Breck opens highest U.S. chair lift |

Breck opens highest U.S. chair lift

Nicole Formosa
Cody Downard/Vail Resorts

BRECKENRIDGE ” The thermometer at the base of Peak 8 hovered at zero degrees Monday morning, but the frigid temperatures didn’t deter a crowd from gathering at nearly 12,000 feet for a ride on the highest chair lift in North America.

The lift opens up access to 400 acres of above treeline terrain, including chutes, bowls and steeps. After the lift opened around 10 a.m., the line of 75 anxious skiers and snowboarders quickly moved forward, rewarding those who waited in the cold weather with first dibs on making tracks in the vast Imperial Bowl underneath the new lift.

“It was windblown, slightly crusty, a nice kind of carpet snow,” said Breckenridge resident Jared Mazlish, who scored a ride on the second chair of the morning, and was one of the first skiers back in line for another lap.

Before the new lift opened, skiers and riders hoping to access the expert terrain at the top of Peak 8 had to hike 45 minutes along the ridgeline from the top of the T-bar.

Mazlish, who often spent his days at the mountain trudging up to the summit, said he is a huge advocate of the new lift, and appreciates that it provides access to everyone with a lift ticket to the terrain, not just those who are willing to hoof it.

“You never make more than two or three hikes a day, now you can make 15 runs,” said Mazlish, toting his super-wide Fatypus skis, a local ski company of which he is an owner.

The 15-chair, high-speed quad opened about five weeks earlier than scheduled, thanks to early season snowfall that is 180 percent above normal for this time of year, said Roger McCarthy, the resort’s chief operating officer.

“For the skier who’s been in Breckenridge for a long, long time, this is a huge, huge thing because ” 12,840 feet ” you’re way up there,” McCarthy said.

Breckenridge Freeride Team rider Jeff Meyer said he is looking forward to the filming opportunities the new lift will provide in the Lake Chutes and other nearby extreme terrain.

“Now it’s easier. Before you couldn’t really hike up there with a camera guy and a video guy because it was just too much work, so if we can run laps through that area, then maybe we can get some good footage,” said Meyer, a 9-year Breck resident.

The Imperial Express replaces Loveland’s Chair 9 as the highest lift in North America, surpassing that lift by less than 200 feet.

Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism