Ceremony marks "official’ opening of high-speed Birds of Prey Express lift at Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

Ceremony marks "official’ opening of high-speed Birds of Prey Express lift at Beaver Creek

Christine Ina Casillas

NWS Birds2 12-20 CS

Skiers and snowboarders anxious to get to the top of some of the steepest, bumpiest runs on Beaver Creek Mountain this season have a new high-speed quad to get there.

“It’s faster,” said Mike Bergin, of Avon, who was standing at the base of the new Birds of Prey Express Lift, Chair 9, ready to head up the mountain. “It allows quicker access and more people on the terrain.”

The lift, which replaced the old, slow Westfall lift, services an area newly dubbed the Talons, identified as Beaver Creek’s most advanced terrain, which stretches from the new lift to Grouse Mountain and Larkspur Bowl. The Talons area includes popular and notorious double-diamond runs such as Goshawk, Peregrine, Golden Eagle, Falcon Park and Bald Eagle.

“During the holidays, there’s more people,” Bergin said. “I guess (Beaver Creek) needed a bigger show for the ceremony today because of the holidays. But the lift is twice as quick.”

Bergin was referring to the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the high-speed quad, which began at 11 a.m. Guests were asked to attend the ceremony by way of the intermediate Red Tail run rather than the harrowing double-diamonds the lift services.

Hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies were served to the many skiers and snowboarders who blazed through the lift line.

Recommended Stories For You

“It was a very quick ceremony,” said Christina Schleicher, a spokeswoman for Beaver Creek Resorts, who was handing out the limited-edition Birds of Prey pins to as many skiers and snowboarders as possible.

The old, two-person Westfall Lift took about 14 minutes to ride, Bergin said. Now it takes only half the time.

“It’s the first lift in hopefully a series of new lifts that will dramatically impact the mountain,” said Beaver Creek Chief Operating Officer John Garnsey. “It’ll help circulate and distribute people around Beaver Creek Mountain, especially the western and eastern sides of the resort.”

Riders will use the lift to access more terrain instead of heading down the long Dally catwalk to the main lift – Centennial Express Lift, or Chair 6 – at the bottom of the mountain.

“It dramatically lessens the impact on the Centennial Lift,” Garnsey said. “And it’s already exceeding our expectations.

“People are now using the terrain,” Garnsey added. “And it’s functioning perfectly.”

A formal ceremony

Saturday was the first day Vail resident Mike Mathias rode the new high-speed quad lift.

“Every day is an exciting day,” Mathias said. “This terrain is not for beginners. It’s definitely one for people who want a little more challenge and excitement on a run.”

The lift opened earlier this month, Garnsey said, but resort officials decided to wait until after the World Championships before dedicating the lift in a “formal ceremony.”

“The ceremony was originally planned for the Friday before the World Cup,” Garnsey said. “But we pushed the opening back – you always have to christen your new ship. This is our christening.”

The high-speed quad leads directly to steeps, bumps and gladed expert-terrain found in The Talons area.

“It allows people to access the Birds of Prey terrain easier,” Garnsey said. “It opens Beaver Creek to a whole new dimension.”

Mathias said he will ride the lift now more than before because it’s faster.

“I used to do this but not as often as I will now, because of the new chair,” Mathias said. “It looks like a quick, clean ride. It seems solid. It’s terrific. I’ll go a little more often.”

The Talons Challenge

Beaver Creek has also established “The Talons Challenge” as the standard for taming the resort’s expert terrain, Schleicher said.

Offered only through Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School and certified Talons instructors, the challenge invites experts of all ages in private or group lessons to test their skills, she said.

Participants earn a special lanyard and gold membership for completing one run from each of the three chair lifts rising out the The Talons area. Those lifts are the Birds of Prey Express, the Grouse Mountain Express and the Larkspur Lift.

Those who complete all 13 expert runs in The Talons area earn a special Talons pin, lanyard and platinum membership, Schleicher said. Platinum members are recognized on a Wall of Fame with each member’s name added to a plaque displayed in the Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School.

The lift formerly known as the Bird of Prey, which rises from Spruce Saddle at mid-mountain, is now called the Cinch Express Lift.

“In addition to being a great family mountain, we have some of the most challenging terrain in the Rockies,” Garnsey said. “The Talons Challenge encourages advanced skiers and riders to conquer our toughest slopes with one of our experienced instructors.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.