Big Sky & Doppelmayr Christen Ramcharger 8

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Forty five years to the day since Chet Huntley welcomed the first skiers to Big Sky Resort, Boyne Resorts today debuted North America’s most technologically-advanced chairlift on Andesite Mountain.  The eight pack is a bold but logical move for Michigan-based Boyne, which once pioneered the world’s first triple and quad chairlifts.  Not only is Ramcharger 8 the first of its kind in North America, it’s also the first Doppelmayr D-Line eight place chairlift in the world.

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Boyne Resorts President Stephen Kircher and son Everett prepare to cut the ribbon.

“Doppelmayr and Boyne Resorts have been collaborating for over 40 years, and together have introduced many firsts to the ski industry,” said Stephen Kircher, President of Boyne Resorts at a mid-morning ceremony.  “We are incredibly proud to bring the first eight-seat chairlift to North America, setting a new standard for lift technology in the world.”

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Mark Bee, President of Doppelmayr USA, presented the Big Sky Resort team with a customary bell from Austria to celebrate.  He also thanked the construction team, led by Jamie Kanzler, for a successful project delivered on schedule.  “Without Jamie and his team, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Bee, noting the contract for this ambitious project was signed on March 5th.  “Ramcharger 8 is the culmination of everything we have learned so far, and incorporates many firsts for the North American market; first eight-passenger chairlift, first direct drive motor, first locking restraint bar, first height-adjustable loading carpet, first high resolution video display, and the first of our newest generation detachable lifts,” he continued.

D-Line is Doppelmayr’s fifth-generation detachable, the product of more than three decades of engineering experience.  There are dozens of innovations and patents; some may not be obvious but will make big differences for operations and maintenance staff.

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Big Sky, Doppelmayr and Radius Displays partnered to create the largest-ever video wall on a chairlift.  The high resolution LED display will feature video content, snow conditions, lift status and even social media posts that tag #bigskyresort.  You can’t miss the 30 foot wide screen in the base area!

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Like with older sister Powder Seeker, Big Sky spared no expense for passenger comfort.  Ramcharger 8 includes heated seats, blue bubbles and extra wide upholstered seats.  New for this lift, the safety bar locks in place once lowered and raises automatically upon entering a station.  There is also a height adjustable Chairkit loading carpet.

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I learned D-Line terminals come in a few widths and many lengths.  Both of Ramcharger 8’s terminals are the 18 meter length and as wide as they come.  The bullwheels are almost 24 feet in diameter and line gauge is over 25 feet.  Doppelmayr builds D-Line stations in increments of two meters as short as 12 and as long as 36 meters.  Ramcharger features the D 5000 grip, the larger of two D-Line grips.  The slip force of one is 38 kN.

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Ramcharger 8 is 4,367 feet long with about 16 feet of tension travel in the bottom terminal.  The haul rope is a 54 mm Fatzer Compacta.IMG_6078

The number of cabinets below the top operator house gives an idea of how complex this machine is.

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The parking structure isn’t quite finished but carriers can also be parked in the stations.  Once complete, the barn at the top will house all the chairs in two rows.  The rails are slightly inclined so that parking and feeding is completely automated.  Lift capacity can eventually be increased from 3,200 people per hour to 3,600 with additional chairs.IMG_6067

There is just one chain conveyor for parking and feeding.  Rough spacing is located at the end of it.

Ramcharger 8 is the second North American lift to open with a direct drive and the first for Doppelmayr USA.  This one has three rings which weigh more than 13,000 lbs. each.  The motor is water cooled and incredibly quiet.  As Stephen Kircher noted, a direct drive eliminates the biggest Achilles heal of a modern lift – the gearbox.  Ramcharger’s direct drive spins at just over 13 revolutions per minute when the lift is moving 5.1 m/s.  There is a Caterpillar auxiliary engine that can be coupled to the bullwheel if necessary.  Two service brakes and two emergency brakes act directly on the drive bullwheel.

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Minimized noise, dampened vibration and overall smooth operation are an obvious focus of D-Line.  Even grip rollers are lubricated automatically!

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At the return terminal, the section of tires that does fine spacing operates independently of the PTOs with its own electric motor.  It was pointed out to me this little motor might be louder than the direct drive for the lift!  Roof vents in both terminals are opened and closed electronically based on ambient temperature and weather doors can be lowered with the push of a button.  Welcome to first class!

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Ramcharger’s terminals currently have two charging rails for seat heating, which can be automatically adjusted based on outside temperature.  Wiring for the seat heating goes through the chair hanger arms rather than outside with the bubble and restraint bar cables.  Two more charging rails can be added in the future if needed.  Three of Ramcharger’s 65 carriers have cleaning brushes for the copper rails.  All of the grips have RFID tags for the Doppelmayr Connect control system to keep track of carrier locations.  D-Line grips even come in multiple color options.IMG_6025

Grip force is checked in a dedicated spot on the light side of the return terminal.  The testing rail can be moved out of the way when carriers are being parked in the terminal.

The outer walkway is the most spacious I have ever seen and there are two sets of stairs that allow easy access from the center of the terminal.  The roof is taller than a UNI-G station too.IMG_6029

Doppelmayr Connect takes ropeway controls to a whole new level.  Ramcharger includes touchscreen desk displays, outdoor pedestals, VoIP telephones, Android-based tablets and wireless remote operator controls.IMG_5999

The interface is more like a personal computer than a traditional ski lift.  Information is distributed via Wi-Fi throughout the operator houses and terminals.IMG_5998IMG_5987

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Electrical prints and manuals are also accessible through Doppelmayr Connect.

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The system has cool operator features.  Marked carriers can be set to slow the lift automatically when they arrive at the next station.  The display shows precise countdowns in minutes and seconds until arrival.IMG_5977

Big Sky got to create 65 different backs for the chairs.  There are no repeats!

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There are a total of 13 towers.  They have public address speakers that can broadcast pre-recorded messages or live announcements.  Towers 6 and 13 have anemometers.IMG_5770

Towers 6 and 7 are approximately 70 feet tall in order for the lift to span the Ambush ski run.  The old Ramcharger had a tower right in the middle of this popular groomer.  The new tapered towers were flown in multiple sections and spliced together.

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The communications line and fiber are underground rather than on top of the lifting frames.  It makes the lift look sleek and clean.

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The Kirchers had one last surprise in store before the gathered crowd got to load Ramcharger 8.  Big Sky plans to introduce three Omega V gondola cabins to the lift for winter 2019-20.  Two will be dedicated dining cars, allowing guests to sit around a table installed in the cabin for a premier dining experience.  Another car will be reserved as a VIP cabin.  The CWA gondola cabins will be the first of their kind in North America.

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As impressive as Ramcharger 8 is, Big Sky still has a whole other lift to debut before Christmas.  Much of the old Ramcharger high speed quad became Shedhorn 4, replacing the Shedhorn double.  Stay tuned for a report on that lift when it opens.  After that, I can’t wait to see what Boyne Resorts and Doppelmayr dream up next.

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69 thoughts on “Big Sky & Doppelmayr Christen Ramcharger 8

  1. nbsshousing December 15, 2018 / 11:09 pm

    Very cool, but how does a gondola dining car work with that short of a lift ride?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Josh P December 16, 2018 / 5:31 am

    Very informative and well written, I can’t wait to ride it in February. I noticed on the web cams not long after the ceremony the lift lines were not that long, typical of Big Sky! Great job by everyone and as you said, can’t wait to see what’s next, particularly Swift Current.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jaytrem December 16, 2018 / 5:55 am

      Buy 1 gondola get an extra 3 cabins free???

      Liked by 1 person

      • Matthew Campbell December 16, 2018 / 7:02 pm

        My thoughts exactly!

        Like

  3. Tom December 16, 2018 / 7:17 am

    Three thoughts from reading and viewing Peter’s article:
    Height adjustable loading conveyor seems odd. What use is it with riders of many different heights? Two families of four can ride at the same time. That’s impressive. I guess the assumption is, the conveyor will adjust for the 3’ child and the 6’ adult just ducks. Why is no adjustment needed for unloading?
    Several detachable lifts have storage barns for carriers, as does this one. One photo of the base terminal shows about 32 chairs sitting within. Not all the space directly under the terminal is taken up. At least 35 could be stores at each terminal. There are 65 in total. Couldn’t a durable curtain or collapsible panels be used to enclosed to the terminals for night time carrier storage. Gondi cabins take up too much space, but any chair system (with or w/o bubbles) could do this. This lift is 4300’. A 6000’ lift with 90 chairs might be tight. I never saw a photo with carriers stacked like this in a terminal. Thus this idea never occurred to me.
    The foot rest/safety bar has an automatic lock. There must be some way from passengers to unlock it for evacuation

    Liked by 2 people

    • John December 16, 2018 / 10:36 am

      Re: the locking bubbles- The patrollers performing the evac will unlock them as they perform the evac. Same procedure as a gondola cabin.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Peter Landsman December 16, 2018 / 12:12 pm

        The bubble doesn’t lock down, just the bar. They both open automatically at the top.

        Like

  4. Billy B. December 16, 2018 / 8:31 am

    What a sharp looking machine, thanks for the great pictures and write-up! Congrats to Doppelmayr and Big Sky for working to get this revolutionary lift open! Exciting day for ropeway engineering in America, with this hopefully opening the door for more like it to come.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ryan Gardner December 16, 2018 / 10:40 am

    Incredible!!

    Like

  6. Tom December 16, 2018 / 3:35 pm

    From the web-cam, the next group is moving on the conveyor before the front group sits on the chair. I’ve only experienced Okemo’s conveyor. Only one group is on that at a time, and it doesn’t stop. I don’t understand Ramcharger’s. Is there close up video?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Landsman December 16, 2018 / 4:04 pm

      Detachable loading conveyors are set up differently than fixed grip ones. They are shorter and only bring skiers from the wait here point to just before the load here board. The carpet ends where skiers are supposed to stand and wait for the chair.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tom December 16, 2018 / 8:12 pm

        Thanks Peter explaining conveyors.

        Like

  7. Kai Glidden December 16, 2018 / 5:23 pm

    I thought Ramcharger was going to have auto-locking safety bars. The first image shows people without the bar down at all. Why’s this?

    Like

    • Peter Landsman December 16, 2018 / 6:09 pm

      The bars are auto locking, not auto lowering. Riders can choose whether to put the bar down but once they do, it doesn’t unlock until the top.

      Like

      • Ryan Gardner December 16, 2018 / 6:13 pm

        Choice is a great thing, until it is taken away from ya. Glad people can choose.

        Like

  8. Matthew Campbell December 16, 2018 / 7:07 pm

    Two thoughts from riding Ramcharger for the first time today: Swifty now looks absolutely tiny in comparison, nothing I ever thought I’d say about a quad lift, and in classic Montana fashion next to no one was using the safety bar or bubble!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Andrew H December 16, 2018 / 9:03 pm

    With the car barn at the top, how do they get things started in the morning? Do they leave a chair at the bottom or do they go up on a skimobile and start from there?

    Like

    • MavRat December 16, 2018 / 9:12 pm

      always had to have someone go up top on a sled to start the old one anyways- drive station is up top, & it required a top & bottom op to start up. Guessing new one needs a top & bottom op to start up too.

      Like

    • Peter Landsman December 17, 2018 / 9:05 am

      A lot of newer lifts can be started from the return. One nice thing about automated parking is you don’t need a whole crew of people to push chairs in the morning. This is particularly good when the parking is in a remote location like the top of a mountain. At Jackson Hole, we leave three cabins on each gondola at night for crews to ride up in the morning. We then take those cabins off before putting all cabins on for the day.

      Like

      • Ryan Gardner December 17, 2018 / 4:11 pm

        Why take them off if they are going to go back on?

        Like

        • Jonathan December 18, 2018 / 8:19 am

          To warm them up for guests? When it is cold outside, the cabins get cold and Jackson Hole may want to warm them up so guests are not cold. I am not too sure if this is correct though.

          Like

        • Peter Landsman December 18, 2018 / 8:30 am

          Best to start with a clear line when feeding/spacing. Taking them off also keeps the cabins in order.

          On some lifts you can park and feed at the same time, clearing one part of the line while starting fresh on another.

          Like

      • ah December 18, 2018 / 11:37 am

        Happened to check the webcam around 8am yesterday (MST) when they were starting it up. Looks like they had all the chairs parked at the bottom, underneath the lift housing. Seems like they must have just pushed a button and the lift spaced them out properly going up the line and back around.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Paul Wanders December 17, 2018 / 12:45 am

    I Can’t Be More Excited For All Of The Residents Of The Incredible Beautiful Home State Of Montana & Big Sky Resort For Officially Making History. Never Ever Has This Entire History Until Dec 15,2018 At 10:00 Am MST Will Be Named That Ramcharger 8 Was Born. Never Has Such Cutting New Futuristic Technology Be Witness Until Now. And MONTANA Big Sky Has The Pristine Honor Of Owning This. The First EVER On Planet Earth! WOW! It Is Really Hard To Fandom How Mind Blowing This Truly Is. Montana & Big Sky Have A Life Worth Of Bragging Right & They Well Deserve It. My Hat Is Off & I Salute You O Being ” The 1st “

    Liked by 3 people

    • Katherine Hallian November 27, 2019 / 2:21 pm

      Paul, Europe’s ski resorts have a BUNCH of eight-packs. Just go on Doppelmayr’s website and go to “Detachable Chairlifts”.

      Like

  11. GreatEight December 17, 2018 / 8:13 am

    Can Ramcharger 8 eventually be upgraded to move 4000 p/h?
    Is it capable of 1200 feet per minute?

    Like

    • Peter Landsman December 17, 2018 / 8:41 am

      Design capacity is 3,600 and design speed is 1,000 feet per minute. Ride time is under five minutes so a speed increase wouldn’t make much of a difference.

      Liked by 1 person

      • GreatEight December 17, 2018 / 9:05 am

        Is it possible to upgrade capacity though?

        Like

        • Peter Landsman December 17, 2018 / 9:20 am

          From 3,200 to 3,600. I can’t imagine Big Sky ever needing anything more than 3,600 there.

          Like

  12. Brian December 17, 2018 / 11:25 am

    Does the D-line support 90-degree loading? It doesn’t seem like the chairs are ever perpendicular to the liftline. I always prefer 90-degree loading lifts because I want to be settled in the seat before the chair begins to accelerate, and 90-degree loading always gives me a few extra seconds to do just that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jamie B December 23, 2018 / 10:17 am

      Yes, it is an option, the same as Uni-G. It requires the terminal to be constructed with two 90° turns, rather than a single 180° turn as has been done here.

      Like

      • Donald Reif July 29, 2019 / 2:24 pm

        Same goes for the UNI-M. (Face Lift at Mammoth being an example)

        Like

  13. Nathan December 17, 2018 / 12:08 pm

    FYI, I’m pretty sure Boyne had the first high speed six in the US in addition to first FGQ, FQT.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Logan December 17, 2018 / 5:59 pm

    Do u think that whistler will get a eight pack. Where? Or a bubble chair big red could be a bubble chair?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. GreatEight December 17, 2018 / 8:18 pm

    I think Big Red would be a great spot to launch Vail Resorts first 8 person lift with red bubbles, heated seats and D-line like Ramcharger 8.
    They could move the old Bid Red high speed quad to go replace the Franz’s chair and extend it up to replace the T-bars too. This would create a great new zone below the Peak which would be great skiing on visibility days.

    Like

    • reaperskier December 18, 2018 / 8:20 am

      Are red bubbles even possible?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Max Hart December 18, 2018 / 8:31 am

        Doppelmayr only offers gray/clear, yellow/gold, orange, and blue, as does L-P.

        Like

        • GreatEight December 18, 2018 / 9:35 am

          Maybe they could do a special red one just for this lift. I don’t see why it would be a big deal.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Landsman December 18, 2018 / 10:29 am

      It will be very interesting to see whether Vail gets into the 8 pack and/or bubble scene. The last bubble lift Vail Resorts/Vail Associates bought was in 1985. All the rest were acquired.
      Alterra might consider one for Mammoth.

      Liked by 1 person

      • GreatEight December 18, 2018 / 10:31 am

        Where would Alterra put a 8 person bubble at Mammoth?

        Like

        • Thomas Jett December 18, 2018 / 1:00 pm

          It’s actually supposed to be a 6 person bubble at 16.

          Liked by 1 person

        • GreatEight December 18, 2018 / 1:11 pm

          What about Broadway or Stump alley?

          Like

      • reaperskier December 18, 2018 / 2:20 pm

        Why isn’t vail a fan of bubble lifts?

        Like

        • Max Hart December 18, 2018 / 3:57 pm

          You would think that they would be. Maybe with Powdr and Boyne installing multiple bubble chairs, Vail will hop on the bandwagon. Personally I hope they don’t. The only bubble lifts in Vail’s arsenal right now are Quantum Four and the Sunburst Six, both of which were installed/converted by Triple Peaks.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Collin Parsons December 18, 2018 / 7:03 pm

          Rob Katz seems to personally dislike them. He also thinks people will get into arguments over whether the bubble should be down or up. And don’t forget about the Orange Bubble Express at Park City which came from Talisker.

          Like

        • Peter Landsman December 18, 2018 / 7:08 pm

          Are the bubbles gone from Fitzsimmons at WB?

          Like

        • Max Hart December 18, 2018 / 8:40 pm

          Oh yeah I totally forgot about OBX. However that was installed by Taliskier, long before Vail bought the Canyons.

          Last I heard Fitzsimmons’ bubbles had been removed.

          Like

        • Collin Parsons December 19, 2018 / 6:59 am

          I’d argue that OBX really started the lift arms race we are currently in. The year after it was installed, Mount Snow went bubble-6. Between 2014 and 2018 other resorts jumped on the bubble train, and then Big Sky basically said “To all of you who just went bubble-6, that’s cute cause we’re goin bubble-8.” They’re in a position that’s pretty hard to beat with Ramcharger, but I’d look for Alterra to respond most likely at Mammoth and for a big Leitner-Poma customer to also get a lift similarly equipped as Ramcharger.

          Liked by 3 people

        • Kevin December 20, 2018 / 11:45 pm

          Vail had bubbles on Vista Bahn when it first opened, eventually selling the bubbles to Alyeska. Since the chairs weren’t stored inside, they would get frosted overnight sometimes and skiers would use their poles to try and clean them off, consequently scratching them a lot. The chair was also nicknamed Rasta Bahn for herbal reasons. I think this history is etched in Vail’s memoirs and the reason why bubbles have been avoided since.

          Like

    • Ted December 18, 2018 / 2:18 pm

      Red bubbles are not a thing. Just clear/gray yellow orange and blue. It has proven that Vail is not fond of bubbles either.

      Like

      • GreatEight December 18, 2018 / 4:03 pm

        I think LP and Doppelmayr would offer red bubbles if requested.

        Like

        • Michael December 19, 2018 / 6:32 pm

          I’m sure either could produce them on special order. Problem is they would be long lead time items and if you ever wanted replacements or capacity upgrade they would once again be long lead time items because they are not standard production. Probably a 33% cost increase…

          Like

  16. Todd Arnold December 18, 2018 / 7:18 am

    Two things here: One, do the bubbles auto open even if the chair is occupied? I cannot lift the powder seeker bubble on my own so I can’t even imagine Ramcharger. Also why are they currently parking the chairs at the bottom and not in the chair barn?

    Like

    • Peter Landsman December 18, 2018 / 8:36 am

      The bubble and bar both open automatically at the top and bottom regardless of whether the chair is occupied.

      Like

  17. Jonathan December 18, 2018 / 8:22 am

    I don’t think the parking barn is finished yet.

    Like

    • Max Hart December 18, 2018 / 8:30 am

      In terms of function, it is finished. Chairs can be stored under a roof. However the sidewall is not finished (it’s wrapped in what looks like shrink wrap for this season).

      Like

  18. Charlie December 19, 2018 / 6:53 am

    Can’t wait to ride it in late March

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik B December 19, 2018 / 10:26 pm

      A few fun facts: There are actually 87 8-person chairlifts worldwide. Most are in Europe, but South Korea has a few and there’s one in Australia. The oldest was built in 1997, and Kitzbühel has more than any other resort (seven of them, which is crazy).

      https://www.skiresort.info/ski-lifts/lift-types/lift-type/8-pers-chairlifts/

      Still, Ramcharger is special as the first in North America, and the first D-line CLD-8. Can’t wait to ride it this year!

      Like

  19. powderforever45 November 27, 2019 / 2:51 pm

    What is the max speed on a d line chairlift?

    Like

    • atc1701 November 27, 2019 / 3:24 pm

      D-Line gondolas can theoretically go a maximum of 7 m/s, but no resort has installed one that fast yet; Solden’s 6.5 m/s gondola is the fastest monocable gondola currently in operation.

      As for chairlifts, I believe it’s also 7 m/s. All D-line chairlifts installed thus far run at 5-6 m/s.

      Like

      • Chris November 28, 2019 / 9:18 am

        It is kinda amazing how little really changed in visible chair lift characteristics in the last 30 years. Last weekend I rode a detachable quad (https://www.seilbahntechnik.net/en/lifts/862/datas.htm) and it felt so fast and high capacity (very tight chair spacing). And that is a 1989 build..

        Like

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