The old Burgess Creek chairlift has seen more than three decades of service at the Steamboat Ski Area, but the winter of 2003-04 was its last.
The name will live on, but crews have begun removing the chairs and cable from the 35-year-old lift. The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. announced Thursday it has signed a purchase agreement with Leitner-Poma of America to install a $1.3 million fixed-grip triple chairlift this summer.
"American Skiing Co.'s commitment to reinvest in Steamboat is evidenced by way of the $1.3 million for this project," Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond said.
The new triple chairlift will increase uphill capacity by 64 percent while reducing travel time by half a minute. And ski area officials announced it would purchase blocks of wind-generated electricity comparable to what it takes to operate the new lift.
"It's a commitment to encourage the use of alternative energy sources and tie it to a specific project," said Steamboat Senior Director of Mountain Operations Doug Allen.
Allen said the consensus at a staff meeting was that the name Burgess Creek was significant to the development of the ski area and should remain unchanged.
"The Burgess Creek lift was originally installed in 1969 and was part of the core lift system that helped Steamboat to become the great ski area it is today," Allen said. "It provides access to great skiing for all ability levels, is an important access lift for Thunderhead Lodge and is an easy way to transfer to skiing in the Priest Creek and Sunshine Bowl areas."
Allen expects crews to begin removing old chairlift towers as soon as next week. Helicopters will fly in concrete and new towers in August and September. The terminals for the triple chairlift will be positioned in about the same locations as the old Burgess Creek lift, but the lower maze will be realigned behind the terminal, eliminating the skier/rider bottleneck that occasionally occurred on Ego trail.
Allen said a high-speed detachable quad chairlift was not considered a good option for Burgess Creek because of its relatively short length. Over that length, the minimal gain in shortened ride time doesn't justify the additional cost, he said.
The lift has a vertical rise of 938 feet along a length of 3,369 feet. The economics of high-speed quads make them more cost effective at lengths of more than 5,000 feet, he said.
The Burgess Creek replacement will be the first new lift on the mountain since the Pony Express Quad was installed for the 1998-99 season. It also will be the first Leitner-Poma lift at the resort.