This weekend signaled the end of an era at Bridger Bowl. As the lifts stopped turning for the final time this season, there is one lift that ends its tenure with the Bridger Bowl Ski area; the Virginia City chair is being retired. The Virginia City chairlift was the only remaining iconic Bridger Bowl red chair. Bridger lifties will never have to use phrases like “Bridger Bowl Center Pole” or “look to your partner,” again.
This change has been long coming. As Bridger Bowl has gotten busier, the need for more uphill capacity has become more desperate. In 2010 Bridger replaced two red chair lifts; the Bridger lift and the Deer Park lift, with an individual triple chair. In 2013 the Alpine red chair was removed and replaced with two triple chairs: Alpine and Powder Park. For many, the loss of the red chairs at Bridger signals the turning point from the small hometown mountain, to the larger ski hill Bridger has become.
Many locals grew up and learned to ski on the Virginia City chair lift, built in 1978. Before the beginner lift, Snowflake, was built, Virginia City was the beginner level lift. After Snowflake, the opportunity to ride the Virginia City chair was a step-up in the learning process. Every Bridger local has a story associated with the Virginia City lift, everything from lost skis, to first rides and yes, getting hit by the center pole.
Good or bad, these memories are looked back on with smiles and laughs as Bridger skiers come together to commemorate the lift that holds a special place in their hearts. On Sunday April 2, the lift that turned with little use, save powder days, throughout the season, saw a rebirth in popularity as droves of brightly clad ski bums take their final rides on the iconic chair.
The magic of the chair would be nothing if it wasn’t for the employees of Bridger Bowl. The ever faithful lifties helping riders load at the base reminding experts and novices alike, “Bridger Bowl center pole,” anticipating the mistakes before they happen. If not for these wonderful people, Virginia City wouldn’t function. The maintenance crews that keep the lift running safely by greasing the wheels every summer, painting the chairs and towers and rotating the lines and shifting chairs. It is no easy task keeping a 39-year old lift in good shape but the crew at Bridger has done a phenomenal job.
Those that can’t bear to say goodbye to their beloved chair can pay it a visit at its new home in Teton Pass where it will continue to provide generations of skiers with smiles and laughs. Beyond that, we can only thank Virginia City for its years of service and welcome its replacement with open arms and continue the Bridger Bowl legacy of good turns and good times.