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The sound of capital investment at work

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – The steady beat of helicopter blades resonated throughout the valley Monday as workers poured concrete for lift towers on Peaks 7 and 8 at Breckenridge Ski Resort.

“Hear that? Do you hear that?” said Roger McCarthy. “That’s the sound of capital investment at work.”

McCarthy, chief operations officer for the resort, gave a tour Monday of the $15

million worth of work taking place at the resort, where work has been progressing throughout the summer.

The highlight of work this week is the helicopters flying to and fro, pouring cement for lift tower bases. Workers braced themselves against the whipping wind below the helicopter and directed a heavy bucket to the ground to be filled with concrete. From there, the heavy-duty helicopter – which has spent much of its summer fighting fires throughout the West – pivoted in the air above the trees, taking the bucket to a tower location below.

Each tower requires seven helicopter flights; by the time concrete work is done at the end of this week, more than 200 cubic yards of concrete will have been placed on the mountain.

The two lifts under construction – the Peak 8 SuperConnect quad that will replace Chair 4, and the six-passenger Independence SuperChair on Peak 7 – are the only two lifts being built in Colorado this year. They are among about 12 being built in North America, McCarthy said.

The Independence SuperChair will include 113 chairs on 23 towers and take skiers from bottom to top in an estimated 7.2 minutes. The Peak 8 SuperConnect is a 192-chair lift with 28 towers that will take people from the bottom – just above Beaver Run Resort on Peak 9 – to the top above the Vista Haus Restaurant and near the T-Bar, in 8.48 minutes. That lift will have an eight-degree jog in it at midpoint.

“Jon can’t do it any other way,” McCarthy said of Lift Director Jon Mauch. “If it’s a straight lift, Jon’s not interested.”

Mauch was instrumental in development of the Snowflake Lift, which features a 45-degree turn. That lift serves the Four O’Clock bed base and takes skiers to Peak 8.

The details

Eight trails on Peak 7 will include high-altitude glades and increase intermediate terrain at the resort by 165 acres, or 30 percent, McCarthy said.

“That’s huge,” he said. “If you think about it, 70 percent of our skiers are intermediate skiers. The key success factors of Breckenridge is the town and our terrain.”

The Peak 8 SuperConnect lift is being built to help skiers access Peak 8 from Peak 9, which until now required three lifts and 30 minutes.

“And that’s if you can find them,” McCarthy said. “That was one of the biggest challenges at Breckenridge. Now, it’s a two-lift ride that takes 13 minutes.”

Lift towers, most of which are stored at a staging site on Peak 8, will be assembled and installed next month. The helicopter that will place the towers is capable of lifting 12,000 pounds. Load testing on the SuperConnect begins in early November, and on the Independence chair the beginning of December. The new lifts will be open to the skiing public this season, Mauch said.

“One neat thing about lift construction is that you don’t see a lot of work being done on the ground,” he said. “And all of a sudden, one day, you’re flying the towers in and you have a lift. It’s pretty satisfying.”

The runs, some of which were carved out of the forest in the fall of 2000, now have names, all dubbed for mining camps in the Breckenridge area. They include Angel’s Rest, Monte Cristo, Fort Mary B, Swan City, Lincoln Meadows, Pioneer, Wirepatch and Independence.

Other work on the mountain included creation of a beginning terrain park and halfpipe, renovations to the Maggie and Vista Haus restaurants, creation of 7,000 square feet of wetlands in a gully and snowmaking on Peak 7.

“We’re ready,” McCarthy said. “Get out of the way; let’s go.”

Opening day on Peak 9 is scheduled for Nov. 16.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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