Red Lodge Mountain unveiled its new nearly $3 million chairlift Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that brought hundreds of visitors to the mountain to check out the new ride.
The triple chair replaces the old Miami Beach lift and travels farther up the mountain in less time, helping skiers access more runs efficiently.
The construction process took months of work for Red Lodge Mountain General Manager Jeff Schmidt and his staff. The lift comes from a ski resort in Utah and had to be taken down and reconstructed, but on Monday, Schmidt and his team got to see their hard work finally pay off.
"It's still hard to fathom that it's here and running," Schmidt said following the ceremony Monday. "It's cool that we pulled this off mainly in house with our crew here. They did great and I'm really proud of them."
Schmidt said seeing the lift up and running felt like a dream come true.
"There was just so much time put into this," Schmidt said. "We had stuff spread everywhere when we got back from Utah. Lots of trucking, lots of cranes, and now seeing it running is a great feeling."
The lift's grand opening comes just in time for the start of a new ski season. Per usual, Red Lodge is planning on holding opening day the day after Thanksgiving. Schmidt said the nice weather was helpful in the building process, but now it's time to root for snow.
"The weather's been great for lift building but not great for skiing," Schmidt said. "Now that it's done and running, it's time for it to start snowing. We need a little help from Mother Nature."
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was heavily attended, as skiers and residents got their first chance to test out the new ride. Among them was 48-year season ticket holder Rick McGarvey, who said the new lift will add a lot to the mountain he loves.
"It's a tremendous improvement for Red Lodge Mountain," McGarvey said as he got his turn to ride the lift for the first time. "It'll get skiers up the mountain a lot faster and it'll take a load off of triple chair."
McGarvey said he's always excited for ski season, but that getting up to see the new lift reminded him how close the start truly is.
"I'm always excited for ski season. I probably go 65 times, partly for exercise and partly for the social aspect," McGarvey said. "Being up here today and riding this new chair is great. It's just a great place to be."
McGarvey said he's excited for the lift to provide more opportunities for skiers just like him.
"It'll give people quick access to lower Miami as well as Palisades when the snow-making is going," McGarvey said. "It's really going to be incredible for the mountain."
And while Schmidt had planned the entire building process, there was a nice surprise waiting for him at Monday's ceremony. The lift, which originally was going to be named Miami Beach Express, was named The Stache Express, paying homage to Schmidt's legendary facial hair.
"It was a big surprise," Schmidt said with a laugh. "That was pretty cool of them. I guess I better not shave my mustache off."