Snowmass to fire up gondola for summertime fun
SNOWMASS – After this weekend, the slow Burlingame double chairlift at Snowmass may seem like a distant memory. That’s because the mountain gondola will make its summertime debut.”This is a very big deal,” said Snowmass Mountain Manager Steve Sewell. “We are starting the summer operation we have been talking about for the past 15 years.”The Elk Camp Gondola will run daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning Saturday and continuing through Labor Day weekend. Rides are free for Aspen Skiing Co. Premier Pass holders. For the non-passholding public, the cost is $19 for adults, Monday through Thursday, and $24 on weekends. It’s $11 ($14 on weekends) for youths, age 13-17, and $7 ($9 on weekends) for kids. Seniors pay $14 ($18 on weekends).Everyone will pay $5 extra per day to haul a bike up on the lift, $10 for the week or $49 for the whole season. Tickets may be purchased in Base Village and D&E Sports on the Snowmass Mall.Beginning Friday, June 25, the Elk Camp quad chair will run weekends to the area’s 11,300-foot summit. No bikes will be hauled on the chair, but riders are welcome to use their own pedal power to reach the top.”This fabulous new amenity is going to put us on par or better with many of our competitors,” said Susan Hamley, director of Snowmass Tourism.
A climbing wall awaits guests at the top of the Elk Camp Gondola, Sewell said; another new attraction is the fishing pond for kids and the young at heart. In addition, a series of bike and hiking trails await all visitors.The Vista hiking trai runs from the top of the gondola, along the skier’s right on Funnel run, to the bottom of the gondola, Sewell said. The biking options are quite varied and after June 19, when the elk migration closure is lifted, the Government and Tom Blake trail will be ready for riding.The Adams Avenue ski trail has been renamed Snowmass Way for the summer. It should provide a nice downhill option for novice and intermediate bikers. For true beginners, there’s a try-it loop in the Elk Camp Meadows area (site of the winter learning area). Another option is for beginners to practice on Fanny Hill – catch a free ride uphill on the Skittles lift that connects Base Village to the mall.Those who need some instruction on high-altitude mountain biking should check in with Camp Aspen/Snowmass, headquartered in the Base Village Treehouse, which offers programs for kids and adults during the summer.”In the wintertime, (Aspen Skiing Co.’s) business is teaching and guiding people on adventures. Why not do it in the summertime?” director Sue Way asked rhetorically. “We’re in the people business and the business of sharing mountain experiences with people. That’s why we’re looking to expand.”Camp Aspen/Snowmass will offer activities that essentially encompass two types of programming – mountain biking and “boot camps” (fitness for all different levels).”We are the only biking served by a lift in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Way, noting the new lift opens up opportunities for all levels of riders. Just in case, there will also be summer rangers (the seasonal version of a ski patrol) prowling the trails to ensure that all is well in the world.With regard to the boot camp sessions, Way said, “Basically it’s going to be adjusted to you. We’re going to take advantage of what’s up there … on the extreme end, exercising at 10,000 feet. But if someone is just looking for beauty, they’ll be introduced to a circuit hike.”Options for children will continue to be enhanced throughout the season, including the July debut of two-hour fishing expeditions at Rayburn’s Pond near the gondola’s top station.Worked up an appetite? Bring a picnic lunch or pop into the Elk Camp Caf (aka Caf Suzanne) for pulled pork sandwiches, salads and barbecue.”It’s going to be an exciting weekend. It’s something we’re committed to improve,” said Sewell.
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