Snowmaking guns are used to coat the slopes of Mount Werner. Steamboat Ski Area is expanding its snowmaking capabilities in time for the 2014-15 ski season.

Matt Stensland/file

Snowmaking guns are used to coat the slopes of Mount Werner. Steamboat Ski Area is expanding its snowmaking capabilities in time for the 2014-15 ski season.

Steamboat Ski Area announces a flurry of new capital improvements

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— Billy Kidd has a lot of new research to do this upcoming ski season.

Steamboat Ski Area's director of skiing said Friday that he will want to inspect the grooming quality of a new Bison Sherpa winch joining the mountain's fleet.

He also plans to spend plenty of time testing the results of two additional miles of snowmaking pipeline as well as the quality of all the tweaks and expansions at the apres ski hangouts on the mountain.

"I think it's pretty exciting," Kidd said about the long list of improvements the ski area just announced for the 2014-15 ski season. "My first reaction is it's very expensive, but I am so happy that we have an owner with Intrawest that says 'Look, we want to make the experience the best possible.' And it's nice to see that because over the last seven to eight years with this economy, it was really tough to get expensive improvements at ski resorts."

Last year's capital improvements at the ski area included the new Four Points Lodge and the addition of night skiing.

The big investments on the mountain this year include upgrades to infrastructure and restaurants.

Perhaps headlining the list of improvements is a planned 2-mile expansion of the ski area's snowmaking system.

According to a news release from the ski area, the new pipeline will go across See Me, Upper See Ya, Sitz, the top of Vogue to Jess' Cutoff and from Sitz to Boulevard.

The new lines will accelerate and expand the resort's ability to make snow early in the season.

One of the other more noticeable changes next season is the expansion of night skiing.

It will be available Thursday through Monday evenings, with extended hours in the spring.

Umbrella bar patrons who felt a bit chilly there last season likely will appreciate a new heating system that will allow the bar to stay open on some nights.

And patrons of the Thunderhead Lodge will be greeted by a large expansion of Thunderhead Red's Bar.

Here's a wrap up of some of the gadgets and renovations coming to the ski area:

• Grooming: The ski area is touting a new Bison Sherpa winch joining the fleet as the "first of its kind in Colorado." The winch has 5.3 tons of pulling force and will be utilized to help groom the ski area's steepest slopes and terrain parks. The ski area uses 21 machines to groom about 600 acres of terrain each night.

• Bear River terrace: Bear River BBQ will start operating permanently on the terrace. The umbrella bar will get a new heating system and lighting to accommodate patrons during some evening hours.

• OpenTable: The ski area will utilize OpenTable starting this winter to more easily allow people to make reservations online.

• Mountain cameras: On the fence about whether to head up the hill? The ski area is adding four to six more mountain cameras to show the snow conditions.

• SnowSports lounge: The ski area is moving all ticket services into the One Steamboat Place location. The former ticket office space in Gondola Square will be converted into a private lounge for the SnowSports school.

• Steamboat Ski & Sport expansion: The location at the Sheraton will be expanding to 6,300 square feet. The expansion will increase merchandise availability as well as provide more rental services.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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