By Tyler Allen EBS Managing Editor

BIG SKY – Stephen Kircher, president of Boyne Resorts, announced at a press conference today that Big Sky Resort will install an eight-seat, high-speed chairlift this summer on Andesite Mountain, where the Ramcharger lift is currently.

The new chair, called Ramcharger 8 and slated to open in December, will have heated seats, blue wind bubbles, and seats 2-inches wider than the six-seat Powder Seeker chairlift, installed two years ago in The Bowl. Ramcharger 8 will be the first eight-seat chairlift installed in North America. The current Ramcharger lift, a high-speed quad, will be moved to the south side of the mountain this summer and replace the Shedhorn double.

“My family is proud of its 42-year commitment to southwest Montana and will continue the momentum that is underway at Big Sky Resort,” Kircher said.

He also announced a planned renovation of the third floor of the Mountain Mall, which will increase lunch seating capacity by 350 seats; include coffee, wine and beer bars; indoor fireplaces; new food options, including stone-fired pizza, sushi, ramen and crepe stations; new windows to open up views of Lone Mountain; and expanded outdoor patio space.

This is the second phase of “Big Sky 2025,” a 10-year plan announced in 2016 to reshape Big Sky as the “American Alp.” The first phase included the installation of the Powder Seeker lift and Challenger triple. Future planned projects include night skiing on Andesite, expanded snow making, and a gondola to replace the Explorer double chairlift. The gondola will be a two-phase project, with the second stage extending it to The Bowl at the base of Powder Seeker.

Kircher also discussed plans to upgrade the Moonlight side of the mountain, by upgrading the Iron Horse lift, relocation and replacement of the Headwaters lift, and additional food and beverage options. He also mentioned future upgrades to the Lone Peak Tram, as well as the Southern Comfort, Lone Moose and Swift Current chairlifts. A small food and beverage option is in the idea stage for the summit of Lone Mountain.

While not divulging the cost of the Doppelmayr Ramcharger 8, Kircher joked that “it will cost more than the first lift we bought from Sun Valley for $5,000.” The Powder Seeker lift, also a Doppelmayr, cost the resort $9 million to install.

When Kircher was asked how mountain biking access will be affected this summer, Big Sky Resort General Manager Taylor Middleton interjected that the resort is thinking about running vehicle shuttles for bikers to reach the many new trails built on Andesite Mountain in recent years. Middleton opened today’s press conference by telling the crowd that Big Sky Resort will surpass 500,000 skier visits this season, for the first time in its history.

Read the March 16 edition of Explore Big Sky newspaper for expanded coverage of today’s announcement from Big Sky Resort.