By David Schissler
Photo By Austin Day
(September 2014) I’ll never forget my first ride up the Centennial Express lift. It was at the World Championships in 1989, way before the now revered and feared Birds of Prey existed, downhill training was literally beneath my feet. We had just passed the then infamous “Rattlesnake Canyon” on the flat mid section of the course. Swiss Olympic and Downhill champion turned race course designer Bernard Russi constructed a “canyon” of two six-to-eight-feet tall snow banks about 30-feet apart that “snaked” through the mid section to spice up the less than challenging terrain. I watched from the lift as it rose and saw how various competitors approached the “amusement park” feature. As the lift passed the top of the flat I saw Austrian Hansi Hinteerser shuss the top steep, and as he came to the end of the pitch he intentionally hit a roll and launched into a high-flying helicopter right under my chair and landed what must have been several hundred feet down the trail. I think he was confident he could handle the course.
I bring up this memorable experience because the Centennial Express Lift (Chair 6) is no more. It’s being replaced by a six-passenger hybrid of chairs and gondolas that will transport 3,400 riders per hour increasing uphill capacity by 35 percent. The new lift will have one gondola cabin for very five six-person chairs allowing guests to choose between a ride in a gondola cabin or on a chair with two separate queuing lines.
“The unique and dramatic benefits to our guests, to be able to install a combination lift with gondola cabins and chairs and replace one of the most utilized lifts at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain, are tremendous and completely in line with the Beaver Creek brand promise to deliver high-quality guest experiences,” said Doug Lovell, vice president and chief operating officer for Beaver Creek Resort. “After careful consideration, we believe this is exactly the right solution to position Beaver Creek for the future and address the resort’s continued growth and diverse guest needs.”
Also of interest at BC is the addition of 34 new, fully-automated, state-of-the-art snowmaking guns. What makes these guns different is they’re self-adjusting. They can actually sense if the sun comes out and adjust the water/air mix accordingly to output the best possible snow quality. They’re set to automatically refresh the snow surface conditions on Gold Dust and Lower Larkspur trails throughout the season. This one-of-a-kind system ensures, regardless of natural snowfall, the resorts’ guests will always be skiing or riding on the freshest snow available every day.
The new gondola cabins will also enable guests to comfortably access the Spruce Saddle area for nighttime dining and recreational activities.