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Originally published November 19, 2009 at 12:20 AM | Page modified November 19, 2009 at 12:42 PM

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Sun Valley's gondola leads list of what's new on the slopes

A roundup of what's new this season at ski resorts in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Get ski and boarding conditions all winter long with webcams, snow alerts and more at seattletimes.com/snowsports

The mountains of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia are ready to welcome skiers and snowboarders, who will find some delightful improvements on some of their favorite hillsides.

The biggest project to be completed this year by a Pacific Northwest area is the new gondola at Sun Valley Resort in Idaho.

Sun Valley will open this winter season with the new Roundhouse Gondola, featuring 56 eight-passenger cars, originating at the River Run base and ending at the Top Terminal Plaza at the Roundhouse Restaurant.

The gondola will ascend 2,000 vertical feet in eight minutes, and is capable of transporting more than 1,800 people per hour.

"We are really excited about the gondola opening, and it is the biggest Doppelmayr project in North America [this year]," said Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley's marketing director. "The gondola gives easier and quicker access to Seattle Ridge and some of the other mountain terrain. Instead of taking two lifts, now you'll just need to hop onto one."

Sibbach said he envisions both skiers and non-skiers using the gondola to access the restaurant for lunch.

The new terrain directly under the gondola is called Sleeping Bear, an expert run. The gondola's two terminals include new restrooms. Sibbach said the 10-year plan is to have the gondola extend up near the top of Bald Mountain.

Sun Valley will host a gondola grand-opening celebration 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, with free rides. There will be food, ski patrol demonstrations and live music.

Here's what's new at other ski and snowboard areas:

Washington

One of the biggest projects in Washington was at 49 Degrees North, in Eastern Washington's Stevens County, where crews constructed seven alpine trails and 170 acres of gladed descents on Angel Peak, the terrain west of Chair Four.

The upper half of the 5,295-foot Angel Peak will be 'hike-to' terrain (Chair Four serves the lower half of the bowl).

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In addition, 49 Degrees North constructed a new parking lot and expanded the lodge's sun deck.

The Summit at Snoqualmie built a new 550-space parking lot, which will greatly increase parking capacity and guest access to Summit Central and the popular Silver Fir Express chairlift.

Work crews at Alpental replaced several lift-operator buildings, renovated on-hill restrooms and made improvements to the Denny Mountain Lodge.

What's new at Crystal Mountain this season isn't a big new piece of equipment, but a big change in ticketing policy: All winter, kids 10 and younger ski for free anytime, with no strings attached.

Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort has upgraded Chair One's unload area, and widened and recontoured the Easiest Way Down bypass of the beginner slope.

At Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park they've constructed a snow tubing hill at the main lodge, and installed a snow tubing lift that will operate for day and night sessions. Chair Two's unloading station was enlarged and recontoured.

Oregon

Mount Bachelor ski resort near Bend invested $200,000 in replacing the original circuit wiring and computer system in the popular Northwest Express Quad. The upgrade is expected to improve chair spacing and significantly reduce chairlift stoppages.

Mount Hood Meadows paved the parking lot, improved stormwater drainage, and completed watershed restoration work on the resort's Sunrise lot.

At Timberline on Mount Hood, a new winter entrance is now in place at the front doors of the historic Timberline Lodge, ensuring winter access to lodge amenities, including Chef Leif Eric Benson's new fireside brunch offerings.

Idaho

Brundage Mountain Resort remodeled its base lodge with sustainability in mind. The lodge has a new roof, new windows, fresh paint and a new layout for Smoky's Pub. On the mountain, the Engen run now directly connects with 45th Parallel, eliminating traversing on cat tracks.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort finished phase two of its snow-making system by building a lined pond at the top of Stiles Saddle, left of the Great Escape quad chair. The reservoir will provide enough water to create 18 inches of snow from the top of the Basin Express lift to the bottom of the Midway run.

Schweitzer also added more slopeside living offerings with a new neighborhood called Mountainside at Schweitzer, and converted 12 Selkirk Lodge deluxe units into family suites, more than doubling the sleeping capacity of each unit.

British Columbia

Sun Peaks Resort's Kookaburra Lodge is now open. The lodge aims to provide affordable residential apartments, with suites ranging from one to four bedrooms plus several commercial spaces on the ground floor.

Panorama Mountain Village has opened a formerly inaccessible area between View of 1000 Peaks and Stumbock's, with deep powder turns, glades and varied terrain.

Red Mountain Resort cut a new run this fall to commemorate Captain Jack Carey, a longtime friend of the mountain community, who died in a cycling accident last summer. Carey was event director of Red Mountain's annual Canadian Open Freeskiing Championship.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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