Who Will Buy America’s First Eight Passenger Chairlift?


Eight new eight-passenger chairlifts debuted this ski season, the highest number in history. Twenty years since the technology debuted, Doppelmayr, Garaventa, Leitner and Poma have now built a combined 78 of these mega chairlifts on three continents and in eleven countries.  With 2016 seeing the greatest number of eight-passenger chairlifts constructed, a question on everybody’s mind should be: when will the world’s second largest ski market finally build one?


Doppelmayr debuted eight-passenger chair technology in 1997 (in Norway of all places) and continues to be the market leader, having built two-thirds of those operating today.  But for the first time ever the Leitner-Poma Group installed more than Doppelmayr and Garaventa combined last year.  In 2006, Leitner built the first combined installation with eight-passenger chairs and 10-passenger gondola cabins and there are now seven of these across Europe.  Bubble chairs and seat heating came along in 2000 and nearly every new eight-passenger lift features both these days.  In total, 60 percent of eight seaters globally have bubbles and half sport heated seats.


Austria is home to over 60 percent of the world’s eight-passenger chairlifts and exactly five have ever made it out of Europe.  Australia and Asia each got their first in 2003 but several leading ski markets have never gone there – among them Japan, Canada, China and the United States.

A record-breaking eight-passenger Poma in La Plagne, France called Le Colosses can move 4,400 skiers skiers an hour.  Eight-packs could theoretically reach 4,800 pph.  Contrast that with North America, where, out of 3,080 operating lifts, exactly one has a capacity over 4,000 (and just barely; Squaw’s Funitel clocks in at 4,032 pph.)

8packcapacityscatterBefore we look at who in North America could buy one of these behemoths, understand that two-thirds of those already built have a capacity at or below the maximum throughput of a six-pack.  Some eight-seaters out there move fewer people than a high-speed quad and one even below the standard for a triple chair.  In other words, most global operators buy these lifts not purely to move the most skiers but rather for a marketing advantage.

That brings us to North American ski resorts whose brands scream size.  Killington is The Beast.  Vail is Like Nothing on Earth.  Whistler-Blackcomb is number one at everything and Mammoth is Mammoth.  The other category is resorts with two, three, or even four lifts running parallel that could all be replaced with one signature lift.  Summit West at Snoqualmie, Mary Jane at Winter Park and Snowshed at Killington (again) come to mind.

Most new lift technologies debut in the Alps and cross the pond eventually in a limited way. Among those were bubbles and heated seats, double loading and a lone 3S.  Twenty years in with record global construction, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict an eight-pack debuts in the U.S. or Canada by December 2018.  Us lift nuts have waited long enough.


28 thoughts on “Who Will Buy America’s First Eight Passenger Chairlift?

  1. Patrick January 24, 2017 / 8:03 pm

    I think Vail, Intrawest, Powdr, and Boyne are all reluctant to start a new arms race in 8-packs–they see what’s happened in the Alps as a cautionary tale, and they really don’t want to see their relatively recent investments in 6-packs made obsolete so quickly. I’d guess that this was one of the reasons that Vail announced all those upcoming 6-packs so early… they’re signalling to competitors that it’s safe to hold off on 8-packs for a few more years. So while everything you name makes sense and is likely to see an 8-pack within the next decade (with the possible exception of Summit West), I have a hard time seeing most of them as first movers within the next year and a half.

    My guess will be that Mammoth Corp. comes to an accommodation with one of the manufacturers for a great deal on 3 or more 8-seaters, maybe all in one summer and maybe staggered. And mostly for Mammoth itself, but also one 8-seater at Snow Summit in the East Mountain Express alignment, replacing both high-speed quads there now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • trj820 January 25, 2017 / 3:06 pm

      I don’t think Snow Summit needs an 8-pack for East mountain. Maybe a 6-pack. Mammoth is probably going to build a connection to Bear Mountain first, and quite a few of their other lifts are in need of upgrades.

      Mammoth itself wants to upgrade 1, 2, and 16. I could see 2 becoming an eight, and 1 and 16 (and maybe 10) sixes. Also, they only buy from Doppelmayr.


  2. backbowlsbilly January 24, 2017 / 9:09 pm

    Great article! Interesting to find out more about eight packs, since information can be kind of scarce. I can’t imagine both a 1,500 pph eight pack and a 4,400 pph eight pack. I can see an eight pack going in at Breckenridge on Peak 7 at some point to replace Independence, it is already a six pack that runs at full speed on most weekends to get through crowds but still deals with huge lines because of the added skier traffic from Peak 6. However, I agree that America’s first eight pack will be more for marketing purposes and on a signature lift line, possible ones that come to mind for me are Zephyr at Winter Park and Flyer or Eagle Copper.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cameron Halmrast January 24, 2017 / 9:43 pm

    I simply feel that since skiing is not a significant part of our culture, but we are confident to take on our second ski run ever (maybe first), I can foresee loading/unloading problems with a lift of this size. Maybe if one is installed at a small local hill where regulars would ride it frequently or services advanced/intermediate terrain, it may be practical. However, if you also have the only 8 pack in North America, you won’t be able to get parts as fast either as they may not be stocked by your local lift supplier.


    • Peter Landsman January 24, 2017 / 9:57 pm

      You’ve hit on perhaps the biggest issue of loading/unloading efficiency. I would be interested to hear Vail Resorts management’s thoughts after inheriting the 8-passenger beginner lift at Perisher. One thing I failed to mention is 34 of the 78 built to-date have Chairkit loading carpets. That’s a pretty high percentage.

      Parts availability can’t be any worse than for the hundreds of ancient/orphaned lifts around the U.S. today!


      • Cameron Halmrast January 24, 2017 / 11:52 pm

        True. I’m thinking of parts that are more unique, such as a restraint bar, internal compression spring and the like. Most generic parts can be picked up at your local NAPA outfit.


  4. Ryan January 24, 2017 / 10:53 pm

    Noooo thank you. I don’t want to know that many people. I enjoy the peace and quiet and like skiing alone. (unless I have a beautiful date with me that day) Besides that may be an 8 person chair, but that is 8 skinny people only who can fit in there. I take up 2 seats myself :)


  5. Philip Keeve January 25, 2017 / 2:15 am

    If they don’t eventually do replacements with a gondola, Park City might be a candidate for one to help alleviate the enormous crowds at its base area.


    • Peter Landsman January 25, 2017 / 7:11 am

      Payday would be great spot for an eight-seater. With Crescent there now, I don’t see how a new gondola fits.


      • tjskiloaf17 January 25, 2017 / 7:50 am

        silverlode 8 pack would be perfect


      • NowOrLater January 25, 2017 / 6:35 pm

        Crescent to be replaced with a Gondi to Summit (mid-station at current unload area). Crescent to be moved to another (yet to be determined) location. You heard it here 1st.


      • Philip Keeve January 25, 2017 / 8:25 pm

        I agree, yeah. Plus with how the trails are laid out it might not make sense.


  6. Max Hart January 25, 2017 / 6:20 am

    If an 8-pack comes to North America, it probably will not be installed at a New England mountain. The weather in NE is the hardest to run a big lift in because it is always windy, and if it isn’t, it will be the next day. Gondolas and 6-packs have trouble running due to wind regularly, and an 8-pack with or without bubbles would not stand a chance because the wind would force it to close almost all the time.


    • tjskiloaf17 January 25, 2017 / 7:08 am

      pretty sure the bigger the size, the less windhold


  7. Max Hart January 25, 2017 / 9:45 am

    also pretty sure bigger size = more air resistance = will blow around like a flag when windy


    • Mike January 25, 2017 / 11:38 am

      Max –

      Your assertions seem intuitive, but are actually counter to the experience and practice of ski resorts worldwide. The benefits of the extra weight, particularly when loaded, significantly outweigh the greater surface area and associated wind resistance.


  8. RMurphy January 25, 2017 / 11:49 am

    I agree with Phillip and TJ, both Payday and Silverlode are good candidates for the 8-pack. They still back up fairly often and are crucial lifts to let skiers move around the mountain.


    • tjskiloaf17 January 25, 2017 / 12:41 pm

      these lifts could be used elsewhere, like for town or something over on canyons side


  9. Johannes January 25, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    One reason why there are so many 8packs at Austria is, that the seats aren’t full. Because they haven’t a handling to full up the Chairs. The tought behind is: Better a 8pack with 6 People than a 6pack with 3 People. An other point is prestige: We got an 8Seater Chair.

    That with the loading unloading depend on the Space and the speed of the Chair. I know only one 8pack you can get calamitys. That the 8pack at Sölden(see picture above), the reason is, the unloding zone is imho to small.

    I think that Whistler got the first 8pack in North Amerika. There are 2 options. The Solar Coaster Express at Blackomb is now 30 years old. That is what the manufactures as Lifetime specify. (Doesn’t mean that you can’t run the lift longer.) This lift is always bussy. A replacement would not only transport more people. It also possible that it replace the Catskinner Chair.
    The other lift is the Emerald Express at Whistler Mountain. The lift is „only 20 years old“ but always bussy. The existing lift can they use as replacement of Franz’s Chair?


      • Johannes January 26, 2017 / 2:55 pm

        Yes i see that befor. The Question is. Make it sense, to build a Lift so near the Emerald. Or ist better to bild a 6seater or 8seater at the place form The Emerald Lift? A 2nd option could be a lift from the Emerald base to the Yellow top.


  10. Ryan January 27, 2017 / 1:19 am

    Eldora- They have Caribu & Challenge running side by side, exact length. One is a double the other is a Tripple. Yeah I know a 6-pack would do fine to replace these 2 but hey plan for expansion, eh? Make it an 8 pack and there ya go! I know, silly thinking on my part. Just having fun.


  11. Ryan Murphy March 7, 2018 / 6:19 pm

    Peter, you prove prophetic once again. Well done.


  12. Mt Ski Bum March 7, 2018 / 11:04 pm

    …and the question has been answered… can’t believe you actually correctly predicted that we’d have a North American 8-seater by the end of the year…


    • reaperskier March 8, 2018 / 7:38 am

      The prophecy came true. Well done Peter.


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