Vail sells old Chair 5 out of Back Bowls |

Vail sells old Chair 5 out of Back Bowls

Shane Macomber/Vail Daily file photoThere are a lot of legends surrounding the Panty Tree in Vail Mountain's Back Bowls. The tree will be cut down this summer to make way for a faster chairlift.

VAIL – The legend of Vail Mountain’s old Chair 5 will live on somewhere else – but not in your living room.

Vail Resorts has sold Chair 5, the Back Bowl three-seater that is being replaced by a faster, four-seat lift this summer. The company that bought it is a middle man that will try to find Chair 5 a new home, said Chris Jarnot, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.

That means Vail Resorts won’t be giving away or selling the chairs. When the 35-year-old Chair 10 was replaced, for example, Vail gave away the chairs, and they were quickly snapped up by locals looking for a little bit of Vail Mountain memorabilia. Also, on May 1, chairs from Arapahoe Basin’s Exhibition triple chairlift will go on sale for $450 each.

Vail did offer a chair from Chair 5 as part of a promotion during the Spring Back to Vail event last week.

The chair served Sun Up and Sun Down bowls on Vail Mountain.

The new Chair 5 was approved in December after about two years of Forest Service review and public input.

Vail Resorts said the new chairlift will improve skier circulation on the mountain. On busy powder days, wait lines at the old lift, built in 1979, could top 30 minutes. The new chair will increase the capacity of the chairlift from 1,400 people per hour to 2,400.

But some local skiers said they appreciated the slower pace of the old chairlift, and said a new lift would cause fresh powder to disappear a lot faster.

In fact, Vail Resorts pulled the plug on a plan to replace the lift in 2003 after there was an outcry from skiers.

The dismantling of Chair 5 began Tuesday. The chairs were pulled off the cable, and the cable is being taken down. The old one should be gone by the first week of May, and the new one should be installed by the start of next ski season in November, Jarnot said.

Trees are being cut to make room for the larger lift, which will also be aligned slightly differently. About 100 to 200 trees will be cut, said Don Dressler, of the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land on which the project is happening.

And one of those trees being cut will be the famous Panty Tree.

“It’s coming down,” Dressler said.

The Panty Tree is a tree alongside the lift that is festooned with women’s undergarments. It has become a landmark in the Back Bowls, and was even featured in a Grand Marnier ad campaign a few years ago.

“You just recognized a pair of panties in the Sun Down Bowl Tree,” the ad said, adding the tagline, “The conversation is waiting.”

There are plenty of legends and stories about the panty tree.

“Rumor has it that this special decor was donated courtesy of triumphs of the nights before,” columnist Elizabeth Eber wrote in the Vail Daily in 2006. “Others swear it was the serendipitous generosity of ski partners who just couldn’t wait. The fact is, the Back Bowls can get pretty cold. But then, they also can get pretty hot.”

Vail’s original panty tree was, according to rumor, cut down in 1997 by a disgruntled hiker, but a new one soon grew, Eber wrote.

Vail Mountain officials are confident that the same thing will happen next year.

“I suspect it will regenerate itself,” Jarnot said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or

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