Vail Mountain expansion will start this summer
VAIL — Construction will begin in a few months on Vail Mountain’s first expansion since Blue Sky Basin some 20 years ago.
The idea to take Golden Peak to the top of the slope, a project that’s been dubbed as “two years away for the last three decades” by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, received final approval from the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday.
Using an existing cut up the slope that is visible from Gondola One, a new surface lift will take skiers and snowboarders to the top of Golden Peak, an additional 760 vertical feet higher than Chair 6 now takes guests.
The terrain will be used primarily by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes but will also be available to the general public.
Pete Seibert Jr., the son of Vail Mountain founder Pete Seibert, calls it the Golden Peak completion, rather than the Golden Peak expansion.
“There’s a reason why there was an old lift line cut to the top of (Golden Peak),” Seibert said last fall. “It was always the intention to get there … I was on the Ski Club Vail board for 16 years, and we were always two years away from getting that done.”
If at first you don’t succeed …
The project has been submitted to the Forest Service and denied in the past due to issues with stream health, soil stability and sedimentation.
Vail, in collaboration with Forest Service hydrologists, addressed the environmental concerns in the project proposal area with the development and implementation of a drainage management plan and slope stability analysis, which improved the resource conditions on Golden Peak, said Aaron Mayville, a district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service. Mitigation measures also include restoration of native vegetation on 7 miles of the Mill Creek Trail near Golden Peak to improve conditions in nearby Mill Creek.
The newest version of the project has been under examination since 2014.
“After many years of work, I’m happy to have a final decision for the Golden Peak Project,” Mayville said in a Forest Service release. “While race facilities at Vail are already world-class, I’m confident that the robust and thorough analysis of this project will go a long way in making it even better.”
The world-class competition facilities cited by Mayville were also mentioned by Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor of the White River National Forest, in authoring the decision.
“I believe that the approved projects will enhance the visitor experience of competitors and the general public alike by expanding the competition and training terrain and providing adequate separation between the general public and the athletes,” Fitzwilliams wrote.
Double the size
The expansion will double the training space on Golden Peak and create three new trails — two that will primarily host Alpine ski racing activities and one that will serve as a dedicated mogul venue. A third Alpine trail on the north side of Golden Peak that was also approved has been postponed for a future phase of construction.
“By moving forward with the Golden Peak Improvement Project, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail will fulfill its top strategic priority and create the single-best training environment in the United States,” Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Executive Director Kirk Dwyer said in a statement. “The expanded terrain will provide a higher-quality, safer and more productive training arena for our athletes, allowing families to save on travel expenses while providing an economic benefit to the Vail community. We couldn’t be more thrilled about this development and thank Vail Resorts and the U.S. Forest Service for their dedication to the project over many years.”
The two new Alpine trails will extend the current training and competition arena to the top of Golden Peak, adding 760 vertical feet to the venue for a total of more than 1,500 vertical feet, top to bottom. This extended race hill could be FIS-approved for a women’s World Cup downhill and men’s NorAm downhill. Additionally, these upper two trails will be serviced by a new surface lift from the Riva Bahn Express (No. 6) mid-station — enabling racers to access higher elevations earlier and later in the season with maximum productivity.
The project also includes the creation of a dedicated mogul venue not far from the base of Golden Peak. The addition of the mogul venue will provide easier access for the club’s athletes and provide a more prominent mogul course near Vail’s base, making it an attractive site for high-level competitions.
“There are huge advantages to having a site over on Golden Peak,” John Dowling, the club’s mogul program director and 2018 Domestic Coach of the Year, said in a statement. “It’s really going to save us a lot of time. It’s going to allow coaches to get to the site early, start prep and get our athletes right to work. Plus, by allowing us to get a full course open so much earlier in the season, for our development-level athletes and our top-level athletes, that’s the most important part of the training season.”
Along with the expanded terrain, Vail plans to install a high-powered, state-of-the-art snowmaking system on the new trails and enhance its snowmaking infrastructure on the existing Golden Peak terrain. The project entails roughly 30 new fan-gun towers, plus additional carriages. Also part of the improvement project, Vail is set to build a new pump house, allowing for increased productivity and efficiency.
The Golden Peak Improvement Project is occurring alongside development of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s new clubhouse at the base of Golden Peak.
“The expansion represents another element of the incredible progress that is happening at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail,” John Hale, the club’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Both the expansion and the new clubhouse have been projects that have long been dreamed about at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Happily, within the next year, they will both become reality.”
More information about the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail can be found at SkiClubVail.org.
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