Ode to Centennial: The Triple Chair That Could!
By Guest Blogger, Christine Hanley
Ol’ Centennial, the aging, iconic lift both adored and cursed by generations of skiers and snowboarders for her glacial pace to the top of Brundage Mountain, came grinding to a final stop under the beautiful bluebird skies of Easter Sunday 2023. She was a well-ridden, time-tested and respectable 32 (and a half)!
Dozens of Brundage diehards lined up and loaded her triple chairs for one last air-crawl to the summit for the annual Last Tracks tradition that closes each season. Beers were lifted. Toasts were made. Everyone waved to the heavens as a tribute to Wavin’ Wayne, the longtime liftie who waved and smiled at every frostbitten one of us once our long journey to Centennial’s tower was finally over.
Goodbyes are rarely easy. And in many ways, the slow-rolling Centennial and quirky, loveable Wayne have been emblematic of the community spirit of Brundage and of McCall that is so special and unique. The vibe is hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t been lucky enough to grace the mountain and the town it calls home. The legacy will die hard, and hopefully not at all if we keep paying it forward!
Centennial sputtered to life in November 1990, and has been servicing Brundage’s faithfully patient riders ever since. Olympians, groms, gapers, and governors alike. That a–hole who thinks it’s cool to blast their music loud enough for half the mountain to hear. Rumor has it the weight she carried even included the Hollywood elite, like that Breakin’ Bad dude. True, Aaron Paul? Pictures please!
Undoubtedly, Centennial’s best-known trait, whether you liked it or not, was the time it took to climb to the top. About 14-16 minutes, according to Brundage. Come on, has anyone checked the math? How do you even measure the speed of something that travels so slow? A sun dial? An hourglass? Dog years?
We all know it could feel like an eternity. Especially on powder day, as even those of us who scored first chair watched our rivals on the Bluebird Quad track up the mountain as we were barely halfway to the summit, spewing F-bombs as if that would make the lift go faster “than a herd of turtles,” or the “slow boat to Mexico.”
Centennial took the hits to her self-esteem and kept on chugging like the Little Train that Could. Through the heaviest of storms, the thickest of low-slung snow clouds, and um, the mechanical hiccups no one likes to talk about. “I know I can. I know I can. I know I can!”
There were upsides. On how many other lifts in America could you claim you were “remotely working” – taking that business call or listening in on meetings without skipping a beat? Strangers boarding at the bottom could be new besties when they reached the top. Need to rest your legs? Perfect. Power naps? Close call. And oh, the love that blossomed on what some called “The Date Chair.”
So as we bid a bittersweet surrender – maybe we should remember Centennial’s greatest weakness as her greatest strength. A constant reminder that we don’t always need to accelerate our lives. It’s ok to slow down and rest your weary soul, to take the time to look around and soak in the views, to make new friends…and to simply enjoy the ride.
Ullr Speed, Centennial! Thanks for the lift. And for all the colorful stories you added to the lore and lure of this magical place. Surely, we will feel your ghost and reminisce about the good ol’ days while riding your zippy 6-minute successor, Centennial Express.
That is, if we have enough time! 😉