VAIL, Colorado - Construction on some of the proposed summer activities on Vail Mountain could begin as early as this fall, Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot told the Vail Economic Advisory Council Tuesday morning.
Jarnot updated the group on the summer proposals, which Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz announced last month, and he also revealed more details about what some of the activities will look like and where they will go.
While Adventure Ridge will become the hub for most of the new summer additions such as zip lines and rope courses, those adventure tours will head out from Eagle's Nest and will cover many areas on Vail's front side.
Game Creek Bowl is the only area not on Vail's front side included in the proposals, of which there are two. There is nothing proposed for Vail's Back Bowls or in Blue Sky Basin, the more pristine and undeveloped environments on Vail Mountain.
The first, a phase one proposal submitted in the spring, could be approved "any day now," and construction should begin this fall, Jarnot said.
"We would construct zip lines this fall and operate it this winter and next summer," Jarnot said, noting that the zip line tours will be available in both winter and summer.
Phase one includes zip lines, summer tubing (which would utilize the existing tubing hill and lift), and ropes courses.
Phase one, because of its centralization around the already-developed Adventure Ridge area, required a much shorter and easier Forest Service approval process. Phase two, however, could take 12-18 months to get approved.
It's easy to understand why, too, since the proposal suggests zip lines that zig-zag the mountain from Mid-Vail all the way down to Golden Peak, as well as extended hiking and biking across Vail's front side. The proposal also includes summer operations of Chairs 3 and 4 as part of the extended hiking and biking, meaning more areas of the mountain would become open and accessible to summer traffic. That's where the Forest Service environmental impact statements come in, as well as other environmental analysis.
The Game Creek chairlift would also run and would serve guests completing a zipline tour from Adventure Ridge to the bottom of Game Creek Bowl. Those guests could then ride the Game Creek chairlift to the top and potentially have lunch at Wildwood before ziplining back to Adventure Ridge, Jarnot said.
Jarnot said both proposals require "fairly significant additional infrastructure," but that it will all be done in a way that integrates into the mountain. He added that many areas will also be improved with landscaping.
Jarnot said there's no denying that there are some unpristine areas around the front side of the mountain, and the idea will be to try to return some of the environmental quality back to some of those areas.
Phase two will include some of the more significant additions including the Forest Flyer (an alpine coaster), the canopy-style zipline tours and the extended hiking and biking that would require more chairlifts to operate.
The most optimistic timeline for phase two would be construction beginning in the late summer of 2013 or spring of 2014, and operations to begin by summer 2014. Jarnot said the resort plans to have everything operational by 2015.
And, as demand builds, Vail Mountain would like to extend its summer operating hours potentially into October, at least on the weekends.
Jarnot expects destination and regional business to grow, with the potential for longer stays from summer guests, who are very different than winter guests in terms of length of stays and revenue generated. He noted that the average daily hotel rate in the summer is much lower, making the summer activities more accessible to different demographics.
"That's where this extends the summer experience to a broader segment of guests," he said.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.