Behind the Scenes of the Jackson Hole Tram

The tram's motor room under the bottom dock houses electric motors, a large generator, braking systems and evacuation drives.
A motor room under the bottom dock houses electric motors, two generators, three braking systems and two evacuation drives.

The $31 million Jackson Hole Aerial Tram is the most expensive lift ever built at a US ski area.  Constructed by Garaventa over 20 months, the new tram opened to great fanfare on December 20, 2008.  It can move a hundred people 4,083 vertical feet in under nine minutes.  Compared with a detachable lift, the tram is a relatively simple machine built on a massive scale.

The view from carriage level just above tower 2.
The view from carriage level just above tower 2.

Like most jig-back aerial tramways, there are four track ropes and a single haul rope that that drives both cabins.  All five wire ropes were manufactured by Fatzer in Switzerland.  Five towers support the line; towers 1 and 2 are the tallest and furthest apart.  Two CWA Kronos cabins move 650 passengers per hour per direction at a maximum speed of 10 m/s.  Slope length is 12,463 feet.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Lift Profile: Sunday River’s Chondola

IMG_9929 IMG_9184 The Chondola at Sunday River, Maine was Boyne Resorts’ first (and arguably last) major investment after purchasing the resort from American Skiing Company in 2007.  This Doppelmayr CTEC combination lift replaced two fixed grip lifts and connects the South Ridge Lodge to North Peak.  The older South Ridge Express and North Peak Express run parallel enough that the latter no longer operates midweek.  I would not be surprised to see this 1997 Doppelmayr detachable quad relocated within the Boyne Resorts family at some point.  Big Sky perhaps?

There are 4 chairs for every gondola cabin.
There are 4 chairs for every gondola cabin.

At $7.2 million, the Chondola is one of the most expensive lifts ever built in New England. It is also one of only five combination lifts in North America, the others being at Telluride, Beaver Creek, Mont Orford and Northstar.  It is one of only eleven lifts in North America with Doppelmayr’s European towers.  Sixty-four six passenger chairs alternate with 16 eight passenger cabins that move a combined 2,330 passengers an hour.  The chairs are Doppelmayr’s extra comfy “flying couches” from Austria.  The Chondola is Sunday River’s longest lift at 6,427 feet although the vertical is a modest 1,138’. Continue reading

Lift Profile: Spokane Falls SkyRide

IMG_6921
The only lift I know of that crosses under a major bridge.

The $2.5 million Spokane Falls SkyRide is one of only a handful of lifts in North America owned by city government.  Doppelmayr CTEC built the pulse gondola in 2005 to replace a Riblet version that debuted in 1974.  Riders board at the drive station in downtown Spokane’s Riverfront Park.  The gondola travels down through the park, across the Spokane River and under a four-lane bridge before turning around.  All this happens in only 1,120 feet.  It takes 15 minutes to ride round-trip at a painful 150 feet per minute (the design speed is 600 fpm.)  The gondola’s turnaround station on the far bank of the river does not have loading/unloading or even an operator.  A ticket for the SkyRide costs $7.50 and it operates year-round.

Looking down at one of five pulses of cabins.
Looking down at one of five pulses of cabins.

Spokane’s original Riverfront SkyRide, built by Riblet, ran in a similar alignment from 1974 to 2005.  (Riblet built over 500 lifts in a shop three miles away.)  The Riblet version of the SkyRide had open air cabins but the new one has 15 CWA Omega 6-passenger cabins.  Because the cabins are enclosed, the SkyRide shuts down when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees, which happens fifty days a year in Spokane.  Last year Doppelmayr developed a plan to retrofit cabins with larger opening windows but so far these have not been installed.  Despite this issue, over 70,000 people ride the SkyRide every year.

IMG_6931 IMG_6920 IMG_6915

Lift Profile: Northway at Crystal Mountain, WA

Crystal Mountain made headlines in 2007 when it decided to serve its largest-ever expansion with a brand new, $3 million fixed-grip double chair.  For perspective, 1985 was the last time a new double as long as Northway was built.

The Northway pod at Crystal is as big as most ski resorts.
The Northway pod at Crystal is as big as most ski resorts.

The Northway expansion added lift service to 1,000 acres of advanced tree skiing and bowls, an area bigger than most US ski areas.  “Northback,” as it was known had been open for years but required an epic traverse or bus ride back to the base area.  John Kircher of Boyne Resorts decided to build a lift but keep its capacity and speed low.  Only a handful of trails were cut in the Northway pod with no grading or grooming.  The result is awesome powder skiing with virtually no crowds.  There isn’t even a maze at the bottom of the lift.

The base terminal was built by helicopter and has no electricity.
The base terminal was built by helicopter and has no electricity.
All 19 towers were delivered by a K-Max helicopter.
All 19 towers were delivered by a K-Max helicopter.

The Doppelmayr CTEC double moves only 1,200 skiers per hour (Crystal’s workhorse six-packs move 3,600.)  Because it services exclusively advanced terrain, Crystal can get away spinning Northway at a quick 550 feet a minute.  That means 1,843 vertical feet in less than 10 minutes.  The bottom of the chair is located in the middle of nowhere with no road access or electricity.  With the exception of the top terminal, the entire lift was built with a spider excavator and helicopter.  As you crest the first ridge after boarding Northway, you realize how long it is.  At 5,422 feet, there are plenty of longer lifts out there but few that access such varied terrain.  Only once you reach the top do you feel like you are back at a ski area.

Continue reading

Lift Profile: Sea to Sky Gondola

I got a chance to check out the Sea to Sky Gondola during its first few months of operation last summer.  It’s located along the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler.  The system is just over 7,000 feet long and goes from a parking lot at sea level to a lodge 3,000 feet above.  There are 20 CWA 8-passenger cabins that take riders to the top in 7.1 minutes.  The summit lodge has expansive views of Howe Sound in addition to hiking trails and snow tubing in the winter.  The project cost $22 million to build and is owned by a small group of private partners.

The bottom terminal has a unique wooden roof over it.  No snow to worry about here.
The bottom terminal has a unique wooden roof over it. No snow to worry about here.

Doppelmayr began building the gondola in April 2013 and it passed its acceptance test in January 2014.  The bottom drive terminal has a unique wooden structure over it instead of the normal Uni-G terminal.  The lower section climbs an 800 foot cliff and none of the lift line is accessible by road.  Many of the 14 towers were anchored directly to bedrock.  Most trees under the line were left standing which would make for a challenging evacuation.

The first 3 towers have a combined 80 sheaves.
The first 3 towers have a combined 80 sheaves.

The gondola had a major accident on February 4th, 2014.  At the time it was only open for construction workers and the media.  The system stopped automatically around 8:30 am due to two rope position faults at tower 7.  The only personnel on-site were two operators, the Mountain Manager and an employee from Doppelmayr.  It took the Doppelmayr employee almost two hours to reach tower 7 on foot where he found a cabin on the ground.

Continue reading

Lift Profile: Lewis & Clark at Big Sky, MT

Top/drive terminal of Lewis & Clark.
Top/drive terminal of Lewis & Clark.

Lewis & Clark is a 2005 Doppelmayr CTEC Uni-GS detachable quad in the Spanish Peaks residential development in Big Sky, Montana. It was built during Big Sky’s real estate boom when the Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peaks and Moonlight Basin were all developed. For those who haven’t been to the area, each resort includes lifts and ski trails connected to the original Big Sky Resort. 17 lifts were built during the boom years from 2004 to 2007. No lifts have been built in Big Sky since.

The original Spanish Peaks trail map from 2006.
Spanish Peaks original trail map from 2006.

Spanish Peaks was developed by timber billionaire Tim Blixseth, (who founded the neighboring Yellowstone Club) and James Dolan, the CEO of Cablevision. Doppelmayr built all 5 of Spanish Peaks’ lifts in the summer of 2005.  In addition to Lewis & Clark, there are 2 triples and 2 platters.  Lifts and trails opened for the 2005-06 ski season.

Continue reading