Instagram Tuesday: High Technology

ūüéŅ‚ĚĄÔłŹ #skiing #view #glacier #skilift #austria #skifahren

A photo posted by Megan Brette (@m3eegs) on

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News Roundup: Rope Evac at Big Sky

Ski patrollers lower guests from the Challenger double at Big Sky Resort on February 5, 2016.
  • I’ve ridden lifts thousands of times and last Friday at Big Sky was the first time I never made it to the top of one.  The gearbox on Challenger failed around noon with myself among 120 riders on line.  Big Sky Ski Patrol did an awesome job getting everybody down safely in about an hour.  Challenger is a reconditioned Riblet double built for Big Sky by Superior Tramway in 1988.  Three days after this incident, it’s still down. This particular lift saw significant downtime last season too.
  • The Forest Service seeks comments on Arapahoe Basin’s latest master plan.  It includes a fixed-grip triple or quad chair serving the Beavers expansion, a Zuma access surface lift, replacements for Pallavicini/Molly Hogan and removal of Norway.
  • The Gondola Project asserts that cities now account for one in five gondolas and tramways built worldwide.
  • The first new lift for the 2018 Winter Olympics, an 8-passenger gondola, opens in South Korea after months of delays.  Two more detachable quads will be added this summer at the Jeongseon Alpine Center, which is hosting the Downhill and Super-G.
  • The New York Times confirms North Korea’s Masik Pass ski resort got a Doppelmayr 4-passenger gondola this summer.  It’s not new; according to Doppelmayr it came from Ischgl, Austria via a broker called Pro-Alpin who sold it to the Chinese.  The gondola is in addition to the four counterfeit Doppelmayr lifts that appeared to be brand new in 2014.

Gondola Lift at the Masikryong Ski Resort. #NorthKorea #masikryong #winter #ski

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Gondola lift at the Masikryong Ski Resort. #NorthKorea #masikryong #winter #ski

A photo posted by DPRK 360 (@dprk360) on

Replacing a Crossarm in the Middle of Winter

Big White is a ski resort that lives up to its name. ¬†Like many of its counterparts in British Columbia, the upper mountain gets pummeled by Pacific storms leaving trees and lifts looking like “snow ghosts” all winter. ¬†On January 27th, Doppelmayr issued a service bulletin due to cracks found on the crossarms of depression towers of lifts in California, Colorado and New Hampshire. ¬†Big White¬†crews found damage to tower 14 of the Gem Lake Express and¬†took the lift out of service on January 28th.

A storm coats the Gem Lake Express in feet of rime January 27, 2016.  Photo credit: Michael Ballingall

More than 8,000 feet long and rising 2,300 feet, Gem Lake accesses a huge portion of Big White’s¬†terrain. ¬†The detachable quad lift¬†was built by Doppelmayr in 1996 and has 24 towers. ¬†Tower 14 sits about two thirds of the way up the line at 5,914 feet in elevation. Gem Lake has a¬†parking rail for some of its 128 chairs at the bottom terminal but not for the entire line.

Mountain operations folks making it happen.  Here, the Big White grooming team hauls a forklift to the site of the damaged tower.  Photo credit: Michael Ballingall

After the cracks on tower 14 were discovered, Doppelmayr fabricated a new crossarm in St. Jerome and shipped it from Quebec early last week.  Of course, the 20-foot long, 2.5 ton part got stuck in a winter storm of its own and ended up taking 119 hours to cross Canada. Meanwhile, Big White maintenance staff rigged the haul rope and removed the broken crossarm.

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Ski Bromont Lift Heavily Damaged in Overnight Fire

Photo credit: Bromont Fire Department
Photo credit: Bromont Fire Department

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.

Photo credit: CBC News
Photo credit: CBC News

Steamboat to Build High Speed Quad at Elkhead

Elkhead serves an important trail pod at Steamboat near the summit of the Silver Bullet Gondola.

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.

Will Detachable Lifts Get Faster?

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.

avg speed over time
From 1984 to 2015, the average speed of a detachable lift in the U.S. increased by only 900 feet a minute.

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.

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News Roundup: Fansipan Legend Opens

  • 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.)

Instagram Tuesday: Big Red

Today's #sunrise in #JacksonHole. Talk about #jhdreaming. A @kgb_productions ūüď∑

A photo posted by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (@jacksonhole) on

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World’s Largest Aerial Tramway Under Construction in Vietnam

The Mystic Mountain Skyway will have the world’s largest tram cars capable of handling¬†230 passengers each. ¬†All photos¬†from

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.

A big tramway for a big wheel.

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.

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News Roundup: Penkenbahn

  • 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!