Mapping Future Lifts on Vail Mountain


Vail is a mountain which needs no introduction.  The nation’s third largest resort now attracts more than 1.6 million skiers a season, 60 percent of which are destination visitors from around the world.  Owner Vail Resorts has constructed a staggering ten new lifts in the last eleven years at its flagship, including a new 10 passenger gondola and three six place chairlifts.  While the beast may take a brief break to focus on snowmaking and other enhancements this year, a new master plan suggests more big ticket lift investments are coming.

Today’s Vail spans 5,289 acres with two gondolas, 20 chairlifts and three surface platters.

Already approved for construction is the upper Golden Peak project, consisting of three new trails and a T-Bar above the Riva Bahn angle station.  This lift will be 2,001 feet long with a vertical of 678 feet.  While built for with ski racing in mind, the new pod will be open to the public with a capacity of 1,400 skiers per hour.  Construction is set to begin as soon as this summer.

At the opposite end of Vail’s front side, the last standing of four 1985 detachable quads is Game Creek Express.  This lift is approved to be replaced in the near future with a six person detachable.  It would be Vail’s fourth such lift following upgrades to the Mountaintop, Northwoods and Avanti Express lifts.  Uphill capacity would rise from 2,800 per hour to 3,200 in popular Game Creek Bowl.


The Wildwood Express, a CTEC dating from 1995, would be replaced with a modern version.  A similar project would swap the two stage Riva Bahn Express (1996 CTEC) for a new model.  Born Free Express, a 1988 Doppelmayr, would also be replaced.  Next door, the Eagle Bahn Gondola is coming up on 25 years of service.  “Given its year-round, day and night operations, freight hauling duties, and limited capacity, the gondola will need a major overall or potentially an upgrade during the life of this plan,” the MDP notes.

Another proposed front side project is the Ever Vail Gondola, which would move 2,400 guests per hour from a new portal west of Lionshead.  This lift was initially planned to terminate above the bottom of the Pride Express lift.  Newer thinking has the gondola replacing that lift as well with an angle station at the current bottom terminal.  With this option, the lift would have a slope length over 9,100 feet, making it the fourth longest on the mountain.  Riders originating in West Lionshead could ascend all the way to Eagle’s Nest without needing to transfer lifts.

The nearby Cascade Village lift, a 1987 CTEC quad servicing Vail’s westernmost trail and the new Hotel Talisa, would be replaced with a detachable quad under the plan.  This project would leave just two remaining fixed grip chairlifts in a sea of detachable technology at Vail.


In the Back Bowls, the 1988 vintage Orient Express would be replaced with a new high speed quad, increasing throughput from 2,400 to 2,800 in the process.  I am a bit surprised this is not proposed as a six pack.  In fact, Game Creek is the only additional lift set to become a six place chair under this master plan.

A major new lift approved in 2009 but not yet built is called the Sun Down Express.  This high speed, detachable quad would stretch more than 6,000 feet from the bottom of Lift 5 to the top of Lift 7 with a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.  Currently, the Sun Up Express and Teacup Express lifts provide egress for over 4,000 acres of terrain, causing congestion on busy afternoons.  Sun Down would become a much-needed reliever.

On the opposite end of Vail’s Back Bowls, the Mongolia Express is proposed to replace the difficult to access Mongolia platter, which opens only some of the time.  At 5,786′ feet long with a vertical of 1,575′, skiers would be able to spread out and lap this high speed quad without needing to return to the Orient Express.

While no new lifts are proposed in Blue Sky Basin, its operational boundary could be expanded both east and west.  A series of new trails are proposed near Pete’s Express along with groomed access to West Earl’s Bowl.

Vail Resorts announces new lifts for its resorts each December and I expect at least one of the many projects in the new master plan will get the green light for 2020.

95 thoughts on “Mapping Future Lifts on Vail Mountain

  1. mzg April 10, 2019 / 5:44 pm

    Aren’t there issues with crazy environmentalist over Blue Sky? I thought those areas on the edges were protected habitats as part of a compromise.


        • reaperskier April 11, 2019 / 5:54 am

          Three words: Earth Liberation Front.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Max Hart April 11, 2019 / 6:24 am

          And don’t forget the Sierra Club…


        • Peter Landsman April 11, 2019 / 7:37 am

          I’d like to think times have changed since the Vail arsons. I can think of only one ski resort expansion which has been denied on environmental grounds in the United States over the last five years and that’s Eldora. Just recently, Powdr reached an agreement with the Sierra Club and local environmental groups to allow part of the project to proceed. Also look at what is happening with the Base to Base Gondola. Alterra signed an agreement with – you guessed it – the Sierra Club – to move the alignment away from the Granite Chief Wilderness and avoid litigation. There is a brand new ski area being built on public land in Alaska as we speak. I see the slowdown of expansions as largely due to economic factors, not opposition or red tape.

          Look at what is happening in Canada too. All these huge ski resort ideas still get approved but never built.

          I’d argue most skiers are sympathetic to environmental causes and many environmentalists are skiers. Of all the uses of our public lands, skiing is relatively low impact compared to mining, grazing, logging, etc. I think the Sierra Club and others are wisely focusing their efforts mostly elsewhere.

          Liked by 1 person

        • mzg April 11, 2019 / 9:08 am

          To clarify my comment:

          I consider committing Arson to be crazy.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Ryan Gardner April 11, 2019 / 3:47 pm

          It’s the radical hardcore environmental wackos that tends to be the troublemakers. I believe all mentally sane people with common sense people out there exhibit some form of environmental care and concern, but the ones who feel it is their way or no way are the ones who cause the trouble.


    • Sam A. April 11, 2019 / 10:55 am

      Wasn’t the High Noon Triple patrially burned by enviromentalists?


      • Somebody April 11, 2019 / 1:19 pm

        The top terminal was.


  2. reaperskier April 10, 2019 / 6:53 pm

    Once the cascade village lift is replaced with a high speed quad, why not vail relocate it to game creek bowl to create an egress lift following the ouzo trail.


  3. Collin Parsons April 10, 2019 / 7:33 pm

    I agree with what was mentioned in a different thread that Orient should become a 6 pack and Riva Bahn should become a gondola.

    As far as the order this is done in, Game Creek is obviously top priority. I think any replacement that doesn’t increase capacity is low priority and should only be done if reliability is an issue, so that makes Orient more important than Born Free. So after Game Creek and Orient, it would make sense to do the expansion lifts next. However, Born Free could be prioritized as it would be the last remaining CLD-260. I don’t think it makes any sense to replace Wildwood and Riva Bahn with the exact same thing unless reliability is becoming a serious concern. Pride should stay as well unless replaced by the gondola.


    • Somebody April 10, 2019 / 10:06 pm

      I agree. Seems a bit early for Vail to be talking about upgrading late 90s detachables. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the 90s detachables made it a lot longer than the 80s ones because of the switch from Chains to Tires. Only time will tell though..


      • Collin Parsons April 10, 2019 / 10:26 pm

        Montezuma from Keystone and Zephyr from Winter Park are the only two tire driven detachables that have been scrapped (except the Yan ones). Both were built in 1990. Zephyr was definitely going to be scrapped because it had super high hours from running evenings and summers and it was a prototype model that could only go 800 feet per minute. I think scrapping Montezuma made no sense. They could have used the terminals to convert Wayback to a detachable and other stuff for Red Buffalo like they did.

        I think the recent relocations of old tire driven detachables like Ramcharger/Shedhorn at Big Sky and Whirlwind/Wonderama at Windham says a lot about the longevity of them compared to the lifts with chain systems.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thomas Jett April 10, 2019 / 10:57 pm

          The 90s lifts that Vail wants to replace are all first-generation CTEC. Maybe that has something to do with it.


        • Donald Reif #SaveDaredevil (@DonaldMReif) April 11, 2019 / 12:03 am

          Per that logic, it’s easy to assume that Breck will probably keep the Beaver Run SuperChair running for at least another decade before contemplating an upgrade, same for the Mercury and Rocky Mountain SuperChairs.


        • Collin Parsons April 11, 2019 / 7:58 am

          Beaver Run was originally a chain drive system that was upgraded. It will be the next detachable replaced at Breckenridge for sure, but it seems like Vail has taken a break on building anything there.


      • Ryan Murphy April 17, 2019 / 1:07 am

        I don’t think replacements of equal capacity will happen for a while, but by at least getting them on the table, if not approved, now, it makes life a lot easier down the road. If you’re sending in a bunch of things to the FS anyway, why not add something you know will eventually have to happen, even if that’s 15 years or more from now?


      • pbropetech January 28, 2021 / 8:44 am

        You’re repeating a common misconception re: lifts with chain contours versus tire contours. Consider in your own statement that the 80s lifts you reference are ten years older than the 90s lifts. That is what makes them candidates for replacement, not the fact that they have chains. They’re just plumb worn out, and they were typically installed as the area’s primary lifts so they see a lot of traffic. When the 90s lifts get to be 30-plus years old, I think we’ll see replacements as well. Vail is considering replacement based on capacity needs anyway- Gondola One dumps a lot of people at Mid-Vail and chair 4 was already upgraded. I completely understand why they want to do 3 as well even though it’s newer.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’d prioritize the Game Creek Express above the Orient Express and Born Free Express, since it’s the only egress from Game Creek Bowl (and the lengthy stops that happen when ski patrol has to load and unload a toboggan with an injured guest can be inconveniently long).

      As for the Pride Express, I think that it will stay as is because I’m pretty convinced the Ever Vail project hasn’t really taken off at all. Not to mention, some people might want to be able to lap the upper part of those West Front Side trails without going all the way down to Lionshead / removing their equipment after each run.


    • Kevin April 12, 2019 / 11:36 am

      The down time on #7 is getting to be too much, especially the current season, many times this season it had a delayed opening due to problems. I was half expecting Vail to announce that it too would get replaced this season along with the snowmaking installation at the top and the T-Bar, but not looking promising right now.

      I would agree that #6 should be a gondola, but not just stopping at its current location, extending it all the way to 2 Elk with 2 mid-stations. The racers wouldn’t be happy about having to take their skis/boards off each time, but it would be very beginner friendly to get beginners to and from the Sourdough area. It would also allow non skiing/riding guests the chance to get to 2 Elk to experience the views without having to ride a chairlift. This could also be a catalyst for the resort to consider snowmaking installation in the Sourdough area to better handle low snow years.


      • Pockets April 14, 2019 / 9:04 pm

        I think a telemix makes a whole lot more sense for Riva Bahn than a Gondola but even then I think that would exceed capacity demands. Golden Peak isn’t the starting point that Vail Village and Lionshead are.

        As for extending it up to Two Elk, that’s the last thing Vail needs to waste money on…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Myles Svec November 14, 2021 / 4:13 pm

          How would a Chondola with a midstation work? No gondola unloading at mid?


      • V12Tommy April 16, 2019 / 10:37 pm

        Why? There is super easy beginner access to Sourdough and 2 Elk by skiing from chair 6 to chair 10. 10 is awesome steep terrain, but getting to the bottom is super easy, even flat if you want, and then 10 to 14 is very easy as well.


      • Greg August 22, 2019 / 8:55 pm

        Don’t ever put a gondola up to two elk . We need at least one restaurant, stop spot , without hoards of grandparents and kids , camping all day at the tables and chairs , while the parents ski. They have eagle Bahn and mid vale already. Leave two elk for the skiers/snowboarders who don’t want to listen to screaming kids at lunchtime.

        Liked by 2 people

    • ALEX BOESENBERG April 13, 2019 / 12:32 pm

      Now that Highline/Sourdough are HSQs, when Vail replaces the Riva Bahn does Vail still need the extension of Riva Bahn to Northwoods as you can ski down to Highline from the Riva Bahn mid-station? Hence I know skiers would prefer it but having the mid-station and the extension makes the lift much more expensive.


      • They absolutely would still need the second stage. One can reach the Highline Express from the Riva Bahn midstation, but most skier traffic uses the lift to reach the Northwoods Express lift, which begins at the upper terminal (you get off, and you’re dropped off right at the Northwoods Express). Taking out the second stage would inconvenience a lot of skiers by making them have to take a minimum of three lifts to get to Patrol Headquarters when starting from Golden Peak, instead of just two.

        Liked by 1 person

        • ALEX April 14, 2019 / 9:31 am

          I think it depends on where people are headed. I saw stat a while ago that >50% of the skiers on Vail mountain head to China Bowl/Blue Sky on a daily basis, thus if you are headed there anyway you have to take a minimum of three lifts regardless with the third being Sourdough or Sun Up (unless you want to take the Sleeptime catwalk). Net net i think a lot of people starting at Golden Peak are headed towards Two Elk vs PHQ.


        • I wouldn’t know the accuracy of those stats. Having Riva Bahn deposit directly at the Northwoods Express also serves the benefit of providing an alternate route to Patrol Headquarters if Gondola One goes down for whatever reason.


  4. skitheeast April 10, 2019 / 11:17 pm

    This is going to sound ambitious, but I think the best idea for a Born Free/Eagle Bahn replacement is a single, massive 3S gondola essentially in the same place as Eagle Bahn today. These systems can transport up to 5,500 passengers per hour (hence it could replace these two people eaters). They are also the best type of lift for summer operations, which is crucial because Epic Discovery is located at the top of Eagle Bahn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ALEX April 10, 2019 / 11:37 pm

      Not sure about 3S per se, but I do think that they should replace both Born Free and Eagle Bahn with one lift. I was thinking more along the lines of the new Blackcomb Gondola (10 PAX, 4000 PPH). They could also look at a Funitel if a 3S is too ambitious.


        • Somebody April 11, 2019 / 10:16 am

          I agree. If it’s a warm day, I don’t want to ride a gondola. If it’s a cold day, the chair will have a much shorter line than the gondola, so I’ll take it instead.

          In my opinion, just replace the terminals and grips on born free with modern ones. The chairs and towers still have a lot of use left in them anyways. We can think about Eagle bahn in 15 years when that lift actually needs to be replaced.


        • ALEX April 11, 2019 / 10:22 am

          BTW I prefer chairlifts as well but not sure how much that matters given the costs of an entire additional lift that is really only for morning egress.


        • @Somebody: Just replacing the Born Free Express’s terminals and grips wouldn’t be too far fetched, and would be much cheaper than building an all new lift. New Doppelmayr UNI-G terminals and AG grips, like the Avanti Express and Mountaintop Express use, and the lift is brand-new. Mount Bachelor did exactly that when they rebuilt the Pine Marten Express lift in 2006 (replace the CLD-260 terminals with UNI-GS terminals, and the DS-104 grips with DT-104 grips).

          Liked by 1 person

        • Charlie April 13, 2019 / 11:11 am

          What about a chondola?


        • Donald Reif #SaveDaredevil (@DonaldMReif) April 14, 2019 / 10:07 am

          A chondola would be more practical if it’s a lift that both laps a lot of terrain and gets a lot of foot traffic. American Eagle is a perfect example of a lift line where a chondola is justified.

          Admittedly, Gondola One is also a lift line where a chondola could be justified, but then again, most people who use it are likely not coming back to Vail Village until the end of the day.


        • Skristiansen January 31, 2021 / 6:09 am

          Out of all the lifts I wish were easier to lap at vail, I would say gondola one. It has some awesome steeps. Although a giant steps high speed quad would still provide access to the four double blacks on the central front side.

          Liked by 1 person

      • skitheeast April 11, 2019 / 9:12 am

        The only reason I said 3S was because of capacity. These two lifts have a combined capacity of 5800 (might be slightly off) so a gondola of 4000 would be a decrease in capacity in an area where wait times are often very high (especially in the morning). A 3S can have a higher capacity than a traditional gondola. A funitel may work as well, not sure what that maximum capacity is.


        • Peter Landsman April 11, 2019 / 4:03 pm

          The master plan notes Vail operates Eagle Bahn as an 8 passenger gondola so the effective hourly capacity is only 2,000. A Soelden-style 10 passenger gondola would be similar in capacity to the two current lifts. There are plenty of places in the US that would be great for a 3S but I don’t think one is necessary at Vail.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Collin Parsons April 15, 2019 / 5:26 pm

          That means Eagle Bahn is similar to Whiteface where the actual throughput of the gondola is way below the design capacity. They only load 6 instead of 8 as designed so the capacity is only 75% of the design spec and that assumes full speed. However, they operate their gondola at around 850 feet per minute, not the 1212 feet per minute top speed so the actual capacity is really about 50% of what it’s rated for. I don’t know if Eagle Bahn ever runs at full speed (6 m/s). If it does not, the capacity is truly pathetic for the main lift out of that base.


        • Donald Reif #SaveDaredevil (@DonaldMReif) April 15, 2019 / 11:37 pm

          Which results in situations where the Born Free Express lift has more uphill capacity than the Eagle Bahn. (Born Free has 2,800 pph and almost always runs full speed)


        • Joe Traynor January 27, 2021 / 11:29 pm

          I mean, a 3s system would bring back some nostalgia from the old lionshead bell gondola which had huge towers. Would be kinda big, but huge in the nostalgia and possibly not too practical.


      • V12Tommy April 16, 2019 / 10:43 pm

        There is really no point of a 3S gondola there. 3S is for huge crowds and large spans. Current single cable system works fine. Plus any new lift would have to transport cargo as well, as that is how most of the food and stuff ends up on the mountain. Also early season Born Free is used as one of the first lifts to open and they only make snow from midway down, not to mention the upper part of Born Free is steeper than most tourists can handle. And of course there is the fact that most locals like myself would much rather ride the lift than take off our gear on a gondola.


        • Donald Reif #SaveDaredevil (@DonaldMReif) April 17, 2019 / 11:54 am

          Gondolas are only really practical for in the morning when you’re headed up, and you’re not gonna come back ’til the end of the day. Which is why I’m fine with Gondola One where it is. Although at the same time, (like I’ve said a few times already) I’d like to see a high speed quad on the Giant Steps line, maybe extended all the way to the top of the Eagle’s Nest Ridge, to provide one-seat access from Vail Village to Eagle’s Nest. Same for bringing back Minnie’s as a high speed quad.


        • V12Tommy April 17, 2019 / 4:13 pm

          There is really non need for a Giant Steps lift to go all the way to the top. You’d be going parallel to Chair 2. The original install location makes perfect sense, take Giant Steps and transfer to Chair 2 for the trip to the top. Lines aren’t really an issue now that Chair 2 is a 6 pack.


    • BarkeeStone December 12, 2019 / 9:44 am

      The 3S gondola idea seems unnecessarily but extending Born Free to the top where Eagle Bahn is sitting. Or they can add a chondola for Born Free.


      • Donald Reif December 12, 2019 / 11:32 am

        I think it’s a good idea to have two lifts out of Lionshead, with the Born Free Express not going the whole way. Guests can use it in conjunction with the Pride Express as an alternative to the Eagle Bahn Gondola to get to Eagle’s Nest, and those headed towards the Central and East Front Side, Game Creek Bowl, the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin can traverse over to the Avanti Express directly and bypass Eagle’s Nest entirely.


        • V12Tommy December 12, 2019 / 7:08 pm

          Yeah, I think chair access out of Lionshead is crucial. I was sad to see the Giant Steps lift go away out of the village. Now that Gondi 1 replaced the Vista Bahn, if you want to lap the terrain, you have to take your skis off, and ride with all the whiny gapers with their heated seats and wifi. Fine for first run of the day, but a pain if you want to lap the steep stuff.


  5. Mark Bergman April 11, 2019 / 4:35 pm

    The Game Creek lift #7 has experienced more than average down time this season and is the main likely candidate for the next replacement. The Cascade lift gets so little traffic it will be low on the list unless the Hotel Talisa offers up some $$.
    Sundown Bowl is a special place that requires some work to access it and I, for one, am ok with putting in some extra effort. Today, it is one area where we may get fresh tracks for a good while. I’m usually not opposed to change, but I’d be happy if the Sundown Express is delayed for years.


    • I think the Sundown Express is a very necessary addition that should come (maybe concurrent with a Game Creek Express upgrade) for the sake of traffic flow. It would ensure that in the afternoon, when Blue Sky Basin and China/Siberia/Mongolia Bowl traffic is moving back to the Front Side, they won’t be all going to the Northwoods Express (now true, the High Noon Express upgrade did relieve some of the Northwoods Express traffic, as has Northwoods’ own upgrade to a six pack), and one won’t have to go through Patrol Headquarters and Mid-Vail to get over to the central and west Front Side.

      “Sundown Bowl is a special place that requires some work to access it and I, for one, am ok with putting in some extra effort. Today, it is one area where we may get fresh tracks for a good while.” Except, the hard truth is, when it comes to “powder hounds who want to preserve their precious stashes” vs. “skiers who want to be able to move around the mountain more efficiently”, the latter crowd almost always wins out. I remember the same sorts of arguments being made when it was announced the High Noon Express was being built, and same for when Beaver Creek built the Rose Bowl Express lift. In fact, I’d make an argument a lot of the Sundown Express lift’s traffic would be traffic using the lift to avoid the Patrol Headquarters and Mid-Vail chokepoints as they head back to Game Creek Bowl and the West Front Side, especially in the afternoon when everyone’s leaving Blue Sky Basin and the Back Bowls (as stated in Peter’s original post, the Teacup Express, Northwoods Express and High Noon Express lifts can all get congested on busy afternoons because of the lift system setup).


      • Myles Svec November 14, 2021 / 4:46 pm

        Looking back at this comment, you correctly predicted Sundown Express and Game Creek upgrade being built together.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Some of the new Back Bowls lifts, I can see, are about helping traffic move around the mountain more efficiently and avoid chokepoints. The Sundown Express, for instance, will make it possible to lap the Sundown Bowl, and also make it possible for someone to travel from Blue Sky Basin to Game Creek Bowl, and the central and west parts of the Front Side, without having to go through Patrol Headquarters or Mid-Vail, moving traffic away from the Northwoods Express lift (in conjunction with the recent upgrade of the Northwoods Express to a high speed six pack).

    But one thing lacking in the master plan is more lifts for the central Front Side. I feel that there need to be a few more lifts here to provide more flexibility. Even with the Avanti Express being upgraded to a high speed six pack, it’s still the main lift for the central Front Side as it not only has this big pod of trails off of it, but it’s also the sole way of transiting from Lionshead over to Mid-Vail (yes, admittedly, from Eagle’s Nest, one can use the Game catwalk to the Game Creek Express, but that’s not very heavily used). I think the solution here would be to build a high speed quad known as the Giant Steps Express, starting close to the original double’s location (as close as can be with the new real estate), but extended all the way up to Eagle’s Nest Ridge, with a cutoff trail constructed from it that allows access to Mid-Vail. I’d also install a Minnie’s Express, running the full Minnie’s line with a mid-load half station where the lift was shortened to when the Pride Express was built in 1993.


  7. V12Tommy April 16, 2019 / 10:56 pm

    Wow, some of those ideas are awful. Replacing the Cascade lift with a detachable makes no sense unless the current lift is having issues. Hotel Talisa isn’t anything new, just a remodel and name change, and nobody laps that lift so it would be underutilized as a detachable.

    As for EverVail, should it ever actually get built, it would be an awful idea to eliminate chair 26 and have the gondola go to the top. There is some awesome terrain that 26 services and gondolas are awful to lap.

    I do like the idea of a Sundown lift. Same with the Mongola express concept, although I think one of the biggest reasons it doesn’t run sometimes is lack of staffing, so a new lift there wouldn’t change that.

    Another good addition that isn’t mentioned would be a rope tow between the Sourdough lift and the Teacup lift. There used to be one there before the Sourdough was realigned to make 2 Elk access easier, but a rope tow would be great for accessing the back bowls from the frontside on Sourdough as you’d gain access to the west side of China bowl, Tea Cup bowl, and Sun Up bowl via 14.


    • Donald Reif #SaveDaredevil (@DonaldMReif) April 17, 2019 / 12:11 pm

      I think EverVail was scrapped a while back, or at least, on indefinite hiatus. But agreed, the Pride Express does have its own trails that are fun for lapping, and can be used in conjunction with the Born Free Express as a nicer alternative to Eagle Bahn in getting up to Eagle’s Nest.

      I would say that with the proposed Mongolia Express, the big issue to work around would be the geographic location since getting to it would require using the Orient Express lift or one of the proposed new trails from the Pete’s Express lift. And coming back would entail a long runout back to the Orient Express or Teacup Express lifts.

      Agreed about bringing back the Westwall tow to make it possible to get from Two Elk to the west China Bowl, Teacup and Sun Up Bowls without going down to the Teacup Express.

      Really, if anywhere needs improvement, Vail needs to add some more chairlifts to the central Front Side for improved traffic flow. High speed quads on Giant Steps and Minnie’s in the defunct double chairlifts’ alignments (with Minnie’s starting where that double began prior to 1993) would be an ideal move.


      • V12Tommy April 17, 2019 / 4:10 pm

        I think a full length Minnie’s, and a Giant Steps installation would be perfect. I don’t even care if they are detachables or not. Plus it would hopefully mean that they’d stop calling Chair 17 as Chair 9 like they do now.


        • V12Tommy April 17, 2019 / 5:23 pm

          How would we know what lifts people are talking about then? Locals don’t use names. I know all the numbers, I couldn’t tell you half the names without looking them up.


  8. Greg May 27, 2019 / 12:13 pm

    Anyone else not super thrilled about a Mongolia express lift? Keep the platter. It keeps traffic down and allows people to earn their turns. I’d much prefer a 6 person Orient lift with the original platter than a 4 person Orient and 4 person Mongolia.


    • Donald Reif June 16, 2019 / 8:40 pm

      This is about a matter of convenience. Most people don’t like platters. At some point, people do need to accept that improving traffic flow is more important than preserving powder stashes.


      • Expertterrain June 17, 2019 / 8:14 am

        Well they probably will make a 4 person Mongolia and a 6 person orient because vail wants to be more convenient


      • V12Tommy June 17, 2019 / 2:39 pm

        Adding an additional lift, or replacing the platter with a longer 4 person lift doesn’t improve flow though. There is no flow over there, other than people skiing Inner and Outer Mongolia. It isn’t like the talked about “Sundown Express” that would ease lines at Chair 5 for people trying to get back to the front side.


        • Donald Reif June 18, 2019 / 10:47 am

          A Mongolia Express would be more about ensuring people could lap in the Siberia and Mongolia Bowls without the track back to the Orient Express lift. Plus, it’d take some of that traffic away from the Orient Express if the proposed trail expansion in Pete’s Bowl is implemented that adds a bunch of new trails off of Grand Review.

          And the thing about the Sundown Bowl high speed quad is that it wouldn’t be about easing lines at the High Noon Express but at the Northwoods Express.


        • Myles Svec November 14, 2021 / 5:02 pm

          What about building a HSQ from the bottom of the Mongolia Express to the top of Pete’s Express? It would service the new trails planned and eliminate the long runout. Or they could build a Siberia Express from the bottom of Mongolia Express to the top or Orient Express.


  9. Expertterrain June 16, 2019 / 5:59 pm

    You probably know that that Vail copyrights most of their lift names. They can’t copyright sundown express. Also sundown should be a six pack


    • Donald Reif June 16, 2019 / 8:42 pm

      A high speed quad makes more sense for the Sundown Bowl since the people who’d be lapping it would be experts, and the only intermediates using it would be those transiting back to the Front Side from Blue Sky Basin. That would make for about 4,800 pph out of the bottom of that gully when combined with the existing 2,400 pph of the High Noon Express lift.


    • reaperskier June 17, 2019 / 9:04 am

      Why would vail copyright the lift names when other resorts have lifts with similar names?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Expertterrain June 17, 2019 / 9:43 am

        I don’t know when you look on the map it shows a copyright sign next to some of the lift names. Beaver creek also did that


        • Mark Bergman June 17, 2019 / 10:07 am

          There is also an acknowledgement of the Celestial Seasonings Tea copyrights. Might have been required received permission to use the names.


        • V12Tommy June 17, 2019 / 2:25 pm

          Yes, the run names in Tea Cup Bowl are Celestial Seasonings tea products. I actually met the guy, 5 or 6 years ago, that originally brokered the deal between Celestial Seasonings, and Vail Associates.


    • V12Tommy June 17, 2019 / 2:30 pm

      I think you mean trademark, but either their application was rejected, or the trademarks were never applied for, because Vail has over 100 trademarks, and their lift names are not listed. Skyline Express has a “TM” next to it, yet Stevens Pass has had a Skyline Express for years. (pre-Vail purchase) And I don’t see how anyone in their right mind would allow a trademark for “Mountaintop Express” or “Gondola One”, but then again, just when you think government workers can’t possibly be that stupid, you’ll get proven wrong.


      • Expertterrain June 18, 2019 / 10:21 am

        They won’t be able to trademark Sundown Express because Steamboat already has a lift called that.


  10. Kaden K June 20, 2019 / 9:09 pm

    What’s the problem with chain driven terminals?


    • themav June 20, 2019 / 10:18 pm

      It’s mostly maintenance and service life concerns. Tire driven terminals have fewer maintenance concerns, and have thus far shown that they will last longer too. Not a single tire-driven detachable lift has been scrapped in the USA (except for the flawed Yan ones) so far. That may change in the next few years, but based on the fact that old quads are being relocated, it shows that resort operates have a fairly high degree of confidence in them (otherwise why pay tons of money to relocate a lift you will need to replace in the next few years).


      • Donald Reif June 21, 2019 / 2:37 pm

        Keystone scrapped the original Montezuma Express (though they recycled towers and chairs from it that Beaver Creek reused on the Red Buffalo Express) rather than reuse it to upgrade Wayback.


        • V12Tommy June 21, 2019 / 4:15 pm

          I’m not sure what their upgrade timeline is for Wayback, but it could be a cost thing too. Even a new detachable, has more maintenance costs associated with it than a fixed quad. Perhaps they were unwilling to spend more to relocate and maintain a lift that doesn’t increase uphill capacity, and only provides a minimal improvement in guest experience.


  11. cfglick February 13, 2020 / 5:14 pm

    After what happened on Saturday, that Sundown lift could be pretty helpful.


    • Donald Reif February 13, 2020 / 6:06 pm

      Yes. Although such events are once in a blue moon , the High Noon Express is a chokepoint that should be addressed.


  12. Doug Brown August 15, 2020 / 8:58 am

    Any prospects of Vail adding terrain beyond new trails on Blue Sky? The resort is incredibly crowded and lacks steeps. For example, what are the chances of the East Vail chutes ever becoming inbound, or the Minturn Mile? There also seemed to be terrain on either side of Blue Sky that looked appealing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Myles Svec August 15, 2020 / 10:28 am

      In the first year of blue sky there were 2 gladed trails on the other side of earls bowl but I’m pretty sure the environmentalists shut it down. In the future maybe they could add more trails there. Anything else and the environmentalists will surely complain even for what I mentioned. People don’t want what happened to high noon triple happening to one of the blue sky HSQ’s.


    • Donald Reif August 15, 2020 / 12:42 pm

      I think the Minturn Mile project would require a couple new lifts, plus a high speed six pack upgrade of the Game Creek Express lift.


  13. Myles Svec August 15, 2020 / 10:38 am

    Would it be possible in the future after Pete’s bowl expansion and Mongolia Express to extend the sup boundary into Commando bowl and have hike out, cat skiing or a platter out? I’m not sure about what direction it’s facing or snow quality or how steep it’s back there. Does anyone have more information on this?


  14. Myles Svec August 15, 2020 / 2:36 pm

    My Idea for a future area in Blue Sky in Commando Bowl

    1. Would be a 1,200 to 1,800 pph HSQ

    2. Would serve advanced/expert terrain

    3. Accessible from Silk Road

    4. Would be built after Mongolia Express and Pete’s Express expansion

    5. Similar styled runs to Blue Sky Basin but some more gladed runs too


    • Alex August 16, 2020 / 4:38 pm

      When Blue Sky Basin (fka Category III/Super Vail) was under environmental assessment, a Commando Bowl lift was considered, starting from the bottom of the Lift 22 upgrade to the ridge near the top of the current Pete’s lift. More information on it is available at


      • Donald Reif August 16, 2020 / 7:00 pm

        Also considered was another high speed quad about 7,200 feet long servicing the ridge on the west side of Earl’s Bowl, and which would be accessed either by continuing Silk Road further down the gulch from the Skyline Express and Teacup Express lifts, or by taking a trail down from the bottom of the High Noon Express lift. Besides having its own pod of trails, it would’ve combined with the Earl’s Express for an alternate route to Belle’s Camp if the Skyline Express went down, and allow a more direct route from Patrol Headquarters and Wildwood to Blue Sky Basin without having to transit over to the Sourdough Express lift, then descend through the China Bowl.

        The West Earl’s Bowl pod of trails would also have its own egress lift, one about 2,700 feet long, that would return guests to the High Noon Express lift. I think this would’ve probably been a fixed grip quad but it also might’ve been built as a high speed quad. If built as a high speed quad, Vail probably would’ve had to upgrade High Noon to a high speed six pack first before building the egress lift (I say six pack because this High Noon Express lift would be having to swallow the Sundown and Sun Up Bowl lap traffic, plus people coming off the egress lift).


        • Myles Svec August 17, 2020 / 11:44 am

          I think it could be possible by moving high noon to this new 7000 ft high speed quad and extending it with some more towers and extending the haul rope then building a six pack in high noons place.


        • Donald Reif August 17, 2020 / 12:43 pm

          At this point in time, if the West Earl’s Bowl expansion got built, Vail would probably keep the High Noon Express as is, build a new high speed quad on the Earl’s Bowl ridge, and use this as an opportunity to build their Sundown Bowl high speed quad as the egress lift (ensuring that guests could go from Blue Sky Basin directly back to Wildwood and the central/west Front Side without going through Patrol Headquarters).


        • Jonathan August 17, 2020 / 9:32 pm

          Another possibility would be replacing Teacup with a 6 pack chair and then move it to the new West Earl’s Bowl lift.


      • Donald Reif August 17, 2020 / 9:43 pm

        There’s definitely precedence for Vail to do that, given that both six pack upgrades at Whistler saw the high speed quad they replaced get reinstalled on Blackcomb.

        But I think the Teacup Express should stay as is. The only thing that should be changed about it is reconfigure the lift maze so that skier traffic coming in off the bridge can ski right into the maze, as opposed to have to make a 180 degree turn to enter the queue.

        The real question with West Earl’s Bowl is whether Silk Road would continue down from where the Skyline Express and Teacup Express lifts start, or would it only be accessible from the Front Side via the Sundown and Sun Up Bowls, and from within Blue Sky Basin via Earl’s Bowl.


        • Myles Svec August 18, 2020 / 8:54 am

          I think they could continue Silk Road and add a access point from Sundown/Sun up Bowls like you said for better traffic flow because I think the lift could get busy as one of your last runs of the day in blue sky. I wonder what kind of terrain it might have. I think it could be intermediate/advanced terrain. Similar to Blue Sky’s runs how they leave scattered trees in them.


        • Skristiansen August 17, 2021 / 5:35 am

          Why not just build a lift from the bottom or 38 to the top of the ridge and have a series of trails and a catwalk to take you back to 37. Seems a lot less complicated. And it would be a much shorter lift.


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