After 47 years in operation, the Burlingame chairlift on Snowmass has carried its last passengers.
The two-seater lift, the oldest on the mountain, hasn’t been used for daily operations in years. Built for Snowmass’ opening season in 1967, it has never been fully replaced but has been modified, most drastically in 2005 when it was shortened to make way for the construction of the Village Express lift.
“We used that lift a total of four days last season, and those weren’t even full days,” said Snowmass Mountain Manager Steve Sewell. Aspen Skiing Co. occasionally ran the lift when there were events at the Spider Sabich Picnic Area, which was near the upper terminus.
The Burlingame lift started on Fanny Hill at about the same elevation as the Snowmass Village Mall, and then it used to climb to about the level that the Village Express midstation is now. Skico has planned on removing it since the Village Express was built, spokesman Jeff Hanle said.
To operate a lift, even just a few times a year, requires certain maintenance that can be expensive, Sewell said. What accelerated the dismantling this year was that the lift was in need of a new haul rope, which he estimated would cost $80,000, Sewell said.
“(It’s) cost-prohibitive to keep the lift just sitting there,” Sewell said.
The removal of the lift should finish up this week. The towers and chairs have been taken down. Skico still needs to remove the bottom shack and the lift’s counterweight, Sewell said.
The parts are going to be used by a small ski resort in Montana, Sewell said.
This fall, Skico plans to do some grading work on Fanny Hill now that the eastern side will be wide open. Forcing skiers funneling into Base Village to maneuver around the Sky Cab Gondola and the Burlingame lift’s lower terminus created a “choke point,” Sewell said, and opening up the hill will improve skiers’ and snowboarders’ experiences.
In addition, work just finished on a summer-event lawn at the bottom of the hill that levels out the stairs from Base Village with the line area for Village Express. That also should improve the guest experience for people trying to board the lift in the winter, Sewell said.