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Bridger Bowl says 'so long' to Alpine Lift

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: May 02 2013 02:57:20 PM MDT
Updated On: May 02 2013 07:52:40 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Folks with Mount Spokane in Washington greet a local pilot. It's the day the mountain's crew has anticipated for almost 10 years, when they first started planning to expand.

"It's not every day you get to work with a helicopter, it's not every day you get to take a ski lift out of the ground and take it home," says Mount Spokane Marketing and Guest Services Director Kristin Whitaker.

Whitaker tells me the Alpine Lift soon to be called Red Lift, will increase their terrain by a third.

"We're very excited to take this one home," she says.

They're using a K-MAX helicopter. It's built for lifting. While Alpine Lift's towers weigh just under 5,000 pounds, the K-MAX can haul up to 6,000 pounds or more. It has double rotors and no rear rotors.

I got a ride up the mountain to find out what it takes to take down the towers.

Each one is cut, leaving only four tabs of metal to hold it up. Once the tower is attached to the chopper, the tabs are released and it's ready to fly. Workers clear the parking lot at the base of the mountain to make way for the tower...ready to be disassembled and sent back home.

The lift hails from Spokane. The Riblet Tramway Company built it in 1967, only a decade before Bridger Bowl Ski Patrol Director Doug Richmond starting skiing the mountain.

"The terrain over there, just beautiful, rolling runs through the trees. There was a porcupine that lived in the tree everyone said hello to him riding by, sat up in his tree all winter long," says Richmond.

It's lower-intermediate terrain but Richmond says the lift isn't exactly user-friendly.

"They're afraid of Alpine. They've been afraid because it's the old Riblet and unload ramp at the top," he says.

That will all change with upcoming improvements.

"It'll be a lot safer and easier to ride. It'll roll better for us on the windier days, we won't have the swing trouble, be able to put more people on it and I think it'll be a lot less intimidating," explains Richmond.

For the folks with Mount Spokane, change can't come soon enough.

"We're feeling a lot of stoke, which is the term us ski bums use for excitement," says Whitaker.

Folks with Mount Spokane tell me the Alpine Chair Lift is probably one of the best remaining Riblets out there. With Montana's arid climate, the lift has very little rust and is in good condition.