Skiers and riders who hate strapping in just to ski from Snowmass Mall to the bottom terminal of Village Express are in luck.
On Thursday, Aspen Skiing Co. announced it has received approval from the town of Snowmass Village and the U.S. Forest Service to fast-track the installation of a new lift at Snowmass Ski Area that will replace the Coney Glade lift and have a bottom terminal across the slope from Snowmass Mall.
“This will be a game-changer for mountain access out of the Snowmass base area,” said Skico CEO Geoff Buchheister in a statement. “Thanks to the support of the Forest Service and the Town of Snowmass Village, we were able to fast-track this project and plan to install summer 2024 and open for the 2024-25 ski season.”
The new, high-speed quad will start where the old Burlingame lift was and will terminate where the current Coney Glade lift terminates, town Senior Planner Brian McNellis said in the May 15 Town Council meeting where the proposal for the new lift was discussed.
According to David Boyd, a Public Affairs Officer for the U.S.F.S., the White River National Forest approved the Master Development Plan for Snowmass, which includes the lift replacement in January, and will soon begin an environmental review of the proposal this summer.
Though the new lift has no set name yet, Skico Senior Project Manager Mak Keeling labeled it as “Coneygame,” a combination of Coney Glade and Burlingame, in his May 15 presentation to Snowmass Town Council.
“It’ll be a high-speed quad about 7,300 feet in length,” Keeling said. “It’ll go about 1,000 feet a minute and move 1,800 people up from the base of the mountain to the top (terminal).”
The goal of the new chair is to provide easy access to the middle and western side of the mountain, including Ullrhof, Big Burn, Sheer Bliss, Alpine Springs, Sam’s Express, and the terrain park, Keeling added.
Additionally, there was a need to replace the aging Coney Glade lift, and with 60-75% of guests starting the day at or above the Snowmass Mall, it made sense to replace it with a lift that helps ease that traffic, he said.
The new lift will be a key access point for guests using RFTA and Town of Snowmass Village shuttles and will be just a short walk from the transit hub. In addition, the new lift will allow guests staying at the Snowmass Mall level to start and end their days directly across from their lodging.
“This lift will take pressure off of the Village Express and the Elk Camp Gondola, especially during the morning rush, and give guests a third alternative for accessing the upper mountain,” said Susan Cross, Snowmass Mountain Manager in a statement from Skico. “Operationally, this is a key project and the perfect first step for the new mountain master plan.”
However, not everyone is thrilled about the idea of a new lift with a base on the east side of Fanny Hill. In the public comments provided to the Town Council at the May 15 meeting, Brynn Ungerleider, the office assistant at Woodrun V, wrote she was “devastated” by the removal of the Coney Glade lift and the extension to Fanny Hill of the replacement lift.
“The reasoning behind my frustration is due to the fact this chairlift is vital to keep the park ‘riders’ away from mainstream skiing and snowboarding traffic,” she wrote. “Keeping the park riders secluded in the park is not just about the fun, but about everyone’s safety. Athletes from around the world visit Snowmass Terrain Park due to this chairlift as it offers ease and access unlike any other mountain in the United States. The ability to cycle through the terrain parks without being funneled to a chairlift with beginners is what sets this mountain apart from others.”
Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk shared a similar sentiment about the danger of having park traffic on the beginner slopes of Fanny Hill.
Keeling said there are ways to keep the beginner traffic and park traffic separate because there are parks going most of the way down the mountain that don’t interfere with the easy slopes off Village Express.
Despite some concerns, the town of Snowmass Village approved the installation of the lift and infrastructure work is slated to begin in the fall, after the concert series concludes.
Aubrey Ryan I Snowmass Sun I June 9, 2023