Letter to our Supporters on Lift 4's Status for this Winter
To all our amazing supporters,
After consultation with the Colorado Tramboard and our engineering consultants, The Board of Directors of Panadero Ski Corporation, a 501c3 nonprofit, made a very hard decision to pause the remaining work on Lift 4 until the Spring. We know this news will be a disappointment to many, and we are just as disappointed because we did not want to let our community down after we made so much progress this summer. We did exhaust every possible way to get certified this year. But we have a Plan B for snowcat-assisted skiing at Cuchara Mountain Park in the Winter of 2022/23 (keep reading for the details of this exciting announcement).
The story of Cuchara Mountain Park has always been one of our community coming together to make something special happen. And, in 2022, our donors, partners, and sponsors really stepped up to support our mission to return skiing to Cuchara and make Cuchara Mountain Park an all-season destination for affordable, family-friendly recreation.
You set fundraising records and raised over $100k this year. Over 80% of that went to pay for Lift 4 repairs (parts, labor, inspection services) and other essential aspects of operating a ski hill. As a result, Lift 4 is just one hurdle away from certification. This is only because of your support and generosity.
Repairing a piece of complex machinery that has sat idle for 20 years is quite a challenge, but our crew stepped up! The list of the things our great crew of Jeremy, Kevin, Waylon, and Rick accomplished this summer and fall is way too long to list here. In fact, and we want to make sure this is clear that it was because of all our progress that our consultants were able to identify this last hurdle; without the lift running in this upgraded condition these issues would not have been identified.
Our last hurdle? The electrical control and drive system on Lift 4 will not meet Colorado regulations as it is currently configured (although it works). Chairlifts have very complex electrical control systems, even old ones like ours. There are up to 1,000 operations that can trigger the lift to stop and all of these are for the safety of the riders. Safety will always be our number one concern and focus.
We were given two options to proceed, 1) get help from an electrical engineer and try to rig up the current system to something that might pass, or 2) replace and repower the entire electrical control and drive system.
Pursuing Option 1 right now would be a gamble as even with fixes there’s a chance it would still not pass certification and we would very likely still need to replace Lift 4’s original control system within a year or two of operation. Plus, this older setup would put a huge burden on our mechanical, electrical, and ski patrol staff making operating the lift more complex and expensive than it should be.
The risk with this option is that we would end up throwing good money at what may not be the best option for the longevity of the park. Because we are limited in our financial resources and depend on the generosity of donors and after careful evaluation of Option 1, we felt the risk of wasting money and hurting the long-term sustainability of the project was too great. We could deplete our treasury and not have any money left for any other necessary purchases needed to operate and still not have a certified lift. We are working with limited funds and have to make sure we use them efficiently.
It was a very hard decision because we know how excited everyone is, including us, to bring back lift-served skiing to Cuchara as soon as possible, but we felt it would be irresponsible to take such a risk that could hurt our project in the mid to long-term. We set an ambitious goal and fell just short. Over the next month or so, the Board will make plans to resume our work in the spring and get past this last hurdle to get Lift 4 certified and ready to carry passengers up the hill once again. This will give us some time to replenish our treasury, pursue grant opportunities, and finish building out other critical aspects of operating a ski hill. With your continued support, we are confident that lift-served skiing will be up and running next winter.
Plans for Winter 22/23
Many are expecting and hoping to ski at Cuchara Mountain Park this winter and Panadero Ski Corporation is determined to make this happen even if Lift 4 will not be certified. We have a Plan B to offer Cat Skiing at Cuchara Mountain Park. We are building a trailer that will tow skiers and boarders to the top of Lift 4 accessing the groomed runs of Lift 4 We are working on finalizing the dates for Snowcat Skiing at Cuchara Mountain Park and announce those ASAP. While this isn’t lift-served skiing, it will provide a unique experience and be the source of many great stories and memories.
Of course, Cuchara Mountain Park is always open to “earn your turns” either within the park or to access public lands for free! We also hope to host a few events at the Park this winter. There is already a snowshoe race planned for March, we hope to organize a backcountry ski/snowboard event, and hope to host a few youth programs. And we’re developing an area specifically for sledding.
We hope you understand the situation we are facing. We are very close but ran out of time, and funds are running low this winter. We are very grateful to all of our donors who have funded our work to this point. This project that you all have helped out with is unprecedented.
The industry experts we are working with have applauded our work so far and said they have never seen anything like what we are doing. All of this work has been made possible by you and all our supporters believing in our vision. Rehabbing a lift that hadn’t run for 20 years is a unique project and there’s no user manual for this. Not only that we are an organization comprised of volunteers. It truly is a community effort and we are so glad you are a part of this journey. We ask for your continued support as we get closer and closer to returning Lift 4 to its former glory and offering a truly affordable and family-friendly skiing experience. We know it will be worth the wait.
We thank you for your support and none of this is possible without it!
The PSC Board of Directors