Big Mountain Express #1 – Whitefish, MT

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

24 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!


  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.


  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.


    • 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.


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

        For reference:


  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.


    • 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.


      • 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)


        • 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.


        • 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).

          Liked by 1 person

  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


    • 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.


        • 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.

          Liked by 1 person

        • 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.


      • 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.


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

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


        • 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.


        • ryand1407 April 26, 2023 / 10:38 pm

          While we’re at it…What lift offers the most lappable/repeatable terrain?

          Panorama at Mammoth would still do well, but it would be beat by the trams at Snowbird and JH. The old chairs 1 and 6 at Schweitzer would have been surprisingly close, but both were split into 2 lifts when they were replaced. Crystal’s gondola, the Blackomb & Whistler Gondolas, and Kicking Horse would all be in contention.

          A tier down you’d have the gondola at Ski Apache, the longgg HSQ’s at Angel Fire, Crested Butte, Fernie, Kimberly, the Aspen Gondola, Palisade’s tram, and Motherlode at Red.


        • Somebody April 28, 2023 / 12:03 am

          I agree RyanD, the real question is how much acreage a lift serves that you can ski back to the lift from.

          Using google earth, here are some fun approximations:

          Snowbird Tram- ~1k acres

          Alta Collins- ~400-600 acres (depending on if you count Backside)

          Jackson Tram- ~1.5k acres

          Squaw KT-22- ~400 acres

          Squaw Tram (including Broken Arrow)- ~350 acres

          Alpine Meadows Summit (no hiking)- ~350 acres

          Alpine Meadows Summit (all frontside runs)- ~700 acres

          Mammoth Panorama (full)- ~800 acres

          Mammoth Panorama (upper)- ~350 acres

          Mammoth Chair 9- ~350 acres

          Aspen Gondola- ~800 acres (more than advertised??)

          Highlands Temerity (no hiking)- ~300 acres

          Highlands Temerity (with all of bowl)- ~500 acres

          Snowmass Sheer Bliss- ~600 acres

          Vail Chair 5- ~600 acres

          Vail chair 21 (without Mongolia)- ~1k acres

          Vail Chair 21 (with Mongolia)- ~1.3k acres

          Winter Park Panoramic- ~500 acres

          Crested Butte Silver Queen- ~450 acres

          Targhee Peaked and Dreamcather- both ~500 acres

          Mt Bachelor Northwest- ~1k acres

          Mt Bachelor Cloudchaser- ~500 acres

          Mt Bachelor Summit- ~400 acres

          Crystal Gondola- ~700 acres

          Kicking Horse Gondola (no hiking)- ~850 acres

          Kicking Horse Gondola (hiking to Super Bowl and T1/T2)- ~1050 acres

          Revelstoke Stoke- ~750 acres

          Red Mountain Motherlode- ~1k acres

          Red Mountain Grey- ~500 acres

          Whistler Symphony (with flute bowl)- ~600 acres

          Whistler Symphony (no flute bowl)- ~400 acres

          Schweitzer Great Escape- ~400 acres

          Whitefish Big Mountain- ~800 acres

          Fernie Timber Bowl- ~500 acres

          Kimberley Northstar Express- ~650 acres

          Whistler Gondola- ~1.2k acres

          Whistler Gondola (Upper)- ~1.1k acres

          Blackcomb Gondola- ~800 acres

          Blackcomb Gondola Upper- ~400 acres

          Angel Fire Chile Express- ~500 acres

          Alyeska Tram- ~400 acres

          Killington K1 Gondola- ~450 acres

          Killington Skyeship- ~400 acres

          Killington Skyeship before Lower Juggernaut trail was closed- ~800 acres

          Original Killington Gondola in original configuration- ~1.2k acres

          Stowe Forerunner- ~400 acres

          Mad River Single- ~300 acres

          Wildcat Express- ~500 acres

          Sugarloaf Superquad- ~500 acres

          Jay Tram- ~500 acres

          Tremblant Duncan- ~600 acres

          International edition (for fun):

          Chamonix Aiguille Du Midi (just Vallee Blanche)- ~2000 acres

          Zermatt Hohtali tram- ~1.5k acres

          La Grave Gondola (no/minimal hiking)- ~1.6k acres


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

    Original Glacier Chaser Express:

    Liked by 1 person

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