Arizona Snowbowl Agassiz Lift Replacement Gets Green Light

The Arizona Snowbowl Agassiz Lift replacement has been given the green light. 

The Selected Alternative will amend Snowbowl’s existing special use permit to authorize the replacement
chairlift facilities, construction and construction related activities, and any design criteria and/or
mitigations included to avoid or minimize effects. The existing Agassiz fixed-grip triple chairlift will be
replaced and upgraded with a detachable combination chairlift and gondola referred to as a “chondola” or
“telemix.” The approved lift configuration will utilize the existing 6,419-linear foot alignment and
corridor with the approved bottom terminal being shifted slightly to the southeast of its existing location.
With the inclusion of detachable-grip technology, skiers and foot passengers will be able to board the
chairlift at a comfortable speed of 150 to 200 feet per minute (fixed-grip chairlifts are typically 400 to 500
feet per minute). The uphill capacity of the replaced chairlift will remain unchanged at 1,200 pph in both
winter and summer. The upgrade will be installed as a top drive lift, and will require the replacement of
existing towers, terminals and appurtenances, and associated grading and tree clearing.

Constructed in 1986, the existing Agassiz chairlift is nearing the end of its expected operational life and
will need replacement in the near future. Coupled with ongoing improvements that Snowbowl is making
to its current summer program, there is an opportunity to gain operational benefits in both the summer and
winter seasons through the introduction of new lift technology. The addition of closed (gondola) cabins,
which will be provided by the approved chairlift-gondola combination, are needed to accommodate the
existing summer scenic chairlift operations and guest safety during sudden inclement weather, as well as
provide accommodation for persons with disabilities. A popular guest activity since the 1960s, Snowbowl
presently hosts over 40,000 visitors on the summer scenic chairlift. In its current state, it is difficult to
load and unload foot traffic from the existing fixed-grip Agassiz chairlift, which limits the summer
recreation opportunities available to guests. Replacing the existing chairlift with a detachable chairliftgondola combination will allow foot passengers to easily load during the summer or winter months. The
inclusion of closed cabins will substantially improve the ability to evacuate persons who may become
sick (altitude related issues are common) or require medical attention while at the top of the chairlift.

Finally, the provision of gondola cabins will provide a more enjoyable experience during periods of cool
temperatures, wind or rain and allow the scenic chairlift to continue to operate during these times.
Uphill capacity will not be increased above the current capacity of 1,200 persons per hour (pph);
however, the replacement and upgrade of the existing Agassiz chairlift will address loading inefficiencies
associated with the existing fixed-grip chairlift. Further, the proposed replacement will improve the
recreation experience at Snowbowl, better meeting the expectations of skiing guests and allowing a
limited number of foot passengers to enjoy the scenic chairlift during the winter season.

There is a need to respond to the request to replace and upgrade the Agassiz chairlift. The purpose of
modifying the existing SUP to authorize the replacement chairlift facilities, construction and construction
related activities, and any project design criteria and/or mitigations included to minimize effects.

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