Durango’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board narrowed the possibilities for replacing Chapman Hill ski area’s aging rope tows Wednesday.
On a 4-2 vote, the advisory board supported replacing the small rope tow that serves the beginner hill with a magic carpet, a ground-level conveyor that would serve skiers, snowboarders and tubers.
As part of the same vote, the board also supported eventually replacing the large rope tow with a triple chairlift.
“For many, many children, this is an incredibly valuable resource,” board member Sandy Burke said.
A few board members questioned whether the city should plan to make big investments in the ski hill while climate change is likely to cause warmer winters in the region.
“The season is shrinking,” Frank Viehmann said.
The recommendations for new lifts will be included in a draft master plan for Chapman Hill that Durango City Council will review in March.
While the rope tows are safe, they are at the end of their useful life and need to be replaced, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said.
“It’s becoming more and more critical for us to understand that it’s time,” she said.
Construction at Chapman Hill could take place in three phases, but the timing of work has not been determined. Before any work can start, Atmos Gas must realign a gas line and that has not been scheduled.
During the first phase, the city could put in a magic carpet that would separate a ski and snowboard area for beginners and a tubing area. Tubers would pay to ride the magic carpet alongside skiers and snowboarders, which would expand the hill’s appeal and business, several board members agreed.
“I think it will make it more family-friendly,” Burke said.
Other lift options, such as a platter lift, would not serve tubers.
The city would also regrade the beginner area, put in new landscaping to separate the parking lot from the ski hill and expand a catwalk at the top of the hill.
At the same time, the city would replace its snowmaking equipment with wands that rely on compressed air. The new snowmaking equipment would be more efficient and quieter than the current system and it could function at warmer temperatures, said Drew Chandler, engineering manager with Russell Planning and Engineering.
In the second phase, the city could install a triple chairlift, estimated to cost $972,000, and expand the terrain open to skiers on the hill. Alternatives to the chairlift, such as platter lifts and T-bars, present challenges, Chandler said.
T-bar lifts are not very common anymore and staff would have to groom beneath them every night. Platter lifts are difficult for snowboarders to use.
In the third phase, the city could build a new multi-use recreation facility and new parking lots.