Meet Big Sky’s Innovative New Lifts

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Ramcharger 8 at Big Sky Resort is both the first eight passenger chairlift and first Doppelmayr D-Line lift in North America.  I headed to Montana yesterday for an update on this exciting project and a related one, the new Shedhorn 4.  Touring Ramcharger, it became clear the decision to purchase this lift was not just about the eight passenger chairs, heated seats or loading carpet.  D-Line has numerous small innovations made with mechanics and operators in mind that combine to create a new generation of Doppelmayr detachable.  A few features I noticed: Every grate and cover is designed to easily open and close for quick access to moving parts.  Belts that connect station tires each have individual tensioners.  Stairs lead into the terminals rather than ladders.  Many spots where metal meets metal are lined with rubber for noise and vibration dampening.  Doppelmayr says D-Line has more than 200 improvements overall.

The massive Doppelmayr Direct Drive motor is in place at the top terminal and will be water cooled.  It will quietly and efficiently spin at just 13 revolutions per minute.  Because a gearbox and related shafts have been removed from the equation, all braking will be directly on the bullwheel.  There is a single diesel evacuation drive rather than separate evacuation and standby engines.  The west side of the top terminal features a 7,500 square foot parking facility for the chairs in two rows.  Part of the floor opens up to an equally-sized basement where bike carriers can be hoisted onto chair hangers come summer.  The outside of the barn is being wrapped in plastic for this winter and will be completed next spring.

The first four chairs and hangers arrived during my visit at the end of a long journey from Austria by ship, train and truck (the entire lift came over in containers, not just the chairs.)  The 64 carriers are emblazoned with Ramcharger 8 logos, feature heated seats and sport blue bubbles.  They are so large that only four fit in each shipping container!

Steel will be set at the bottom tension station over the next 7-10 days, which we will be able to watch live.  This terminal’s legs, loading conveyor and gates are already in place.  Operators will be able to raise and lower the deck on demand for children to board and capacity will be 3,200 people per hour to start.  The 54 mm haul rope is also on site after its trip from Fatzer in Switzerland.  The comm line for this lift is completely underground as is apparently common in Europe.

On the south flank of Lone Peak, the old Ramcharger detachable quad is now Shedhorn 4.  Some towers and sheave trains are brand new, the low voltage controls are new, station roofs are new and under skins will be too.  The lift will meet the 2017 ANSI standard just like a completely new machine.  To accommodate an expected increased traffic at Shedhorn, Cow Flats and a few other trails have been widened and regraded with intermediate skiers in mind.

Whenever I write about the Ramcharger and Shedhorn projects, some inevitably question why these upgrades were chosen instead of others.  They represent the fourth and fifth new chairlifts at Big Sky Resort in three years and are part of decade long initiative called Big Sky 2025.  “The Ramcharger lift (formerly Ramshorn) and Shedhorn lift have a long history of coinciding improvements,” Big Sky Public Relations Manager Stacie Mesuda told me.  “With similar tower numbers, vertical rise, and length, these lifts are easily interchangeable.  The opportunity to upgrade both lifts, by replacing Shedhorn with the pre-existing Ramcharger lift ultimately allows Big Sky Resort to provide a more world-class lift experience.”

Many on social media have asked about Swift Current, the only out-of-base option to the Bowl following retirement of Gondola One.  Big Sky assures me upgrades are coming to this part of the mountain too.  “Long-term plans for capital improvements include upgrades to the Swift Current lift from a high-speed quad to the latest and most appropriate capacity lift.  Ultimately, the existing Swift Current chair is planned to be relocated to the Moonlight side of Big Sky Resort to support terrain expansion efforts in that area.  Planned improvements also include the transformation of the Explorer lift experience from a double lift to a gondola extending to the Bowl to further improve skier access from the Mountain Village base area,” the mountain notes.  For now, employees at Big Sky and Boyne Resorts are exceedingly proud of their two newest lifts and can’t wait to share them with guests come December.

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35 thoughts on “Meet Big Sky’s Innovative New Lifts

  1. Doppelmayr FTW October 25, 2018 / 2:16 pm

    Awesome post Peter, both lifts look fantastic!

    Like

  2. John October 25, 2018 / 2:46 pm

    ‘Individual tensioners for each belt’? My former Poma Performance had those, thirty-two years ago. Glad someone’s going back to those. Much better for maintenance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Todd October 25, 2018 / 3:57 pm

    Is the chair barn not being 100% finished this winter because of time constraints since they had to move it from the base to up top?

    Like

  4. SKIING STIG October 25, 2018 / 4:42 pm

    At Holiday Valley where I ski all the com lines are buried throughout the resort. They have also buried all the electric lines for night skiing so you don’t have any wires showing on the snow while skiing.

    Like

  5. reaperskier October 25, 2018 / 4:55 pm

    Man this lift looks amazing.

    Like

  6. Collin Parsons October 25, 2018 / 4:58 pm

    I believe underground com lines are often used on exposed lifts. The Summit Quad at Whiteface has them on the upper portion of the line after a chair blew into the line causing a rope evac. It’s clearly more expensive than tower mounted lines or all ski areas would have them. Of course, Big Sky spares no expense on any of their projects so it makes sense they went for the more expensive option.

    Like

  7. Matthew Huerta October 25, 2018 / 8:18 pm

    Are the grips on shedhorn going to be new as well?

    Like

    • Daphne Pavsek October 25, 2018 / 9:00 pm

      Fully rebuilt, but still the DS104. All new rollers, cup springs etc and all re-used parts are NDTed

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dave October 25, 2018 / 10:12 pm

    Underground com lines aren’t exactly cutting edge technology. What is is a direct-drive motor that runs at 13 rpm. I’d like to see more about it.

    Like

      • alex October 26, 2018 / 3:48 am

        Rob – I have a different Blackcomb related question for you. With the new Catskinner why are you guys not using the lift line that seems to have been previously cut that would have had the lift unload higher near the top of Jersey Cream? Interested in your thoughts.

        Like

        • Rob Withey October 26, 2018 / 3:23 pm

          Hi, The lift would need to pass under the P2P, which is possible as it’s profile was designed for it. The other issue is wind, At the top the unload is very exposed. Beginners may have more than a few issues getting off as the unload ramp would rarely be ideal. Also all that traffic would unload to south side green road and ski by Jersey Cream, creating even more of a bottle neck than there is now. To avoid this a very expensive excavation would be required to make a new green road and even this would create a spot with crossing ski traffic.

          Like

      • Dave October 26, 2018 / 5:11 am

        Rob, Thanks for the link. I thought Direct Drive motors were only used in ceiling fans. ‘seems like they would be almost maintenance free. Technology surges ahead!

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        • Rob Withey October 26, 2018 / 3:32 pm

          Once these are a little more proven you will see more of them. Keep in mind its not possible to have a diesel auxiliary drive, only a generator, and if you have a problem, it’s like losing a gearbox. Down time will be significant. These drives are also super heavy, so even though the brochure says a helicopter can lift one, my understanding is that is not possible, even if split into its three sections.

          Like

        • Peter Landsman October 26, 2018 / 5:14 pm

          I think the Big Sky guys told me their diesel would be coupled directly to the bullwheel for an evac. Physically it is located right next to the synchronous motor. Rob, are you saying there can’t be a second diesel other than a generator with direct drive?

          Like

        • Michael October 30, 2018 / 7:06 am

          Not sure how the D Line direct drive is configured, but the LPOA DD has the bullwheel mounted to a hollow shaft and the output shaft is inside the hollow shaft and connected to the bullwheel by a slip coupling at the bottom. If the motor was to fail (more in the next reply) the coupling can be disengaged and then the bullwheel is free to turn by means of a ring that is attached to the bullwheel and pinon set that is powered by a small diesel running a hydro static pump and motor. Sounds like the crew at Big Sky described something like this to Peter.

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        • Peter Landsman October 30, 2018 / 8:12 am

          Michael, that sounds very similar to the Doppelmayr Direct Drive setup. I should note that D-Line and DDD don’t have to go together. Big Sky just happened to order both options.

          Like

  9. snowbasinlocal12894 October 26, 2018 / 10:28 am

    Do D-Line high speed quads exist? The new d-line could fix the noise problem that park city has with dreamscape/dreamcatcher and day break. They could also use a vault drive. Im hoping to go to big sky to try powder seeker and the new Ramcharger 8 this winter.

    Like

    • Collin Parsons October 26, 2018 / 10:35 am

      The D-Line seems to only be for bigger lifts like bubble 6’s and up. I expect Doppelmayr to force the bigger lifts to go D-Line within the next couple years. They’ll also need to introduce D-Line models that aren’t overkill for smaller lifts and would be similarly sized to the UNI-G-S.

      Like

      • snowbasinlocal12894 October 26, 2018 / 1:26 pm

        Most chairlifts in europe have bubbles because most lifts are above treeline and they are exposed to wind alot. I bet doppelmayr can make it work with a small D-Line station and non bubble quad chairs. Unless park city does choose bubbles.

        Like

        • Rob Withey October 26, 2018 / 3:26 pm

          Trust me, you absolutely don’t wan’t bubbles anywhere there is wind. They are a giant sail with little weight and swing like crazy. They are there for rain/snow protection.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Peter Landsman October 26, 2018 / 5:05 pm

        Doppelmayr USA President Mark Bee was quoted in SAM last winter saying he expected D-Line to be three quarters of their global detachable mix within two years. “It may become our only product,” he said. That would obviously mean a quad version.

        Liked by 1 person

    • NightRose October 28, 2018 / 2:02 pm

      What’s your source on the Dream Peak lifts having a noise problem? I’m guessing it has to do with the Colony contract, but I haven’t seen anybody say that before.

      Town, on the other hand desperately needs an upgrade, but would need an almost silent detach station. Do you know if the D-Line would suffice?

      Like

  10. Jonathan October 27, 2018 / 10:58 am

    I hope they make a D-Line high speed quad. I think it could give many ski resorts an option for a nice lift but not overkill with a 6 person or an 8 person lift.

    Like

    • Peter Landsman October 27, 2018 / 12:54 pm

      Seems to me in North America it all depends on whether Doppelmayr can get D-Line costs down to where LPA and UNI G are.

      Like

      • Tom October 29, 2018 / 9:44 am

        I can’t picture a backup motor being attached to the same bullwheel on D drives. Is that what they do? Can a diesel auxiliary drive be attached to the other bullwheel? Perhaps not as efficient power wise, but it seems less complicated.

        Like

        • Michael October 30, 2018 / 6:56 am

          If the drive bullwheel is incapacitated due to a direct drive problem, it doesn’t do any good to try and turn the other bullwheel.

          Like

  11. Andy November 8, 2018 / 6:05 pm

    Just in case anyone wants to watch the cable being pulled on Ramcharger 8 at Big Sky, the install crew has unwound part of the cable from the large spool at the bottom of the lift , and spent today connecting a smaller cable to it, and stringing that smaller cable up the mountain. (This is what I am guessing is happening, looking at the Big Sky webcams.) Tomorrow (or soon) I suspect that the big cable on the spool will be pulled to the top of the mountain. Would be cool to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Doppelmayr FTW November 20, 2018 / 6:26 pm

    The screen is alive!

    Like

  13. Collin Parsons November 29, 2018 / 8:24 am

    What’s with the news blackout on Shedhorn? Is it even close to being complete? No updates since October 19th, over a month ago.

    Like

    • Doppelmayr FTW November 29, 2018 / 8:38 am

      From what I heard they moved the shoehorn crew to Ramcharger to get the cable spliced, I believe they are working on it again. anyone who skis liberty can get photos of it. Haven’t gotten up there yet

      Like

  14. Charlie November 30, 2018 / 8:58 am

    Looking at the Ramchager stream I can see why they are upgrading Swift current

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Charlie December 4, 2018 / 9:02 am

    Ramcharger is running

    Liked by 2 people

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