BIG SKY — Big Sky Resort’s parent company Boyne Resorts provided an update of its 10-year plan Wednesday, which includes installing the first eight-person chairlift in North America, as well as upgrades to the ski area’s hotels and base area.

Boyne also announced Big Sky is on track this season to exceed 500,000 skier visits for the first time in the resort’s history.

The centerpiece of the announcement, though, was the new eight-person Doppelmayr high-speed lift replacing the current Ramcharger quad, which will be built over the summer and ready in time for next ski season. Boyne also plans to replace the Shedhorn lift with a high-speed quad that will cut the current ride time in half.

“We’re building this for the long term,” Boyne President Stephen Kircher said, speaking in front of a full conference room at Big Sky on Wednesday. “This is putting infrastructure in that’s planning for Big Sky’s growth.”

Similar to the six-person Powder Seeker lift, which was installed prior to the 2016-17 ski season, the so-called Ramcharger 8 will feature a protective bubble, heated seats as well as a communications system built into the chairs that will allow lift operators to explain delays and stoppages.

The system will move 3,200 skiers per hour to the top of Andesite Mountain, 800 more than its current iteration. Kircher wouldn’t comment on the pricetag of the project, other than to say each chair costs “as much as a Porsche.”

The original Big Sky 2025 plan, which the company unveiled in 2016, accounted for $150 million of infrastructure improvements. At the time, Kircher said the plan would “guide” future investment in the Big Sky community, including the construction of additional employee housing.

Since then, the resort has added nearly 100 housing units between its properties on the mountain and in the meadow, with plans in the works for an additional 200, Kircher said, adding that the resort’s goal is to house one-third of its employees in the Big Sky area.

The Ramcharger 8 lift will eventually allow for night skiing on that side of the mountain, which Kircher said would likely begin by the 2019 winter season. The lift will also be equipped for mountain biking in the summer.

“With this technology, it’s going to be game-changing and really leapfrog most of our brothers in North America,” Kircher said.

As for the base area, the resort plans to renovate its Mountain Mall, opening the interior of the second floor, adding food and drink options, a new event space and expanding the outdoor deck. The new version of the Mall will include a coffee bar, wine and beer bar, and food options such as wood fired pizza, sushi, ramen and crepes.

“One of our core needs here is to generate apres ski energy, and this will be a big part of that,” Kircher said.

More long-term, Kircher said the resort plans to renovate the Summit and Huntley hotels, replace the Explorer lift with a gondola that will eventually reach the bowl, replace the Iron Horse lift, upgrade the tram and relocate and replace the Headwaters lift, as well as adding several on-mountain apres options.

Big Sky is set to announce its line of season passes for the 2019 ski season Thursday. Changes will include eliminating the Madison pass, replacing college discounts with a young adult designation for 18 to 25 year olds, and adding a discount for pass holders older than 80.

Boyne operates more than a dozen resorts across the U.S., including Sugarloaf in Maine and Brighton in Utah.

Kendall can be reached at 406-582-2651 or He is on Twitter at @lewdak

Lewis Kendall covers business and the economy for the Chronicle.