This video shows Mountain West helicopter pilot Tim Norton giving us an inside look at the precision flying required to remove the Vista Bahn’s lift towers. IN 1985, plans had already been drawn to install the Vista Bahn lift – an express with plastic bubbles that can be pulled down over each chair in blustery weather – as the main artery up to Mid-Vail, from which other lifts branch out.  In just 1985, this was state of the art ski lift technology – which now, is old news…and are old towers.  The old towers are removed to make room for the new, high speed gondola being installed at Vail to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the ski resort.

“We could think of no better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vail Mountain than by making a dramatic investment to improve the experience for our guests,” said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. “The new gondola will set a standard for how we transport guests up the mountain, significantly reducing wait times at one of the most popular and recognized lifts anywhere in the world. It will also offer a protected and comfortable ride, complete with free Wi-Fi access.”

Vail Resorts announced that the company plans to install a gondola to replace one of Colorado’s best-known chairlifts, the Vista Bahn Express coming out of Vail Village. Pending approval by the Town of Vail and the U.S. Forest Service, the gondola is expected to be operational by the 2012-13 ski season.

The Vista Bahn high-speed quad was installed in 1985. Traveling along the same line from Vail Village to Mid-Vail, the new gondola will provide a 40 percent increase in uphill capacity.

The opening of the new gondola will ironically coincide with the 50th anniversary of resort’s opening, when a four-person gondola in virtually the same location became Colorado’s first gondola. A gondola at Crested Butte opened later in the same ski season. Vail’s new gondola will be designated with the number “1” to commemorate the original version that was dismantled in the 1970s.

Far from 1962 technology, the new gondola will offer free Wi-Fi access. Unlike the enclosed Eagle Bahn Gondola terminal in the Lionshead base at the resort, the new gondola plans call for an open-air base terminal.