Big Sky to Launch North America’s First Eight Passenger Chairlift

This afternoon couldn’t have been a more beautiful one for unveiling what will be America’s biggest lift.  Over the next nine months, Big Sky Resort and Doppelmayr will create Ramcharger 8, a machine packed full of technology on Andesite Mountain.  The current Ramcharger high-speed quad will move to Shedhorn and replace one of Big Sky’s most popular high-alpine lifts while a two-stage North Village gondola and more will eventually follow as part of Big Sky 2025.  “The Biggest Skiing in America is getting bigger and better, again,” said Big Sky Resort General Manager and President Taylor Middleton before the bombshell announcement.  Never before has America seen an 8-passenger chair of any kind, let alone one packed with every bell and whistle available.

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We trail Slovakia in 8-Passenger chairlifts, Stephen Kircher noted to laughter in the gathered crowd.  Not anymore.

I was lucky enough to be invited by Big Sky Resort and the Kircher family to be part of this momentous day in the Mountain Village, where Boyne Resorts’ Stephen Kircher detailed plans for being the North American ski industry’s D-Line launch customer.  Kircher emphasized Big Sky’s lengthy path to this point and how the community has really come together in the past decade.  “My family is proud of its 42-year commitment to southwest Montana and will continue the momentum that is underway at Big Sky Resort,” he said. “We are excited to bring the biggest chair in the world to Big Sky, and to work with the resort team and community to recognize the Resort’s full potential – rivaling the best of the Alps and our North American brethren.”  With a huge snowpack, the Biggest Skiing in America is on track to have its best season ever with more than 500,000 skier days – a feat once only dreamed of here.

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Lone Peak on an afternoon that turned into a historic one in Big Sky, Montana.

Following in the footsteps of Powder Seeker, Big’s Sky’s two-year old six-pack with bubbles and heated seats, the new Ramcharger 8 will feature an in-terminal multimedia display and automated underground parking.  “A fully integrated high-resolution LED screen at the lower terminal will provide up-to-date guest information and engagement,” Big Sky says.  The new lift will move 3,200 passengers per hour initially at 5 m/s with an ultimate capacity of 3,600 with 8-second chair spacing.  The chairs will weigh some 2,200 lbs. each and, according to Kircher, “cost as much as a Porsche.”  They will be highly wind-resistant to somewhere around 60 miles per hour.  Safety bars will be auto locking and unlocking but will not lower unless initiated by the rider.  We all know even one fall from a chair is too many and this lift will be the safest on the continent, particularly for children.  Ramcharger’s loading carpet will be the only in North America to raise and lower for guests of varying heights.  Both the chairs and bubbles will be totally unique in Big Sky blue with powder coated bails rather than being galvanized.  The 65 chairs will be heated, of course.  “We’re building this for the long term,” Kircher noted.

According to Big Sky, Ramcharger 8 will be one of the largest lift in the world with a direct drive and no traditional gear reducer.  The controls will be Doppelmayr’s next-gen system with tablets called Doppelmayr Connect.  Towers will even feature public address to communicate with riders in the event of an emergency.  VIP-style gondola cabins are an option for a later date (there’s an awesome restaurant at the top) and summer ops will feature bike-specific carriers.  The whole thing is being imported from Austria with tapered towers and is the first eight-seater D-Line chair on the planet.  I probably forgot something amid all the innovations.

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D-Line is here!  The new return terminal will be located about 50 feet uphill of the current one with a steep climb out for better skier flow.

You know it’s a wild day when a new high-speed quad is an afterthought.  The new, speedier Shedhorn will include components from Ramcharger with new Uni-G enclosures.  Ride time will decrease from ten minutes to around five.  Any local who doesn’t care about the new Ramcharger will surely love the new Shedhorn.

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The Heron-Poma at Shedhorn, which was originally the predecessor to Ramcharger, will come down this spring and be replaced by an Andesite lift for the second time.

After this construction season, Big Sky will continue its sustained commitment with a two-stage gondola to the Bowl replacing Explorer around 2020-21.  By 2025, there could be a new tram, Iron Horse, Lone Moose, Headwaters and more.  Asked by a local reporter how much all this will cost, Kircher replied simply, “More than the first chair we brought back from Sun Valley.”  That set his father back $5,000.

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40 thoughts on “Big Sky to Launch North America’s First Eight Passenger Chairlift

  1. Max Hart March 7, 2018 / 6:20 pm

    Insane, I can’t wait to ride this whenever I head out to Big Sky again. This was totally Boyne’s way of one-upping Vail and Powdr (and likely Alterra if they ever announce a new lift).

    So when will Boyne bring their obviously fat wallet out east?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Doppelmayr FTW March 7, 2018 / 6:31 pm

      This project and all of 2025 is funded by big sky itself. Boyne doesn’t use money from other resorts for these projects

      Like

    • Collin March 7, 2018 / 6:33 pm

      I’ve never skied at a Boyne Resort, but I see three urgent lift projects needed. At Sugarloaf they really need to replace the gondola. It takes two lifts to lap just about everything. A monocable system would struggle with the winds they get, so maybe a funitel like at Squaw Valley. Problem is obviously the money.

      Loon needs to have the gondola replaced to shorten the ridiculous lines on weekends, as I saw in one of your videos. Probably just a regular 8-MGD. They won’t switch to a chair as Loon skiers in numerous marketing surveys say they’d strongly prefer a gondola.

      Sunday River needs to replace Barker, so maybe that could be an 8-CLD. A 6-CLD would be fine, but now that they already built an 8, I could see it being done again.

      Like

      • Max Hart March 7, 2018 / 7:00 pm

        No CLD8 on Barker, too much capacity and too many wind related problems would stem from such a large carrier. Barker has become way too unreliable as of recently, so I think a replacement is coming soon.
        The current Barker Quad had a design capacity of 3000 skiers per hour, but post-retrofit capacity is significantly lower. Any increase in capacity would overcrowd the trails because most people either ski Lazy River, Ecstacy, or Right Stuff off of Barker as it is. If they were make more snow on Agony and partially groom Top Gun, that would divert some skiers off of other trails, but that would only help so much, they really need to cut additional trails (with snowmaking) in that area to justify any increase in hourly capacity. Bubble CLD6 would be great at Barker. The only tough spot in terms of wind is at the top of Top Gun, but that’s nothing a wind fence couldn’t fix.

        Like

      • Collin March 7, 2018 / 7:08 pm

        This article says the 8 person chairs are highly wind resistant and can allow the lift to operate in winds of up to 70mph.

        3000pph on a quad is not practical at all. It’s a less than 5 second loading interval. Every quad with that capacity that I know of is turned down to 800 fpm so it just does 2400 with closer chair spacing and a slower line speed.

        As I said, a 6-CLD would be fine for Barker, but since 8-CLD’s are a thing in North America now, it’s a possibility. Doesn’t mean the capacity would need to be any higher.

        Like

      • Chip Olson March 8, 2018 / 3:31 pm

        I don’t know that a modern 8-MGD would have too much trouble with winds at Sugarloaf. The old gondola was really vulnerable to wind, due to the lightness of the carriers and the weird hanger design with multiple points of articulation. Newer carriers are a lot heavier. Funitels are hideously expensive (that’s part of why nobody else in the US has built one) and massive overkill for that location.
        Lots of resorts have gondolas and I’m sure many of them get just as much wind. Then again, I was once there when they had to put the *T-bar* on wind hold because you couldn’t stand up at the top. =-:O

        Like

    • Northeast Chairlifts March 7, 2018 / 7:45 pm

      I’m gonna try to get out there next February break and record it!!!

      Like

    • Teddy March 8, 2018 / 7:02 pm

      I think vail will definitely follow big sky with an 8 pack. Vail is always trying to be ahead so they could even announce one for next season. There is one in Lech Austria called the steinmahderbahn.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kyle W. March 7, 2018 / 6:20 pm

    WAT

    Like

  3. thrashbarg March 7, 2018 / 6:28 pm

    Yeah I think I’m too poor for this sport.

    Like

  4. Adrian C. March 7, 2018 / 6:31 pm

    “I’m going to go out on a limb and predict an eight-pack debuts in the U.S. or Canada by December 2018.”

    Correct prediction!

    Like

  5. ktenorman March 7, 2018 / 7:14 pm

    Pretty stoked to ride this beast next winter! Glad Big Sky joined Ikon and Mountain Collective.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. reaperskier March 7, 2018 / 7:34 pm

    Just when you thought new lift week couldn’t get any better…

    Big Sky reveals that they will install an Eight Pack.

    Well then, Big Sky Resort was able to topple the beast of the east with a BIG announcement!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Collin March 7, 2018 / 7:38 pm

      And there will be more. We have yet to hear from the Alterra family of resorts, and I’d be shocked if they didn’t have some large scale investment planned, especially since Intrawest didn’t invest anywhere for years.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thomas Jett March 7, 2018 / 8:32 pm

    It seems, at least, that this will be the best winter-use detachable season since the recession, as 21 detachables are being added to ski resorts so far. This consists of 1 D6C/8G at Copper, 5 gondola stages (2 D10Gs at Blackcomb, and 3 D8Gs at Yellowston Club, Silver Star, and Bretton Woods), and 15 chairlifts, with the D8G-BH at Big Sky, 2 D6C-Bs at Copper and Killington, 3 D6Cs at Whistler, Windham, and Hunter, and 9 D4Cs at Taos, Sun Peaks, Sun Valley, Big Sky, Blackcomb, Loveland, Purgatory, Park City, and Wolf Creek. I wouldn’t be surprised if future announcements get the total to over 25 new detachables. It seems that the creation of the IKON pass has spurred a new period of competition in the industry.

    Like

  8. Andrew F. March 7, 2018 / 11:07 pm

    Great news. While Swifty and 6-Shooter could both use the heated seats and bubbles a lot more than Ramcharger, this is a great long-term investment for Big Sky. The refreshed Ramcharger moving over to the Shedhorn alignment is huge. There’s a lot of excellent, underutilized terrain back there.

    Peter, did you get any indication as to whether the upper stage of the future gondola is planned to terminate at the bottom of the bowl, allowing loading to Powderseeker, or whether it might extend to the upper part of the bowl, allowing a direct transfer to the tram? I’d guess the former is much more likely, but am interested in your insights.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Peter Landsman March 8, 2018 / 12:17 am

      Just about anything is possible now but the current plan is for gondola stage two to unload just slightly towards Powder Seeker from where the old Gondola One unloaded.

      Like

      • ah March 8, 2018 / 8:10 am

        So sort of where the restroom is?

        BTW, thanks for the great reporting on the conference.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Doppelmayr FTW March 8, 2018 / 8:19 am

      Ramcharger was likely given priority over swifty so shedhorn could be upgraded sooner, it would be a waste to put a lift as big as that on sheddy. The gondola is only a few years out aswell.

      Like

  9. Doppelmayr FTW March 8, 2018 / 8:16 am

    @ah, most likely where the electrical box at the top of rice bowl is, same spot as the old one. From there you can still get to Lobo, calamity etc.

    Like

  10. Todd Arnold March 8, 2018 / 11:50 am

    Peter this is for you. Citing one of your past articles you say you are not entirely sold on the D-Line enclosure. Has this changed? I was not pleased with enclosure at first but it has grown on me due to there being more of them in Europe and now the US. Here is the article- https://liftblog.com/2015/12/16/more-on-doppelmayrs-d-line/

    Like

    • Peter Landsman March 8, 2018 / 12:38 pm

      I haven’t seen one in person. I like the sides a lot and the ends are growing on me. The floor to ceiling windows look great. You’ll notice in the Disney renderings, they axed the rectangular ends in favor of a more traditional shape. It makes sense for Big Sky to keep them because of the media display at the bottom. I would not be surprised to ski other American customers do the Disney adjustment. Everyone is so used to the LPA and UNI-G, which are basically the same shape.

      Like

  11. Peter Landsman March 8, 2018 / 2:17 pm

    I was reminded today that Boyne Resorts created the world’s first triple chair in 1964 at Boyne Highlands, the very first quad at Boyne Mountain the same year and America’s first six-pack in 1992. So this really is in their DNA.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Max Hart March 8, 2018 / 3:11 pm

      Boyne has been around longer than any major ski area operator. They’ve stood the test of time when others like S-K-I, ASC, Intrawest, Booth Creek, and countless others (which operated major ski areas) couldn’t. Their history of innovation in both lifts and snowmaking is unrivaled in the industry.

      Boyne and Doppelmayr have come up with some great projects in the past such as Boyne Mountain’s Six Pack (the first six pack in the United States) the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky, the Mt. Rainier Gondola at Crystal, Sunday River’s Chondola, Powder Seeker and now this monstrosity at Big Sky. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Daphne Pavsek March 8, 2018 / 8:50 pm

    The stoke and nerves are very high right now. Saw you at the conference Peter, didn’t have a chance to say hi, we had to bail about halfway through for some lift maintaining. Hope to see you around this summer while this beast is being built.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Don Sledgeski March 12, 2018 / 12:16 pm

    I like the new lifts, but the separation pucks on those chairs are annoying…and getting a footrest bar between your legs as standard operation is a bit intrusive…worse yet my big feet can not rest of those little stubs, I have no choice but to leave them hang…understanding this new design is intended to keep kids in the seat, no chance of dropping…however I like the much more comfortable Leitner design which is more traditional without the pucks and has standard double side footrest spacing…

    Like

    • Peter Landsman March 12, 2018 / 1:04 pm

      I agree about the stub footrests. They are clearly geared toward the Euro market and the very skinny skis over there. The separation between seats doesn’t bother me and makes sense for chairs where the bar rests between the legs.

      Like

      • Doppelmayr FTW March 12, 2018 / 2:54 pm

        The seats are also significantly wider per person so the dividers will likely be a non issue

        Like

      • ah March 13, 2018 / 1:17 pm

        Also trying to imagine if you ever had 6+ people loading how they’d actually sit in the right place without dividers. It would be like backless bleachers at a football game – everyone sprawling except for one guy who gets squeezed out.

        Like

      • Mt Ski Bum March 17, 2018 / 10:56 am

        AH- well, they seem to do ok over on Sixer at Moonlight without seat dividers, but without those safety-bars-between-the-legs, I guess dividers aren’t needed.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Charlie March 14, 2018 / 6:51 am

    Swift current detach 8?

    Like

  15. Peter Landsman May 15, 2018 / 6:17 pm

    Doppelmayr is doing a similar project to Shedhorn in Les Arcs, France this summer including fitting Uni-G enclosures onto early ’90s terminals that are being relocated.

    Like

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