Category: News

Kelly Canyon Gearing Up for Ski Season

RIRIE – Kelly Canyon is one step closer to the completion of its new ski lift.

The ski resort worked with Salt Lake City-based lift manufacturer SkyTrac Saturday morning to install 15 ski poles for the new Fix-grip Triple Lift.

Resort Owner Mike VanSteenkiste tells EastIdahoNews.com the new lift will be able to serve 1,500 skiers per hour — nearly triple the amount the old lifts could accommodate in that same timeframe.

“For a long time, people have wanted something new and upgraded,” VanSteenkiste says. “It will help create a better experience here at Kelly’s.”

RELATED | Kelly Canyon announces new three-seater lift for the 2021-22 season

Skiers have used two lifts at Kelly Canyon in previous years.

Another reason for the new ski lift, VanSteenkiste says, is partly due to wind issues on the ridge near the mid-station on the second lift, which has been a safety concern in the past and would sometimes result in lift one being shutdown during prime skiing time.

VanSteenkiste and his crew have been working to open up new terrain on the mountain and the new lift goes up an additional 600 feet to accommodate that.

“There’s a whole bunch of area that’s been opened up that people haven’t been able to ski. They’ll also be able to ski down Moose and some other terrain that you previously had to hike to,” he says.

The original lifts were installed in 1957. The first one will be decommissioned prior to the start of ski season. The second one will continue to operate in conjunction with the new one.

vansteenkiste pole installation
Pole installation for new ski lift at Kelly Canyon. | Courtesy Mike VanSteenkiste
The new ski lift is one of several changes in the works at Kelly Canyon. VanSteenkiste became the new owner in 2019 and one of the first changes was the addition of a mountain bike park for people to use during the summer. There are 19 miles of trails throughout the mountain and he says people have really enjoyed this new feature.

RELATED | Kelly Canyon opens summer season under new ownership

“That’s been going good. We’re excited about the bike park,” VanSteenkiste says.

Earlier this year, the resort also invested in a magic carpet lift, a ramp-style conveyor that runs along the ground, to replace the traditional rope tow at the base of the mountain near the lodge.

They also have a brand-new Latitude 90 snowmaking machine from Canada to ensure there is always fresh snow for skiers.

“It produces snow 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s pretty cool technology. There’s only two in the United States,” VanSteenkiste explains. “We’ll probably do some type of rail jam, where we (produce snow in the summer). Some of our snowmaking capabilities have been subpar in the past, so we’re trying to kick that up as well.”

Fiber optic internet has been added to allow for improved wi-fi connection at the lodge and a year-round restaurant is in the works as well.

“The year-round restaurant will be fun. It will be a great place to eat, grab a burger, come hang out on the hill. There will be an outdoor eating area (on the east side) with pavers. It will be a nice facelift and addition to Kelly’s,” he says.

He’s looking forward to rolling out some real estate options in the future, too.

Ski season typically begins in mid-December. VanSteenkiste says they’ve invested a lot of money into this project and he’s excited for people to see the improvements and enjoy a day on the slopes.

“We really appreciate the support of the community. This has been a long time coming,” he says. “We’re excited for the community to experience something new.”

Magic Carpet

RIRIE — On the heels of announcing a new three-seater lift slated for operation this 2021-22 ski season, this week Kelly Canyon officials said they are also investing in a new magic carpet ground lift.

The magic carpet lift, a ramp-style conveyor that runs along the ground, will replace the traditional rope tow at the base of the mountain near the lodge. A magic carpet is ideal for young and new skiers and boarders who are getting their “ski-legs” under them while learning to float on new powder.

“This will enhance the young skier experience and really help them to get up the ski hill easier,” Mike VanSteenkiste, a managing partner for Kelly Canyon, told EastIdahoNews.com Tuesday.

 

RELATED | Kelly Canyon announces new three-seater lift for the 2021-22 season

They aren’t getting rid of the rope tow though. VanSteenkiste said the rope tow will be moved mid-mountain at the terrain park.

 

“I think the kids will like the rope tow at the terrain park where they can do hot laps all day,” he said.

The magic carpet and new lift are just a few of the ongoing upgrades resort partners are implementing at the 73-year-old resort. Kelly Canyon partners are currently in the midst of an approval process through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest Service as well as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for a master plan that will include new summer amenities if approved.

The resort is tucked into the northwest end of the Big Hole Mountains just southeast of Rexburg. It has enjoyed continued growth as the surrounding area develops to accommodate travelers headed to prime mountain biking terrain, camping and hot springs that straddle the Jefferson and Bonneville County lines.

 

“We’re moving ahead while maintaining that family-friendly foundation that has rooted Kelly Canyon’s success,” VanSteenkiste said.

New Lift at Kellys

New LIft for 2022 Season

RIRIE — Kelly Canyon Ski Resort made a major announcement last week that lit up its social media page with resounding cheers and kudos from the local skiing and boarding community.

As the resort eyes the final days of its season this weekend, patrons can look forward to a new Fix-grip Triple Lift from the Skytrac company heading into the 2021-2022 winter season.

Skytrac is a Salt Lake City-based lift manufacturer and the Fix-grip Triple Lift is specially made to accommodate the unique needs of smaller resort operations. The three-seater lift can serve up to 1,500 powder hounds an hour. It will likely become a centerpiece at the resort, which has been operating on four, two-seater lifts since the 1970s.

 

“Right now we aren’t planning on replacing the other lifts,” Mike VanSteenkiste told EastIdahoNews.com Friday. VanSteenkiste, a managing partner for Kelly Canyon said the site and engineering plans are currently underway.

Kelly Canyon partners will navigate an approval process through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest Service as well as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The resort is tucked into the northwest end of the Big Hole Mountains just southeast of Rexburg. It has enjoyed continued growth as the surrounding area develops to accommodate travelers headed to prime mountain biking terrain, hot springs and camping straddling the Jefferson and Bonneville County lines.

 

The new lift will increase access on the mountain typically gained through boot-packing.

“Our initial design is for the new lift to be a feature lift and focal point of the resort,” he said. “The new lift will go almost 600 feet further up the mountain and will allow patrons to access terrain that has only been accessible by hiking.”

VanSteenkiste teased that the resort is eyeing other upgrades, but said patrons should check the resort’s social media channels for updates. In the meantime, the resort is soliciting suggestions for a name for the new lift. The lucky winner will earn a season pass for next year.

 

“It’s been a great season,” said VanSteenkiste. “Thank you to the community for the support. I wanted to give a special thanks to the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for they have done behind the scenes to make this happen. We are lucky to have such a great group of individuals that are committed to helping the public enjoy our local mountain.”

Kelly Canyon Terrain Park

RIRIE – The summer season at Kelly Canyon officially opened Friday.

Mike VanSteenkiste recently became a new managing partner for the resort. He tells EastIdahoNews.com the turnout on opening day was great, and many improvements are in the works throughout the summer.

“We want to make it better. We want to enhance the experience for everyone,” VanSteenkiste says. “We’re taking a special interest in grooming the mountain.”

The resort opened a mountain bike park late in the season last year. It includes 19 miles of trails. One of the big focuses right now is improving the existing trails and building new ones for riders of all skill levels.

“We’re cutting in the single-track trails,” VanSteenkiste says. “We’ve been working hard on the berms, making it really fun so the trails flow nice. We hope that people will enjoy being able to ride new trails as they open throughout the summer.”

VanSteenkiste says there are certain spots on the mountain with a lot of runoff, making some of the trail areas really wet.

“Those areas have to dry out before we can get the trails put in,” says VanSteenkiste.

They’re also adding an airbag, which will catch riders while they’re doing tricks and flips and protect them from crashing. A pump track and jump park are also being built. VanSteenkiste is hoping these features will be ready for the grand re-opening on July 3.

VanSteenkiste says one of the things management is most excited about is new lodging for guests.

“There hasn’t been lodging (on the mountain) for more than 60 years, but that’s something that’s on our radar and that we are working towards,” he says.

The date of completion has not been determined.

Other plans for the summer include food truck Fridays with half-price on bike rentals. There will also be a free summer concert series. Other amenities are in the works for the winter and beyond, which VanSteenkiste will talk more about at a later date.

Many people in eastern Idaho grew up learning how to ski at Kelly Canyon, VanSteenkiste says, and the idea behind the improvement projects is to make it more appealing for locals in particular.

“The cost of taking your family skiing is almost out of reach for the average family,” VanSteenkiste says. “We can’t compete with Targhee or Jackson, but we can provide an affordable experience for the family. We want to maintain the family atmosphere … and be known as a family resort.”

Kelly Canyon has been a popular skiing and winter recreation area since its inception. A written history of the resort indicates a local investor group led by Bud Johnson first opened Kelly Canyon in 1957. The group purchased the property, cleared the timber for ski runs, and built the lifts and equipment. Several different investor groups have owned the resort over the years. It is currently owned by Kelly Canyon Winter Park LLC.

VanSteenkiste says the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t had a huge impact on the resort because the winter season closed as the shutdown began. He’s excited for people to come and ride the trails.

“I hope that we can increase the excitement specifically to the locals,” VanSteenkiste says. “We’re a family resort, locally owned, and that’s really what we want to be.”

The grand reopening celebration will begin at 5 p.m. Friday, July 3. There will be food on-hand from local vendors and live music. Accomplished riders will be doing tricks and stunts for those in attendance.

The bike park will be open free the following day from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Visit the website or Facebook page for more information.