Instagram Tuesday: Wheels

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The World’s First Chairlift (Almost)

The Ruud Mountain chairlift in Sun Valley is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Despite the dominance of European companies in today’s tramway business, the ubiquitous chairlift was actually invented in Nebraska by the most American of corporations.  Union Pacific Railroad built the world’s first chairlift at its new Sun Valley Resort in 1936 based on a design by their lead bridge engineer.  The two original single chairs were fabricated in the rail yards of Omaha and installed on Dollar and Proctor Mountains in time for the 1936-37 ski season.  Dollar’s original lifts are long gone, replaced by ones from Hall and Lift Engineering (and eventually Doppelmayr detachable quads in 2007.)

Wooden towers on Ruud Mountain.
Wooden towers on Ruud Mountain.

Just down the road from Dollar you can go back in time to Ruud Mountain, where the world’s third chairlift still stands among 10-bedroom mansions and two holes of the Sun Valley Golf Course.  The Sun Valley Company has preserved Ruud Mountain pretty much as it was during World War II with its chairlift and ski jump.  The top-drive, bottom-tension lift shows just how little the fixed-grip chairlift has changed since it was invented.

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Pomerelle Mountain Gets a SkyTrac

The beginnings of the bottom drive terminal for Pomerelle's new triple chair.
The beginnings of the bottom drive terminal for Pomerelle’s new triple chair.

SkyTrac, the new American lift builder based in Salt Lake City, is building two complete lifts this summer including one at Pomerelle Mountain near Burley, Idaho.  SkyTrac seems to be gaining a following with smaller, independent resorts that need new lifts but are price-sensitive.  By the end of this summer SkyTrac will have built 19 complete lifts in 12 states.  Only two of those were purchased by companies that own multiple resorts (Boyne went with SkyTrac for the latest lifts at The Summit at Snoqualmie and Crystal Mountain.)

Looking up at newly erected towers.  Eight of ten are already up.
Looking up at newly erected towers. Eight of ten are already up.

Pomerelle originally had Stearns-Roger and SLI double chairs, built in 1964 and 1975, respectively.  The longer of the two was replaced by a CTEC triple in 1988 and now a SkyTrac triple will replace the shorter double chair.  Work didn’t begin until late July but the SkyTrac crew has already installed most of the lift.  Because of the mellow terrain, towers are being set without a helicopter and only numbers 7 and 10 are left to go up.  The top terminal is finished and the bottom station just needs a motor room.  I didn’t see a haul rope or chairs yet.  The lift also apparently still needs a name!

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News Roundup: Closings and Openings

Park City King Con Express September Update

Like the Quicksilver Gondola, Park City’s new King Con Express is just about ready for a haul rope.  Both terminals are nearly complete and all the towers have been ready to go since August.  The chairs are still down in the base area waiting to be assembled.  As far as I can tell, grips and operator houses have not been delivered yet.  I’m guessing Park City is getting the pre-fabricated CTEC-style houses for both King Con and the Gondola.

The bottom terminal just needs some end caps and an underskin.
The pit in the lower left is for the loading carpet.

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Cabins and Towers for Park City’s Quicksilver Gondola

The first Uni-G terminal at Park City looks mighty nice in red and silver.
The first Uni-G terminal at Park City looks mighty nice in red and silver.

The most anticipated new lift of the year is starting to look like the really big gondola that it is. The drive terminal for Park City’s Quicksilver Gondola is largely complete and all 27 towers were set last weekend.  Doppelmayr opted to use the same K-Max heli they’ve been using for other projects even though gondola towers are huge.  The biggest towers – 23 and 24 – were actually set by crane.  In fact, a two-mile long road was built just to access T21-23 on the edge of Thaynes Canyon.

Tower 24 on the edge of Thaynes Canyon is a big one.
Tower 24 on the edge of Thaynes Canyon is a big one.
There are now 4 lines over Thaynes Canyon, none of which are the final ones.

The towers that were flown were split into in as many as six pieces because of the limited capability of the K-Max at 9,000 feet.  At least two towers have 16-sheave trains that must weigh a ton.  Some towers were flown without catwalks and railings just to make weight.  I was surprised Doppelmayr did not use a heavy-lift helicopter like the Chinook but I’m sure it all came down to price and what was available.

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Instagram Tuesday: Northern Lights

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Building Solitude’s Summit Express

It felt like spring at Solitude Mountain Resort, not because of the weather but because the Summit lift replacement project is really just getting underway.  The new Doppelmayr detachable quad is in an entirely new alignment that is extremely rugged.  There was obviously a ton of blasting and dirt work just to get to this point.  Once the Summit Express is complete, Solitude will have four high speed quads and only three fixed-grip lifts left.

Looking down from tower 15.
Looking down from tower 15.

Highlander Lift Services is in charge of this project rather than crews from Doppelmayr or Solitude.  Most of the tower forms are in but I did not see any concrete in the ground.  The top terminal is just a hole and the bottom isn’t much further along.  The lift is going to have around 20 towers and only the crossarms and lifting frames have arrived so far.  Unfortunately it looks like these guys are going to be building a lift in the snow.

Some tower cages are still in the parking lot.
This is all the parts for the new lift that have been delivered.

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Three New 3S Gondolas Coming Soon

The 3S Gondola is today’s finest lift technology with large, comfortable cabins quickly moving thousands of people per hour over virtually any terrain.   Doppelmayr and VonRoll pioneered the technology with Poma and Leitner developing their own versions in recent years.  Thirteen of these systems operate worldwide with at least three more in development in settings as diverse as the Swiss Alps and islands of Vietnam.  Here is a summary:

3S Bahn – Zermatt Bergbahnen AG

Klein Matterhorn's first 3S will be the second built by Leitner Ropeways.
Klein Matterhorn’s first 3S will be the second built by Leitner Ropeways.

The world’s highest elevation 3S will open on the Matterhorn in Zermatt for 2018.  It will feature Leitner’s DirectDrive technology and new Sigma Symphony cabins designed by the famous Italian firm Pininfarina.  Its 25 28-passenger cabins will move 2,000 skiers per hour at 7.5 meters per second.  The lift will cover almost 13,000 feet laterally and 3,000 feet vertically in nine minutes.  Zermatt will be the first non-urban 3S gondola for Leitner or Poma. Construction begins next summer.

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News Roundup: The Future in Ankara

  • Sugarloaf Mountain Resort announces a new director of lifts to oversee maintenance and operations after two high-profile lift accidents.  He’s not exactly a Boyne Resorts outsider.
  • Finally some news from Saddleback; the owners are in negotiations with four potential buyers and this season may or may not happen.  Talk about bad press.
  • Group hoping to reopen the Antelope Butte ski area near Sheridan, Wyoming will make a down payment to the Forest Service within two weeks.  The area has two Riblet double chairs that last operated in 2004.
  • Switzerland sets the maximum blood-alcohol content for a person operating a cable car at 0.05% (the same limit as for drunk driving there.)
  • A national park in South Korea may be getting a $39 million 10-passenger gondola, the country’s 155th ropeway.  South Korea will also be hosting the next Winter Olympics.
  • Parts for the new Ptarmigan lift are on site at Loveland, CO.
  • Mont Cascades in Quebec makes solid progress on replacing their TC double chair with a Doppelmayr quad.