Get Ready for the Boomerang!
Crews and equipment began arriving at Mount Washington in late May to assemble the Alpine Resort's latest chairlift, a state-of-the-art, double-load quad that will open up 162 hectares (400 acres) of new terrain in the McKay Lake area. Called The Outback, this new terrain will be Mount Washington's first double-black-diamond terrain since it opened 26 years ago.
The Outback is on the other side of the mountain from the Resort, where skiers have been going out of bounds for years. The $4 million Boomerang lift will open in December 2004, Resort President Peter Gibson said. "It's exciting," Gibson said. "The profile of the lift on the McKay Lake side is steeper than the Peak Chair at Whistler."
The first load station will be located adjacent to the top station of The Hawk, while the other load will be in the deep folds of the Outback, close to McKay Lake. Riders loading from either station will exit the lift at the top of the ridge, allowing skiers and riders to access runs on either side. The elevation at the peak of the new lift is 4,800 feet. The loading areas will be around the 3,600 feet mark.
"What makes it work is the spacing (between chairs) is 14 seconds apart, so there's lots of time for people to get out of the way," Gibson said. Because the new terrain is double black diamond the people using the Boomerang are assumed to be higher-end skiers with experience loading and off-loading, he added.
The 95 chairs will accommodate 1,200 riders per hour in each direction (it's actually designed for 1,400 per hour), traveling at a rate of 2.3 metres per second. The trip to the McKay side of the lift will take 9.5 minutes.
An employee actually suggested the double-load lift, Resort Director of Public Relations Dave Hampshire said. The configuration solves a problem the Resort would have had in powering up The Boomerang, because all the power for the Resort is on one side of the mountain. It would have cost too much to put in a lift any other way.
There is only one other double offload lift of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, a fixed double chair at Mount Baker, where it has been operating for 30 years (they're upgrading to a quad this summer).
The lift lines for The Boomerang were cut last October and prep work was completed in the load and offload areas earlier this year. Throughout the summer, foundations will be laid, lift towers placed and the load stations built.
The installation itself will be done by Doppelmayr CTEC and will cost $650,000. Setting up the infrastructure for the lift will take up the balance of the $4 million.
The new terrain in The Outback is in the north-facing bowl, stretching
from the ridge at Little Mount Washington to McKay Lake. The bowl doesn't
get direct sunlight, so it's colder, which means better snow, Gibson
said. It also means more consideration of avalanche threat. To combat
such a threat, the Resort has purchased an "ava-launcher",
which uses a percussion-type charge to move unstable snow in eight chosen
locations. The Resort also hired an avalanche consultant last summer
who recommended thinning, not clearing, trees in the new terrain.