An edgier, grittier Beav |

An edgier, grittier Beav

David O. Williams

In this day and age of relatively restrained capital improvements budgets, a new high-speed quad chairlift is something to get excited about. Even Vail Resorts can’t build a Blue Sky Basin every year.So Beaver Creek officials are busy talking up their new baby with an old name: the Birds of Prey Express. The new quad replaces the ancient and slow-moving Westfall (or “West-crawl”) double chair, which crept so tentatively “you could have lunch, you could contemplate life, and there are some dead spots in cell service or you could almost have conducted a business meeting,” says Beaver Creek Chief Operating Officer John Garnsey.More commonly known as Chair 9, Westfall was the lift linking the main mountain to the Red Tail Camp area, where runs from Grouse Mountain, Larkspur Bowl and the Birds of Prey converge.But it took about 15 minutes, so many snowriders simply opted for Dally, a long, slow cat track back to the base of the resort. The new quad will take less than eight minutes.”I think it’s going to have a dramatic impact on how skiers and riders move around Beaver Creek Mountain,” Garnsey says. “It certainly will expose the Birds of Prey terrain to a lot more people; it will be easier to get to; it will keep people on the top of Beaver Creek Mountain; and you won’t have to ski or ride down Dally.”The new lift is already running for race crew workers prepping the famed Birds of Prey Downhill course for a Dec. 6-7 men’s World Cup, and Garnsey says the resort is working with Vail Valley Foundation officials to set up a Dec. 5 opening ceremony for the new lift that will include some of the athletes in town for the races.In a related marketing move, Beaver Creek has named the primarily expert Grouse, Larkspur, Birds of Prey trail system “The Talons” to give the resort a signature extreme area.”It identifies the steep and challenging terrain that Beaver Creek has,” Garnsey says. “We’ve had problems in the past identifying to people that not only is Beaver Creek a good family mountain, but that it has some of the most challenging terrain in the Rocky Mountains.”We’ll start talking about The Talons the way Vail talks about the Back Bowls.”Beaver Creek is also promoting &quotThe Talons Challenge&quot through its ski and snowboard school. The program rewards experts of all ages in private or group lessons with a spot on either the Gold Talons Team (ski or ride one run from each lift in The Talons) or Platinum Talons Team (finish all identified runs in The Talons).Finally, Garnsey says Beaver Creek is by no means done upgrading lifts. The on-again, off-again gondola from the Confluence Site in Avon through the Tarnes employee housing project to the base of Bachelor Gulch Village and on to the top of Strawberry Park may be on again.”Vail Resorts, along with Beaver Creek Resort Company and Bachelor Gulch Village Association, are working on an alternative (funding) solution to hopefully be unveiled sometime this ski season,” Garnsey says.

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