Doppelmayr combo lift (Photo courtesy Doppelmayr Seilbahnen GmbH)

In the ski industry these days, it’s all about choice. And now, at Beaver Creek Resort, skiers and snowboarders can choose a chair or gondola – on the same lift.

The high-speed Centennial Express, which has risen directly out the base since Beaver Creek opened in 1980, has been replaced this summer with the first combination ever installed in the United States.

Built by Doppelmayr, the new high-speed lift has a 10-passenger gondola cabin interspersed with six-passenger chairs – all on the same cable. Skiers and riders select which mode of uphill transportation they will take and get in the respective lift line. Chairlift riders get on the lift via a conveyor belt, while gondola riders take off the skis or ‘boards and have them stashed outside the cabin.

The German lift-maker has installed 28 of these types of chair-gondola lifts since gaining a patent in 2002, according to the company. Some 19 are in Europe. The Beaver Creek combo lift is not only the longest Doppelmayr has put up but also the first at any North American resort.

The new lift will increase capacity of the old Centennial Express by 35 percent, and trace the same route up the mountain from the base area to Spruce Saddle.

“The combination lift is considered to be a significant benefit to beginners, and kids, particularly those engaged in ski school lessons, thanks to the loading and unloading ease of the gondola cabins,” Beaver Creek’s Ashley Smith told SnoCountry.com.

“Another benefit is possibilities of going to Spruce Saddle building and restaurant at the top of Centennial Express Lift for events after regular resort hours; the gondola cabins make a comfortable way for transportation to and from there.”

Also at the central Colorado Rockies resort skiers and riders will reap the benefits of 24 new snowmaking guns on Gold Dust and 10 guns on Lower Larkspur.

Photo: Ride a chair or gondola on same lift at Beaver Creek. (Photo courtesy Doppelmayr Seilbahnen GmbH)