Helicopter makes laps on bump runs
VAIL ” The green helicopter swooped down above the Chair 10 liftline, and settled over four men in orange vests.
The men grabbed the bucket of concrete that dangled hundreds of feet below the chopper. For a few seconds, wet concrete poured out of the bucket as the tall grass rustled in the wind from the helicopter’s rotors.
When all the concrete was poured, the men, in unison, raised their arms in the air, and the Kaman K-MAX helicopter sped away in a wide, counter-clockwise curve, with the empty bucket of concrete trailing behind it.
Ninety seconds later, the helicopter was back, doing the same thing. And 90 seconds later, the same. Again and again, the helicopter returned like clockwork.
The helicopter was pouring the foundations for lift towers of the new Chair 10. The old two-seater is being replace with a high-speed, four-seat lift. The new lift will cut the ride time in half, to seven minutes.
“The concrete trucks can’t drive to the holes,” said Clyde Wiessner, Vail’s director of lifts, who was on site supervising the work Wednesday.
So the concrete truck was parked at the bottom of Chair 11, the Northwoods Express, and the helicopter was flying the wet concrete several hundred yards to the east.
Every 90 seconds, Brian Jorgenson, the Idaho-based pilot, would bring the helicopter back to the cement truck, popping his head out of the narrow cockpit so he could spot the workers below him. The workers, from the lift company Leitner-Poma, would replace an empty bucket with a full bucket.
Dean Warren, the installation manager with Leitner-Poma for the project, was helping replace the empty buckets. The work wasn’t particularly arduous, he said.
“It’s just repetitious,” Warren said.
They were aiming to do 200 round trips with the helicopter today, hauling a total of 150 cubic yards of concrete. The work was expected to last from 6:30 in the morning until 8 at night.
“This is probably one of the best offices you could ever have,” Warren said.
Chair 10, the Highline Lift ” soon to be known as the Highline Express Lift ” serves the steep bump runs Highline, Blue Ox and Roger’s Run. The old lift was removed shortly after last ski season ended.
Even with the faster ride and the higher capacity, don’t expect Highline to turn into a groomer, officials say.
“Highline will still stay the signature bump run,” said Vail Mountain spokeswoman Jen Brown.
Highline and Roger’s Run aren’t groomed, while Blue Ox is groomed occasionally. That won’t change with the new lift, Brown said.
On Tuesday, the helicopter poured foundations for Chair 14, the Sourdough Lift, which is also being replaced with a high-speed quad.
In a few weeks, Vail will bring in an even bigger helicopter to fly in the lift towers for Chairs 10 and 14. The chairs are supposed to be ready for the upcoming ski season.
These are the first new lifts installed at Vail since 2000, when Pete’s lift was built in Blue Sky Basin.
“It’s so exciting,” Wiessner said. “It’s an opportunity we all look forward to.”
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.
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