CARRABASSETT VALLEY – Sugarloaf Mountain Resort plans to open a new $3 million chairlift at noon Saturday to replace the 35-year-old Spillway East lift, which derailed last year.

The Skyline lift was installed this summer as part of the resort’s 10-year development plan, called Sugarloaf 2020. The lift, manufactured and installed by Dopplemayr, is a four-person chairlift that is faster, more wind-resistant and closer to the ground than the two-person Spillway East.

John Diller, Sugarloaf’s general manager, said in a news release, “This is a big step in our Sugarloaf 2020 plan and our crew worked hard all summer to keep things on schedule, so it’s very exciting to finally see it come to life.”

The lift has a conveyor loading system that loads riders on a moving platform. The resort said the system should reduce lift stoppage time, and allow the lift to run as fast as 500 feet per minute.

The Skyline is 3,746 feet long, rises 1,457 vertical feet, has 16 towers and is powered by a 400-horsepower motor. An additional 400-horsepower Cummins diesel engine serves as a backup.

The lift has a wind-resistant design with shorter towers, heavier chairs and several hundred feet of wind-fencing, according to the resort.

Sugarloaf used helicopters and heavy equipment to install the lift. It’s part of $4.3 million in off-season upgrades at Sugarloaf, which upgraded other lifts and is continuing to expand its new terrain on neighboring Burnt Mountain.

The old lift derailed in December 2010, sending eight people to the hospital. A state inspector’s report cited wind, mechanical problems, and training and maintenance problems at the resort as factors in the derailment.

A chairlift management expert with more than 30 years of experience was hired by the resort recently to implement new maintenance and training practices recommended by the state inspector’s report, said resort spokesman Ethan Austin.

The first 100 riders on the new lift will receive commemorative Skyline T-shirts.

The resort said people who want more information about the new lift and the Sugarloaf 2020 plan should visit its website at