BEAVER CREEK, Colorado - When first built, the escalators at Beaver Creek drew scoffing from some mountain folk - real skiers can climb steps, they snorted. But those escalators have proven popular enough that the resort will install another this year.
The new escalator will zip people from the Beaver Creek Plaza, where the ice rink is, up to the entry level for Gerald R. Ford Hall. The work will be done in two phases, with construction in the spring and fall, so crews won't be in the area during the busy summer months.
Other improvements will include changes to the waterfall next to the staircase, and moving the ice rink's Zamboni building off the plaza.
Beaver Creek Resort Company Director Tim Baker said the idea of the new escalator is to draw more people to the plaza area.
People riding up to Beaver Creek by bus and entering the village over the covered bridge tend to hop on the existing escalators to head toward the lifts, Baker said. Another way to get people up to the Ford Hall level will draw more people into the plaza, he said.
"Our core message is about guest service and making (Beaver Creek) more convenient," Baker said.
Jim Cotter, whose J Cotter Gallery has locations in both Vail Village and Beaver Creek, said he's a fan of the escalator idea.
"It'll make it easier to get up and down for families with kids, and for older people," Cotter said. "I'm getting older, too, so I like it."
In fact, Cotter said, he'd like to see Vail put an escalator from Wall Street up to the area near the new gondola out of Vail Village.
Moving the Zamboni building will also open up views from the plaza toward St. James Place and the businesses in that part of the village, Baker said. That's good news for Beaver Creek Market owner Donna Whalen.
"It sounds great," Whalen said, adding that she hopes the idea of opening up views around the plaza draws more attention to her part of it.
Eric Berggren, executive chef at The Metropolitan restaurant in the same area, echoed Whalen's remarks.
"I think it will give this end of the village some more exposure," Berggren said. While this is the end of Berggren's first season in Beaver Creek, he said he's worked in other resort areas, "so I know what exposure means for businesses."
That exposure might become more important in coming years.
While Baker said Vail and Beaver Creek are "complementary" resorts, Whalen said Beaver Creek has to do more to compete with Vail, which in the last few years has rolled out any number of new lodges and amenities.
"Vail's new - it has all the toys," Cotter said. "Beaver Creek's going to have to be creative to keep businesses up there."
That challenge is made more tricky because Beaver Creek is built out, Baker said. That means improvements to what's already in the resort have to be able to earn guests' attention.
Whalen said she believes Beaver Creek has "definitely lost ground" compared to Vail, adding that improvements as the resort prepares for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships will be an opportunity to catch up a bit.
And Baker said this summer's work is just the start of a drive toward the championship season.
That event "really served as a beacon for us," Baker said. "We're really pushing the legacy projects that will make a lasting mark on the valley."
Cotter said he believes Beaver Creek needs to build its allure for people to stay in the resort after the races are over.
Baker said those projects are coming, while the resort is still working on plans for this summer.
"We're getting ready for Tough Mudder, the Blues and Brews and the summer music series," Baker said. "We're really excited."