It used to be when you boarded the gondola to Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho, a huge sign proclaimed, “Welcome to the World’s Longest Gondola.” At 16,350 feet, the Silver Mountain Gondola held that title from its opening in 1990 until May 2009. That’s when Doppelmayr completed the Ba Na Cable Car in the mountains of Vietnam. A hundred and fifty feet longer than Silver’s gondola and a thousand feet taller, it broke world records for both length and vertical rise.
Fast forward a couple years and Leitner has crushed the ropeway length record again with a gondola in Turkey that opened in 2014. Like the Silver Mountain Gondola, the Bursa-Uludag Gondola connects a city with a ski resort but this one is split into in three sections. It starts in Bursa (Turkey’s fourth largest city) at only 1,300 feet above sea level and tops out at the Uludag resort town and national park at 6,000 feet. The combined system is just under 29,000 feet long with a vertical rise of 4,600 feet. It has 139 Sigma Diamond cabins and 44 towers. The entire system takes only 22 minutes to ride at 6 m/s, replacing a 35-kilometer drive on a mountain road that took over an hour.
As if the Ba Na Cable Car and Bursa-Uludag Gondola aren’t cool enough, there’s also a 26,000 foot 3S gondola under construction in Vietnam that will relegate Silver Mountain’s gondola to the world’s fourth longest.
1. Single Chair, Mad River Glen, VT – 1948 American Steel & Wire Single Chair
The single chair at MRG still has its original towers and terminal structures but everything else was replaced by Doppelmayr CTEC in 2007. As part of that project, towers were removed, sandblasted and repainted before being flown back to new foundations with new line gear. Doppelmayr also replaced the bullwheels, chairs, grips, drive and haul rope. This begs the question of ‘when is an old lift a new lift?’
Everett Kircher of Boyne fame bought this chairlift from Sugar Bowl, CA for $3,000 in 1954. Originally it was a single chair built in 1939. Modified sheave assemblies were machined at the Kircher’s car dealership in Michigan when the lift went to Tennessee. At some point it appears to have gotten newer-style Riblet towers. Boyne Resorts still operates this lift 800 miles from their nearest ski resort. (edit: JP notes in the comments below that this version was replaced by a Riblet double in 1991. Thanks JP!)
This lift only operates on busy weekends and holidays but it’s an old one and a good one . A classic Pacific Northwest center-pole double with very few modifications from its original design and no safety bars!
The East’s next big resort at The Balsams still hopes to break ground before the snow flies and open in late 2016. Still no word on who will supply the lifts.
Leitner-Poma flies towers at Loveland, Snowmass and Sipapu. Brian from Timberline Helicopters has flown every tower in the west so far this summer with his K-Max. At Sipapu it reportedly only took him 37 minutes!
The Teton lift got its haul rope and commline in the last few weeks and Doppelmayr started launching chairs on Saturday. Agamatic grips were being attached to each chair before going onto the maintenance rail at the bottom terminal. Doppelmayr was launching chairs in groups with the lift running slowly in reverse. All 80 chairs should be on by this afternoon. Next up: adjustments and load test. Impressive to see this project nearly finished two and half months before its scheduled opening (which is December 19th.)
Park City and Lutsen Mountains in Minnesota won’t have the only new gondolas in this part of the world come December. Leitner Ropeways is in the final stages of building a $72 million gondola system in Ecatepec near Mexico City. Two connected gondola lines will include seven stations and 184 10-passenger cabins. They will feature the first Leitner DirectDrives in North America. DirectDrive technology eliminates the need for a gearbox and associated points of failure.
The longer of the two lines will have a slope length of 9,577 feet while rising 180 feet in 10.5 minutes. It will have 20 towers and 108 Sigma Diamond 10-passenger cabins. The second line will be 5,922 feet long with a slightly larger vertical of 203 feet and ride time of 7.5 minutes. This one will have 76 cabins and 16 towers. Both lines will travel at a max speed of 1,181 feet a minute and transport 3,000 riders an hour each way. With five mid-stations, it would be difficult for cabins to be shared between the two haul ropes. A fault or stop at any of the seven terminals would halt the entire system which is just one of the reasons it is being split up with cabins turning around in the middle.
Apparently Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire will get the first LST Ropeways lift in North America. Manufactured in Germany, it will be a T-Bar for the Mittersill racing area which has an existing Doppelmayr CTEC double chair. SkyTrac will be doing the installation. LST Ropeways is owned by the MND Group which also owns Gazex (avalanche release systems) and Sufag (snowmaking systems) with a North American facility in Eagle, CO.
Leitner-Poma will re-engineer and modify towers on the Grey Mountain lift at Red Mountain, BC this fall. The quad chair was built in 1992 at Alyeska and moved to Red in 2013. The re-installation was done by Summit Lift Co. of Fernie, BC and the lift has 18 towers in its current configuration. No word on the exact reason for the re-design.
The Camelot chair at Boyne Highlands is losing its vault drive terminal that is literally part of the ski area’s base lodge. In its place will be a used CTEC drive terminal. Does anyone know where it came from?
Snow King debuted Doppelmayr’s new ‘Alpinstar’ terminal this summer and now Caberfae Peaks, MI will debut the ‘Ministar’ in 2016. The new triple chair will replace the Clubhouse double which is a 1967 Hall.
Developers are still trying to figure out how to get a new Lift 1A back into downtown Aspen like the original single chair.
When detachable lifts were invented, no one knew exactly how many years they might last before having to be replaced. Now at 35 years since the first high speed quad went in at Breckenridge, we are getting an idea of what that number is. Twenty-two early high speed quads built in the 1980s have been removed and replaced so far at an average age of 23.8 years. The oldest of these was the Siberia Express at Squaw, removed this spring after 30 years of service. There are six more detachable quads built the same year as Siberia that are going into their 31st winter season.
Some would say that rather than looking at a lift’s model year and the associated technology, what really matters is operating hours. A machine that runs winter- and daytime-only will accumulate around a thousand hours a year while the Whistler Village Gondola will rack up 3,500 hours in the same year spinning 18 hours per day all winter and all summer. Since there’s no way for me to know how many hours most lifts have I will have to stick with looking at them by model year.
The average lift ride in the United States and Canada takes just under five minutes. In fact, only about four percent of lifts (fewer than a hundred) take more than ten minutes to ride. You wouldn’t know it hearing the average skier complaining about long and slow lifts at just about any ski area. Below are the ten longest lifts by actual ride time at design speed. Of course lifts do not always run at their design speed but this gives a pretty good idea of the longest rides. Two of the top ten are detachable lifts that are so long that they take more than 15 minutes.
1. Burfield Quad – Sun Peaks Resort, BC – 1997 Doppelmayr Fixed-grip quad
9,510 feet at 453 fpm = 21 minutes
2. Cyclone – Sunrise Park Resort, AZ – 1983 Yan Fixed-grip triple