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Bridger Bowl: New Exposure to Familiar Terrain

Saturday Nov. 2nd, 2013

Bridger Bowl is opening two new chair lifts this season providing fresh perspective to the familiar Powder Park and Alpine terrain. This change includes the retirement of Bridger’s iconic red, center pole, Alpine chair lift that has been a Bridger Bowl staple since 1967. The two lifts, though carrying skiers to different areas within the same terrain region, will be taking on recognizable names, Alpine and Power Park. For those acquainted with Bridger Bowl, may ask, “Powder Park, isn’t that the name of the quad at the mountain’s base”? Yes, it was the name for the base quad chair, which is now named Sunny Side. Hot Dog the Movie anyone?
“It should be a revelation on how the mountain skis,” says Doug Wales, Bridger Bowl’s Director of Marketing. “It will surprise people with new lines and new access.”

The new Powder Park triple chair will lift skiers south and terminate at the bottom of the North Bowl. The Alpine triple chair will fan to the north, taking skiers to the Limestone and Montagne Meadows areas. Both lifts will have loading conveyer carpets keeping capacity high and waiting to a minimum. The new Alpine and Powder Park lifts are manufactured by SkyTrac. SkyTrac, based out of Salt Lake City, manufactures the terminals, hydraulics, chairs, and parts in the US. Their lifts are peppered throughout the country and found at many high end resorts. The two lifts are a $4.1 million dollar improvement, all part of Bridger Bowl’s master plan since 2004, including the expansion with Schlasman’s and the recent Bridger lifts. Bridger Bowl is a non-profit organization and has to operate conservatively since it does not have the investments of real estate owners or stock holders. Ideally, the purchase of new (vs used) high end equipment will stay well functioning for the next 40 years. All improvements and investments have been fastidiously planned to keep to Bridger Bowl’s Mission: “to provide a quality ski (and snowboard) experience at the best possible price commensurate with sound business practices.”

 Investing in new lifts is the result of the times; a new generation of skier and the costly up-keep of old technology. The old Alpine chair lift was a center pole, Riblet chair. Riblet chairs are no longer manufactured and parts and repairs are not economical. As well, many ski areas of Bridger’s class have easy to load detachable chair lifts. Lifties warning, “Here comes the chair. Look to the center,” is a rare chant anymore. Riders unaccustomed to center poles, are frankly, uncomfortable and therefore, would avoid the lift and skiing the area all together. The only other way to access the Powder Park run would be to ski down from the North Bowl which can be intimidating for intermediate level skiers and riders. The new Power Park lift now opens up terrain for upper beginner and intermediates skills.

“Really, this is an opportunity for people to get acquainted with a beautiful part of the mountain,” admits Wales.

The improvements will not only benefit the midlevel skier or rider. The old Alpine lift’s unloading area, which was a bit dubious, terminated at the road just under the Ridge’s Apron and Bridger Gully, requiring those descending those slopes to stop their turns prematurely when heading down. The new configuration of the lifts allow experts to have uninterrupted tracks much further down the mountain.
The new Alpine lift is an improvement for Bridger Event management as well because it will run adjacent to the race course on Bobcat streamlining access for competitors and improved race viewing from the lifts from spectating chair lift riders.

Construction started in April including a great deal of tree thinning of dead, beetle-killed wood. The configuration now opens novel runs and undiscovered stretches through timber-thinned terrain to explore.
“I think it will intrigue folks to go over there [Powder Park]. There will be great pockets of snow to discover,” Wales mentions when discussing the tree thinning and new trail cuts.

The build included the towers being helicopter lifted in, video of which can be viewed at the Bridger Bowl.com website. The installations are progressing on time will be wrapping in November. Hikers and events goers, including October’s Raptor Fest attendees, have seen the construction first hand. The final step will be the load testing of both lifts. The lift construction crew will use large 30 gallon drums filled with water on the chairs and run through a series of load tests at 110% of the lifts design capacity to ensure they meet specifications. The early October snow and weather has only slightly delayed construction and the lifts are still on schedule for full operation by the targeted opening day, Friday, December 6.

For those wondering what will happen to that old standby, the red Alpine Riblet chair? It has been sold to Mt.   Spokane, their 7th Riblet chair, but Mt. Spokane’s first red chair. An uncanny coincidence since Spokane is where Riblet Tramway chairs were manufactured. Riblet’s first double chair was manufactured 1963. Old Alpine, a 1967 model, is going home.

In anticipation of these improvements, early bird season pass sales have been strong for Bridger Bowl. Season passes, Legend cards, Ten Time Passes and gift cards can all be purchased online at the Bridger Bowl website, www.bridgerbowl.com. After Bridger Bowl’s opening, the next scheduled event is on December 30, “Welcome in 2014” with a torch light parade and fireworks show. Get your passes, gear up your Mogul Mice, and meet you at Sunny Side!

Becky Stein is an author and freelance writer who sustains her writing and outdoor habits by working as a software professional.