Vail gets new six-rider Chair 4; mountain set for opening day this Friday |

Vail gets new six-rider Chair 4; mountain set for opening day this Friday

Melanie Wong
Vail Mountain Lift Maintenance Director Clyde Wiessner demonstrates how the passenger conveyer will help load skiers and snowboarders on to the new Mountain Top Express six-passenger chairlift Tuesday at Mid-Vail on Vail Mountain.
Dominique Taylor | |

Chair 4 by the numbers92 total chairs6 people per chairSpeed: 1,000 feet per minute or 5 meters per secondCapacity: Moves 3,600 people per hour, a 33 percent increase from the old lift1985: Year the old Chair 4 was last replaced

VAIL — It’s a sunny day on the soon-to-be-opened Vail Mountain at Mid-Vail, where it’s a bustle of activity, mostly centered around the mountain’s newest lift addition.

Workers from the resort and lift company Doppelmayr are busily putting the finishing installments on Mountain Top Express (Chair 4), one of the most frequently used lifts at the resort. The new Chair 4, the mountain’s first six-passenger capacity lift, is expected to increase the lift’s capacity by 33 percent. That means the chair could feasibly transport 3,600 people to the top of Vail per hour, the same capacity as the new Gondola One.

Crews have been working on the lift all summer, and it is nearly completed. Today and Thursday, crews will be cleaning and testing the lift. They simulate the weight the machinery will hold with large plastic garbage cans filled with water, then the lift must undergo tests by outside officials, said Clyde Wiessner, the mountain’s lift maintenance director. The lift should be ready to operate by opening day on Friday.

Regular Vail skiers and riders will have to get used to a new loading system on Chair 4 — the lift loads at a right angle, has loading gates that meter each new load of riders and features a loading conveyor-belt system. The setup has been widely used at European resorts for years and is shown to reduce the number of lift stops and slows, thereby increasing the efficiency of the lift. This will mark the first loading conveyor on a high-speed, six-passenger lift of its kind in North America.

The lift itself is roughly in the same spot, but the line takes a slightly different route. The starting terminal sits slightly east of its original location, in a spot that aims to decrease cross traffic of skiers and snowboarders in the area.

Wiessner said the parts from the old chairlift will be recycled — some of the chairs went to Mount Brighton, a Vail Resort property, some go to build the mountain’s terrain parks and some parts will be repurposed to other projects, such as for building rails on the Front Range public transit system.

Gopher Hill LiftBeginners at Golden Peak will also enjoy a smoother ride this season, with the replacement of the Gopher Hill Lift (Chair 12). The old fixed-grip double chairlift installed in 1974 will be replaced by the old Rose Bowl Lift (Chair 4) from Beaver Creek. The fixed-grip triple Doppelmayr lift won’t necessarily go faster, but it will allow the ski and snowboard school to move with much more ease, mountain officials said.

The triple lift will also allow for twice the capacity of 3-to 6-year-old ski and snowboard school guests, who are required to ride the lift with an adult.

Opening day approachesNeither of the new lifts will likely be in operation on Friday, Vail’s opening day. However, skiers and snowboarders can access Gondola One, Born Free Express Lift (Chair 8), Little Eagle Lift (Chair 15) and the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Lifts open beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday.

With recent natural snowfall, colder temperatures and mountain operations crews working hard in preparation for the start of the ski and snowboard season, the resort will provide access from both villages.

“We’re excited to kick off the first year of Vail’s next 50 years this Friday and are looking forward to another incredible season including the opening of two new chairlifts and much more in store,”said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. “Our snowmaking and grooming teams have been making great progress on the mountain each day, and we are thrilled to announce that Vail will open for skiing and snowboarding out of both Lionshead and Vail Village.”

With more snow in the forecast for this week, the mountain may open more terrain as conditions allow. The mountain operations team said skiers and snowboarders should stay tuned for more detailed terrain information to be released as opening day approaches.

On opening day, the Lionshead Adults and Children’s Ski and Snowboard School offices will be open for all ability levels, and the Vail Village Ski & Snowboard School office will be open for private lessons. Small World Nursery at the Golden Peak Children’s Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Find out more at

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and

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