Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort has postponed plans to upgrade Lift 8 this year as a result of the frozen credit markets.
Instead, the resort will focus on expanding skiable terrain on both sides of Lift 8, said Gary Derck, DMR's chief executive officer.
"I wish I could tell you when the lift will make sense financially," Derck said. "Unfortunately, it's just beyond our control."
The resort has experienced a "decent" year in terms of skier visits, he said, but late last year was a difficult time to finance big-ticket items such as ski lifts.
"We're a great resort doing better than we've done in years, but what do you do when you don't control the credit markets?" Derck said. "It is our No. 1 project. We're still very committed to it."
The U.S. Forest Service approved the creation of new trails and an upgrade to Lift 8 in September, about the same time Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the lending market froze up.
Had final approval come sooner, the resort may have obtained financing last year, and the lift would have been installed this year, Derck said.
A new high-speed lift must be ordered nine months in advance of its installation, making it impossible to install the lift until summer 2010, at the earliest, Derck said.
In the meantime, the resort will focus on opening up about 150 acres west of Lift 8 to glade skiing. It also will identify new trails between Lift 5 and Lift 8, he said. Projects that don't require lending will go forward as planned.
The resort is authorized to remove up to 15 percent of live trees in the glade area, but that may take several years to complete, said Matt Janowiak, acting district ranger for the Columbine District.
"It looks like they're going to take a slow-and-steady approach to development on the west side," he said. "Then you end up with really nice glade skiing like what they have at Wolf Creek."
The resort is expected to identify trees for removal and begin removal in April while there still is snow on the ground. That way, trees can be dragged out by snowcats, which is the preferred method because it causes less damage to the tundra.
If the resort can't remove trees before the snow melts, it can use heavy equipment this summer, but DMR must follow Forest Service guidelines with respect to protecting the tundra, Janowiak said.
"Our folks are ready to go up there and start marking trees," he said.
Jennifer Rudolf, spokeswoman at Colorado Ski Country USA, was unaware of any other resorts in the state that delayed improvements as a result of the economic downturn.
The ski industry tends to be rather resilient during tough economic times, she said.
"Despite the economy, people seem dedicated and wanting to go out and ski," she said.