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Park City debuts new lift, new season

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At noon on Friday, skiers christened a new ski season and a new lift at the same time. Best of all, it was free.

After a brief ceremony, the switch on the new six-passenger, high-speed Payday lift was turned on, and shortly after that the first skiers for the 1997-98 ski season were loaded.The opening of the lift carries special meaning in that it is one of two new high-speed lifts installed over the summer to replace the old Park City gondola. The second lift, Bonanza, will open when conditions allow.

Each of the new lifts will carry 3,000 skiers per hour and travel at a speed of 1,000 feet per minute. The old gondola carried only 800 skiers per hour.

Skiing on Friday was limited to the Payday run, which has a blended surface of man-made and natural snow. Because of the late start and the first day, lift rides were free. Starting today, lift prices will be $21 for adults and $10 for children until more lifts are operating.

Charlie Lansche, marketing director for the area, said consensus among the early skiers was that the snow was good and that it was just nice "to be skiing again."

The two new lifts are part of a $10 million building program that also includes expanded snowmaking, a new fleet of groomers and a snowboard/ski park.

Park City has been making snow for about three weeks for its ski runs and for the America's Opening World Cup event, which starts Thursday on C.B.'s Run on the lower mountain.

The top skiers, both men and women, from all over the world will compete in four days of slalom and giant slalom competition. Many of the competitors will be top hopefuls at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan, in February.

The schedule is the men's giant slalom on Thursday, women's giant slalom on Friday, men's slalom on Saturday and women's slalom on Sunday. First races will begin at 10 a.m. each day.

Reserve tickets for Thursday and Friday are $15 and include bleacher seating and lunch. Reserve tickets for Saturday and Sunday are $35 and include gourmet lunch, ski race memorabilia and bleacher seating. Reserve tickets are limited. General admission tickets are $5.

Park City is the third Utah ski area to open. Solitude opened last Saturday and Brighton opened on Wednesday. Solitude will have three lifts operating and adult tickets are $26. Brighton will have four lifts running and adults tickets will also be $26.

Most of the remaining resorts have opening dates around Thanksgiving.

For World Cup ticket and race information call 435-647-5485.