Skico studies 2 paths for new Tiehack lift
The Aspen Skiing Co. is assessing a couple of alignments for a new high-speed detachable quad chair at the Tiehack section of Buttermilk but it hasn’t decided yet if it will build the lift in 2011, spokesman Jeff Hanle said Thursday.
The Skico will replace the lower and upper Tiehack chairlifts with one lift, he said. The Skico has U.S. Forest Service approval for a new lift; it would just have to submit a summer construction plan sometime this winter if it wants to build in 2011, said Jim Stark, winter sports administrator for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the Forest Service.
“They haven’t formally told us yet they’re moving ahead,” Stark said, but he added that seems to be the company’s direction.
Stark said he toured Tiehack with Skico officials Wednesday to learn about the possible alignment and other aspects of the project. “It’s pretty doable, pretty easy,” he said.
One possible alignment would keep the lower terminal, where skiers and riders load, where the current lower terminal is located. The other alignment would swing the lower terminal to the west, to where a ticket office and bathroom are currently located, Stark said.
In either case, the upper terminal of the new chairlift will be located between the existing upper terminal and the existing ski patrol shack, Stark said. The unloading area will be graded to make a larger, flatter pad. A new patrol shack would be located in that area, east of where lift riders unload, he said.
Stark said the obvious benefit of a new lift will be getting up the hill quicker. The current ride time for the two lifts serving Tiehack is listed at 15 minutes on the Buttermilk trail map, but that’s probably on a “fast” day. The new lift would make the trip in less than half that time, Stark said.
Some skiers have argued the slow pace of the chairlifts is part of Tiehack’s charm. However, it’s a matter of time before the Skico will be forced to replace the museum pieces. Forest Service records indicate the upper Tiehack lift was installed in 1969. The lower lift was relocated in 1993 and brought up to higher standards for chairs that were in place at that time.
It’s doubtful that the Skico would want to make a costly maintenance move, like a new cable, on the 42-year-old upper lift.
A new chairlift has actually been approved by the Forest Service three times: in 1997, 2001 and in 2009. Different approvals were required after the Skico tweaked its plan for Buttermilk improvements and when a new White River National Forest Plan was adopted, with different standards and requirements.
It remains to be seen if the third time was a charm. “There are several pieces to this puzzle that have to fall into place,” Hanle said. He wouldn’t elaborate on the pieces.
The Skico has previously replaced antiquated chairlifts with high-speed quads at Main Buttermilk and West Buttermilk.
Even with a new chairlift at Tiehack, that side of the mountain faces constraints for a base lift, Stark noted. Parking is limited to two small lots on that side of the mountain.
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A restriction on outdoor water use for Glenwood Springs city water customers is in place Saturday night until 8 a.m. Monday following heavy weekend rains over both the Grizzly Creek and Lake Christine burn scars.