New Sipapu ski lift a boon for beginners

Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort might not be getting a posh, $350 million makeover like Taos Ski Valley, but the small ski area 10 miles east of Peñasco is making way for a new chair lift of its own with families and beginners in mind.

By Cody Hooks The Taos News
Posted 7/17/15

Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort might not be getting a posh, $350 million makeover like Taos Ski Valley, but the small ski area 10 miles east of Peñasco is making way for a new chair lift of its own.

The new lift, which will rise 330 vertical feet, …

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New Sipapu ski lift a boon for beginners

Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort might not be getting a posh, $350 million makeover like Taos Ski Valley, but the small ski area 10 miles east of Peñasco is making way for a new chair lift of its own with families and beginners in mind.

Posted

Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort might not be getting a posh, $350 million makeover like Taos Ski Valley, but the small ski area 10 miles east of Peñasco is making way for a new chair lift of its own.

The new lift, which will rise 330 vertical feet, or about a third of the way up the mountain, was envisioned with families and ski school in mind, said John Paul Bradley, the mountain manager at Sipapu.

Bradley said in years past, visitors were surprised by how steep the slopes at Sipapu actually were. “We’re really a steep little mountain. We’re in the same Sangres [de Cristo Mountains] as TSV,” Bradley said.

Construction crews can’t change the grade of the hill, but a flurry of summer-time improvements, including the lift, will make for an improved experience for beginners and families at the ski resort, which saw 52,000 skiers last year.

“The main beginner trail really serves as a main access trail for everybody. We’re redeveloping [the beginner trails, Bambi and Lower Bambi] so beginners can have a real nice experience out there,” Bradley said.

The fixed-grip quad will seat four people at a time, perfect for a ski instructor with a few students or a family looking for an easier adventure. Sipapu decided to go for bigger and newer infrastructure, purchasing the new $500,000 lift from Leitner-Poma of Grand Junction, Colorado. At first, Bradley looked into getting a refurbished lift that was about 30 years old, but found its price comparable to the new equipment.

The expansion is contained within the existing permit boundaries for Sipapu’s operations, Bradley said, explaining that the lift is part of a 5-year-old master plan put together for the United States Forest Service.

“Here we are five years later and we’ve finally worked through all the studies and mitigation and scoping letters and requirements for the Forest Service and [the National Environmental Policy Act],” Bradley told The Taos News. “It’s really neat to see it finally happening. But it took a lot of work to get to this point.”

Most recently, crews have cut down trees and ripped out stumps to clear out the lift line.

Not only did crews need to clear the line, but they also had to thin potentially weak and hazardous trees deeper into the forest whose root systems may have been compromised by the redevelopment.

Even Bradley knows the clear-cut mountain trail is unsightly at the moment. He shared in the “shock and awe” of some folks who, seeing the construction from the road, stopped to air their concerns. But now, he’s getting excited their idea is coming closer and closer to fruition.

“We have a very small [construction] season. We’re the first to know winter’s here and the last to know winter’s gone. We [had] to really get after it once things dried out,” he said.

Manufactures should be on-site at Sipapu during late July to begin digging foundations and “hopefully get some concrete poured so we can get some towers put up,” he said. “Once the concrete foundation gets approved, they’ll start digging and going to town on it,” he said.

From the time digging starts, Bradley anticipates the project will take about 3 1/2 months to finish.

The load test — the final check of breaks, roll-back functions and other systems before passengers take the inaugural ride — is scheduled for early November.

“Hopefully we’ll be ready for opening weekend,” Bradley said. “It’ll be close.”

In the event everything isn’t finished at that point, crews “work on the mountain all winter long” and the lift will get done one way or another, he said.

The new lift was financed through a small business loan with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has also funded at least $100,000 worth of trail construction and has paid for the remodeling of the guest rooms and a few “snow-making projects.”

The lift comes as Sipapu seeks final approval from the forest service for a “brand new beginner run, from scratch,” Bradley said. The new run will tie into an intermediate run up the mountain, rounding out the comprehensive renovations to accommodate Sipapu’s less-extreme clientele.

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