VAIL — Sometimes, nothing says economic growth like a zipline.
When Vail Mountain opens new summer activities to the public on Adventure Ridge today, it will mark not only the debut of the ski resort’s warm-weather programs, but the beginning of what resorts and lawmakers hope will be an economic boost for the mountain. U.S. Sen. Mark Udall was on hand Friday to see some of the first runs taken on the mountain’s new 1,200-foot zipline and tour the two new ropes courses located right off Eagle’s Nest at the top of the Lionshead gondola.
Starting this weekend, thrill seekers on Adventure Ridge can soar 50 feet above the ground down a zipline while enjoying views of the surrounding slopes and the Gore Range in the distance. The zipline is the longest of its kind in the area and features four side-by-side lines.
For those looking for less adrenaline and more challenge, two ropes courses test participants’ problem solving skills, nerves, balance and athleticism. Both courses feature three levels of elements for participants to maneuver that incorporate ladders, rope bridges, swinging logs, cargo nets and more, completed with the help of a safety harness. The south course is a basic course that features four distinct, more stable routes, while the north course is an intermediate to advanced course with more than a dozen different elements requiring more balance and upper body strength to successfully complete.
The new additions to the mountain were made possible by the Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act, legislation passed two years ago and championed by Udall that allows resorts to use land for activities other than skiing.
“It’s the beginning of an enormous opportunity within the ski industry, and Vail has led the way since the Ski Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act has been passed to create a more year-round economy,” said Udall during his visit to Vail on Friday. “The mtountains don’t take the summer off, and the ski industry shouldn’t either.”
More to come
Vail Resorts is among the first in embracing the new initiative, with two planned phases dubbed Epic Discovery for summer fun on the mountain. Similar summer activities are in the works for Vail Resorts properties at Breckenridge and Heavenly. Vail’s second phase, expected to be completed in 2014, would include a climbing wall, alpine slide and canopy tour, said Chris Jarnot, the mountain’s chief operating officer and senior vice president.
“This expansion of summertime activities has been a long time in the planning,” he said. “This is important for the mountain and the resort, as well as the entire community, to have more to offer to our guests for the summer.”
Besides offering more attractions, Jarnot said the new programs will allow the resort to keep more winter employees on the payroll for the summer. However, the resort is not yet sure how many new summer jobs the activities will create.
“This is an opportunity to employ the best and the brightest winter employees through the summer instead of sending them off to find other jobs when summer comes, then hoping to attract them back the next winter,” he said.
However, the zipline and ropes courses are only a taste of what the mountain hopes to offer. In 2014, pending U.S. Forest Service approval, Vail Mountain is working on plans for extended zipline canopy tours, taking participants through the wooded Game Creek Bowl and back to the frontside via a series of lines and aerial platforms. Another canopy tour would zip people from station to station from Mid-Vail to the top of Vail Village. Also pending approval is the installation of the Forest Flyer, an alpine slide that runs on rails following the contour of the mountain and the construction of a 30-foot tall climbing wall. Educational components will be peppered throughout the attractions, allowing visitors to learn about the ecology of the mountain while enjoying the resort’s attractions. In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Vail Resorts will donate 1 percent of all summer lift ticket sales to forest restoration projects.
Those future plans, not specifically mentioned in the legislation, were stalled over the last couple seasons as the U.S. Forest Service worked to approve the proposals. Udall promised Friday that he would continue to press lawmakers and the Forest Service to keep plans moving.
“I’m going to stay on it so that Vail Resorts and other ski resorts can start getting things into place. It has been a number of years now (since this legislation passed).”
“It’s the beginning of an enormous opportunity within the ski industry, and Vail has led the way since the Ski Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act has been passed to create a more year-round economy.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall