Vail’s new Chair 5 passes key test |

Vail’s new Chair 5 passes key test

Melanie Wong
Vali, CO Colorado
Daily file photoChair 5 in Vail Mountain's Back Bowls could be replaced by a high-speed lift in 2010. The resort company also plans to build another lift nearby.

VAIL, Colorado ” Getting in and out of the Back Bowls may in Vail, Colorado be faster and easier with plans for a replacement for Chair 5 and a new lift from Sun Down Bowl.

The resort is one step closer to getting the lifts after the U.S. Forest Service gave the green light for the projects earlier this week. Plans include replacing the three-seat Chair 5 with a four-seat, high-speed lift and installing a Sun Down Express lift, which would provide access from the western part of Sun Down Bowl to the ridge above Game Creek.

“There’s a purpose and need to do that,” said Forest Service Snow Ranger Don Dressler of the lifts. “Skier circulation will benefit and wait times will be reduced.”

Chair 5 was originally installed in 1979 and can carry 1,400 people per hour. The new lift would almost double that number. The Sun Down express would provide a more efficient way out of the bowls and reduce lines at both Chair 5 and Chair 11, reports said.

The mountain hopes to start on the lift projects in the summer of 2010 pending on the approval, said Chris Jarnot, Vail Mountain’s chief operating officer.

The Forest Service has done an environmental review of the project and published the results for public comment. The public has 45 days to comment on the improvements, and the Forest Service is schedule to make a final decision in the spring.

Some skiers an snowboarders said the faster lifts out of the bowls is welcome news. Skier Bart Cuomo called slow access at Chair 5 the “biggest problem” on the mountain.

“Have you ever had to wait in line at chair 5 on a powder day?” he said.

Skier Brett Bergman said that sitting on the slow lift in the freezing weather is his biggest complaint, and that he’s in support of any improvements that will get skiers out of the bowls faster.

“Anything’s better than what’s there,” he said. “And everywhere else in Vail has high-speed lifts, so it won’t affect any of the charm of the place.”

Others were more hesitant to see one of Vail’s only remaining older lifts go.

“I love the old Chair 5. It will always have a nice place in my heart,” said ski patroller Dawn Vogeler. “But it’s probably something they have to do eventually.”

The following proposed projects for Vail Mountain got a tentative thumbs-up from the U.S. Forest Service:

– Upgrading Chair 5 (High Noon).

– New lift into Sun Down Bowl.

– New snowcat maintenance facility.

– New “fine-dining” restaurant at top of Chairs 4, 5 and 11.

– More snowmaking equipment for Simba run.

One did not:

– Expanding the Golden Peak race venue.

See the full environmental report under “projects and plans” at

Source: U.S. Forest Service

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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