The average detachable chairlift has 108 carriers while the average fixed grip lift has 103. Most people would assume the longest lifts have the most carriers but that’s usually not the case. One of the reasons is longer spacing on detachable chairlifts and gondolas. Also many long fixed-grip lifts get designed with lower hourly capacities and bigger spacing to save money. In fact, only one of the top ten lifts with the most chairs is also among the ten longest. Each of the lifts below has more than 200 chairs and, not surprisingly, all but two are fixed-grips.
Cyclone – Sunrise Park Resort, AZ – 352 Yan triple chairs
What about gondolas? There are a bunch of them that stretch two-plus miles. Even so, no gondolas come close to making this list. The Sunshine Village Gondola has the most cabins in North America with approximately 175 CWA Omegas and the Whistler VillageGondola comes in at number two with 160 Sigma Diamond cabins. The average North American gondola has just 74 cabins.
Now, who can guess which lift has the most towers?
Sun Peaks is Canada’s second largest mountain resort with 3,700 acres and 360-degrees of ski terrain spread over three mountains. The biggest of those is Tod Mountain, which was also the original name of the ski area in 1961. Nippon Cable of Japan purchased the resort in 1992 and doubled its size, adding eight new lifts in nine years and expanding onto Sundance and Morrissey mountains. Nippon Cable should be a familiar name; the company licenses and sells Doppelmayr technology throughout Japan. Thus Sun Peaks is North America’s largest 100% Doppelmayr mountain.
Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners created an ambitious master plan for Sun Peaks Resort in 2013 that aims to expand lift service into new areas and make significant changes to the current lift system. Many of the proposed changes center around the Top of the World, the ski area’s 6,824-foot summit. The two lifts that currently end here will be shortened or removed and three new ones added. The Burfield quad (the world’s longest fixed-grip lift) will be shortened to just above its current mid-station. Primary access to Top of the World will become the Crystal Express, a six-pack replacement of the Crystal triple chair in a new and extended alignment. A 30-passenger aerial tram is proposed from the top of the Sunburst Express to Top of the World for sightseeing. A new high speed quad called Sunnyside Express would come from the west and top out near the two other summit lifts.
The West Bowl T-Bar would be replaced with a new, longer version while two of Sun Peaks’ three detachable quads – Sunburst and Sundance – would be replaced with six packs. The missing link between the village and Mt. Morrissey would finally be added with a new West Morrissey quad chair.
The Balsams will not break ground this year as originally planned but still hopes for a 2016-17 opening with a mix of new and existing lifts.
Leitner-Poma would supply a gondola proposed to run from Queenstown to The Remarkables on the South Island of New Zealand. L-P built The Remarkables’ flagship six-pack “Curvy Basin Express” in 2014. The new gondola system would span 6.1 miles in two sections and take 27 minutes to ride with a potential opening in 2018. It would feature an impressive 4,200 foot vertical rise and 140 8-passenger cabins from Sigma.
Sunshine Village cuts the ribbon on Canada’s first new bubble chair since 1999. Tee Pee Town LX (Luxury eXpress) also has the first seat heating in Canada. Congratulations to Sunshine on completing one of the most modern lift fleets on the continent while others curate lift museums.
Gunther Jochl, the Austrian-born owner of Sugar Mountain, got the CEOs of both Doppelmayr and CWA to come christen his new six-pack Saturday along with the governor of North Carolina. Apparently the lift may get gondola cabins in the future.
A lawsuit from a homeowner could force the closure of Pennsylvania’s second largest ski resort. Seven Springs Mountain Resort operates two six-packs and eight fixed-grip lifts on 300 acres. Unfortunately, four of those lifts and 75 percent of the mountain’s ski runs cross a public road that the homeowner wants opened in winter. There are plenty of other ski resorts that have major highways passing through that close seasonally, including Deer Valley, Bridger Bowl and Mt. Baker.
Cherry Peak, the new ski area in Utah, won’t be able to complete their Summit lift in time for this season. When I was there a few months ago, towers were laying on the ground along the line which will either have to be set or moved elsewhere. Two other triple chairs and a carpet are set to go.
Staying on the mega-resort topic, Hemlock Resort near Chilliwack, BC receives approval to spend $1.5 billion on 23 new lifts and 20,000 lodging beds among other improvements over the next 60 years. Hemlock currently has a 1977-vintage Doppelmayr triple and two even older Mueller doubles. Buried in the linked article is the fact that the ski area never opened last year due to lack of snow.
Whistler Blackcomb is the greatest resort success story on our continent – from humble beginnings in 1966 to a resort municipality with 53,000 beds, Olympic host and the first to draw two million skiers in a season. While Whistler and Blackcomb mountains were developed independently, they are now linked by one of the most iconic ropeways ever built. Today, the mountains have a fleet of thirty lifts including seven gondolas and 14 detachable chairs over 8,200 sprawling acres. Despite being the largest ski resort in the US or Canada, W-B still gets crowded and has opportunities for continued improvement and expansion. The resort’s master plan prescribes replacing nine lifts and adding eleven more, primarily on Whistler Mountain. Many of the lifts add new out-of-base capacity with the goal of “staging” both mountains with 32,000 skiers in 2.5 hours or less.
On the Whistler side, the plan includes a major expansion to the south, creatively dubbed Whistler South. It would include an 8-passenger gondola from a new “Cheakamus” parking area and another base facility part way up. At just 2,000 feet above sea level, The lower base would have no trails to it, just the gondola to the upper base area. A second gondola would connect to here from Whistler Creekside. Trail pods above would include a beginner area and three detachable chairlifts including one in Bagel Bowl.
The Creekside base would also get a fourth gondola direct to Whistler’s Chic Pea, bypassing the Creekside Gondola/Big Red choke point. Higher up, Franz’s chair and Whistler’s two original T-bars would be replaced by a single detachable quad from the bottom of the former to the top of the latter. At the heart of Whistler Mountain, Emerald Express is slated to be swapped with a six-pack. The quad would move to a parallel alignment ending slightly higher. Talk about an increase in capacity!
If you’ve ever been in Symphony Bowl, you know the high speed quad built in 2006 serves an area larger than most ski resorts. As such, Whistler Blackcomb plans two more lifts starting at the Symphony base fanning out in opposite directions. One called Robertson’s goes towards Harmony while the other serves either Flute Peak or Flute Shoulder with a detachable four or six-passenger chair. Access to the alpine from Whistler Village stays exactly the same; the only change on this side of the mountain is replacement of Magic (a Yan triple) with a 6/8 chondola.
When Sigma decided to develop a new 3S gondola cabin, they turned to a designer of Ferraris and Maseratis to create Symphony. Now Leitner is giving its chairs the same treatment with automotive-style upholstered seating. The new ‘Premium Chair’ combines real leather with heated seats and bubbles for the ultimate in rider comfort. The chair also has automatic locking footrests for safety. One of Audi’s design firms created the chair and it is manufactured at Leitner’s plant in Telfs, Austria. In a press release announcing the new option, Martin Leitner remarked, “The Leitner Premium chair delivers optimum comfort, ergonomics, and elegant design in one luxurious package. ‘Business Class for ski resorts’ sums it up perfectly.”
Kitzbühel is the launch customer for the new chair, debuting 62 of the 8-passenger version on their new Brunn chairlift this winter. Brunn is the resort’s eighth Leitner installation and will serve a pod of three new runs. The lift will also feature a 980-horsepower DirectDrive that Leitner claims will reduce noise and electric consumption by 20 percent versus a standard drive with a gearbox. Brunn will haul an impressive 3,300 skiers per hour at up to 6.0 m/s. The lift is 4,790 feet long and rises 1,417 feet with 17 towers. Kitzbühel’s total investment in the Brunn lift and trails is $22.1 million.