Is there a six-pack in S’mass’ future? |

Is there a six-pack in S’mass’ future?

Skiers and riders at Snowmass might have a six-pack in their future.

The Aspen Skiing Co. is considering a six-passenger chairlift as a solution to base area congestion, according to vice president of operations Mike Kaplan.

“One thing we have to solve at Base Village is the out-of-base bottleneck,” said Kaplan. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see [a six-pack] make the final list.”

The Skico is working on that list of improvements for its prime real estate in Snowmass. The company anticipates submitting a plan in November that includes tourist accommodations, skier services, restaurants, retail shops and new chairlifts.

The company’s top goal will be solving the congestion that plagues Snowmass between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., when thousands of skiers and riders try to get up the mountain via the Fanny Hill high-speed quad chairlift.

“We need that horsepower to get people in and out,” said Kaplan.

Six-pack chairlifts have become the ski industry’s latest popular solution to dealing with crowds. Durango Mountain Resort, formerly known as Purgatory, and Keystone are building six-packs this summer. Breckenridge and Copper Mountain, two of Colorado’s busiest resorts, have already installed them.

Breckenridge’s “Quicksilver Super6” has a unique design that features two loading stations. The $4 million lift, added for last season, can haul up to 4,200 passengers per hour.

Copper’s Super Bee six-pack lift was the first in Colorado. It hauls 3,000 passengers per hour.

The knock on the six-packs is they provide an industrial experience that further detracts from the intimacy of skiing. However, that same criticism didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for high-speed quad chairlifts.

The Skico bucked the industry trend for big lifts when it installed a two-passenger, high-speed double at Aspen Mountain a few years ago.

But at Snowmass, the Skico would like to figure out a way to decrease its overall number of access chairlifts while increasing its uphill capacity out of the base.

The six-passenger chairlifts are popular because they provide the same capacity as gondolas but at a significantly lower expense, explained Kaplan. The resorts that have installed six-packs have spent about $3 million. Kaplan said it takes at least $5 million to install gondolas.

However, the Skico hasn’t ruled out building a gondola at Snowmass. Adding a six-pack chairlift wouldn’t necessarily come at the expense of a gondola, said Kaplan. Both types of lifts might be part of the solution there.

The Skico wants to run one lift out of Base Village for more direct access to the Elk Camp part of the broad ski area. Another key lift out of the base would be designed to get riders to the Big Burn chairlift in one ride rather than the three currently required.

Kaplan wouldn’t disclose which area would be potentially served by a six-pack and which is being eyed for a gondola.

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