PARK CITY — Skiers and riders at The Canyons Resort this winter will be treated to heated seats and ski lift chairs covered in weather-protected orange plastic.
The "bubble" chair lifts were purchased from Austria and will be the only ones of their kind in the U.S., said Mike Goar, the resort's managing director.
"That heated chair — it changes your whole outlook on a cold day," Goar said.
The resort also plans to change its name to "Canyons," leaving off "The" and "Resort." It will rebrand itself, starting with an ad campaign that asks, "How do you mountain?"
Some of the transformation will take place in about 18 months, but changes on the slopes could take five years or more.
Beyond the new-age bubble chairs, Canyons and its owner, Talisker, have purchased a snow-making machine and a 20 million-gallon reservoir, plus a lift to Iron Mountain that opens 300 acres of new terrain. If everything goes as planned, that would put the resort at about 4,000 skiable acres, with a total 176 trails.
That terrain, especially in high elevations, will allow an increase by about 50 percent in the number of skiers who get to the top, due to the lift featuring the orange bubble seats. The new lift replaces the Golden Eagle.
New amenities will come with "a small amount" of increase in both daily and season ticket prices starting this year, Goar said. The figures have yet to be announced.
Citing its privately held status, Canyons also declined to comment on how much was spent on the upgrades, how many visitors it has annually or how many more visitors it expects in 2010/2011.
However, resort managers said they plan to add about 100 employees during peak times, bringing the total to 1,700. This summer, the company has had about 150 construction workers at the resort.
Park City Chamber of Commerce spokesman Craig McCarthy, himself a skier, attended Thursday's announcement. Like all other news conference attendees, he was soaked in a chilly rainstorm that broke out just as the orange lifts were unveiled.
"It's great news in a lot of ways," he said of the resort's plans. "It's good for Park City, for the ski industry and for employment."
McCarthy added that the increased uphill capacity will be great, especially during winter holidays.
Announcements in the near future will include news of additional restaurants and bars at the "Canyons ski beach." Additional parking space also could be on the agenda.
"We want to focus on the skier experience" said Paul Boardman, a new member of the Canyons executive team. "We believe that a mountain is a lot more than a pile of rocks."