Six Big Lifts Launch in Colorado

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This new high-speed chairlift on Beaver Creek Mountain is one of six new lifts on Colorado slopes this season, representing the most new additions in a single year since 2013.

With over 100 detachable chairlifts, 22 gondolas and some 150 fixed-grip lifts, the Colorado lift fleet represents a total investment somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 million.  The Centennial State has more ski lifts than any other state or province and on each visit I’m amazed by the caliber of ski infrastructure here.  More than half of Colorado’s lifts are detachable models, a feat which no other North American region comes close to achieving.  This winter, six more high-speed chairlifts came on scene, and while none open up new terrain, each one serves an important purpose.  I was lucky enough to ride the new machines at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper, Eldora, Keystone and Vail over three days this week, testament to the remarkable amount of skiing available within a few hours’ drive here.  This year’s class includes two Doppelmayr high-speed quads, a Doppelmayr six-pack and three Leitner-Poma six-place chairs representing half of all new detachable chairlifts built in North America for 2017-18.

Red Buffalo Express – Beaver Creek Mountain

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The last lift from Beaver Creek’s 1980 inaugural season, Drink of Water, was replaced with a new lift with a new name over the summer.  The quad’s namesake, Red Buffalo Park, is now a dedicated learning zone with awe-inspring views of the Gore Range from 11,400 feet.  While lift 5’s terminals, hangers, grips and operator houses are new, most of the tower components and chairs are from the former Montezuma lift at Keystone.  Like its sister Vail, Beaver Creek now has just one fixed-grip lift of appreciable length remaining alongside an amazing 14 detachable chairlifts and gondolas.

Falcon SuperChair – Breckenridge

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Breckenridge debuted its third next-gen Leitner-Poma LPA six-pack on December 28th.  The new Falcon SuperChair replaces a Poma high-speed quad that opened along with Peak 10 itself in 1985.  The new ride lifts capacity by 25 percent to 3,000 guests per hour in this popular advanced-intermediate pod.  The Falcon has the same sweet plush chairs as the new Colorado and Kensho SuperChairs.

Kokomo Express – Copper Mountain

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Copper proves this season that a new lift doesn’t have to be big to make a big difference for skiers and snowboarders.  The old Kokomo, a 1981 Poma triple, was well-maintained with adequate capacity but its fast-moving chairs proved an operational challenge.  The new Kokomo Express is set back from the Union Creek lodge, allowing for better flow and a larger maze area (Copper also added Axess RFID gates this year, requiring more space.)  A new building at the top called Koko’s Hut will open soon alongside a new carpet lift, giving beginners a world-class teaching experience away from the base hustle and bustle.

Montezuma Express – Keystone

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Leitner-Poma also won the contract to replace the 1990 vintage Montezuma Express with a six-place version at Keystone.  Four chairlifts and two gondolas with a combined hourly capacity of 15,800 skiers now converge on the summit of Dercum Mountain.  Even taken alone, the new Montezuma is a beast at over 7,000 feet long, 1,000 horsepower and moving up to 3,000 Keystone guests per hour.

Alpenglow – Eldora

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With new ownership, a new brand, remodeled lodge and new lift, Eldora feels like an entirely different resort from the one I visited last season.  The mountain’s new identity prominently features a tree logo, the color orange and tagline “Closer to You.”  Challenge and Cannonball are out, a six-pack is in.  Originally slated to be called Eldo Express, Alpenglow is the crown jewel of Powdr’s newest mountain, providing a 4.1 minute ride up the popular terrain on the front side.  While the Forest Service normally frowns upon brightly-colored lifts, the sunset orange and black Alpenglow terminals feel at home at the new Eldora and prove the right lift in the right place can change everything.

Northwoods Express – Vail

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Vail Mountain is up to ten new lifts in eleven years with the addition of a six-pack at Northwoods, an accomplishment unmatched in North America.  New #11 is the mountain’s fourth Leitner-Poma LPA detachable and first non-Doppelmayr six-pack (the very first LPA lift, the High Noon Express, unloads right next door.)  Only three of Vail’s first-generation detachable lifts remain – Born Free, Game Creek and Orient.

What’s does Colorado have in store for next year?  We know Vail Resorts is flexing its capital improvement muscle mostly outside the state.  Arapahoe Basin will add a Leitner-Poma fixed-grip quad in The Beavers and Wolf Creek is likely to move forward with the Meadow project, a short detachable quad below Alberta.  Alterra could make a splash at Winter Park or Steamboat.  Vail and Aspen Highlands may see new race venue surface lifts and Purgatory is seeking approval for the Gelande lift.  While this season’s slow start could affect lift sales, I can attest that the skiing in Eagle, Summit, and Boulder counties is excellent right now and there’s a whole lot of winter left.

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12 thoughts on “Six Big Lifts Launch in Colorado

  1. Collin January 20, 2018 / 3:51 pm

    Northwoods is lift 11 not lift 9. 9 is the new Sun Up lift.

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  2. smacpats January 20, 2018 / 4:04 pm

    There other mountains are, replacing High speed quads, meanwhile I’m over here just wanting ANY new lift installation. Intrawest really did not give us at stratton anything, hopefully Alterra comes through with some new lifts.

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    • Collin January 20, 2018 / 4:25 pm

      The weakest link in the Stratton lift system is the SnowBowl Quad. It spends more days when it’s scheduled to run on wind hold than actually running. And when it does run it’s nearly 5000 feet long and takes over 10 minutes to ride. When it’s closed it leaves two ways to ski that side of the main mountain. Take the gondola, or AMEX to URSA. Both routes take forever with the lift lines that Stratton gets on weekends. A high speed quad or six that was properly lowered at the top to avoid the wind closures would take a lot of the load off of URSA and the gondola.

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      • smacpats January 20, 2018 / 5:53 pm

        YES! A snowbowl six-pack would take pressure off of tons of the lifts! It would take pressure off of Amex, Gondola and Ursa for why you stated, it would take pressure off of Both Shooting Star and Sunrise express, because us locals would finally have another area to ski without atrocious lines, and it would take pressure off of South American/Tamarack because of the shorter Amex line leading to shorter lines for them. A Kidderbrook High Speed quad would also be extremely appreciated right now. Lapping the kidderbrook pod feels like an long, drawn out adventure right now. Especially when there is 12 inches of fresh snow on the flat “Traverse” at the bottom. 3 minutes down, 15 minutes to get back to the top. Really not acceptable.

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      • Collin January 20, 2018 / 6:04 pm

        What it would not take pressure off of is the trails. But a necessity nonetheless. If you’ve ever ridden the Summit Express at Pico or the Superstar Express at Killinton, it needs to be that low to the ground at the very top. You wouldn’t be able to cross under the lift at that point, but it’s easy enough to go around the top of it if coming off any of the summit lifts.

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      • Collin January 20, 2018 / 6:09 pm

        Another benefit of a Snow Bowl replacement is they could get rid of that stupid traverse Interstate that bisects the entire looker’s right side of the mountain since you wouldn’t need to use it to go all the way back over to URSA to avoid burning half an hour in the gondola line.

        I couldn’t really justify an new Kidderbrook lift unless a few more trails were added in that section, and they still need to add snowmaking to all the existing Sun Bowl trails.

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  3. Bryan South January 28, 2018 / 5:47 pm

    Just got back from Colorado and rode all 4 new Vail Resorts chairs. I would say the Falcon chair replacement was the least necessary. I don’t think that lift really ever had that big of a line, but maybe it was more of just replacing an older lift than increasing capacity. Also, it seems like the moving carpets didn’t catch on, as every new 6 pack doesn’t seem to be getting them like they did in the past few years. I didn’t mind them, but I know quite a lot of people really don’t like them, and I’m not really sure that they sped up the loading process anyways.

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    • Bryan South January 28, 2018 / 6:03 pm

      Also, something I’ve always wondered about compared to CA, is just how many of the lifts in CO have foot rests. Why do most CA lifts not have foot rests? In-fact, some lifts that did have foot rests have since had them cut off. I do know of at-least two incidents with kids falling from lifts because of foot rests, and kids trying to stand on them, but if they were removed for that reason then why do some lifts still have them?

      I wish more CA lifts had foot rests.

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      • At many of the Colorado resorts, the detachables cover very long distances and so footrests would be warranted. (Like, I’m a regular at Breckenridge, where every superchair except for Imperial is at least a mile long) Vail has the justification of being a premium resort, so that’s why even their shorter high speed quads have footrests (referring to the Sourdough Express lift).

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    • Donald Reif (@DonaldMReif) June 14, 2018 / 1:29 pm

      The Falcon SuperChair six pack was both about replacing the older and also about better wind resistance (which I think is the reason the Kensho SuperChair was built as a six pack even though I don’t think it gets the traffic to warrant a six pack).

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      • Thomas Jett June 14, 2018 / 3:47 pm

        Mammoth did a similar thing when it upgraded Chair 9. Squaw did as well for Headwall.

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