WENATCHEE — Work is underway at Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort on a new No. 2 chairlift.

The 1980s-era Liberator Express chairlift, which totes skiers and snowboarders to the top of the 6,820-foot ridge, was due to be replaced last summer, according to Mission Ridge Marketing Director Tony Hickok, but things did not work out for that to happen.

The crew at Mission Ridge was looking forward to starting the project this summer, but then COVID-19 hit, which impacted construction. Hickok said they were “super cognizant” of that, wanting to make sure they had the right process in place moving forward.

“This is one of the most exciting projects to take place at Mission Ridge in over a decade,” said General Manager Josh Jorgensen in a June 3 news release. “It is great to be moving forward and we can’t wait to have it running this winter.”

The new chair is a highspeed quad like the current chair. The loading is in basically the same area, while the unload is a little lower, Hickok said. There are all-new electronics in the chairlift itself. 

The biggest new feature is the bubble chairs.

“All the chairs have Plexiglas covers that can come down and will improve the experience of the ride when it is more inclement weather. That is something we are really excited about. It’s the first bubble chair in the Northwest,” Hickok said. “There are a few around the country. It’s just gone in recently at places like Big Sky, Montana. That is a very exciting feature to improve the quality of the ride.”

Bubble Chairlift

This is an example of the Plexiglas cover which will be part of the new chairlift at Mission Ridge. 

The bubble is a full enclosure when it is down; it works to block the wind and snow. Work on the project started at the end of last season.

At the end of May, the crews at Mission Ridge removed the haul rope, which is the wire connected to all the chairs. That began the process of dismantling the old chair.

“It’s literally cutting the cord, so you are committed to the project at that point,” Hickok said. "The entire bottom of the chair has been completely removed. The de-construction of the old chair is well underway. The new chair is staged in our parking lot and will be going up the mountain soon.”

Construction will be ongoing seven days a week through the summer and fall to make sure the new chair is ready for the start of next season. Hickok said it’s a big project so they will have different crews working seven days a week to keep the process moving along swiftly.

Chairlift construction

Construction has been on Mission Ridge to dismantle the 1980s era Liberator Express, number two, chairlift. 

The Forest Service has removed the restrictions to public access inside the ski area boundaries. Hickok said people need to be aware it is an active construction site roughly a mile long.

There are going to be some impacts to how people access the mountain, he said.

“We’re excited to see people enjoying the mountain during the summer. We are going to have some areas closed off during the construction. Our main access road, which we call the summer road, will be closed for the entirety of the project,” Hickok said. “We have a designated route to get up the mountain. Most of the mountain is opened up. The majority of the 2,000 acres are open just like they would be any summer, but the road is going to be closed.”

There will be heavy machinery on the mountain hauling heavy loads up and down. Hickok said they want to make sure everyone is safe during the process. People can help by respecting the closed area, he said.

“The main impacts are to the parking lot, access to the top of the mountain, and at the midway, including the Midway Lodge. That area is closed,” Hickok said. “People will be kept off the Midway Lodge deck, which is a popular summer congregating area. We recognize there will be some impacts this summer. We’re just really excited to get this project rolling.”

There are tons of signage on the mountain designating the construction areas, he said. You can also access that information on the resort's website, missionridge.com.

Hickok said people were asking about the old chairs before the project even started. The old chairs on the Liberator Express will be sold.

“We’re working on the plan to do that because we expect really high demand. A lot of people are really interested. Old ski chairs are hard to come by these days,” he said. “We know there is a lot of excitement, so we will be selling them. More information will be coming online soon, but there is no waiting list. We’ve had that question a lot.”

People use the old chairs, he said, to hang in the backyard or create bases for them. Hickok said it is a cool thing for avid snowboarders, skiers and others in the community connected with Mission Ridge.

Ian Dunn: 664-7157