Beaver Creek Resort faced a unique challenge last year when they needed to replace their aging workhorse lift. The original Centennial Express was one of Doppelmayr’s first high speed quads, built in 1986. Vail Resorts wanted the new lift to serve skiers as well as private events at the Spruce Saddle Lodge while at the same time achieving a high hourly capacity. Originally announced as a regular six pack, Vail and Doppelmayr later decided to build the world’s only chondola with six passenger chairs and ten passenger gondola cabins.
The result is an impressive lift nearly 8,000 foot long that moves 3,400 passengers an hour. 25 10-passenger CWA Omega gondola cabins alternate with 125 chairs in a 5:1 ratio. The old lift had 195 quad chairs but moved 35 percent fewer people. The new Centennial rises over 2,000 vertical feet in 7.9 minutes at 1,000 fpm. It has 25 towers, five fewer than the original.
Both terminals are extremely long with separate loading/unloading areas for chairs and cabins. In the winter, there is a loading carpet for skiers wishing to ride chairs. The top terminal has an 1,833 HP drive motor, indoor cabin maintenance facility and large gen set for backup power. One of the disadvantages of the chondola is that in summer there is no way to load chairs at the top or unload at the bottom so everyone downloading has to ride in a gondola. It just isn’t practical to have chairs loading and unloading on one platform. Beaver Creek also does not allow riders on chairs with bike carriers.