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Perceive The Beav a whole new way

by Stephen Lloyd Wood
Fall foliage creates a beautiful backdrop Friday September 26,2003 as crews install the lower terminal for Beaver Creek Resort's new high speed quad, "Birds of Prey Express".
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If you haven’t been up on Beaver Creek Mountain since those thigh-burning finals days of April, you’re in for a treat or two when the resort opens this season – especially if you love long, steep runs.

Workers are putting the final touches on the Birds of Prey Express Lift, the resort’s biggest on-mountain improvement in years. The new high-speed detachable quad, made by the Swiss Doppelmayr company, promises to alter the way many of us – especially powderhounds and bump skiers – perceive The Beav.

“The new lift will have a dramatic impact on circulation,” says John Garnsey, chief operating officer. “It’ll change the way people ski and ride Beaver Creek.”

The new lift has the capability of transporting as many as 2,600 skiers and snowboarders an hour – more than twice the capacity of the now-history Westfall LIft, or Chair 9, a slow-moving, non-detachable double-chair. The new Birds of Prey Express will cover the same trip from Red Tail Camp to the top of the mountain in the half time, or less than seven minutes.

The former Birds of Prey Express Lift has been renamed Cinch Express Lift, a better name, Garnsey says, because it serves much easier terrain that’s linked together with a long catwalk, or Cinch Road.

“It’s a cinch,” Garnsey says.

“A whole new ski area’

The new Birds of Prey Express reopens the door to an area of the resort often overlooked – or just plain avoided – by skiers and snowboarders without the patience for the 13-minute ride up Westfall.

The west-facing slopes, which are cut through dense pine forest, typically don’t see the sun until midday, so conditions there often are the best on the mountain long after everything else is sunbaked or skied off. And at 6,478 feet long, they are some of the longest, steepest runs in North America. They’re steep, too, dropping 2,158 vertical feet for an average grade of 33 percent.

“It makes Beaver Creek a whole new ski area. It’s always had its great powder stashes, but only people who had patience (with the Westfall Lift) could take advantage of them,” says Chris Anthony of Avon, an extreme skier and a frequent star of annual productions made by Warren Miller Films. “Riding old “Chair 9′ was tough, but now you’ll be able to whip up and down no problem.”

Anthony –who stars in “Journey,” Warren Miller’s newest film set to open at Beaver Creek Oct. 16 – says even good skiers in good shape are going to find it quite challenging to ski the new Birds of Prey Express Lift more than a few times a day. After all, the trails it serves – Goshawk, Peregrine and lower Golden Eagle – are known by locals as some of the toughest around.

“It’s a favorite part of my ski world,” says Anthony. “Now, those runs will get out quicker, too, so get there early on a powder day.”

Relieving pressure

Pete Sonntag , director of Beaver Creek’s adult Ski and Snowboard School, says the new chairlift will “change everything” for advanced skiers and snowboarders, who typically have gravitated to the resort’s infamous Grouse Mountain. Long, steep, north-facing slopes there, fed by another high-speed quad lift, the Grouse Mountain Express, are quite something to behold, too – especially on a powder day. But despite its challenges, it can get skied off by late-morning.

“The new lift will put more skiers on Golden Eagle, etc., and take pressure off Grouse Mountain,” says Sonntag.

Garnsey says the new Birds of Prey Express Lift also will relieve pressure on the mountain’s main access from Beaver Creek Village, the Centennial Express Lift, as well as skier traffic on Dally Road. And hopefully, he adds, it’ll go a long way toward the perception of Beaver Creek as just a destination resort for beginners and intermediates.

“Beaver Creek has some of the most challenging terrain in North America, but we’ve had a challenge making the public aware of it,” Garnsey says.

As far as replacing Beaver Creek’s other slow-moving chairlifts in Rose Bowl and Larkspur Bowl, Garnsey says that’s not in the cards anytime soon.

“New chairlifts are expensive ventures, and you can’t just do two or three at a time,” he says. “We decided replacing the Westfall LIft would have the largest impact.”

What could prompt the next major capitol improvement, he says, would be approval of a gondola from Avon to Bachelor Gulch and then on to the top of Beaver Creek’s Strawberry Park area, a much-ballyhooed project that, at least for now, has been put on hold.

“If the gondola went forward, certainly Larkspur Bowl would see some improvements,” Garnsey says.

Other improvements

Besides the new chairlift, crews have been busy at Beaver Creek since spring on another major project – one not so obvious to visitors once the snow flies. “Substantial” improvements have been made to the resort’s snowmaking system, Garnsey says, and anybody who’s visited the lower mountain can see the aftermath of installing new water pipelines underneath the Haymeadow area.

“We’ve upgraded the whole system to make it more efficient,” says Garnsey. “The majority of out snow guns will be the same, but we’ll be able to put down a better product.”

The improvements are scheduled to be ready to begin making snow by Nov. 1, says Garnsey.

“All signs are for an exciting and great winter,” Garnsey says.

Opening day at Beaver Creek is scheduled for Nov. 22.

Park-ology

Beaver Creek provides park instruction for skiers and riders of all abilities and ages through its ski and snowboard schools. The resort also introduces beginner- and intermediate-level learning competitions to help aspiring jibbers hone their skills, learn park etiquette and become more comfortable in a competitive setting.

Included in the program this year are three terrain parks:

– Park 101 – a new entry-level park on upper Sheephorn, above Spruce Saddle.

– Zoom Room – a progressive, entry-level to more difficult park that begins with introductory features, such as rollers, small tables and small rails, and moves to progressively larger features and rails.

– Moonshine Terrain Park and Pipe -a user-friendly terrain park off lower Centennial intended for intermediates to experts looking to improve their skills on a variety of features, including tables, hips, spines, rails, logslides and a learning half-pipe.

Ske-cology

Beaver Creek has upgraded and expanded its on-mountain kids’ attractions, adding two new Ske-cology trails, in Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead, new facades and other play areas, such as the Gold Mine, Bear Cave and Tombstone Territory.


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