Pioneering Ramcharger 8 Takes Flight

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The most state-of-the-art chairlift in the world went vertical today under wispy Montana skies.  Teams from Doppelmayr, Big Sky Resort and Timberline Helicopters flawlessly executed 71 trips to hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel to Andesite Mountain in under six and a half hours.  Thanks to good weather and an even better crew, that’s an average of one pick every 5.5 minutes, including refueling.  As fly days go, it was amazing to watch Ramcharger 8 take shape.

In case you missed March’s announcement, Ramcharger 8 will be a lift fit for the Biggest Skiing in America.  Among the innovations:

  • The first eight passenger chairlift in the Americas, featuring custom upholstered seats in Big Sky Blue with matching powder coated bails and bubbles.
  • The first Austrian-manufactured tapered towers in the U.S.  The tallest, number six, is 73 feet tall with 30 yards of concrete at its base.  The tube alone came in four sections designed specifically for Brian Jorgenson’s souped up Black Hawk helicopters.
  • The first D-Line in American skiing.
  • The only Doppelmayr direct drive lift in North America.  It spins at just 13 rpm and weighs 40,000 lbs, increasing efficiency and decreasing noise.

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  • First in the U.S. or Canada height-adjustable loading carpet to more safely load small children.
  • The only fully-automated indoor carrier parking system in the American ski industry.  It’s apparently one button.
  • The largest-ever multimedia display in a lift terminal (30 feet by 10 feet.)
  • The brand new Doppelmayr Connect control system.
  • 7.7 meter line gauge with 2,500 lb. chairs.
  • The first lift in the United States with auto-locking safety bars.
  • The only U.S. chairlift with Fatzer’s Compacta rope (54 mm.)

Even though Big Sky’s hotels and shops are closed until ski season, Mountain Village was electric today with employees and locals marveling at the precision flying.  Although the Ramcharger lift hails from Austria, dozens of Americans are working seven days a week to build it along with a new Shedhorn lift.  Even during today’s tower action, loads of terminal parts were being hauled to the summit for installation this month.  Things are moving quickly as we head toward both lifts’ December debuts.

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37 thoughts on “Pioneering Ramcharger 8 Takes Flight

  1. AvocadoAndy October 1, 2018 / 10:34 pm

    Wow. That’s some state of the art technology. Only one button controlling an entire parking system? Well done Doppelmayr.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Matthew Campbell October 1, 2018 / 10:36 pm

    Woo hoo! Thanks for the update, such a relief to see the towers go up! Was starting to get a little nervous seeing the snow start to fall without any above-ground infrastructure outside of the upper terminal and chair barn, but that certainly changed dramatically today.

    Like

  3. Joe Gmuender October 1, 2018 / 11:41 pm

    There are a few of the height adjustable loading conveyors in the US and Canada, so not quite the first. Closest ones are at Bridger Bowl-Powder Park in 2009, and on the new VC lift in 2017. The three others by Chairkit are at Snoqualmie (2) and Crystal (1). Note the Boyne USA areas!

    However, this is the first on a detachable lift in North America, I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Doppelmayr FTW October 2, 2018 / 5:16 am

    Awesome shots! Cant wait to ride this beast!

    Like

  5. eric October 2, 2018 / 5:48 am

    “As fly days go, it was amazing to watch Ramcharger 8 take shape.“

    Like

  6. Kai Glidden October 2, 2018 / 6:19 am

    I was watching it on the Ramcharger webcams yesterday. It really is amazing! Hope to make it out there soon.

    Like

  7. Todd Arnold October 2, 2018 / 7:03 am

    Did Big Sky go away with the underground parking at the base and just go with a chair barn up top?

    Like

    • Peter Landsman October 2, 2018 / 7:21 am

      Yes. For the parking to be under the base area and support snow loads, snow cats, etc. was going to be prohibitively expensive. They also ran into some groundwater issues.

      Like

  8. Matt G. October 2, 2018 / 10:35 am

    Even though Ramcharger 8 is the more impressive lift, I’m more excited for the Shedhorn Upgrade. That part of the mountain has some of my favorite skiing, and an upgrade to a HSQ will only improve the experience.

    Like

    • Peter Landsman October 2, 2018 / 10:39 am

      I agree Shedhorn will be a game changer. Stay tuned for an update on that project, hopefully in the next few weeks.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ian M. October 2, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    Super cool chairlift and absolutely the future for high capacity workhorses (I’m hoping Squaw for KT-22 and Vail for Orient gets the message) My question is does anyone else feel this is an odd pick for the location and a trend of odd lift decisions by Boyne. Granted I’ve only skied Big Sky a handful of times but I feel like Swift carries more people a longer distance and is more a flagship lift. Also the move to upgrade challenger to just fixed grip but powder seeker a short glorified transfer lift/butt toaster. I love the slopes at Big Sky but something feels just off.

    Like

    • Collin October 2, 2018 / 12:58 pm

      When you look at projects like these, you have to keep in mind that they are done more for show than practicality. They upgraded Challenger to another fixed grip because that lift serves only expert terrain and they didn’t want total beginners seeing a bubble lift and getting on having no idea how to ski back down. Powder Seeker got the bubble treatment because it is highly visible to nearly everyone that skis Big Sky as is Ramcharger.

      Ramcharger got the upgrade before Swift Current because they have plans to build a gondola to replace Explorer which will supplement it. Originally it was supposed to end somewhere in the bowl, which was a totally asinine idea as it would mean that you couldn’t get to Shedhorn or ski the other trails off Swift Current from the gondola. However, it seems the current plan is for it to end where the old Gondola 1 did which would allow one to access everything that Swift Current does.

      The original plan called for replacing Ramcharger, Swift Current, and Thunderwolf with bubble 6’s, but the second two are unnecessary because the gondola will be directly redundant with Swift Current and Thunderwolf doesn’t get many skiers. I have no idea of Swift Current and Thunderwolf will be replaced, but some other projects that are part of the master plan are an upgrade of Iron Horse to detachable, another detachable in Moonlight, an upgraded and longer Headwaters lift, and a lift up Liberty Bowl.

      As much as I think the Big Sky 2025 projects are exciting to follow, I feel for the customers at the New England Boyne resorts who paid top dollar for their passes and have yet to see any lift upgrades and still have relics like the Loon gondola, Barker at Sunday River, and all the Borvigs at Sugarloaf, while Big Sky is set to get maybe 10 lifts out of the 2025 plan.

      Like

      • Doppelmayr FTW October 2, 2018 / 1:51 pm

        The 2025 plan does not take capital from the eastern resorts. It is funded by Big Sky alone.

        Like

      • Collin October 2, 2018 / 5:55 pm

        In this case, it doesn’t really matter whether capital was pulled from the New England resorts to fund Big Sky’s projects. The point is that the customers at those resorts have seen no action on any of their much needed projects and in some cases that has serious negative impacts on the day to day experience. Only two lifts were built in the past 10 years, both of which were unplanned and due to accidents/safety concerns. Now that Boyne owns the resorts, maybe something will happen in 2019, but I’ll believe it when I see the press release.

        Like

      • Thomas Jett October 2, 2018 / 9:30 pm

        The Thunderwolf and Swift Current upgrades are still planned to happen. They’re just scheduled for the “Long Term” (2022 and later) phase of the plan.

        Like

      • Mike B October 3, 2018 / 12:31 pm

        Generally agree with your skepticism here Collin. I’m struggling to understand why they’d go big with Powder Seeker up top while failing to address their challenges with capacity out of the base. I mean, I get that Challenger was required and yes they needed more capacity on Ramcharger, but it seems to me that they’ve gone well above/beyond what they needed on both Ramcharger and Powder Seeker while the festering wound of access to the cruising terrain on the front of Lone Peak remains unresolved. Just seems like both of those investments were more for PR/vanity than based on matching available capital to the underlying needs. The extra couple million they spent on those lifts would have gone a long way towards, for example, enabling better access to the terrain to the North of Moonlight.

        Not saying this is their future, but this is the same sort of vanity nonsense that got places like The Hermitage Club/Haystack or Ascutney into trouble.

        Like

      • Max Hart October 3, 2018 / 6:40 pm

        Guys let me put this to rest right now. I was at Big Sky last February. Two of the days I was there were the first Saturday and Sunday of Presidents week, which turned out to be the busiest days (most recorded skier visits) ever in the history of Big Sky. That being said, I did not wait in a lift line that was longer than three minutes ANYWHERE. Shedhorn was always a ghost town, no need to upgrade capacity there, but they replaced the double anyways to make a cold ride on a long and exposed lift much shorter. As for Powder Seeker, I skied ONTO that lift every day. There were no lines whatsoever. That was another lift that used to be cold, exposed and slow. Now it’s warm, sheltered by the bubbles, and short. The Ramcharger replacement was also largely due to increased comfort and better utility considering that Everett’s 8800 guests now have a much more comfortable way to AND FROM the restaurant. Eventually I would think that Swifty, which is also a long, exposed, and often cold ride would be replaced with a bubble 6 as well, but if they’re going to put in an adjacent gondola then I don’t see the point in doing so. However if they replace Thunderwolf with a bubble 6 and/or upgrade Six Shooter to a bubble 6, both upgrades will purely be for comfort and likely will not present much of an increase in capacity.

        These upgrades are for COMFORT and ENHANCING THE EXPERIENCE OF THE GUESTS. The Big Sky area has an awful lot of very high-end customers, who want a high-end ski experience, and Big Sky is delivering. They are catering to and expanding their customer base, and it’s working out big time (considering that last year was their busiest year ever on record).

        THAT BEING SAID…
        Investments in lift infrastructure in the east are necessary, and now that Boyne owns the River, the Loaf, and Loon, I think that new lift investments may be coming soon. However, contrary to what has been said multiple times in this comment section already, Boyne has been investing in the east.

        The example that means that most to me is the new feeder line at Sunday River. This allows them to move more water from the river up to the pump house and therefore up the mountain. Combined with several new compressors and pumps, SR’s snowmaking capacity increased by 15% (that’s 15% more than an already huge capacity) this year alone, with DOUBLING the snowmaking capacity in the near future. That’s not a small investment. Snow is what the River is known for and I’m glad to see that it is once again at the center of attention. Lodges and slope-side accommodations at Sunday River are also gradually being upgraded (not to mention the soon to be built Dream Maker Lodge, a new small slope-side complex at the bottom of North Peak adjacent to what will pretty much be its own detachable quad).

        Loon’s Gondola cabins were somewhat disappointing, but there are rumors swirling around New England that Loon may be in the process of phasing the gondola replacement. First would be the cabins, then the next phase would likely be tower tubes, then terminal equipment and detachable equipment. Upgrades at Loon are also difficult and take a very lone time because it is on White Mtn. Nat. Forest land. However, Boyne has also made significant investments in snowmaking at Loon, giving it one of the best systems in New Hampshire, and it shows.

        Sugarloaf has also seen substantial upgrades in snowmaking and lodging. However, if you’re someone who just complains about the Loaf’s lifts 24/7 and hasn’t actually been there to see the other major investments, you wouldn’t know about them. You can ski the Loaf on 5 lifts (Super Quad HS4, Whiffletree HS4, King Pine FG4, Timberline FG4, and Skyline FG4C). Granted, new lifts could make for some good marketing for the Loaf, especially a signature lift, but everyone who skis there knows that the Loaf really needs the five lifts listed above (6 maybe if you’re a beginner and would use D.R.E. FG2)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Peter Landsman October 5, 2018 / 8:52 am

        Now we know why Ramcharger and Powder Seeker came first: so Big Sky could be the launch customer for Omega V out of the village!

        (I’m kidding, but Lone Peak would be a very cool place to launch it.)

        Like

    • Peter Landsman October 2, 2018 / 1:06 pm

      A big reason for Ramcharger is Everett’s, the restaurant on top of Andesite. In the past they had to bring people down in cats but now can use the lift and operate more nights. Also the eight pack will be getting five bike carriers for summer. The quad could do only three bikes per chair.

      Like

      • Collin October 2, 2018 / 1:51 pm

        So they’re going to have to slow the lift down constantly all day to let foot traffic get on and off like Zephyr at WP. Should’ve bought a chondola!!

        Like

      • Doppelmayr FTW October 2, 2018 / 1:53 pm

        @Collin The old Ramcharger had downloading and foot traffic rode it through the day, the lift won’t need to slow for foot traffic.

        Like

      • Collin October 2, 2018 / 3:10 pm

        I have yet to see a chairlift that carries foot traffic in the winter and doesn’t slow down or stop for it. If Big Sky figured out how to do it, then more power to them. Looks like the former lift had wooden platforms on the downhill side of both terminals for foot traffic.

        Like

      • Peter Landsman October 3, 2018 / 3:39 pm

        The ANSI standard for loading of 8 passenger chairs is as follows: maximum 200 ft/min or 1 m/s for foot passengers and 400 ft/min or 2 m/s for skiers and snowboarders. Ramcharger shouldn’t need to be slowed much or at all depending on the terminal design speed.

        Like

      • snowbasinlocal12894 October 3, 2018 / 7:01 pm

        I dont think sightseers will affect this lift by slowing the lift down. Especially when a lift has a loading carpet. (Its just like loading a escalator in a mall for foot traffic). Also John paul at snowbasin skiers/snowboaders and sightseers share John Paul and Allen peak tram all day. They almost never slow down the lift.

        Also will ramcharger have separate carriers for the bike haulers? Or will they just bolt them on in the summer and take the bubbles off or hang bike racks off the back of the chair.

        Like

      • Andrew H October 7, 2018 / 10:11 pm

        The other big reason is that the current Ramcharger lift was well suited to replace Shedhorn. So they could get two “new” lifts instead of one.

        We can probably all agree SwiftCurrent would be a more valuable replacement in itself, but when packaged with a Shedhorn upgrade it’s a tougher call.

        Like

  10. Max Hart October 2, 2018 / 4:18 pm

    Who else spotted the top of the new Shedhorn in the first picture?

    Like

    • Collin October 2, 2018 / 5:42 pm

      Terminal is 27 windows long. Goes to show just how far detachable technology has come. Now Doppelmayr offers the UNI-G-S which has only 21 windows and allows for the same speed of 1000 feet per minute. Also, the triple breakover looks pretty impressive.

      Like

  11. reaperskier October 2, 2018 / 6:40 pm

    Why did they put a new terminal cover on sheddy?

    Like

    • Collin October 2, 2018 / 7:17 pm

      The old one was leaking and the UNI-G skin is much better for maintenance. The first-gen UNI has separate housings for the arrival and departure side and it was impossible for one mechanic to watch both sides or communicate with someone on the other side without a radio. I’m not sure about the long term reliability of a 27 year old DS-104 system as the very similar Duncan Express at Tremblant has a lot of mechanical issues. That being said, Doppelmayr built a ton of these and parts are readily available.

      Did you know that every lift in the Shedhorn alignment came from the Ramcharger alignment, so Ramcharger 8 is likely going to head over to Shedhorn in 25-30 years when the “next big thing” comes out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • reaperskier October 2, 2018 / 8:04 pm

        10 person chair confirmed?

        Like

  12. Cameron Halmrast October 2, 2018 / 11:07 pm

    I’m so confused. I thought Ramcharger was being relocated to become the new Shedhorn Express and even recall seeing photos of its relocation with the old terminal skin. Now it appears the bottom terminal has the old Ramcharger UNI return, but a brand new UNI-G enclosure. This reminds me of the Hienze 57 lift at Northstar when the Aspen Express got split into two new detachables, Vista and Arrow. Or did it just get a custom skin, similar to the gondola at Lake Louise?

    Like

    • Doppelmayr FTW October 3, 2018 / 5:47 am

      Its the same lift with a New enclosure, the old enclosure was part of the structure so the frame of it was installed on shedhorn. Now the new enclosure hides it.

      Like

  13. Jonathan October 3, 2018 / 8:30 am

    I think that the Doppelmayr crews are doing a great job on both lifts. The new Shedhorn cover looks nicer than the old one and it will be more maintenance friendly. I am curious what an 8 person lift will be on 40 years from now.

    Like

  14. Doppelmayr FTW October 6, 2018 / 8:46 pm

    Just noticed the Loading Gates in the Back of the parking lot shot!

    Like

    • Peter Landsman October 7, 2018 / 5:02 pm

      They look like a Doppelmayr product as opposed to Chairkit?

      Like

      • Doppelmayr FTW October 7, 2018 / 7:59 pm

        Yup, same ones on ichgls D line!

        Like

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