Cannon Mountain Tram Evacuated

The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway was evacuated on Sunday for the first time in its history.  The tram’s two cars stopped around 1:50 pm, only about 75 feet out of the stations due to a yet-to-be-specified mechanical problem a bearing issue with the electric motor.  After an hour and half, tram operators began lowering passengers by rope with the temperature hovering around zero. It took another hour and a half for all 48-passengers to make it safely off the red and yellow tram cars.  Great work by the two operators who performed under pressure with minimal outside help.

Each tram cabin normally carries up to 70 passengers just over a mile between stations. Aguido (now merged with Leitner) built the Cannon Mountain Tramway back in 1979, replacing one built in 1938.    The State of New Hampshire owns and operates Cannon Mountain as part of Franconia Notch State Park.  Mountain management hopes to have the tram back open tomorrow morning. These things always seem to happen on a holiday weekend!  (not far away at Sunday River the workhorse Chondola has also been down all weekend.)

Update 2/15: The tram will remain closed at least through the first part of this week.

Mi Teleférico to Add 9th Gondola Line in La Paz

The world’s largest gondola-based public transit network, Mi Teleférico “My Cable,” announced on social media this week it has ordered a 9th gondola from Doppelmayr for delivery in 2019.  The Linea Plateada (Silver Line) will connect the existing Yellow/Red and under construction Purple/Blue lines in Bolivia’s capitol city of La Paz.  When complete, it will connect nine separate lines and 42 miles of cable together for the first time.


The brainchild of President Evo Morales, Bolivia went all-in on gondolas in 2012, ordering three lines (with 4 haul ropes, 11 stations and 450 cabins) for phase one.  The experiment proved wildly successful, offering safe, clean and reliable transport to the masses in La Paz and neighboring El Alto.  Less than two months after the first gondola opened, President Morales announced construction of five additional lines on July 1, 2015.

Not many public transit systems are as revered as this one, which has more than 160,000 likes on Facebook  (the largest subway system in the world, New York’s MTA, has just 50,000.)  Mi Teleférico’s slogan is Uniting Our Lives and it serves more than 100,000 passengers every weekday.  For 40 cents a trip, riders even get free wi-fi.

#MiTeleferico un lindo paseo por #LaPaz

A photo posted by Asira Maya (@gacarreno) on

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News Roundup: Windy in Switzerland

  • Owner of Echo Mountain files for bankruptcy but will keep operating the closest ski area to Denver.
  • Saddleback, Maine won’t be open in time for February vacation week.
  • Big Tupper, NY pulls the plug on this season entirely.
  • Aspen Highlands looks to expand into Loge Bowl, with the possibility of eventually adding a lift.
  • A quick-thinking 7 year-old hangs onto a dangling classmate for two minutes, long enough for resort staff to make a successful catch from a chair in Ontario.  Canada requires nets to be out and ready whenever a lift is in operation for just this reason.
  • Aspen Highlands chair pusher finally arrested and identified as a 31-year old local man with a history of mental illness. He’s charged with felony assault and misdemeanor reckless endangerment but will go to a treatment facility instead of jail.  The investigation also reveals a 19-year old lift operator saw the 25-foot fall and hit an e-stop but didn’t report it.
  • Gizmodo tackles urban gondolas, revealing La Paz carries 100,000 commuters a day on its 3 aerial lines.

Instagram Tuesday: High Technology

🎿❄️ #skiing #view #glacier #skilift #austria #skifahren

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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.  A part in the gearbox on Challenger failed around noon with myself among 120 or so 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 due to a broken bearing.
  • 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

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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.)