Vail Mountain targets Jan. 21-23 for new Sun Down Express chairlift opening
Chairs now hang from a lift cable on Vail’s new Sun Down Express, giving it the appearance of a full-functioning chairlift.
And soon it will be, Vail Mountain announced over the weekend, with an all-important load test for the lift scheduled to begin soon.
The mountain is now hoping to open the Sun Down Express to guests as early as Saturday, according to a blog post published Jan. 14.
“We’re hopeful that you’ll be riding this new chairlift between January 21-23,” according to the post. “If everything goes to plan and we don’t experience any unforeseen delays or weather challenges, you’ll be lapping Sun Down Bowl like never before.”
It’s part of what Vail calls “a clear plan” to get the lift up and running yet this month.
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From January 14-17, the lift is scheduled to start running “to get some hours on the equipment and make sure everything is working as expected,” according to the post. “The final step is called the Acceptance Test, with perhaps the most exciting portion being the Load Test. During the Load Test we place 55-gallon containers of water on the chairs to simulate the weight of passengers on a fully loaded chairlift line. We also run the chairlift to its limits – making sure everything works appropriately and it can handle a lift line full of passengers. The Acceptance Test generally takes two to three days to complete, and we may have to limit some access to Sun Down Bowl for your safety (because we don’t want anyone skiing or riding under a 55-gallon container of water when we’re running the test).”
Once the lift is open, crews will continue to fine tune things in a similar way to the fine tuning which recently occurred on Game Creek Express, Vail Mountain said. Game Creek Express was upgraded to a six-seat chair, which was scheduled to open in early December. It hit delays, opened in late December and once it did open, some adjustments were made, Vail Mountain said.
“We’ve tweaked the terminals and made adjustments to the top terminal ramp so you have a smoother experience offloading the lift,” according to the post. “As we see how you ride the new Sun Down Express (#17) you can expect us to spend time observing and fine tuning this lift, as well.”
The lift will be a four-person detachable quad from Leitner-Poma, transporting guests along a new lift line on Vail Mountain. That lift line will run from the bottom of the High Noon Express (No. 5) line to the top of the Wildwood area on Vail Mountain, where the Wildwood Express (No. 3) lift meets the new Game Creek chair.
Delays in those lifts caused delays in opening not just chair No. 3 this season, but the whole Wildwood area including all of Game Creek Bowl and Sun Down Bowl. The last of those areas to open, Sun Down Bowl, opened Jan. 10.
More snow on the way
Vail Mountain has recorded 176 inches of snow so far this season, with more on the way. On Sunday, snow flurries hit the mountain, leaving about 3 inches of fresh snow on the slopes by the end of the ski day.
The National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office issued a winter weather advisory for the Vail area on Sunday, calling for accumulations of 2 to 6 inches in areas near the Gore Range and Vail Pass.
Additional snow is expected to hit Vail in the coming week, as well. A hazardous weather outlook from the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, also issued Sunday, calls for more snowfall to hit the area following Monday’s early morning storm.
“The storm late in the week will favor the Northern and Central Mountains and Valleys and is expected to be colder,” according to the outlook issued Sunday.