Beaver Creek lift replacement on schedule
Beaver Creek venerable 23 year-old Westfall ski lift – both loved and hated for its leisurely 13-minute ride – will soon be a relic as crews disassemble it to prepare for its new high-speed replacement.
Those who loved (or hated) the Westfall will be rewarded this winter with a blistering six-minute ride to the top on a brand-new, detachable quad – a substantial change from the tortoise-like days of the past.
For crews disassembling the lift, it’s a bittersweet time.
“It’s kind of sad to see it go,” says P.J. Johnson, director of lift operations at Beaver Creek. “I remember those early days riding Westfall and looking up at Larkspur and thinking, “Wow! I wonder what it will be like when they develop all that new terrain?’ Those were the mountain’s really exciting days, the time when we were all looking forward to the future.”
With work underway since June 11, staff from Beaver Creek and a team from Doppelmayr lifts – which won the contract to fabricate and install a replacement for the original Westfall – have already removed Westfall’s lift line and chairs and are ready to use a helicopter to pull out the existing towers. Old chairs from the lift are being stored near Beaver Creek’s NASTAR course on Centennial; an outside contractor has already taken much of Westfall’s other parts and will use them at ski areas across the continent.
“This is basically a turnkey operation for us – Doppelmayr has its own crew that does most of the work,” says Carl Eaton, Beaver Creek’s lift maintenance supervisor. “But we’re in full de-construction mode now. The bottom terminal is completely gone and the top terminal is mostly disassembled. Starting this week, we’ll also be digging new tower foundations and pouring concrete – and then we’ll wait for a helicopter to fly out the towers.”
Eaton says he and crews have faced a few issues as they work in some of Beaver Creek’s steepest terrain.
“We had to conduct a full environmental study because there are some wetland issues in the area. We had one plant in question, the R2 moonwort, a little fern you find in some areas – but it wasn’t a problem in that area.”
Eaton says crews also faced a major logistical problem in pulling down the many thousands of feet of steel lift line cable.
“Essentially, you bring in a big winch with 13,000 feet of nine-sixteenths of an inch of cable, splice it into the existing line, and as you roll it up the line, you pull down the old line. That was a two and a half day project for us and it took a little longer than we expected – but where we’re working is pretty steep and rocky.”
Eaton says the new lift chairs and much of the equipment is being manufactured at Doppelmayr’s plant in St. Jerome, Quebec; fabrication has also begun on new lift towers, which will be built in Salt Lake City.
“Doppelmayr’s engineers have been in and have done their final surveys and measurements and they’re starting work on the towers right away,” he says. “We figure that we’ll see the biggest push on the project in August, and if everything goes well, we’ve estimated a completion date in mid-November.”
Westfall lives on
Wherever possible, Beaver Creek tried to recycle Westfall’s components; Vail Mountain’s vintage Lift 1, Giant Steps, is the biggest benefactor.
“We took the digital drive out of Westfall and will be installing it on Lift 1 – and that’s pretty substantial, bringing a 1963 lift up to today’s standards,” says Eaton. “Anything else salvageable was sold to an outside lift builder, who purchased the chairs and the bullwheels.”
The Westfall project is Beaver Creek’s biggest undertaking since 1997’s upgrade of Chair 8, the Birds of Prey lift. Both Eaton and Johnson say this summer’s Westfall replacement been an interesting experience.
“There are a lot of mixed feelings about Westfall,” Eaton says. “It was a great lift – it wasn’t like it didn’t work or anything. You’d talk to a lot of people who liked the 13 minute break you got from skiing the bumps on Peregrine. But if we do go ahead and put in the gondola at Beaver Creek, the new lift will be tied in for better access to the top. And the new lift is going to be pretty slick – about 1,800 feet of vertical in six minutes.”
Johnson says Westfall’s replacement will substantially change the way many people use Beaver Creek’s upper mountain terrain.
“The old Chair 9 was pretty underutilized,” he says. “Now people will be able to ride the chair and ski a lot more, and that will really help flow at the mountain. I know a lot of people who’d have lunch at Red Tail but would avoid Chair 9 and would ski all the way to the bottom on Dally – now it’s going to be so much easier to get back up to the top.”
Hikers and bikers can expect to see Westfall’s old chairs neatly stacked on Centennial until August or September, when the salvage contractor will return and remove them.