When Sigma decided to develop a new 3S gondola cabin, they turned to a designer of Ferraris and Maseratis to create Symphony. Now Leitner is giving its chairs the same treatment with automotive-style upholstered seating. The new ‘Premium Chair’ combines real leather with heated seats and bubbles for the ultimate in rider comfort. The chair also has automatic locking footrests for safety. One of Audi’s design firms created the chair and it is manufactured at Leitner’s plant in Telfs, Austria. In a press release announcing the new option, Martin Leitner remarked, “The Leitner Premium chair delivers optimum comfort, ergonomics, and elegant design in one luxurious package. ‘Business Class for ski resorts’ sums it up perfectly.”
Kitzbühel is the launch customer for the new chair, debuting 62 of the 8-passenger version on their new Brunn chairlift this winter. Brunn is the resort’s eighth Leitner installation and will serve a pod of three new runs. The lift will also feature a 980-horsepower DirectDrive that Leitner claims will reduce noise and electric consumption by 20 percent versus a standard drive with a gearbox. Brunn will haul an impressive 3,300 skiers per hour at up to 6.0 m/s. The lift is 4,790 feet long and rises 1,417 feet with 17 towers. Kitzbühel’s total investment in the Brunn lift and trails is $22.1 million.
Clearly the United States is a very different market from the Alps, where most lifts are replaced with the latest and greatest technology every 20 years and virtually every new detachable has bubbles with seat heating. It would not surprise me if Kitzbühel’s new lift cost more than any chairlift ever built in the US or Canada (I think that title belongs to Mt. Snow’s Bluebird Express at $8.6 million.) North American ski resorts will operate just 16 lifts with bubbles this winter, fewer than Europe builds in one year. Only a handful of lifts in the U.S. have the kind of indoor, heated chair parking facilities that the Premium chair would require.
Nonetheless Leitner-Poma is offering the Premium chair as an option to customers in the US and Canada. The previous generation of bubble chairs with heated seats at Okemo and Mt. Snow are super comfortable in their own right and perhaps as nice as we Americans will ever see. I should also mention that BMF debuted a similar chair in 2013 (designed in partnership with Porsche) and Doppelmayr offers the CS10.