Vail Nears Completion of New Sun Up Express

Brian Jorgenson of Timberline Helicopters flies a tower head for the new Sun Up Express lift on the backside of Vail Mountain.  Brian and his team have flown lift parts at Arizona Snowbowl, Big Sky, Grand Targhee, Jackson Hole, Steamboat, Sundance and Vail so far this summer.

With construction underway on a new lift for the ninth time in ten years, Vail Mountain will have only three fixed-grip chairlifts this winter. Adding to what is already the largest detachable lift fleet in the world outside of Europe, Vail and Leitner-Poma are now building the mountain’s 19th high-speed lift in the famous Back Bowls to replace the Sun Up #17 triple.  This is a major milestone for a mountain that in 1984 operated a whopping 19 fixed-grip chairlifts.   Following on the heels of two new six-packs from Doppelmayr USA in 2013 and 2015, Vail switched back to Leitner-Poma for its newest high speed quad, which will be designated Lift #9.  With its production facility down I-70 in Grand Junction, Leitner-Poma also supplied Vail’s Gondola One in 2012 and seven high speed quads in a row before that. Vail regulars will note that number 9 used to belong to the Minnie’s lift from 1972 until it was removed without being replaced in 2008.

Tire banks for the return terminal of the new Sun Up lift await their new home in Vail’s Back Bowls.

The Sun Up Express will achieve 65 percent higher capacity than the 1992 triple version it replaces, which was actually one of the original lifts Doppelmayr built at Beaver Creek in 1980.  Fun fact: B.C.’s Centennial was originally two separate triple chairs.  What became Sun Up at Vail was the upper lift called Horseshoe.  The triple chair is now history and will probably find a third home somewhere in the Vail Resorts empire or beyond.

Sun Up Express’ uphill capacity will be 2,400 skiers per hour which should help alleviate crowding on lifts 5 and 9.  The Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin will now have a combined seven high speed quads.  Lift 9 will feature 82 quad chairs and 14 towers, most of which were set last week by helicopter.  The lift will have a vertical rise of 1,115 feet and will be 3,865 feet long with a 670 HP AC top drive located near Two Elk Lodge.  Sun Up Express will be Vail’s third lift with the new LPA (Leitner Poma Automatic) grips and terminals.

In keeping with Vail Mountain’s agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, the Leitner-Poma crew couldn’t begin construction on the new lift until after July 1 due to elk calving season.  Nonetheless, concrete work is about finished and 12 of the 14 towers are in with terminals to follow.  Most station components including the tension unit, acceleration/deceleration equipment and turnarounds have already been delivered.

Vail Resorts’ impressive and sustained investment in new lifts is likely to continue in upcoming years at its namesake mountain.  Likely on deck for replacement are the 1985 Game Creek Express #7, 1985 Northwoods Express #11, 1988 Born Free Express #8 and 1988 Orient Express #21.  Vail Resorts typically reveals company-wide lift construction plans on its second quarter earnings call in March.  While we wait for that, Vail guests will enjoy a sub-four minute ride in Sun Up Bowl this season.

5 thoughts on “Vail Nears Completion of New Sun Up Express

  1. Rob Withey September 27, 2016 / 11:12 am

    Hopefully they have some spare cash for the three 1987 models we have.


    • Peter Landsman September 28, 2016 / 10:23 am

      You aren’t alone Rob, Heavenly and Beaver Creek still have CLD-260s too.


  2. someone. November 11, 2020 / 8:03 am

    They should have stuck with the omega chairs to mach the high noon express. Vail seriously, why you want a new lift not to stick with other leitner poma quad chairs.


    • Donald Reif November 11, 2020 / 10:46 am

      The LPA chair has become standard now for Leitner-Poma’s detachables. They started selling the high speed six pack variant in North America with bubbles in 2011 beginning with Bluebird Express, debuted the non-bubble variant with the Kensho SuperChair in 2013, and the high speed quad version of the LPA chairs debuted in 2014 or 2015. And the Sun Up Express isn’t the only lift at Vail with the LPA chairs now, since the Northwoods Express lift also has them.


      • Someone November 11, 2020 / 11:22 am

        Do they still have the omega chair option on detachable quads? I know it is still an option on 6 packs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s