Finishing Up in the Snow at Solitude

Finishing up at the drive terminal.
Drive terminal for Solitude’s Summit Express on 11/8/15.

Since I last posted about Solitude’s Summit Express project in September, workers from Solitude and Highlander Lift Services have made a ton of progress, completing 19 towers and the top terminal.  Comm-line is being installed and the haul rope is on a spool at the bottom terminal location.  I say location because the lift doesn’t actually have a bottom terminal yet.  Walking up to the summit today, it’s obvious why the top got priority.  Not only is it the drive, the top is also located on a ridge at over 10,000 feet.  These guys are lucking out with the weather to be building terminals in November with just inches of snow on the ground instead of feet.  The bottom terminal will be at 8,690′ in a more accessible spot and should go up quickly. The biggest components for it are already up there and the operator house is installed.

The bottom terminal has a ways to go!
Towers 3-8. The lift line has lots of ups, downs and double fall lines.

The Summit Express is a Doppelmayr detachable quad replacing a double chair which was one of the first twenty lifts CTEC built back in 1982.  The replacement high speed quad’s lift line is completely new and very steep with a bunch of challenging tower locations.  At one point, the lift line crests a ridge and jogs sharply down before continuing up again.  This lift reminds me of Peruvian at Snowbird (which is only a few miles away) with some very steep sections alternating with flat ones.

Sometimes you have to go down to go up. The first tower in this picture is 11.
Depression tower #13, one of the few towers near a road.

The Summit Express is just under 5,000 feet long with a vertical of about 1,315 feet, making it Solitude’s longest, tallest and highest lift.  The old Summit started 200 vertical feet higher, was 800 feet shorter and could only be accessed from Powderhorn.  The new lift can be reached by a new run cut from the top of Apex Express, improving access dramatically.  Check out Solitude’s all-new trail map below showing the new lift/run and the entire resort in one view.

solitude map 2016
James Niehues painted a new map for Solitude this summer.
This is the last pitch before the summit.

Solitude went very close to Vail’s color scheme for their new Uni-G terminals.  The stations are navy blue with dark gray on the ends and underskin.  The navy is noticeably different from the bright blue and yellow paint on Solitude’s three other detachables.

IMG_6025 IMG_6035

Solitude opens on November 21st but I suspect the Summit Express won’t be in the mix until December.  That’s understandable considering the lift line was a forest seven months ago.


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