Orient Express #21 – Vail, CO

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Breakover towers 27 and 28.
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Top drive station with maintenance rail.
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Side view of the summit.
Side view of the return terminal.
Monster station.
Upper part of the line.
Drive bullwheel.
Top terminal overview.
Underside of the drive station.
View from the top.
Upper part of the line seen from below.
Middle lift line.
The first few towers.
Looking back down the line near the summit.

22 thoughts on “Orient Express #21 – Vail, CO

  1. Donald M. Reif February 22, 2019 / 9:21 am

    There’s an interesting comment to make about how of the high speed quads off the Front Side, this is the only one that isn’t a Poma or Leitner-Poma.


  2. Donald Reif August 30, 2019 / 9:32 am


  3. powderforever45 December 10, 2019 / 2:58 pm

    Will this be the next 80s high speed quad to be replaced after game creek?


    • Somebody December 10, 2019 / 4:19 pm

      This will almost certainly be the next after Game Creek. I don’t remember much from the last time I went to vail (I was 4 years old), but one of the few things I do remember is this chair having a 15 minute lift line. That was 11 years ago now, so I’d imagine it’s probably gotten worse. This chair could use a 3,000 pph six pack. Besides this chair and Game Creek, the only one left will be born free, which is mostly backup to eagle bahn so it isn’t a top priority for them to replace it.


  4. jcpierce05 February 13, 2020 / 1:20 pm

    If they were to replace this lift, what would they replace it with? This lift doesn’t seem to have long lines often, so a 6 chair wouldn’t be needed. I would like to see bubbles added to this lift, although I doubt that will happen. I think Teacup Lift relieves traffic off of this lift so the lines arent as bad as they were in the past. Maybe they could do something like a Shedhorn upgrade on this lift with new terminals, hangars and grips. Thoughts?


    • Donald Reif February 13, 2020 / 2:03 pm

      It would probably be cost-saving to just do what Mt. Bachelor did with Pine Marten in 2006, where they simply replaced the terminals and grips, but retained the towers and chairs. The lift would probably only have to lose about ten chairs or so in the conversion. But that would be made up for with a shorter ride time, balancing out any lost capacity.


  5. Skristiansen February 13, 2020 / 1:43 pm

    The way that vail does things, I imagine they will build a high speed quad here along with a second in Mongolia. With two new higher capacity quads, the lines should be relieved.


    • Donald Reif February 13, 2020 / 2:09 pm

      The master plan calls for a Mongolia Express lift to eventually be built servicing the Siberia and Mongolia Bowls.


  6. Donald Reif December 27, 2020 / 6:44 am

    I think this can count as one of those detachables that, when initially built, were only accessible via fixed grip lifts, even though you could travel from Patrol Headquarters via Sleepytime. I say this since Two Elk Lodge is the primary entry point into the China Bowl and until 2007, that was only accessible from a triple chairlift prior to 2007. That status changed with the Blue Sky Basin expansion and the four Poma high speed quads that were built for it.


    • Brian Watkins February 22, 2022 / 10:36 pm

      When lift 21 was initially built, there was no PHQ and no Sleepytime and no Two Elk.

      You could either take lift 14, a triple, to the Far East shelter and ski down into China Bowl or you could take lift 5, 4, or 11 to the summit of Vail Mountain and ski in on the long Oolong catwalk or build up speed from the summit and glide over Headwall Ridge to Teacup Bowl and ski down Black Lightning.


  7. Skristiansen March 20, 2021 / 5:47 am

    Yeah. These days I think the fastest way to China bowl is to get to phq and ski the slot to chair 9 and drop in at jade glade or another trail on that teacup cornice.


    • Donald Reif March 20, 2021 / 4:25 pm

      Taking the Sourdough Express and entering from Two Elk Lodge is the more direct and intermediate route. Going via the Sun Up Express is for experts as that route involves black runs.


      • Skristiansen March 21, 2021 / 5:53 am

        I believe the slot is now groomed and labeled on the map as a blue. But fair point, the timberline catwalk is less difficult. It is also worth factoring in that 14 often has more lines than 9.


  8. Myles Svec October 16, 2021 / 1:53 pm

    Will a replacement of this be next after the new Game Creek HSS and Sundown HSQ are built next summer.


    • skitheeast October 16, 2021 / 2:20 pm

      After next summer’s projects, the lift upgrades remaining on the master plan are Orient Express 6, Mongolia Express, Wildwood Express 6, Riva Bahn Express 6, Born Free Express 6, Cascade Express, and Pride Express 6. I have no idea what the order will be.


  9. Myles Svec October 20, 2021 / 5:30 pm

    When this lift is replaced, I feel like it will be a Leitner Poma lift given the trend Vail is taking of going Leitner Poma in the back bowls.


    • Donald Reif February 23, 2022 / 6:20 am

      Would make sense, since Vail’s gone almost exclusively with Leitner-Poma for all their lifts built since 1998, with the sole exceptions being the Mountaintop Express, Avanti Express, and Golden Peak T-Bar, along with the relocated Little Eagle (former Sourdough) and Gopher Hill (former Rose Bowl).


    • Donald Reif November 19, 2021 / 2:32 pm

      I feel like that proposed Mongolia Express would do some work siphoning traffic away from the Orient Express, in addition to six-packing the Orient Express.


  10. bverenkoff January 21, 2022 / 9:15 pm

    OMG, this lift is so important to my family!

    In 2002 I started dating a girl who didn’t know how to ski. I taught her to ski and by 2004 we took our first trip to Vail and we found ourselves in China Bowl and something magical happened. She fell in love with this bowl and I did too. We’ve been back every year for 18+ years and she can’t stop talking about China Bowl and Orient Express to anyone she talks to. It’s so wide open, so many paths to take, it’s absolute nostalgia for us.

    My wife turns 40 this week (2022/01/27) and her only birthday wish is to take our 6 year old down China Bowl to Imperial Express. That’s saying a lot from a women who has skied every top flight resort in US/Canada and world class resorts in two other continents (Japan/Niseko, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland). Heck, I proposed to her skiing on Matterhorn, yet, she can’t stop talking about China Bowl and Orient Express.

    This lift and bowl is my wife’s “special place”. If it’s ever upgraded or replaced I hope the name lives on, it’s that special to us!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Donald Reif January 21, 2022 / 10:11 pm

      “her only birthday wish is to take our 6 year old down China Bowl to Imperial Express”. You’ve clearly found a way to break the space time continuum since the Imperial Express SuperChair is at Breck. (Just joking, you probably just made a typo there)

      And yeah, this is definitely a beautiful part of the mountain to hang out on, as a stopover while transiting through to Blue Sky Basin.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DB-Cooper January 22, 2022 / 7:07 am

        Yes you are right, accidentally wrote Imperial. I can’t find a way to edit these posts.

        Regardless, my wife runs laps on this lift.

        Liked by 2 people

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