Chair 5 construction under way at Vail Mountain
VAIL, Colorado – The beginnings of Vail Mountain’s brand new High Noon Lift were seen Wednesday morning as a helicopter hovered over the Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls to pour the concrete for the lift’s base towers.
Construction of a chair lift is no simple task, as obstacles like trees, rocks, roadless areas and steep grades make it difficult to get in and out of the area, said Vail Mountain spokeswoman Liz Biebl.
The U.S. Forest Service approved the new four-seat lift, also known as Chair 5, last December along with other improvements at Vail Mountain, including a new Mid-Vail restaurant, a new maintenance facility on the mountain and expanded snowmaking on the Simba trail. Vail Mountain began laying the foundation for the new Mid-Vail restaurant Aug. 11, with work continuing through Nov. 1. The project construction will resume at the end of the ski season next spring.
The other approved projects do not yet have a construction timeline, and Biebl said construction is not yet in the plans for next year, either.
It took about two years of reviews and public input for the new lift to get Forest Service approval.
Chair 5 is part of $75 million to $85 million in improvements at several of Vail Resorts’ properties this summer. The improvements include a tubing hill expansion at Vail Mountain’s Adventure Ridge, a renovation of guest rooms at the Keystone Lodge, and grooming and snowmaking equipment at all five of the ski company’s resorts – Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly, Calif.
Vail Mountain’s old Chair 5 was removed and sent to Nelson, British Columbia, to be installed at the Whitewater Ski Resort this past spring.
The old chair was a fixed-grip, three-seater, which skiers and snowboarders dreaded in recent years. Complaints about the wait times in line to get on the lift – which rises out of Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls – were common. On a busy powder day, it could take as long as 30 to 45 minutes to reach the front of the line.
Vail Resorts said the new chairlift will improve skier circulation on the mountain. The old lift, which was built in 1979, could carry about 1,400 people per hour – the new lift will carry about 2,400 people per hour and reduce the ride time to 6 minutes.
Helicopters will be used to pour concrete and install the lift towers, Biebl said.
A helicopter poured about 100 to 130 yards of concrete Wednesday, with another 40 to 80 yards scheduled for Thursday. Each tower needs a foundation of about 10 yards of concrete, Biebl said.
Vail Mountain removed more than 100 trees to make room for the new chairlift, including the infamous Panty Tree, in which many pairs of women’s panties and Mardi Gras beads were thrown.
Biebl confirmed Wednesday that the Panty Tree has been cut down.
Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot said this past spring that he suspects the tree will regenerate itself.
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