Vail eyes new lifts in Back Bowls
October 9, 2007
VAIL – Vail Mountain has applied to put two new lifts in its original Back Bowls, a controversial plan that met lots of opposition when it was last proposed.
The proposal would replace Chair 5 with a faster, four-seat lift and put another high-speed lift in Sun Down Bowl that would rise to the top of Game Creek Bowl.
Vail Resorts submitted the plan to the Forest Service on Sept. 28. Vail could get the approvals as quickly as next spring, said Don Dressler of the Forest Service.
Vail Mountain officials have said they would like to move quickly on replacing Chair 5, while the new Sun Down Bowl lift would likely happen a few years later.
But some locals worry that the new lifts would change the character of that section of the Back Bowls, allowing powder to be skied off more quickly.
Allen Dunaj, a Vail resident, opposes the plan. He likes how Chair 5 is often uncrowded and never groomed. He worries that might change with the new lifts.
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“Chair 5, it gives you a break,” he said. “It gives you back-to-basics skiing. It’s nice and calm out there. … It’s what skiing used to be in Vail.”
The relative slowness of Chair 5 is welcome, he said.
“The slow pace gives you time to enjoy the day,” he said.
The proposal would cut the ride time on Chair 5 from about 11 minutes to about 5.5 minutes. The new lifts would increase the lift capacity in Sun Down and Sun Up bowls by almost 40 percent.
But some say the new lifts are a good idea. Robert Schilling, a Vail resident, welcomes the plan for the two new lifts.
“Chair 5 is old,” he said. “Any time there’s a powder day back there, you get huge lines.”
Admittedly, the bowls might get skied out faster, Schilling said.
“That might happen, and that probably would happen, but it’s getting pretty darned skied out already,” he said.
Vail Resorts officials could not be reached for comment for this story. However, the company explained the plan in a recent planning document.
“[Chair 5] is routinely overwhelmed by demand and the ride time is beyond what today’s skier finds to be acceptable,” says the recent plan for the mountain.
As for the new lift in Sun Down Bowl, the company said that would make it easier to go from Blue Sky Basin to Lionshead, and it would also would make for easier laps on the west side of Sun Down Bowl.
In the plan submitted Sept. 28, Vail also proposed a new, 500-seat fine-dining restaurant atop Chair 4 as well as new trails and surface lifts for ski racing that will rise to the top of Golden Peak.