Skico a big spender in offseason |

Skico a big spender in offseason

The Aspen Skiing Co. was one of the big spenders in the Colorado ski industry this off-season, pumping more than $21 million into on-mountain improvements.The Skico’s biggest expenditure was the $13 million gondola at Snowmass, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle. The Elk Camp gondola will go from Fanny Hill to the bottom of the Elk Camp chairlift in 7.5 minutes. The cabins will carry eight passengers.The Skico also completed an $8 million overhaul of the Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain this off-season. The work started last year. The new six-passenger gondola cabins will be roomier than the old cabins, which were installed in 1987.The other on-mountain upgrade for the Skico this year was the replacement of the old fixed-grip double chairlift at Snowmass’ Assay Hill with a new fixed-grip quad chair to serve the beginner area.The Skico wasn’t alone in its spending. Crested Butte, Steamboat, Winter Park and Wolf Creek also added new chairlifts, according to Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association representing 26 ski resorts in the state. Winter Park also added new terrain, as did Beaver Creek, according to the association.At Crested Butte, the big change this season will increase access to intermediate terrain. The East River lift was replaced with a high-speed quad that will cut the ride time in half.Steamboat invested about $7 million during the off-season. Many of the changes are focused on the Sunshine Bowl area, according to the resort. The Sunshine triple chair was replaced with a high-speed detachable quad chairlift. A new trail also was cut in Sunshine Bowl and snowmaking coverage was expanded.Winter Park added a new chairlift and seven trails as part of its $4.8 million in upgrades for the coming campaign. The new chairlift starts at an elevation of 10,136 along the Vasquez Cirque egress and extends to the backside of Parsenn Bowl.Winter Park also thinned trees on 76 acres on the backside of Parsenn Bowl to create seven new trails ranging from intermediate to advanced. That boosts the amount of skiable acres to about 3,100.Wolf Creek, which has already opened this season because it has so much snow, replaced the 34-year-old Dickey double chairlift with the $3.4 million Raven quad chairlift.Beaver Creek is opening 180 acres of new terrain, including short, steep, gladed runs in the Stone Creek Chutes. The terrain is geared toward expert skiers and riders who want to explore chutes ranging from 400 to 600 vertical feet with pitches up to 45 degrees.The addition of the Stone Creek Chutes will boost Beaver Creek’s skiable terrain to about 1,805 acres.Despite the improvements, Colorado’s ski industry faces a challenge matching its performance last season. The resorts logged their best season ever in 2005-06 with 12.5 million skiers and snowboarders hitting the slopes.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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