Bear Valley boasts the only new chairlift in the Sierras this winter

A crossbar is installed on one of the lift towers at Bear Valley Ski Resort. The high-speed six-pack lift will be a welcome addition to the slopes for skiers and snowboarders this winter. (Photo courtesy Bear Valley Ski Resort)

By Bob Goligoski

Last season, record-breaking crowds showed up at many Sierra ski resorts, and the cash registers were really jingling. I thought that this would translate into new chairlifts sprouting up at a number of the resorts.

But I can only find one Sierra resort that has built a new chairlift – Bear Valley.

Dubbed the Mokelumne “Moke” Express, the six-passenger, high-speed chairlift will do a lot to enhance the skiing and riding experience at Bear. The express runs from mid-mountain to the top in about three minutes and takes guests to most of the 75 or so runs on both the front and backside of the peak.

I recall riding some of the earlier slow lifts (Bear has 10) and it seemed like I could almost finish half of a Michael Connelly thriller before I hopped off at the top. The express replaces the old Bear chairlift, which chugged to the top in about nine minutes.

Marc Gendron, a spokesman for Bear Valley, said the new chairlift greatly increases the uphill capacity of the mountain’s main artery.

So what did the new lift cost to build? Gendron said the financing is included in the roughly $7 million that Skyline Corp, a Canada-based firm, has invested in the resort since it bought Bear Valley three years ago.

The “Moke” Express is Bear Valley’s first six-pack chairlift.

Because it tops out at 8,500 feet of elevation, the resort typically opens with a slightly later start then the higher Tahoe area resorts. It’s open weekends only in early December and will go into full-time daily operation Dec. 16, weather and snow conditions permitting.

Bear Valley prices lift tickets lower than most Sierra resorts. Walk-up, adult, daily tickets range from $74 to $95, depending on the day.

Information: www.bearvalley.com

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