Vail wants to give Back Bowls a boost |

Vail wants to give Back Bowls a boost

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Vail Mountain wants to replace Chair 5 with a faster lift and put a second high-speed quad new in Sun Down Bowl. (Vail Daily file)

VAIL ” You are riding up Chair 5, which is a high-speed quad that gets you to Vail’s mountaintop in less than six minutes.

Look to your left, and there’s another high-speed quad that’s headed up Sun Down Bowl toward the top of the Game Creek chair.

As you get off at the top, to your left is a big, new, table-cloth restaurant (there used to be a little yurt there).

All of this could be a decade or more away from 2007. But Vail Resorts wants approval now from the Forest Service for these projects. And the federal agency wants to hear people’s opinions of the proposals. A public comment period began Friday.

The ski company runs Vail Mountain on federal land under a permit from the Forest Service. It needs to get approval from the Forest Service for new lifts and buildings.

Vail Resorts wants to replace Chair 5 with a faster lift that would cut the ride time in half. It also wants to put a new, high-speed lift in Sun Down Bowl.

Vail skiers expect more out of the slow Chair 5, Vail Resorts officials say.

“The guest at Vail has really gotten used to high-speed lifts and short ride times and moving quickly around the mountain,” said Tom Allender, a planner for Vail Resorts.

Waits at the bottom of Chair 5 can be long, especially on powder days, Allender said.

Company officials have said they want to proceed quickly with the replacement of Chair 5. The earliest a new Chair 5 could be installed is the winter of 2009-10.

Chair 5, the High Noon Lift, serves Sun Up and Sun Down bowls, the original lift-served Back Bowls.

Some local skiers oppose the changes, saying powder snow will get skied off too fast.

“There will be a segment of the skiing community that doesn’t want anything to change,” Allender said. “Realistically, it’s a small percentage.”

Allender said the terrain off Chair 5 already gets tracked within a couple of hours, and, even with a high-speed lift, many powder-day skiers will leave the bowl and continue to move eastward toward China Bowl and Blue Sky Basin.

In the last few years, both visitors and local have told the ski company that they want lift upgrades in the Back Bowls, Allender said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the public saying, ‘This is a different era. We’re tired of standing in line,'” he said.

Other projects being proposed are:

– A 400-seat fine-dining restaurant near Patrol Headquarters.

– New snowmaking on Vail’s front side.

– New trails for ski racing up Golden Peak.

– Expanding the “administrative boundary,” including Ski Patrol and mountain operations, into West Earl’s Bowl.

– Building a new snowcat maintenance facility near Eagle’s Nest alongside an existing maintenance building.

The Sun Down lift would go from the bottom of Chair 5 to the top of the Game Creek Bowl lift. It is a low-priority project, Allender said.

“Of all these projects, that’s probably the least pressing,” Allender said.

Some of your more conspicuous powder stashes might get tracked up a little faster.

In Sun Down Bowl, Vail Resorts considers runs like Seldom, Never and O.S. “underutilized,” Allender said. The Sun Down lift would seek to correct that, Allender said, noting that the proposed lift would allow for laps on those runs.

Vail also seeks to expand its ski-area boundary into West Earl’s Bowl, on skier’s left in Earl’s Bowl of Blue Sky Basin.

Because many people are already skiing the area, the Forest Service and the ski area want to expand the boundary so Ski Patrol can access the area, and so the access route at the top of the bowl could be groomed to help in emergencies, Allender said.

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