40 Years of the twister Lift

In its heyday, the Twister Lift on Crested Butte Mountain was the chair to ride. It provided access to some of the steepest terrain open at the time, and people liked to congregate at the top and soak in the sun in nice weather. Not to mention, while riding the Twister chair you get a bird’s-eye view of the people turning below—it’s prime for calling out to people you know, and heckling those you don’t.
The doublechair can haul 1,080 people per hour up the 1,067-foot climb, which takes about seven minutes. Twister spins 500 feet per minute.

These days, the Twister double is relegated to spinning during busy stretches and holidays. But there was a time when Twister was the place to be. Andy Eflin, son of Crested Butte Mountain Resort founder Dick Eflin, said runs like Twister and Crystal used to be the site of bump-skiing competitions. “It was the happening spot” in the mid-’70s, Eflin said.

 The run “Twister” was named for that popular dance in the ’60s, according to Eflin, so one could extrapolate the lift was named Twister for the same reason.

“The college used to have ‘College Days,’ and it was one of the coolest things I’ve seen on the mountain,” Eflin said. “They used to set up bump competitions, with scaffolding set up on the sides with speakers. People would be sitting up on the scaffolding, and the [competitors] could pick their own music to ski to. It was a rock ‘n roll bump competition, and the first time I saw a telemark skier throw a helicopter.”

Roark Kiklevich, CBMR’s risk manager and mountain planner, said “My records have an installed date for Twister of 1969, so summer of ’69, skiing the season of ’69/70. It is a Riblet and I assume it was a new lift when installed.”

Though it sounds like a barbecue sandwich, Riblet was actually a well-known lift manufacturer from the 1960s until 2003. Riblet built their first chairlift in 1939, their first triple in 1963, and their first quad in 1967. Riblet manufactured approximately 500 chairlifts in North America, plus a number of lifts in South America and Australia. Riblet ceased operations in 2003 as the limited market for fixed-grip chairlifts was not enough to keep them in business.

Eflin provided a timeline for the installation of the other lifts on the mountain. He said in 1961-62, the T-Bar and Rope Tow were installed, followed by the Gondola and J-Bar for winter 1962-63. Keystone (now the Red Lady Express) came in 1967, and work on Twister began in 1968. The Callaways and Waltons bought the resort in 1970, and they installed the Paradise Lift in 1971. Teocalli Lift, which feels older than the rest, was put in last in 1974.

As for the future of the Twister lift, it’s in line for improvements down the road as part of the resort’s master plan.

“The Twister lift is approved for replacement and realignment; moving the top to Windy Gap near the wind tower and the bottom staying the same,” said Kiklevich. “This will improve access to Paradise and still serve the Twister pod very nicely. As for timing, this will be one of the later lift upgrades, since the Silver Queen also serves this terrain with good capacity.”

For now, it’s worth riding Twister when it’s spinning for nostalgia’s sake, reflecting on a time when the party below the pod was something to behold. Don’t hesitate to participate in a timeless tradition, and give a shout out to the skiers and riders rocking the bumps and launching cat tracks below.

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