Just over a year ago, Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff hadn’t seen a new lift in 30 years. Now under the ownership of James Coleman, the resort is undergoing a renaissance with two new lifts in the last two years, new snowmaking coverage and expanded terrain. Last fall, Skytrac installed a new quad chair on the lower mountain named Humphrey’s Peak, a nod to Arizona’s highest mountain. This winter, Snowbowl will add the largest new chairlift in the country called the Grand Canyon Express. Built by Leitner-Poma, the six-pack is nearly complete and staff couldn’t be more excited about their mountain’s first detachable lift serving popular intermediate terrain with a six minute ride.
The first six-place lift in the state is large by any measure, not just gauge but also length (5,801 feet) with an impressive vertical of 1,546 feet. The line will have 61 chairs initially, moving up to 1,800 skiers per hour at 1,000 feet per minute. Arizona Snowbowl will be able to add 54 more chairs to reach 3,400 pph in the future. The new lift serves all of the terrain formerly accessible from the Sunset triple chair, which may eventually be removed. The Grand Canyon Express also accesses 90 percent of the acreage off Agassiz, Snowbowl’s workhorse lift that takes 13 minutes to ride.
Construction of the Grand Canyon Express posed challenges for the teams from Leitner-Poma and the Snowbowl. Before work could begin on the lift, workers needed to cut trees on the majority of the lift line on an average 27 degree cross-slope. 25,000 cubic yards of fill was removed to make way for the return terminal adjacent to the Hart Prarie Lodge. Up top, Leitner-Poma has been challenged to build a terminal with 800 HP AC drive in an area with no established road at 11,000 feet above sea level. Despite August rains, construction remains on schedule for a November opening. All 16 towers were flown in September and the haul rope has arrived from Redaelli.
The rope will be spliced before chairs are hung in in the coming weeks and riders of the Grand Canyon Express should be treated to views of Arizona’s most famous landmark by Thanksgiving.