At the Beav’, ‘high speed’ is the mantra |

At the Beav’, ‘high speed’ is the mantra

Alex Miller
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyA construction crew reloads a helicopter with concrete Thursday for the lift tower foundations of a new lift going into Larkspur Bowl in Beaver Creek.

BEAVER CREEK – It’s not easy getting concrete to the top of a mountain. That’s why Thursday a helicopter was buzzing around Beaver Creek, hauling big buckets of the stuff to build the tower bases of the resort’s newest lift.It’s not an uncommon sight at Beaver Creek these days. The new lift, which replaces Larkspur Bowl’s triple chair, is the fourth high-speed replacement to go in over the past three years. When the new lift opens in December, 10 of the mountain’s 16 lifts will be high-speed detachables.It’s all part of a plan to improve the movement of skiers on the mountain, said Beaver Creek spokeswoman Christina Schleicher.”It’s the next step in the project after the opening of Beaver Creek Landing last year,” Schleicher said, referring to the base area and two new lifts opened last December. Those lifts, Lower Beaver Creek Mountain Express (chair 15) and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express (chair 18), start at Beaver Creek Landing near the Tarnes apartment complex on Prater Road.That project created a new access point for the mountain. The new Larkspur Lift (chair 11) means more skiers can get from mid-mountain to the top faster, with three high-speed lifts now serving the expert terrain of the Talons area that includes Grouse Mountain and the expert Birds of Prey runs.

“This place will be so dialed in, it’ll be sick,” said Darwin McCutcheon, owner of Aalta Sports at the base of Beaver Creek. “Every year we’re getting a new lift. It’s wonderful.”McCutcheon said he hoped eventually a gondola would bring skiers up from Avon, making for an even more streamlined mountain.”You’ll see people come up and ski three or four hours and be damn happy,” he said. “No one wants to wait in lift lines.”Beaver Creek, which already has a reputation for shorter lift lines, may further that perception with the new lift.”It’s what sets Beaver Creek apart,” said Larry Culley, hard goods manager at Gorsuch Beaver Creek. “I think anytime we can shorten lifts and encourage people to make runs, it’s a good thing – especially when you’re replacing an old lift and not creating any environmental situations.”The new lift will be an Austrian-made Doppelmayr with an uphill capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour. That brings the resort’s total uphill capacity to 31,339 per hour.

This week’s helicopter operations put the concrete in place for the lift towers. This fall, a helicopter will return to fly the towers into place.”You’ve got to take your hat off to Beaver Creek,” McCutcheon said. “It’s a fun mountain. If they put a new (high-speed) lift in at Rose Bowl, this place would be like a race track.”=============Info boothHigh-speed detachable vs. fixed grip.Until the 1980s, most chairlifts were “fixed grip,” which simply meant that the clamp or grip holding the chair to the haul rope stayed in the same place. The typical speed for one of these lifts is about 500 feet per minute. A detachable lift travels at twice that speed, but that’s too fast to load people with. So when the chair comes into the terminal, its spring-loaded grip detaches from the main haul rope and travels on a slower track for loading. Then, the chair reattaches on its way out of the terminal for the quick ride up the mountain. Detachables are significantly more expensive to install and maintain than fixed grips.

=============Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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