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Warp Speed at Loveland on Chet’s Dream

20181022 Loveland RyanTaylor (2)

There’s a new high-speed detachable quad chairlift at Loveland, and it’s a game changer. On a weekend in October, I rode the new Chet’s Dream along with ski racers and coaches up for early training and diehard skiers and riders itching for that first day on snow. Replacing Lift 1, the new Leitner-Poma lift is the first (ever!) high-speed lift at Loveland, which ushers the resort firmly into modern times.

If you ever rode the old Lift 1, you may remember it crept uphill at the speed of molasses. Because it was a fixed-grip chairlift, there were a fair number of misloads, which caused constant stops and slowdowns. On the bright side, you could really get to know your fellow chairlift riders. You could have an in-depth conversation. On my first ride up on the Chet’s Dream lift, we had just gotten to “So, where are you from?” as we unloaded at the top. It felt like warp speed. It was like riding a Maglev when you’re used to a narrow-gauge train.

The old lift averaged about 8 minutes to the top. The new high-speed lift rises 990 vertical feet in a sound-barrier breaking 2 minutes and 45 seconds. When I first heard the name of the new lift, I thought it was “Jet Stream,” and that would seem appropriate given the speed at which it travels. But that’s pure coincidence, say the marketing folks.

If you didn’t stop to enjoy the view or chat with your friends, you could make 5-minute laps, says Loveland’s director of marketing and communications, John Sellers. I made 10 laps and was done (and I mean done like a Thanksgiving turkey) by 10 a.m. I did stop to shoot the breeze, adjust my boots, take selfies, and soak in the view—and I was still logging 10-minute laps. I was back in Boulder by noon.

“The new lift will spread people out quicker,” Sellers says. Skiers and riders can use the lift to access the Ptarmigan chair, Lift 4, and Lift 6. “It’s our everyday workhorse lift that will serve the ski area into the next few decades.” The lift represented the lion’s share of a $5 million capital improvement plan, the largest in the resort’s history.

Watch video of helicopters flying in the lift towers and concrete over the summer here. 

The Backstory

Chet’s Dream is named for Chester R. (Chet) Upham, Jr., who became a partner in the Loveland Ski Tow Company in 1956 and who bought out the other partners in 1972. Upham passed away in 2008, but the Upham family still owns and operates the resort.

It was Upham who convinced the partners to install one of those new-fangled conveyances called chairlifts in the 1956-57 season. They put in a double chair and dubbed it “Lift 1,” which scribed the same alignment as the Chet’s Dream chair. It was the third chairlift in all of Colorado, at a time when most lifts were rope tows. Some of those early lifts were powered by Ford Model T engines.

In 1981, the lift was replaced with a fixed-grip triple chair, also called Lift 1.

Naming Rights

Loveland had a naming contest for the new chair and chose “Chet’s Dream” from some 3,000 entries. Passholder and former Loveland ski patroller Terry Henningson, who had met Upham years earlier, won the contest. “He was so passionate,” says Henningson, “I thought it would be an appropriate way to honor his legacy.” For coming up with the name for the new lift, Henningson scored a chair from the old Lift 1.

Chet’s Dream, By the Numbers

  • Ride time: 2 minutes, 45 seconds (versus 8 minutes on the old lift)
  • Vertical rise: 990 feet
  • Horizontal length: 2,398 feet
  • Cable diameter: 40 mm
  • Speed: 1,000 feet per minute
  • Towers: 9 (versus 14 on the old lift)

Helen Olsson is the author of The Down & Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids. She blogs about outdoor adventures with kids at Read more of Helen’s stories here