Vail Mountain may replace two lifts |

Vail Mountain may replace two lifts

VAIL – Crowded morning lifts in Lionshead and Vail Village have Vail Resorts looking for more uphill capacity and the solution may be building new lifts heading to the Two Elk area on the eastern end of Vail Mountain.

The company, which operates Vail Mountain under a special U.S. Forest Service permit, is investigating replacing and possibly realigning the old and slow Highline and Sourdough chairlifts – Chairs 10 and 14 – with high-speed detachable quads to boost capacity and shave uphill transit time.

It’s not a new idea. It was part of the mountain’s 1985 master plan that among other things considered increasing the use of the Golden Peak area. Only 10 percent of the skiers using the mountain get on the slopes from Golden Peak.

“It will spread out the number of people quicker,” said Brian McCartney of Vail Resorts. “The whole notion of redoing 10 and 14 together really upgrades the experience on the eastern side.”

If the new lifts are built it will also help get skiers into China Bowl and Blue Sky Basin quicker, McCartney said. The back side of Vail Mountain now sees more skiers than the front, company statistics show.

“This is something they’ve been thinking about for a while,” said Dave Ozawa, Forest Service snow ranger who reviews on-mountain projects. “If you upgrade (Chair 10) you’ll get more people out of Golden Peak and you’re looking at a different way of getting people out of the village.”

Golden Peak’s primary lift is the Riva Bahn, a high-speed detachable lift.

Chair 10, which is 6,875 feet long, serves three double black diamond trails: Highline, Blue Ox and Roger’s Run. It’s about a 14-minute trip up the chair.

Because the 20 year-old Chair 10 is slow and has a capacity of just 1,150 people per hour, many people bypass it in favor of the faster lifts in the Village and Lionshead, Ozawa said. A new lift could double capacity.

Vail Resorts is also investigating replacing the 2,375 foot-long Chair 14 – which is also 20 years-old and serves a batch of beginners runs under Two Elk Restaurant – with a high-speed detachable quad.

The base of the lift would be realigned 100 feet to the west to eliminate skier congestion from nearby catwalks and runs. The top of the lift would be moved 200 feet closer to Two so skiers and snowboarders would no longer have to traverse a crowded, flat stretch to get to the often-busy restaurant. Ride time from the bottom of Golden Peak to Two Elk Restaurant would be cut to 19.8 minutes.

A second alternative calls for just replacing Chair 10, lengthening and realigning it and bending the lift with a turn station to bring it closer to Two Elk Restaurant. Under this plan, it would take 18.5 minutes to get from Golden Peak to Two Elk Restaurant, according to the company documents.

Depending on what happens to the proposal during the public comment period and environmental analysis the Forest Service must go through, the ski resort company indicates it want so begin replacing the lifts in 2005 or 2006.

“Our challenge is not to have a greater number of people on the mountain at one time,” said McCarney. “It’s to take the best care of those people we do have.”

Ozawa said the formal review of the proposal will begin sometime in the next 30 days. That will be followed by an environmental assessment which would be completed sometime next autumn.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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