Construction continues on Vail Mountain |

Construction continues on Vail Mountain

Melanie Wong
An advertisement for Vail's coming attraction, the Forest Flyer, is seen Monday at Eagle's Nest on Vail Mountain. The Alpine coaster features hand brakes that will allow guests to control their speed while reaching speeds of approximately 25 miles per hour.
Townsend Bessent | |

VAIL — Anyone who has been on Vail Mountain lately may have noticed some significant construction, as the resort is well into one of the busiest summers of improvement in recent years.

Vail Mountain has several major projects underway, including replacing Avanti Express (Chair 2) with a new, high-speed, six-pack lift and two big components of its Epic Discovery project — the Forest Flyer and the canopy zipline in Game Creek Bowl.

“The Epic Discovery experience we introduced two years ago will really begin next year with these two big new activities,” said Chris Jarnot, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. “Along with those activities, we’ll also be installing some interpretative environmental programs (which includes educational signage around the mountain and interactive activities) and doing some new trail work in advance of next summer.”

Both Epic Discovery projects are expected to open for guests next summer.

Major projects

As of mid-July at Avanti Express, crews have removed the lift terminals and the cross arms of the old lift. Assembly of the new arms for the six-passenger chairs is ongoing, and in the next few weeks, a helicopter will be installing those onto the towers, said Sara Lococo of Vail Mountain communications. Work on Chair 2 is expected to be finished in time for the winter season.

Meanwhile, visitors to Eagle’s Nest are also glimpsing a view of the next phase of Epic Discovery, Vail’s extensive plans for new summer activities. Just west of Eagle’s Nest, piles of dirt, construction vehicles and the wooden frame of a small building serve as the beginnings of the Forest Flyer, a gravity-driven mountain coaster. When completed, the Forest Flyer will have two-seat coaster cars that run on a 3,400-foot long track, winding down the far west side of the mountain. At the end, the coaster is pulled back to the top of Eagle’s Nest. The Flyer will reach a maximum of 25 mph and the cars include hand brakes that allow riders to control their own speed.

The Game Creek Canopy Tour is also in its beginning stages as crews put towers and do excavation work in Game Creek Bowl. The finished tour will include seven different ziplines that span more than 10,000 total feet, the highest line sitting 300 feet above ground. Guests will be harnessed in as they soar through the bowl from station to station, going as far as Wildwood Express before looping back to Eagle’s Nest.

The Game Creek zipline tour is the first of two proposed zipline expansions that will be part of Epic Discovery. The second, which is not yet scheduled to be built, would be on the front side of the mountain near Mid-Vail.

Jarnot said the new activities will give summer visitors, who may not normally see Vail’s Back Bowls or less popular parts of the mountain, a new view.

“I think it gives people more of a feel for the mountain,” he said. “Many of our guests don’t get the chance to make it to places like Game Creek Bowl. This will take them a bit further into the forests.”

What’s next?

Epic Discovery isn’t necessarily finished with the completion of the Forest Flyer and zipline. The U.S. Forest Service has approved several other activities, but plans have not yet been made to build them. Those potential projects include the zipline on the front side, a climbing wall and more mountain bike trails.

Jarnot said the resort will see how the new projects are received first before deciding to move forward with the others. So far, however, recent additions up at Eagle’s Nest, which include a 1,200-foot long zipline, a challenge course and ropes courses for kids and adults, have been popular.

“Each one we’ve added has been really well received,” said Jarnot. “There’s a certain amount of pent-up demand for what to do here in the summer. As we’ve expanded, people are feeling like it’s more worth it to make the trip up the mountain and maybe spend a whole day up there. With these two new activities, it will round out the whole offering.”

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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