Big Mountain Express #1 – Whitefish, MT

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Return terminal with gondola cabins on line for summer operations.
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This lift replaced an older Doppelmayr high speed quad.
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Bottom terminal in winter.
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Looking down from tower 8.
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View up the line.
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Lift line view.
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Top terminal with maintenance rails.
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The drive terminal is longer than most Uni-GS terminals that were built.
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Gondola cabins parked for the winter.
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View down line.
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Lower lift line.
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Lower station and depression tower 1.
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Breakover towers.
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Loading area.
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Doppelmayr CTEC tower.

22 thoughts on “Big Mountain Express #1 – Whitefish, MT

  1. Cooper January 15, 2018 / 5:33 pm

    Its technically a chondola in the summer but a normal high speed quad in the winter!

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  2. Collin January 15, 2018 / 5:42 pm

    Any idea where the cabins came from? They clearly weren’t new since the lift was built in 2007 and CWA discontinued that cabin design in 1997.

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  3. Max Hart January 15, 2018 / 7:26 pm

    They could have been used on the old Glacier Chaser Express as well, which is from 1989, and these cabins are from that era. Obviously they must have been refitted with new Agamatic-104 grips (replacing the old DS-104 grips), and possibly new hanger arms as well.

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    • Ben Eminger July 9, 2021 / 11:16 pm

      If you look at he pics of Swift Creek Express (Former Glacier Chaser Express), you’ll notice it has rather elongated hanger arms, so I’d imagine that it was designed with Gondola Cabins in mind. On the UNI-GS models, the hangers are far longer without design modification like early UNI models (GCX & it’s longer arms). So with the new Big Mountain Express, it was the cabins that had new hangers designed instead of the chairs being modded, the bowden cable rail is actually hidden inside the terminal (much like modern LPA lifts from competitor LPOA). And as a side note, having ridden this lift in summer and winter, in the summer, a large portion of the chairs are removed with massive spacing and the gondola cabins are added with every chair/cabin stopping completely thanks to the spacing system. Over all it’s a very unique lift despite looking like a standard merger era UNI-GS, I expect it to be around for at least another 10-15 years.

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      • Donald Reif November 3, 2021 / 2:10 pm

        For reference:

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  4. Collin January 15, 2018 / 9:20 pm

    I wonder if it would be possible to modify the terminals so that the cabins could be used year round and it be a chondola. The issue would be terminal speed as it’s always faster on chairs than gondolas. In the summer they just run slower so it wouldn’t be an issue there.

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    • Max Hart January 16, 2018 / 8:54 am

      In theory, in order to slow down one side of the terminal to permit gondola loading, you would really just have to change 2 belts in the entire contour, and the diameter of the end wheel they are spinning. However, the cabins are not level-walk-ins, and in order to make a gondola that one can actually load, they would have to pour concrete for an entire loading platform. It might cost more than its worth (in terms of the on-mountain experience) to convert to a Chondola, but it’s a cool and very possible idea nonetheless.
      On a similar note, this may the only Uni-GS that runs with cabins at some point during the course of the year. I can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

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      • Duncan November 8, 2018 / 7:52 am

        So there are no UNI-GS gondolas? Did Doppelmayr build no gondolas during the GS period? (Other than UNI-G lifts shipped across the pond)

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        • AvocadoAndy November 8, 2018 / 8:18 pm

          What cabins are those? Their geometry doesn’t resemble anything I’ve seen.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Peter Landsman November 8, 2018 / 8:21 pm

          They are the CWA Ethos. Also found on one of Tremblant’s gondolas.

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        • pbropetech August 12, 2021 / 10:18 am

          The GS terminals were sold only in North America if I recall correctly. During that time, Doppelmayr definitely built gondolas but they used the G terminals (or equipment housed in a custom building).

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  5. Doug August 10, 2021 / 2:00 pm

    This lift serves vrtiually all of WMR’s 3,000 acres. Probably among the largest terrain served by a single lift

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    • Mike B August 11, 2021 / 6:06 pm

      That’s really interesting. I’d guess the only thing you can’t reach w/o a hike is the top half of Flower Point and Big Foot? That’s got to be close to 500 acres altogether, but even serving 2500 acres with one lift is impressive. Wonder what the North American Top 10 would look like on that.

      Jackson Tram gets you what – 1500-2000?
      Great Escape at Schweitzer looks like it’s over 2000 but not 2500
      Technically, maybe High Noon at Vail beats all of them when including Sun Up, Sun Down, bottom of Tea Cup, most of Game Creek and then everything on the front side except Highline.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ryan Murphy August 11, 2021 / 11:29 pm

        I could be way off here, but assuming reported acreage is accurate (and it isn’t), I would guess there are a lot of lifts in the 1500-2000 acre range. The summit chairs from many of the mid-large ski areas have huge amounts of terrain available. I’m thinking about Stoke at Revelstoke, Panorama at Mammoth, Mineral and Tram at Snowbird, Summit at Alpine, and all 3 summit lifts at Discovery. Then there’s Whistler-Blackcomb… they could have half the top 10 alone. If were talking just within their own pods, the list gets a lot different.

        The only one immediately coming to mind that competes with the BMX is Summit at Panorama, but I’m sure I’m missing lifts.

        Consider my curiosity piqued though.

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        • Mike B August 12, 2021 / 3:28 pm

          Yeah – some good points there. Definitely depends on definitions.

          Within those you named, and assuming we are talking solely about lifts out of a “base area” of some kind (to avoid Summit lifts that technically could access all terrain at a given resort), I think Panorama gondola at Mammoth might rise to the top. That gives you access to every inch of Mammoth’s 3,500 acres with the exception of a few hundred acres on the top half of Ch 22 and 25 respectively. It’s almost surely >3000 acres, which I *think* makes it #1 in North America by the definition of “base area” lift.

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        • Myles Svec August 12, 2021 / 3:59 pm

          The new Wild Blue gondola at steamboat that will be built in 2022 should give you access to more than 2000 acres.

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      • Joe Blake October 5, 2021 / 1:25 pm

        Interesting indeed! Add the gondola at Crystal to the list, although somewhere around #10-15. I’d guess around 1700, 1800 acres. Crystal claims 2600 acres in total, although in comparison to, say, Bogus, who also claim 2600, Crystal seems bigger, so it’s all conjecture. Anyway, the gondola gets you all of the front side (the knob of Upper E is technically hike-to, but what’s 10 or 12 herringbones among friends) except a 3 minute walk to the Elk Chutes, all of North (Short, Long, and Far) except a couple chutes of the top of Northway Peak, all of Bear Pits, and even some of 9 if you’re ambitious. If one is even more creative, there’s always the Park. If I understood goooooogle earth, I might be able to figure actual acreage.

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      • Donald Reif October 5, 2021 / 1:43 pm

        I think the Imperial Express SuperChair would be on that list.

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        • pbropetech February 19, 2022 / 9:39 pm

          Nope- it’s an upper-mountain lift. Doug was referring only to out-of-base lifts, and last I checked you need to ride two to get up to chair 9.

          At Copper, if you ride the Flyer you can access the bulk of the west side, at 1240 acres; if you decide on the Bee, you can get to almost all of the east side including the lower half of Spaulding Bowl, at 1370 acres. Nothing like Pano at Mammoth, but respectable.

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  6. skier72 February 19, 2022 / 4:20 pm

    Original Glacier Chaser Express:

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