Close this search box.

Bergman Bowl, Take Two

After a year-long delay due to a construction blunder, Keystone’s new six-pack is ready to start spinning for the 2023-34 season. 

The new high-speed six-pack chairlift into Keystone’s Bergman Bowl, which has been hike-to terrain since 2003, will finally open this season—as soon as Mother Nature cooperates with a good dump of snow. “Most of the terrain serviced by this new lift relies on natural snowfall to open,” says Sara Lococo, senior communications manager for  Keystone Resort & Breckenridge Ski Resort “Bergman Express is on schedule to start spinning in late December or early January. We’re ready to go once we get the snow.” 

The Bergman Express lift was slated to open last season, bringing lift-served skiing and riding to both Bergman and Erickson Bowls, but the U.S. Forest Service halted the project due to a construction snafu that had environmental impacts on the high alpine terrain. In the summer of 2022, Keystone’s construction team utilized a route through protected high-alpine tundra as a “temporary” construction route instead of as a “minimal” construction route—essentially, it was unauthorized construction. Once the mistake was identified, the Forest Service paused the project, and the resort shifted from construction to remediation to restore soil and alpine vegetation in the impacted area. Efforts included creating additional drainage to minimize impacts to streams and the watershed, salvaging topsoil, and treating damaged soils to mitigate erosion. In February 2023, following successful restoration efforts, the USFS  gave the green light for the project to move forward once again.  

“We take our role as stewards of the environment and of National Forest Service Land extremely seriously,” said Chris Sorensen, VP & GM at Keystone Resort, in a statement. “We will continue to care for and monitor the alpine tundra for years to come as a part of our continued restoration efforts in this area.” 

While the lift had been put on hold, Keystone was able to continue its 6,000-square-foot expansion to the Timber Ridge Lodge (formerly the Outpost), which debuted last winter with  300 more indoor seats and 75 more outdoor. Keystone also built a new off-the-grid patrol hut in Bergman Bowl, sided with beetle-kill pine, heated by a pellet stove, and powered by solar panels. This patrol hut is a part of Vail Resort’s Commitment to Zero: a company-wide goal to reach a zero net operating footprint by 2030. The resort was also able to move forward with snowmaking and trail work. 

Bergman Bowl opened in 2003, named for Bill Bergman, one of the resort’s founding partners and Keystone’s first president. That year, the resort started running guided cat skiing trips. New lifts to previously hike-to terrain usually cause consternation among diehard skiers and riders. “Some people will be bummed about the new lift,” says Dylan Dickey, Keystone’s assistant ski patrol director and a long-time KAT guide at Keystone. “But there were just so few skiers utilizing so much terrain.” 

The Bergman expansion at Keystone is part of Vail Resorts’ $320 million capital investment plan for 2022-23 to invest in 19 new chairlifts across 14 resorts. It was the company’s largest single-year investment. At Keystone, the plan includes the new 1,000-vertical-foot Bergman Express, new snowmaking infrastructure, and 16 new trails, including roughly 80 acres of slopes that will be groomed. While Independence Bowl will remain hike-out terrain for earn-your-turn go-getters (you can effortlessly drop into Independence, but you’ll need to hike back out after your run), the new lift will unlock lift-served access to 555 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain. 

The new chair, with its top terminus at 12,300 feet, promises to change the way Keystone skis. Currently, skier traffic tends to migrate from Dercum Mountain on the front side to The Outback. Now skiers may head straight for the bowls. “It’s going to be great for the overall circulation on the mountain,” says Dickey. With the new chair, skiers and riders can make laps in Bergman Bowl or ski Erickson Bowl down to the Wayback chair and then cycle back to the new lift. Dickey also points out that existing terrain in The Outback may get blissfully neglected, increasing the likelihood of finding powder stashes long after a storm.

Keystone ski patroller Preston Burns points out that adding skier traffic to the bowls will likely make them ski better than in the past when it was solely hike-to terrain. “There are these big areas of unconsolidated snow in the bowls,” Burns says. “And we get these predominant winds out of the northwest that blow into Bergman and Erickson and blow the snow straight up the mountain. More compaction [from skier traffic] will help preserve the snow.” 

Photos by Katie Young, Keystone Resort

Share this post:

Discover more in the Rockies: