Keystone Seeks To Put Lift In Back Bowls
Greater lift access to the back bowls at Keystone is the subject of plans submitted to the U.S. Forest Service.
If the new chairlift gets approval, the Vail Resorts-owned ski and snowboard mountain will open its first true above-treeline bowl area to the general skiing and riding public. Now, the areas of Bergman and Erickson Bowls beneath 12,614-foot Independence Mountain are currently served by daily snowcat tours.
The project will be "transformational" for the Summit County resort, said officials in a press release, because it will spread out skiers and 'boarders across the busy mountain, and open up bowl skiing and riding to a wider variety of abilities.
Currently, the resort offers hike-to and snowcat tours to more than 1,700 acres of open bowls sitting atop the main portion of the mountain. The new chairlift would serve about a third of that terrain.
Forest Service approval is expected to take at least a year, despite favorable conditions such as the expansion is in Keystone's master plan -- OK'd in 2009 -- and the terrain all sit within the resort's existing USFS permit boundaries.
Officials said snowcat and hike-to access will continue until a lift is in, guided powder runs by Keystone Adventure tours will stay in place for Independence Bowl, and access by hiking will remain for North and South Bowls. Both snowcat passengers and hikers take off from either North Peak or The Outback off the back of the main skiing and snowboarding area.
The proposed chairlift would be the first all-new lift at Keystone since 1997, although it has replaced a number of lifts since then -- and has announced it will upgrade the heavily used Peru Chair next summer.
All of these projects have come as Vail Resorts implements $200 million-plus in improvements at its 37 worldwide ski and snowboard mountains -- including five in Colorado.