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Fast lifts and the spirit of the sport

Don Rogers

The Forest Service should find plenty of support for a fast new lift to replace Vail’s beloved Chair 5, if the talk over the years among the skiers waiting in line there is any indication.

The creaky old three-seater slug does have its old-school uses. The rest between runs in Sun Down is relaxing, if you can manage a certain zen calm sitting on a lift that ought to be named Forever instead of High Noon. You can form full relationships waiting in line some days just to get on a chair. Knowing the line that awaits keeps wise riders heading to other parts of the vast resort.

All that has its attractive points, sure, but overwhelmingly the skiers camping in line would rather be skiing, thank you very much. Chair 5 is the first that springs to mind for a long overdue upgrade.



The Forest Service is accepting comment about a Vail Resorts idea to replace Chair 5 with a high-speed quad and run another express lift up the other side of the bowl.

Surprising to me, the Forest Service has only received 37 responses as of Stephen Lloyd Wood’s fine story in our Friday edition. Tom Boyd at the Trail has been writing about Chair 5 fairly regularly for the better part of a year. I don’t know, I just would have expected more public input by now.



For now, though, we’re stuck trying to divine meeting out of an awfully small sampling of comment. What’s the error factor in this survey? It might as well be in the 100 percent range, so far.

Great idea asking the masses what they think, but we do have to participate for this democratic exercise to have any value.

The most “votes” so far form a Bill Clinton plurality of sentiment (43 percent, 16 comments) for two speedy lifts running up each side of Sun Down. Eight people so far form the 22 percent favoring no new lifts. Five people (13 percent) like the Chair 5 idea but not the other lift. Two, Earl Eaton among them, suggested other alternatives. And four folks just wanted more information.



Here’s an address to send your comments: Cal Wettstein, District Ranger; Holy Cross Ranger District; P.O. Box 190; Minturn, CO 81645. You can send by fax to (970) 827-9343. If you need more information, call Snow Ranger Dave Ozawa at (970) 827-5715 or e-mail him at dozawa@fs.fed.us.

Vail Mountain’s keepers explain this is just an idea at this point. Construction would still be years from now. Basically, they are floating an idea.

A new Sun Down lift that tops out near Wildwood makes sense for spreading out the skiers, and getting them out at the end of day. So I can understand how Vail Resorts executives might like that plan. It’s logical.

Still.

There ought to remain room for flaws, runs you have to work a little harder for, some of that rough magic that expert analysis can only kill as it aims to smooth out all the bumps in a visitor’s day.

I know from a few years of listening to folks grouse about the aged lift that its days have to be numbered. And I can’t say I’d miss endless rides and longer waits to get on the chair.

But I hope the powers that be hold off on that second express. The win-win would be to unclog the chokepoint and keep a bit more of the mountain a sweet stash that you have to work just a bit harder to reach, and more truly appreciate.

In this case, too much perfection might indeed erode some of the spirit of the sport where it counts most. Please be careful about this.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or at editor@vaildaily.com


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