‘Buckaroo Express’ a new ride for kids | VailDaily.com

‘Buckaroo Express’ a new ride for kids

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyDopplemayr employee Erik Roslund lines up the foundations for the towers of the gondola being built in the beginners area of Beaver Creek Mountain.

VAIL ” Jim Kercher was standing on a pile of dirt, but he was imagining a gondola in wintertime.

Here is where the skiers will step off the gondola, he said, and here is where they will walk across a small plaza.

Kercher, Beaver Creek’s ski school director, took a few steps.

Here is where they will enter the new ski-school building at the top of the Haymeadow ski trail, he said.

The gondola that Kerchner imagined is supposed to be reality by opening day this winter. The eight-person cars of the “Buckaroo Express” will rise about 400 vertical feet up Beaver Creek Mountain from the village.

The gondola, geared toward beginning skiers and snowboarders, will make a kid’s first chairlift ride a little less scary, Kercher said.

“This lets them feel comfortable,” he said.

On the old two-seat lift on Haymeadow, students would often have to be split up from their teacher as they went up the hill.

“It is a little bit intimidating when they leave their instructor and wonder when they’ll see them next,” Kercher said.

A building at the top of the gondola, called “The Ranch,” will sell lift tickets and ski school lessons, be a starting point for kids’ lessons and have a restaurant for students.

Workers are building the bases of the lift towers now. Erik Roslund, who works for Doppelmayr in Salt Lake City, was building one of the bases of the lift towers Thursday. Even in the midst of a heat wave, Roslund wasn’t complaining.

“It’s nice out today,” he said.

He and his crew are working 10 hours a day, up to six days a week. Later in the summer, cranes will be used to install the lift towers.

Roslund also helped build the Riverfront Express Gondola, which connects Avon to Beaver Creek and is supposed to open this winter.

He goes to different ski areas each summer to build lifts, whether it’s in Washington, Utah or Colorado.

“We get bounced around pretty good,” he said.

Beaver Creek workers are shaping the terrain around the gondola to make it suitable for beginners. An 8-degree pitch is ideal for beginning skiers, Kercher said.

Beginning snowboarders prefer a little steeper slope, at about 15 degrees, he said.

There will be four new “carpet” lifts just below the top of the gondola.

The building at the top of the gondola will be a good place for parents to watch their kids, Kercher said.

“A lot of parents want to watch their kids progress and it’s a real comfortable viewing spot up here,” he said.

The gondola elevates Beaver Creek’s stature as a family resort, Kercher said.

“It takes it up another notch,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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