Oldest Operating Lifts in the US & Canada

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?’

2. Gatlinburg Sky Lift, Gatlinburg, TN – 1954 Riblet double

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!)

3. Chair 1, White Pass, WA – 1955 1962 Riblet double

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! (edit: Brian notes in the comments that this lift was actually installed as Chair 2 in 1962.  The original chair 1 operated 1955-1994.)

IMG_9529
Chair one at White Pass lives on despite an adjacent high speed quad.

4. Mountain Platter, Burke Mountain, VT – 1956 Poma platter

This lift has a strange history; it was shortened in the 1960’s and then lengthened with a turn added in 1983.  There aren’t too many 4,800′ platters left out there like it.  The platter is practically underneath a brand new Leitner-Poma detachable quad.

5. Chair 1, Mt. Spokane, WA – 1956 Riblet double

Spokane was the home of Riblet Tramway Company for more than a hundred years so it’s only fitting that the local ski area has five Riblet doubles in pretty much original form.  The oldest is Chair 1 which was built in 1955 but not finished until 1956.

6. Summit, Kelly Canyon, ID – 1957 Riblet double

Kelly Canyon actually used this Riblet lift as a template to fabricate a homemade version right alongside it when more capacity was needed.  Riblet never sold this ski area another lift although it now has a second (genuine) Riblet double which came from Vail.

Kelly Canyon, Idaho's Summit lift is nearing 60 years old!.
Kelly Canyon’s main lift still spinning after nearly 60 years.

7. Snowdon Poma, Killington, VT – 1958 Poma platter

This surface lift was one of two original lifts at the Beast of the East which now has 20 lifts.  It’s more than 2,200 feet long and still operates despite being sandwiched between a newer triple and quad chair.

8. Banff Gondola, Banff, AB – 1959 Bell 4-passenger bi-cable gondola

Garaventa did a bunch of work on the Banff Gondola in 1997 which included new carriages and 40 new CWA X cabins.  This is actually the third set of cabins on this gondola.  Unlike most of the lifts on this list, the Banff Gondola operates all year long.  I would not be surprised to see a completely new gondola built in the next few years at this major destination.

9. #3/Bateau, Sugarloaf, ME – 1959 1956 Constam T-Bar

North America's oldest T-Bar is a throwback.
North America’s oldest T-Bar is a throwback.

Like all of these lifts, #3 T-Bar has some newer components, namely Leitner springbox T’s.  It cost $57,000 to build and sixty years later is sometimes the only lift Sugarloaf can open on windy days.

10. 7th Heaven, Stevens Pass, WA – 1960 Riblet double

This lift has a newer Riblet overhead drive-tension terminal but the towers and top terminal are original from 1960.  In fact, five of ten lifts on this list are Riblet doubles which can clearly stand the test of time.

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26 thoughts on “Oldest Operating Lifts in the US & Canada

  1. JP October 1, 2015 / 5:52 am

    The Riblet lift un Gatlinburg was installed in 1991, its 100% Riblet. Previous, a Heron double was in its spot.

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    • JP October 1, 2015 / 6:57 pm

      I should say the Gatlinburg Sky Lift is a “Riblet”, reenginerred by Superior Tramway, with Superior line equipment. The lift is maintained by Boyne’s MI lift Maintenance crews.

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  2. Keith Woods October 1, 2015 / 7:19 pm

    This article missed the oldest chair in Canada. It is still operating at Mount Baldy in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The chair was built by ship builders on their days off in 1953, I believe.

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    • Peter Landsman October 1, 2015 / 7:34 pm

      Interesting. I know their T-Bar was built in 1971 but don’t have a date for the double chair. It looks like a Riblet to me.

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      • Paul Hothersall December 9, 2017 / 11:53 pm

        Having skied / ran races / ski patrolled there, and asked about its history its er… murky. Apparently the 1953 date is accurate, and it was built after ‘careful study’ of other lifts. Its got some very very interesting design features, and is the only chair I genuinely feared for loss of life through exposure . (its as low as -40 operating and VERY exposed). The new owners for last couple of years have at least I understand worked on the operational and safety side. Its for sure still going to be running this season still.

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  3. Larry October 6, 2015 / 2:46 pm

    Aspen, CO #5 Bell Mountain Riblet Double chair – Installed 1957 and is still in operation.

    Lake City, CO platter lift was originally installed at A-Basin in the 1940’s at some point, but records are scarce. It was moved to Lake City, shortened and reinstalled. Much of the structural steel has 1944 markings from PA steel mills.

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  4. TJ October 9, 2015 / 6:50 am

    bateau is a 56 installation

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  5. TJ January 28, 2016 / 8:05 pm

    I would think that the MRG single still counts as an original lift. The towers are original along with the top terminal.

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    • Max Hart January 4, 2017 / 5:51 pm

      The MRG Single was completely REMOVED in 2007, refurbished, and REINSTALLED as a used lift in 2007.

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  6. brian barto March 14, 2016 / 10:44 pm

    Re: White pass lift. Chair # 1 (pictured) was actually built as chair # 2 around 1962 and installed parallel to the original chair # 1, (1955) which was removed when the adjacent high speed quad was installed. The original lift had only one “erector set” type tower, the rest were “modern” tubular style.

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    • Peter Landsman March 15, 2016 / 5:23 pm

      Thanks Brian, changing a lift’s name always creates confusion. Makes sense though that White Pass replaced the older of the two lifts with Great White.

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    • Del Haight March 17, 2018 / 2:12 pm

      Chair #2 has always been called chair #2 and was built in 1958. Chair #1 was built in 57 and was removed in 1994 when Great White was built. #2 does not run for public anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Robert Von Roll March 27, 2016 / 1:04 am

    1961 Von Roll VR101 Skyride. Cedar Point Sandusky Ohio. Von Roll VR101 lifts are one of the most solid detachable lifts ever made.

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  8. Judith July 9, 2016 / 6:00 pm

    Tamarack chair at Kimberley BC came used from either Lake Louise or Banff. It is prehistoric….a double w a center pole and towers with crisis-crossed metal staves. Wish I had a picture.

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  9. Dave July 14, 2016 / 9:29 am

    The 1962 Carlevaro-Savio Silver Queen from Crested Butte is still in service as a quad at Timberline, WV.

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    • LiftElec July 19, 2018 / 1:53 pm

      Silver Queen at Timberline WV is entirely Heron Poma.

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  10. MOUNTAINEER July 28, 2016 / 9:19 am

    Why is the 1939 AS&W single still operationg at Mt. Eyak not mentioned here?

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  11. mike December 11, 2017 / 7:53 pm

    Mt. Waterman has a double installed in 68 or 69 still in operation.

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  12. Northeast Chairlifts March 12, 2018 / 6:32 pm

    You can throw in Greek Peak’s 1963 C&S double. It has Borvig chairs but everything else is pure original, and it operates every single day the mountain is open.

    Liked by 1 person

    • reaperskier July 19, 2018 / 4:05 pm

      Where did it’s SLI chairs come from?

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      • A.G. July 20, 2018 / 7:45 am

        No clue. The rumor in our race league at the time was they were shipped out from Utah but I never got a clear answer from anybody.

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        • Peter Landsman July 20, 2018 / 7:50 am

          Utah would make some sense as two SLIs were removed from The Canyons in 1997.

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