Jagged ridgelines spread in seemingly endless directions at Alta Ski Area, serviced by relatively few lifts in just the right places to make skiing there a blast. Alta has collaborated with various lift manufacturers over its 80 year history to create unique contraptions such as the Transfer Tow, a Yan rope tow mechanically more similar to a chairlift and one of the world’s only high-speed triple chairs, called Sunnyside. In 2004, Alta and Doppelmayr CTEC dreamed up Collins, two Stealth high-speed quads joined together at a 29-degree angle with loading but no unloading at the mid-station. “Don’t text and bend,” a sign at the Wildcat base warns riders destined for the full trip.
This season, the new Supreme detachable quad goes where no bend has ever gone before, replacing both the Cecret double and Supreme triple but without an angle station. Prior to 2017, there were a handful of lifts that turn a few degrees using canted sheaves, particularly in Utah, where the mining scene created an enduring checkerboard of public and private lands. Snowbird, Park City, Deer Valley and Moonlight Basin in Montana all sport lifts that bend a few degrees for one reason or another.
Leitner-Poma of America returned to Utah after a 20 year hiatus to build this flagship lift at one of America’s most-storied resorts. In order to utilize the former Supreme lift line and avoid wetlands, the new Supreme deflects 8.1 degrees over one giant tower with – count them – 92 sheaves. Alta initially proposed building another Collins but the approximately seven-figure cost of an angle station was significant. Leitner-Poma’s solution instead utilizes 16 canted sheave assemblies attached to adjustable box mounts.
The don’t text and bend advice applies here too. As you pass through the series of support and depression assemblies at 1,000 feet per minute, it becomes clear something is up. But it’s way less disruptive than detaching from a haul rope, turning and reattaching at speed like on Collins. All but 600 feet of existing lift line was re-used from the previous lifts, resulting in minimal ground disturbance in this sensitive corner of the Wasatch.
New Supreme is 5,030 feet long with a vertical of 1,200 feet that goes from mild to wild in a hurry. The LPA lift is bottom drive with a ride time of just under six minutes and a 2,400 skier per hour capacity, though Alta is currently loading every other chair due to snow conditions. There are 109 extra-comfy Leitner chairs and 16 towers, not including the bend. The project was completed in less than eight months despite a campground, private homes and popular hiking trails making construction a little tricky.
Welcome back to the Beehive State, Leitner-Poma, and I can’t wait to see what you and Alta come up with next.