Working toward snow: Breckenridge Ski Resort and A-Basin enter final stages of lift upgrades |

Working toward snow: Breckenridge Ski Resort and A-Basin enter final stages of lift upgrades

Crews at Breckenridge Ski Resort work to detach the chairs from Rip's Ride on Peak 8 of the resort earlier this spring. The ski resort has worked throughout the summer to update the lift from a fixed-grip double chair to a high-speed quad.
Sarah McLear/Courtesy photo

It may be hard to believe, but the 2022-23 ski season is less than two months away in Summit County. 

With the unofficial end of summer taking place on Labor Day, local ski resorts are making plans to finish any outstanding construction projects before snowmaking begins in a couple weeks.

Within Summit County, both Breckenridge Ski Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area will see the addition of newly updated lifts for the 2022-23 winter season. 

Vail Resorts will update Rip’s Ride on Peak 8 of Breckenridge Ski Resort, while Araphoe Basin will replace its Lenawee Mountain Lift.

Prior to the start of construction late this spring, Rip’s Ride and the Lenawee Mountain Lift were both fixed-grip chairs, with Rip’s Ride being a two-seater and Lenawee being a three-seater.

Both lifts will now be updated in order to give guests a better experience by reducing lines and moving people up the mountain at a quicker rate. Rip’s Ride will be updated to a quad-chair and Lenawee will be updated to a high-speed, six-pack chair.  

“The old lift was a two-seated, fixed-grip from the mid-’70s,” Breckenridge Ski Resort Lift Maintenance Director Adam Pino said. “We are updating it to a four-pack detachable, and the biggest difference with a detachable is the load area.”

The foundation of a lift tower is seen at the future site of the upgraded Rip’s Ride ski lift on Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 8. Construction crews have worked on upgrading the lift throughout the summer in order to provide a faster and more enhanced experience to its guests for the 2022-23 winter season.
Adam Pino/Courtesy photo

Pino explained that it is more straightforward to load onto the detachable chair as opposed to a fixed-grip chair.

“Load times are a lot slower, it is easier for people to get on,” Pino said. 

The update to Rip’s Ride won’t just help with getting skiers and riders up the mountain faster, but it will also increase the enjoyment level of beginner and novice visitors.

“The lift line should be a lot shorter because, No. 1, there is better capacity,” Pino said. “No. 2, in theory it should run a lot more consistently without any stops from people falling or anything. This should elevate the line from the beginner area at the base of Peak 8.”

Much like Rip’s Ride at Breckenridge Ski Resort, the newly named Lenawee Express is critical to the operations at A-Basin. The Lenawee Express will continue to aid in the transportation of a variety of skiers from midmountain and bring them to both expert-only hiking routes and groomed runs.

The lift will also provide access to the ski area’s two new restaurants: Steilhang Hut and the renovated il Rifugio.

The updated version of the Lenawee Express will feature heavier, six-seat chairs which will provide both a smoother and quicker ride up the mountain. The extra weight of the chairs make them less susceptible to strong Alpine winds, which sometimes stopped the old version of the lift.

“The original Lenawee had an uphill capacity of 1,800 people per hour and took approximately nine minutes to travel from midmountain to the summit,” Arapahoe Basin Mountain Operations Director Louis Skowyra said. “The new lift will have a capacity of 2,400 people per hour and a four-minute ride time.”

The terminal of the Lenawee Express is seen Wednesday, Aug. 31, at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Construction has taken place throughout the summer in order to upgrade the original three-seat, fixed-grip lift to a high-speed six-pack.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area/Courtesy photo

Both updated lifts will roughly follow the same path as the previous version of the lifts, which helps reduce the environmental impact of the construction on the ski areas. 

At Breckenridge, a slight reworking of the ski resort’s snow making system had to be made in order to move it away from the new lift terminal. 

According to Skowyra, Arapahoe Basin was able to reuse seven of the old tower foundations and only had to remove five trees from the project site. The ski area is further minimizing its environmental impact by utilizing helicopters and a spider excavator.

Both projects are currently on schedule and are on track to be open for the 2022-23 season despite having to work around the monsoonal rain storms that frequented the county throughout the summer. 

“There are always challenges,” Pino said. “I’ve been here 20-plus years and this is one of the bigger rainy summers. Just trying to keep up with the rain and keep moving. Obviously early mornings are good and the afternoons slow down a little. Overall, things have been pretty good.”

With the concrete tower foundations set at both ski resorts, the remaining work can be done if there is snow falling. Towers will be brought in and load tests will be run in order to test the safety of the lifts prior to opening day at both ski resorts.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is planning to open in mid-October while Breckenridge Ski Resort will open Nov. 11. 

A new lift accessing Keystone Resort’s Bergman Bowl was scheduled to put in place prior to the 2022-23 ski season, but a construction mistake has put the project on hold.

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