Colorado Ski Resort Opens Highest North American Chairlift

Renee Montagne talks to T.R. Reid, Rocky Mountain bureau chief for The Washington Post, about the new chairlift at Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado. At an elevation just shy of 13,000 feet, it's the highest chairlift in North America.

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Maybe some former "Monday Night Football" viewers were busy skiing. The Colorado Rocky Mountains, we're told, have received some spectacular early-season snowfall this year. And a ski resort in Breckenridge has seen its best snow in more than 20 years just in time for the opening of the highest chair lift in North America. This lift reaches an elevation of 12,840 feet, at the top of which my colleague Renee Montagne found Rocky Mountain bureau chief for The Washington Post, T.R. Reid.


He was, of course, on a cell phone, pausing from his research on the new ski lift to take a call from us.

T.R., are you there?

Mr. T.R. REID (The Washington Post): Hi, Renee. Yeah. Here is the situation. Altitude: 12,800 feet. Visibility: 2 inches. New snow: 1 foot. As my fellow snowboarders would say, wicked awesome, dude. Totally.

MONTAGNE: So you're cold?

Mr. REID: I'm cold, but it's fun. I'm boarding. And, you know, this new lift, the highest lift in America, represents an important new trend in American ski areas. That's why a reporter had to come cover this.

MONTAGNE: Absolutely. Well, before you give us a report on the new chair lift...

Mr. REID: Yes.

MONTAGNE: ...and its importance to the entire continent, what's the view like up there?

Mr. REID: Fourteen-thousand-foot peaks surrounding me, jagged, rocky, snow-covered peaks of the Gore Range. And then every once in a while a gust of snow blows in and you can't see anything. You can't see your hand in front of your face. But basically it's a spectacular view.

MONTAGNE: So tell us one thing about the new chair lift. How was the ride up?

Mr. REID: Well, it's a high-speed quad lift. It's, you know, the state-of-the-art fast lift. So it was a little terrifying, I have to say, to look at those big mountains of new snow out there that I'm going to ride through in a minute.

MONTAGNE: Well, before this chair lift came into existence, how did boarders and skiers get up to these mountains?

Mr. REID: The reason for this lift, it reflects a fundamental culture clash in skiing. You see, most of the people, the new skiers these days are snowboarders. They're tattooed, pierced 17-year-olds and they're down in the terrain park, you know, on jumps and rails. And then what happens is these kids come out of the snowboards parks, they go to college, they become bankers, they're yuppies, and now they're skiers and they want to go to the back country way at the top of the hill. And it used to be that you could rent a helicopter for the day for 500 bucks and do that. That's pretty severe. Or you had to hike up. And when you get to people like my advanced age, hiking 40 minutes up at 13,000 feet in the snow and ski boots is really not that desirable, you know what I mean? So Breckenridge and other areas are now building lifts to service this extreme terrain.

MONTAGNE: So have you skied down yet or are you just about to?

Mr. REID: I haven't skied this run at the top of Imperial Express, the highest run in America. But when I was a younger man, about a year ago, I did hike up there and came down it on my snowboard and fell about 400 times. And I told myself--I was exhausted from the climb up. So today I took the lift up. I am going to go down through that 12 inches of new powder perfectly without a single fall. And that's my report, I certify to you.

MONTAGNE: Well, have fun.

Mr. REID: Thank you. I'm sure I will.

MONTAGNE: T.R. Reid is a MORNING EDITION regular and Rocky Mountain bureau chief for The Washington Post.

INSKEEP: This is `Skiing Edition' from NPR News.

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