fall where we’ve widened them and done some glading to the surrounding areas as well, to make them a bit more open and more fun to ski if you wanted to get into the trees,” Schram said. “We’ve done that on beginner terrain as well, so we’re not just talking about advanced skiers.”
Plans are in the works to add new runs, this work being done with BC Parks and the Lower Similkameen Indian Band to ensure areas of cultural significance are not disturbed.
The terrain park is now sponsored by Rockstar with new features added and an inaugural event, a Rockstar Rail Jam, planned for March 2.
Schram is also working on a resort master plan with BC Parks. “We’ve got a few ideas for how to change our beginner area, that’s probably the next phase,” Schram said.
Exactly how much the new chairlift and changes to the village will cost are something Schram said the resort owners are not prepared to share but called it a ‘significant investment.’
The changes come five years after the resort was set to close indefinitely due to financial hardship. At the time the Bowra Group, operating the resort in receivership since 2009, found it was losing too much money in the shoulder seasons despite generating around $5 million in revenue annually.
“You can lose more money in those two shoulder seasons than you can make in the operating seasons,” president David Bowra told The Hope Standard in March 2013. “It’s a challenging operation to begin with. The resort is over 40 years old. So every winter we spend a lot of money trying to repair the ski lifts and every year it seems to cost more money.”
After the closure was announced in 2013, Sunshine Valley RV Resorts & Cabins Inc. bought the resort.
“Since the Demers family purchased the operations up here, they’ve invested significantly. A couple of years ago we had our brand new alpine room (built)…for group functions and weddings. We had five new premium cabins built last year. We’re hoping to continue that construction of five more a year again, starting next year,” Schram said.
All of this development is good for the area, Schram said, allowing the resort to employ more people and support the business communities in Princeton, Hope and even Chilliwack.
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