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.
Xavier Gallot-Lavallée, President and CEO of MND notes, “we are particularly proud to unveil the characteristics of this range of highly innovative detachable devices demonstrating a clear technological edge over our competitors.” The company emphasizes its detachable lifts will be robust enough for “high intensity operation” (read: cities) up to 7,000 hours per year vs. 1,500 hours for an average ski lift. The majority of production will be carried out in LST’s French factories.
An interesting piece of this is the MND Group already has more than 30 global distributors for LST and its other products (Sufag snowmaking guns, Gazex®, etc.) MND America is headquartered in Eagle, Colorado. Unlike the big two lift manufacturers, the MND Group is publicly-traded on the Euronext so there’s a duty to shareholders to make a profit on this foray into detachable lifts. Final testing is underway in Savoie and chairlifts will be for sale in late 2016 with gondolas following in 2017.