Rise of the gondolas

Could a network of gondolas gliding above the St. Johns River attract visitors to Downtown Jacksonville?

Beaver Creek says it will seek Forest Service approval to build two new lifts, just as it debuts the resort’s 14th detachable lift in Red Buffalo Park. Vail Resorts-owned Beaver Creek is unique in that much of its beginner and low intermediate terrain lies on the upper mountain, giving guests learning to ski and snowboard the high alpine experience many of us take for granted. Just a few miles from its older, more famous cousin, Beaver Creek’s visitation has increased ten percent in just the last five years to well over a million skiers annually. B.C. has grown to encompass 16 lifts despite opening in 1980, decades later than most American ski resorts. Now the 16th largest resort, Beaver Creek’s success came largely through catering to families, a legacy which McCoy Park will build on.

This expansion was previously mapped out on Beaver Creek’s 2010 master plan, though some details could change. The Park is located near the top terminals of the Strawberry Park, Upper Beaver Creek Mountain and Larkspur Express lifts and currently features cross-country ski trails. “McCoy Park is the ideal location for a protected family zone,” notes Beth Howard, vice president and COO of Beaver Creek Resort. “The views are spectacular, and the Park has an amazing natural feel that will be preserved. It is gentle terrain that will be separated from the rest of the mountain so that guests looking for a more relaxed, beginner and intermediate experience at a slower pace will enjoy it, and others won’t find themselves travelling through it on their way to another run or lift.”

Seventeen trails serviced by two lifts will encompass 250 acres left mostly in a natural state. Three quarters of the trails will be green circles with the rest rated intermediate. A McCoy Park Express quad will serve most of the new, gladed runs with a shorter, possibly fixed-grip lift providing egress. The detachable lift will run approximately 4,746 feet with a vertical of 710′ and capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour. The other lift will be just over 2,000 feet rising 300 feet and capable of moving around 1,200 guests per hour.

By the time McCoy Park opens, the Strawberry Park Express will be near the end of its useful life and could be replaced by a gondola, providing direct access to and from Beaver Creek Village.
As part of the expansion, the 23 year-old Strawberry Park Express will probably be upgraded to a gondola. Strawberry Park already allows for downloading, but a gondola or chondola would better serve beginner folks and families. The almost 7,000-foot new lift would carry approximately the same number of people as the 2,800 pph quad it replaces. Vail Resorts plans to release additional details on the approval process and timeline for McCoy Park in the next few weeks.

-By Mike Clark

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Could a network of gondolas gliding above the St. Johns River attract visitors to Downtown Jacksonville?

Rise of the gondolas

Beaver Creek says it will seek Forest Service approval