Powderhorn improvements planned

Andy Daly, co-owner of Powderhorn Mountain Resort, details a $5 million improvement project that will include a new high-speed chairlift. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Andy Daly, co-owner of Powderhorn Mountain Resort, details a $5 million improvement project that will include a new high-speed chairlift. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Andy Daly expects a new chairlift at Powderhorn Mountain Resort to wisk skiers and snowboarders up the slopes twice as fast next season.

But the co-owner of the resort is equally excited about how a $5 million project will accelerate summer business, too, in attracting bikers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

“We’re delighted we can move forward at this time,” Daly said at a news conference announcing coming improvements at the resort on the Grand Mesa east of Grand Junction.

Daly signed a contract during the conference finalizing the purchase of a high-speed quad chairlift from Leitner-Poma in Grand Junction.

The new lift will replace the nearly 30-year-old Take Four lift at Powderhorn. While the new lift will use the same alignment and existing towers, new equipment will carry people up the slopes twice as fast, halving the typical riding time from 13 minutes to 6 minutes, Daly said.The bottom terminal of the lift will be lowered 8 feet to offer easier access to the loading area.

The new lift will offer an initial capacity of 2,000 riders an hour that can expanded up to 2,400 riders an hour, he said. Moreover, the new lift will offer more comfortable seating as well as foot rests, he said. “It will be a remarkable improvement.”

Other improvements will include additional snowmaking equipment to cover the lower portion of Bill’s Run.

The new lift is scheduled for installation this summer and should be ready for the opening of the ski season in December, Daly said.

The improvements will help drive more destination business from Colorado and Texas as well snag more local skiers and snowboarders who’d otherwise head to other resorts on the Western Slope, Daly said.

Nonetheless, Powderhorn will remain a regional ski resort primarily serving the Grand Valley and an area extending from Montrose to Silt to Moab in Utah, he added. “This is our market.”

In addition to bolstering business during the ski season, though, Powderhorn plans what Daly characterized as an “aggressive” effort to increase summer business as well.

The new chairlift will include biker carriers so it can accommodate mountain bikers who’ll ride the lift up the slopes and pedal down.

Plans also call for the construction of a mountain bike trail system over the next three to five years. Work should begin this summer.

Still other improvements are contemplated as part of a summer master plan under development, Daly said. Although nothing specific has yet been proposed, the attractions could be similar to those offered at other resorts during the summer, including zip lines and mountain coasters.

The goal, he said, is to create a summer recreation location for people who want to cool off while enjoying biking, hiking and other activities.

Home Loan State Bank in Grand Junction helped Powderhorn obtain financing for the project through a loan guarantee program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to encourage business expansions in rural areas.

The latest work builds on the improvements at Powderhorn since Daly joined with Ken and Tom Gart purchased the resort at an auction in 2011.

The purchase has worked out well, Daly said, in large part because of ongoing community support. “It was absolutely the right investment.”

New year brings new gains for U.S. payrolls

The new year is off to a better than expected start for job growth with an estimated addition of nearly 260,000 positions to U.S. payrolls in January.

The national unemployment rate edged up a tenth of a point to 5.7 percent as more than 700,000 people returned to the work force to look for or take jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm employment increased 257,000 in January with gains spread across industry sectors.

Initial estimates for job gains in December and November were revised upward a total of 147,000 to a combined 752,000. With the latest numbers, U.S. payrolls have increased an average of  336,000 over the past three months.

Still, 2.8 million people were counted in January among the long-term unemployed who’ve been out of work 27 weeks or longer. Another 6.8 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours have been cut or they’re unable to find full-time jobs.

With an increase of 703,000 in the civilian labor force, the labor participation rate rose two-tenths of a point to 62.9 percent.

Employment in retail trades increased 46,000 in January, while construction payrolls rose 39,000. Health care employment climbed 38,000 even as food services and drinking places added 35,000 jobs. Payrolls increased 33,000 in professional and business services, 26,000 in financial activities and 22,000 in manufacturing.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls remained unchanged at 34.6 hours. The average manufacturing workweek edged up a tenth of an hour to 41 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 12 cents to  $24.75. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 2.2 percent.