The return station of a detachable quad burned last night at Ski Bromont in Quebec. The 2003 Doppelmayr CTEC lift is called Versant du Lac or Lift 5. More pictures of it can be found here. This is the third such terminal fire in Eastern Canada in as many years. The drive terminals of high speed quads at Mont Tremblant and Marble Mountain burned in 2014 and were subsequently repaired. The good news for Bromont is the Uni-G terminal model is still in production so it shouldn’t be too hard to get a new one this spring. Doppelmayr’s St. Jerome factory is less than two hours away.
Intrawest announced in its second quarter earnings call today that Steamboat will get its 8th detachable lift this summer, a high speed quad replacing the Elkhead chair. The new lift will better serve beginner and low-intermediate skiers. Intrawest CEO Tom Marano noted, “Elkhead services a high-volume area of the mountain and facilitates lunchtime and end-of-day egress from the popular beginner and intermediate terrain pods on the south side of the mountain. The increased speed and capacity of this new lift will substantially improve the guest experience at Steamboat.”
Elkhead is a Yan fixed-grip quad built in 1984 with newer Doppelmayr line equipment. At just under 2,500 feet, the current 5.8 minute lift ride will be cut to just 2.5 minutes with a detachable quad. The existing chair rises 707 vertical feet at 425 feet/minute. No word yet on which manufacturer will build the Elkhead Express but Leitner-Poma built the Christie Peak Express for Steamboat in 2007 and the Wildhorse Gondola in 2009. This is the second major lift announcement from Colorado in recent weeks; Vail announced in December it’s replacing Chair 17 with a detachable quad this summer. With stellar snow across the west, it might be a busy one for lift manufacturers.
There’s a lively discussion going on over at Alpinforum about the future of detachable lifts, which haven’t gotten much faster despite huge advances in technology over the last thirty years. The first modern detachable chairlift, Quicksilver at Breckenridge, went 787 feet a minute when it debuted in 1981. Since then, manufacturers have installed hundreds of gondolas and chairlifts capable of going more than 1,000 fpm.
The first lift to go 1,100 fpm was the Whistler Village Gondola in 1988 and the first capable of 1,200 fpm was Stowe’s gondola in 1991. Both were built by Poma, the early adopter of faster line speeds. The only detachable installed in North America since 1991 capable of traveling any more than 1,200 fpm is the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, debuting in 2012. As a tri-cable gondola, P2P has an impressive capability of 1,476 fpm (7.5 m/s.) Doppelmayr claims similar systems can go up to 1,670 fpm (8.5 m/s.) So far, the fastest 3S ever built goes 8 m/s and one that can go 8.5 will debut in Vietnam next year. Meanwhile, 1,200 fpm (6 m/s) remains the highest speed for a single cable detachable, a stat that hasn’t changed since 1991.
The truth is the vast majority of detachable lifts built these days have the standard design speed of 1,000 fpm (5.08 m/s) and operate even slower much of the time. In my experience, many ski areas run so-called high speed lifts at 800 or 900 feet a minute on all but the busiest of days. As users on Alpinforum note, ski resort operators care more about reducing stops, wear and tear than shaving thirty seconds off a ride time that the average guest won’t even notice.
- The $210 million Fansipan Legend 3S opened yesterday after two years of construction, becoming the world’s longest and tallest tri-cable gondola.
- Brothers selected to build and operate a chairlift at the North Carolina State Fair to open by October. Now they just need the chairlift.
- Weak Canadian dollar not helping ski hills looking to buy lifts that are now twice as expensive.
- Doppelmayr USA says it’s in “active dialogue” with 15 to 20 cities for urban gondolas, including Clearwater, Florida.
- Developers of Garibaldi at Squamish get the first of many approvals for a new resort with 3 gondolas and 18 chairlifts.
- Two people hospitalized when a grip issue stacks two chairs at Granite Gorge Ski Area. The lift in question is a 1981 Borvig double.
- Okemo stops the practice of heating motor rooms 24/7, saves $31,000 a year.
- An errant tree at Snow Summit de-ropes a CTEC triple in gusty winds. Two riders fall from chairs, others are evacuated with only minor injuries.
- Contract awarded for India’s first urban gondola, to cost $24 million and open within two years.
- Just a week after sanctions on Iran were lifted, Bartholet announces it’s building a gondola system on the resort island of Kish. A definite upgrade from the salvaged Yan detachable installed last year in Isfahan (if you’re wondering, it made the journey from Silver Star, BC.)
Vietnam doesn’t have skiing. That fact makes it an unlikely candidate for the title of world ropeway capital. With multiple record-breaking gondolas operating and more under construction, that may soon change. In 2007, Poma built a spectacular installation over two miles of ocean called the Vinpearl Cable Car. The Hanoi-based Sun Group is behind many of Vietnam’s lift projects and is perhaps the Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group’s best customer. Sun Group operates the second longest mono-cable gondola, just commissioned the world’s longest 3S gondola and is currently building another 3S that’s a mile longer than the first one. Now they are building a huge aerial tramway and at least two more gondola lifts.
Vietnam’s first reversible aerial tramway under construction in Ha Long Bay will break two world records. The Mystic Mountain Skyway will link a new amusement park called Ha Long Ocean Park with one of the world’s largest observation wheels on a neighboring mountain across the bay. The $282 million project is a perfect site for an aerial tramway with two points needing to be connected but with natural obstacles in between. At the same time, the alignment is relatively short with moderate capacity needs.
- After several high-profile incidents, a good reminder from the NSAA that 86 percent of falls from chairlifts can be attributed to rider error.
- Lots of questions surround last week’s skier-pushes-snowboarder-off-lift story from Aspen Highlands. Police say even without an arrest made, the public is not in any danger.
- Bravo to Bristol Mountain for actually pressing charges against a freeloading teen for theft of services.
- Only at a tiny mountain in Maine would volunteer ski patrollers derail a double chair they are also responsible for inspecting.
- An Austrian man is in a coma after the harness he was wearing around his neck became entangled with a platter lift carrier. At least one lift operator may not have been at his or her assigned post.
- Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe is for sale.
- Fun Spot America near Orlando looks to add a gondola ride (thanks Jay T. for the tip.)
- Dignitaries break ground at Laurel Mountain in preparation for a November re-opening.
- A mix of public and private groups including Georgetown University are about to spend $250k to study a gondola linking Rosslyn, Virginia with Georgetown (one of Washington, D.C.’s highest-profile neighborhoods without a metro station.)
- The Balsams Wilderness won’t re-open in 2016 after all. A revised timeline has three new and two existing lifts spinning in late 2017.
- This is our 200th post!
I always find this time of year exciting as ski resorts announce new lifts projects, many of which catch me by surprise. This week we learned Le Relais Ski Centre, located just outside Quebec City, will replace three lifts with a Doppelmayr six-pack capable of moving a huge 3,600 skiers an hour. Two T-bars (a 1960s Mueller and 1987 Doppelmayr) as well as a fixed-grip quad (1987 Doppelmayr) will be removed.
A project like this would normally re-use existing towers tubes, but Le Relais has some crazy offset towers that support both their quad chair and 1987 T-Bar. Thus the six-pack will get brand new towers in addition to 60 six-passenger chairs. Slope length will be just under 3,000 feet with a vertical rise of 676′. The ride will take just three minutes at 5.1 m/s. A Chairkit loading carpet is included in the $5+ million lift, which will be built at Doppelmayr’s plant just down the road in St. Jerome. Congratulations to Le Relais Ski Centre and the Beaulieu family on what’s sure to be a huge hit with guests.
The MND Group announced yesterday it will begin selling detachable chairlifts and gondolas from 2016 through its LST Ropeways subsidiary, becoming the first new entrant to the detachable lift market since CTEC in 1990. Based in France, LST has built more than 550 lifts to date including a handful of detachable chairlifts utilizing grips from the defunct German company Wopfner. Yesterday’s announcement outlines LST’s all-new detachable product for both mountain and urban applications. The combined market, estimated by MND at $865 million over the next 25 years, has been a duopoly since Leitner and Poma joined in 2002. Hence new competition is big news.
LST has spent more than $2.7 million to develop detachable technology that doesn’t require licensing from others. The most important component of any detachable lift is the grip; LST chose a double-position grip that opens and closes only once at each terminal, reducing the number of cycles by half compared with a single-position grip (keep in mind a grip that stays open through terminals presents its own challenges.) LST says its patented grip requires less force to open and close than competing models, reducing wear while allowing speeds of up to 6 m/s (1,181 ft/min) and requiring 15 percent less energy. LST detachable terminals will be 70 feet long with 75 percent fewer tires compared with competing terminals. While LST says its stations will be shorter than its competitors’, I believe the shortest LPA terminal is ~67 feet. LST’s all-new carriers (both chairs and gondolas) “designed for comfort and safety” are forthcoming.