Beav’ weighing "pulse’ of gondola proposal | VailDaily.com

Beav’ weighing "pulse’ of gondola proposal

Cliff Thompson

Plans for a new “pulse” gondola and two high-speed quad chairlifts connecting Avon and Beaver Creek are quietly being discussed by Vail Resorts and some of its potential partners in the venture.

It’s the third incarnation in the last seven years of what is proving to be a decidedly difficult and expensive lift connection from the proposed Confluence development in Avon to Beaver Creek’s Chair 12 in Strawberry Park.

Company officials declined comment on the proposal, but early information suggests the lift system will cost significantly less than the $25 million to $30 million high-speed gondola in the latest proposal. The project may be formally unveiled in a month.

The “pulse’ gondola is expected to have a 700 person per-hour capacity, somewhat less than previously proposed lift capacities.

The “pulse’ gondola, unlike the Lionshead gondola, does not run continuously –its stops and starts as passengers board and disembark. The “fixed-grip’ concept is similar to the lift in Glenwood Springs accessing the caverns there.

The local gondola would run from the 18.4-acre Confluence lot, just north of the Eagle River in Avon, to just above Beaver Creek’s Tarnes employee housing on Prater Road. Skiers will then access a new-high speed quad lift that would take them past the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, where they could either ski down or board a second high-speed quad lift that would connect with Chair 12. The lift proposal requires the buy-in of several districts within Beaver Creek and possibly the town of Avon.

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The ski company announced in July that the high-speed gondola project had been scrapped after the measure failed to secure $6 million in funding requested from Avon.

The proposal under an original people-moving plan was a $55 million surface cable-car, or “funicular,” that would have followed the existing Village Road into Beaver Creek Village. That plan, too, was scrapped as too expensive.

At issue is an agreement between Vail Resorts and Beaver Creek property owners to build a lift designed to reduce traffic heading in and out of Beaver Creek. Failure to build a connecting lift carries a penalty clause of $3 million.

The complex negotiations between the entities funding the lift are expected to begin soon, a company spokesman affirmed, although he would not indicate when.

A portion of the lift is expected to cross U.S. Forest Service property and run near a summer elk-calving area, necessitating an environmental a review. The previous plan for the high-speed gondola was endorsed by the Forest Service.

Avon’s connection to Beaver Creek raises issues for the town ranging from parking to gaining a crossing point of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and shuttle buses. It is not known if the ski company will request funding from Avon.

The upside for the town is that it will, by dint of the lift, be “on the beach” – the skier traffic the gondola could bring to Avon could energize the local economy.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com