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Ski Corp. vice presidents Andy Wirth and Doug Allen describe the capital improvements that will be completed this year for next season.
• Five magic carpet lifts will be upgraded, realigned and lengthened
• The new Preview lift, using the repositioned Southface lift, will be realigned to match the regrading of beginner terrain
• Snowmaking: Steamboat system will see $1 million in improvements with the installation of more durable pipe at the base of the ski area
• Meadows remote parking lot will be expanded by 140 spaces on the north end. The small, "Lot 3" between the Knoll and Mount Werner Circle will be converted to a close-in drop-off and turnaround area during construction of One Steamboat Place
• The ski area will purchase six additional automated defibrillator units, which have a track record of saving the lives of cardiac patients on the ski mountain
Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Ski Area announced plans Tuesday to build a new six-passenger chairlift with a capacity that exceeds any of its existing lifts, including the eight-passenger gondola.
Construction of the new Christie Peak Express will begin this summer as part of a record $16 million in on-mountain improvements. The new lift will transport 3,200 people per hour from the bottom of the mountain to Christie Peak, a distance of 4,700 feet. And it will get the job done in just under 5 minutes. The gondola travels farther and higher, but peaks out at 2,800 passengers per hour.
"The new Christie Peak Express will radically change the entire lower mountain experience and unlock its untapped potential while at the same time acting as a backup for the gondola," said Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations. He predicts that during peak tourism periods, Christie Express will soften the morning crush at the gondola.
By consolidating a trip that used to take two lifts into a single lift, the duration of the ride to Christie Peak will be cut from 15 minutes to just under 5 minutes, Allen added.
Steamboat Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said the significance of the installation of the Christie Peak Express should be gauged in the context of other projects in the community he believes will transform the vacation experience in Steamboat.
"This is a record amount of on-mountain improvements, but it's small when you consider the public improvements being undertaken at the base by the Urban Renewal Authority, major real estate projects under way at the mountain and in downtown Steamboat and the improvements made at the airport," Wirth said.
"Look at it in that context and in the next three to four years, Steamboat has never seen anything like this. From a guest's point of view, things are changing dramatically for the better."
The new lift will be unlike any other chairlift at Steamboat in at least one other way. Skiers and snowboarders will have the option of disembarking at a midway station or remaining on the lift as it takes a dogleg for the ride to the top of Christie Peak.
The construction of the new lift, anticipated in the amended master plan Ski Corp. filed with the U.S. Forest Service two years ago, will coincide with a major re-grading of Headwall. The work will eliminate an awkward double fall line that detracts from the enjoyment of novice skiers and snowboarders.
Ski Corp. employees will accomplish the dirt work with a series of cuts and fills designed by a local engineering firm, Allen said.
The goal is to improve the experience of ski school students at the same time more advanced skiers gain quick access to skiing laps on popular trails like See Me and Lower Valley View, he added. The latter should prove popular with local skiers and riders who want to squeeze some worthwhile skiing into a lunch hour, Allen predicted.
The arrival of Christie Peak Express ushers out the era of the two-seater chairlift at the base of Steamboat.
At the same time Steamboat undertakes the construction of the new lift, it will remove the existing Preview chairlift along with the old Christie II double chair. The name "Preview" will carry on with the move of the existing Southface triple chair to a position close to the existing Preview. Christie III triple chair will probably remain in place.
"This is a really small base area for the size of the ski area," Allen said. "We're really trying to make maximum benefit of the terrain for our ski school."
The slope underneath Preview is a gentle 15 percent grade. With the new lift, beginners and their instructors will enjoy the increased capacity of a triple chairlift and a substantially longer ski trail, Allen said.
The regrading of Headwall will actually create three trails across the slope while eliminating the double fall line where the existing hill falls away abruptly toward the north. In addition to the expanded Preview trail on the north side of Headwall, there will be a trail with a 17 percent grade in the middle and a third with a 21 percent grade on the south side of Headwall. The latter two trails will probably be separated by a stand of trees, Allen said.
"It will really have a whole different look," he said.