Restaurant, new lifts included in Kirkwood Master Plan
Vail Resorts’ announcement late last month that it has agreed to purchase Kirkwood Mountain Resort inspired strong reactions from the ski area’s passionate clientele.
Some people thought the purchase was great, some people felt it was the end of an era. Some skiers and snowboarders said they planned to withhold judgment until more is known about what the company envisions for the resort. Several people said they hoped Vail would bring needed investment to Kirkwood.
Following the announcement, Vail Resorts’ Co-president Blaise Carrig said the company will review existing plans at the resort before making any decisions regarding on-mountain development.
Carrig noted Vail operated Northstar for more than a year before announcing any investment plans, but also gave a favorable response when asked about Kirkwood’s existing master plan. The plan was approved in 2007, but has yet to make more than a few marks on the resort.
“I think I like the master plan,” Carrig said in February. “It’s just a matter of what to do when.”
Approved proposals in the master plan’s 442-page environmental document include building an on-mountain restaurant and bar, increasing snowmaking capacity, improving several chairlifts, constructing two new chairlifts and increasing the number of named trails at the resort from 69 to 80.
Six chairlifts would be upgraded or realigned under the plan: Caples Crest (Chair 2), Iron Horse (Chair 3), Sunrise (Chair 4), Solitude (Chair 5), Wagon Wheel (Chair 10) and Reut (Chair 11).
Chair 4, on the resort’s backside, would be upgraded to a high-speed, detachable quad. Construction of a terrain park underneath the chair is also called for in the document.
A new Caples Crest lift, which currently provides access to the backside of the mountain, would start at the resort’s base area and end near the top of the existing chair. Chair 2 would remain, but would be renamed “Flying Carpet,” according to the plan.
A 10,000-square-foot lodge is also proposed for the area at the top of chairs 2 and 3. The new facility would include a bar, restaurant, restrooms, retail space, ski patrol operations and about 1,200 indoor and outdoor seats.
The plan also calls for the creation of a Thimble Peak chairlift, which would run from midway up the backside of the resort to the top of the eastern edge of The Cirque, according to the document.
“The proposed Thimble Peak chairlift would be constructed to provide round-trip utilization of expert terrain in Thimble Bowl and expedited, round-trip skiing opportunities for expert-level guests in the Thunder Saddle area,” according to the plan’s environmental document. “This lift would allow advanced/expert level guests to avoid the flatter run-out area toward the bottom of Chair 4, and would eliminate the northwest traverse that is currently necessary to access Thimble Bowl from the top of Chair 4.”
Four surface lifts are also included under the master plan. Two of the lifts -Covered Wagon and Look Out Vista – have already been built.
A similar surface lift would be constructed under the plan to give guests about 400 feet of elevation gain in the Red Cliffs area on the eastern side of the resort.
The combined carrying capacity, defined as the number of guests that can be comfortably accommodated by the ski area at any one point in time, would increase by about 44 percent, from 6,460 to 9,300 guests if all the lift improvements in the master plan are completed.
Snowmaking would also expand by about 50 acres under the proposal and would focus on low elevation trails and those that return people to the base area.
Vail’s purchase of Kirkwood is still pending approval from the Forest Service, and any on-mountain improvements are speculative at this point, said Kirkwood spokesman Michael Dalzell. He directed comments to Carrig, who was not immediately available Tuesday afternoon.