Born Free Express #8 – Vail, CO

Bottom terminal next to the Eagle Bahn Gondola at Lionshead.
Doppelmayr CLD-260 terminal.
Top station with parking rail.
Chain-driven return station.
This lift parallels the Eagle Bahn Gondola for its entire length.
Old school detachable terminal.
View down the lift line.
Looking up the line.
Lower part of the line.

15 thoughts on “Born Free Express #8 – Vail, CO

  1. Cooper July 28, 2017 / 3:59 pm

    I rode one like this at Whistler BC. It had bubbles on it though. Did they repaint the terminials? They look new.


    • Peter Landsman July 28, 2017 / 6:57 pm

      Would have been Blackcomb where there are three of them, all built in 1987. The paint has always been blue but there is some new signage.


    • Blair May 27, 2018 / 6:53 am

      You would have ridden the Wizard Express, it’s and always has been the only one with bubbles on Blackcomb unless you went in the summer where they swap half of the solar coasters and wizards chairs around… It’s sad to see it go now as they are replacing it with a 10person gondola. What is the final one, Peter? 7th heaven, Glacier or Jersey cream? I’m not very good with the older types, they confuse me!


      • Maxwell Uguccioni March 11, 2019 / 8:45 am

        7th heaven is next on the chopping block. It is the last CLD-260 there. Excelerator, Glacier, and Jersey Cream are early UNIs with DS grips.


        • AvocadoAndy March 11, 2019 / 11:26 am

          I’m willing to bet we’ll see a HSS there pretty soon. On top of the fact it’s pretty old, it tends to have pretty big lines.


  2. alex May 26, 2018 / 2:55 pm

    110% pure speculation, but I was wondering if Vail will just upgrade the Eagle Bahn Gondola instead of replace Born Free Express.

    I was thinking that perhaps after they learn how effective the Blackcomb Gondola is, maybe they take out Born Free, and upgrade the Eagle Bahn with the same technology to generate 4000 PPH out of the base. The current Eagle Bahn towers are so beefy that I would think they would be able to reuse most/all of them, and there would be so much room at the base with both the current Eagle Bahn base station and the Born Free base that they could store all of the cabins at the base. I was thinking this because it appears that they are going to upgrade Game Creek to 3000 PPH this year.

    For those of you who think that would not make sense given the relatively young age of the Eagle Bahn, what if they moved it to Beaver Creek to replace Strawberry Park in connection with the McCoy Park expansion. There is enough room at the top of Strawberry Park for a cabin storage building. Anyway interested in your thoughts…


    • adrian1701 May 26, 2018 / 8:04 pm

      It does sound great, but I think Vail would be reluctant to upgrade the gondola. They’ve already got 5800 pph out of Lionshead, which is hefty..(although I’m sure there’s congestion – we experience the same thing here at Tremblant in Quebec running a similar out-of-base capacity).

      Born Free is a good 8 years older than Eagle Bahn – it theoretically would need replacement sooner. Its useful life is coming to an end soon – within the next 5 years it will need replacement. The gondola could last another 10, at least. It’d seem more economically savvy to upgrade Born Free to a 3600 pph 6-person, realistically only getting 200 less pph than if the gondola were upped to 4000.

      I do think however your proposition with Strawberry Park would be VERY lucrative for Vail. At some point they may consider doing the switch since Strawberry Park wouldn’t be BC’s signature lift, thus it wouldn’t need an all-new Doppelmayr system. I do think Born Free will likely be replaced first, then Eagle Bahn.


      • Teddy Hubbell May 27, 2018 / 6:52 am

        If I skied at Vail I would take Born Free instead of the gondola. You can then cross over to Pride Express without waiting in the line for the gondola. I much prefer chairlifts over gondolas. I think Born Free should stay but, Vail should rebuild Lionshead (Eagle Bahn) to have greater capacity. What I think Vail will do is to replace Born Free with a new six-pack or detachable quad. That could possibly go to the top of the Lionshead Gondola.

        On the other hand, I really hope that Vail won’t replace all of their CLD-260 detachables. I’m going to Whistler Blackcomb next winter so I will get to ride my first CLD-260, Seventh Heaven.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Duncan October 29, 2018 / 11:52 am

          Honestly, you just don’t ski out of Lionshead if you can. If you have the choice, ski out of Vail Village/Golden Peak. If you are in Cascade Village (though I admit I’ve never stayed there), just take Cascade Village to Pride to Game Creek or Avanti, since there isn’t anything good over in Lionshead.


        • Donald M. Reif February 2, 2019 / 10:08 am

          I’ve done that myself, taking the Born Free Express up and then going over and taking the Pride Express the rest of the way to Eagle’s Nest. And yes, it’s for the same reason as you: I prefer chairlifts over gondolas. I’m willing to put up with taking Gondola One out of Vail Village, however, since there’s only a few trails that go back into Vail Village anyways and none of them are trails I’d ski at any rate.

          If there’s a chairlift option next to a gondola, I will take the chairlift route. (I’ve done this at Steamboat too; I’ve never used their Gondola. Instead, I’ve always used the longer route of the Christie Peak Express and the Thunderhead Express)


      • Bob September 16, 2022 / 10:39 am

        I think that replacing Strawberry with a gondola wouldn’t be the best idea, as there’s some nice lapping runs off of that lift.


    • Donald M. Reif March 12, 2019 / 11:14 am

      Vail’s Master Development Plan suggests that what they’ll be doing is simply upgrading the Born Free Express, Orient Express, and the Garaventa CTEC high speed quads with all new high speed quads. (If they want to be cheap, an ideal thing to do would be to have Doppelmayr upgrade the Orient Express and Born Free Express lifts with new terminals and chairs, and keep the existing towers) The Game Creek Express will become a high speed six pack:

      Click to access fseprd604580.pdf


      • Myles Svec November 2, 2021 / 8:05 pm

        Based on Vail’s trends with lift buying, I’m guessing all HSQ’s replaced will become six packs.


  3. Donald Reif August 30, 2019 / 9:23 am


  4. Donald Reif March 2, 2020 / 4:15 pm

    Here’s a photo of the old Bell gondola and Riblet double that used to run out of Lionshead:

    Liked by 3 people

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