BEAVER CREEK, Colorado - Beaver Creek Resort celebrated what's expected to be a major change for the overall mountain experience Saturday morning - a faster Rose Bowl chair lift.
The brand new high speed quad opened to the public around 9:15 a.m. Saturday. The new chair's speedy, smooth ride left the memory of the old, sluggish triple seater as dust in its wake. As the new lift whisked skiers and snowboarders to the top, it became hard to imagine accessing that terrain any other way. The improvement is huge from a time standpoint.
Beaver Creek Resort proposed the new lift to the U.S. Forest Service last January. The ride time in the Rose Bowl is now about five-and-a-half minutes, down from 11 minutes on the triple seater.
The replacement was one of many projects Vail Resorts invested in during 2011 as part of its $80-plus million in upgrades at its Colorado and California resorts.
Vail Resorts Co-President John Garnsey said the constant upgrades are part of the company's ongoing efforts to improve guest experiences.
"What we're trying to do is create value and I think that one of the things we've been committed to at Vail Resorts is to always look at upgrading and making improvements, whether it's new lifts, whether it's better snowmaking, whether it's new restaurants or better restaurants," Garnsey said Saturday morning just before the first skiers rode the new Rose Bowl lift for the first time. "Our guests' expectations are high, so we need to create that value."
Beaver Creek Chief Operating Officer Doug Lovell said Rose Bowl is one of the key areas in Beaver Creek that really needed an upgrade. He expects the faster lift to drive more traffic to the area, which will take some pressure off the front side of the mountain.
"The high speed quad really makes it better for everybody," Lovell said.
There are always critics of upgrades such as these, however, just as there were at Vail when it upgraded its chair 5, the High Noon express lift, last season. Some make the argument that faster chairs don't do skiers much good on powder days.
"It'll get tracked out more, but that's what you get with a new chair," said Andy Linger, who made it on the Rose Bowl's first chair ride Saturday.
Linger said it's been great to see new terrain open up at Beaver Creek over the years, and added that the new lift will help service that terrain.
Ken Laughlin, who also made it on the first Rose Bowl chair ride of the season, thinks the quick ride to the top is "fantastic."
"It's great getting up so much faster," Laughlin said.
Getting up faster is part of the point, as the new lift is able to transport 2,400 people per hour, but mountain officials are even more excited about what it means for skier circulation mountain-wide. Eddie Haddle, a skier from Colorado Springs, is more worried about personal circulation, though.
"We're going to ski this all day, until the powder runs out," he said. "It's extra fast."
And maybe the fresh powder turns aren't going to be there throughout day, but they'll be there, and you'll be able to get to them a lot faster than before.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.