Work begins on highest lift on continent |

Work begins on highest lift on continent

Ryan SlabaughSummit County correspondent

The highest chairlift in North America will soon take shape.On Tuesday, Breckenridge Ski Resort began construction on the anticipated – and debated – Peak 8 summit lift, the Imperial Express SuperChair. The high-speed quad will reach 12,840 feet and transport riders to the top of Peak 8.The $4 million lift will open access to 400 acres of intermediate to advanced terrain that now requires a hike above treeline.Roger McCarty, chief operating officer for Breckenridge Ski Resort, called the lift the “crowning touch.”Until now, it’s been a bumpy road for Breck’s new lift.The project (along with replacement of Chair 6) was originally approved by U.S. Forest Service Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton in January. The approval was subsequently appealed by Colorado Wild, a ski industry and Forest Service watchdog group. Several local residents also signed the appeal; some cited a concern that the lift would eliminate most of Breck’s hike-to terrain.During the appeal process, regional officials determined the decision should have been made at the forest supervisor level, resulting in a withdrawal of Newton’s earlier OK. Incoming White River Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson then reviewed the project and issued another approval, and Colorado Wild’s appeal was denied. Executive Director Jeff Berman said Tuesday the organization would not take its opposition further.”We’re still concerned about impacts it’s going to bring and the Forest Service’s failure to critically consider whether this is needed in the first place at all,” Berman said. Still, the group won’t sue, he said.A target date for the lift’s completion has not been set, said Nicky DeFord, spokesperson for Vail Resorts.”They’re kind of leaving that open – both the Forest Service and our operations guys,” she said. “They think they can get it done by the end of the season. They’re confident.”A Chinook Helicopter with a lift capability of 28,000 pounds will deliver an excavator this week to the construction site to work on nine lift towers that will stretch along the spine of Peak 8.

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