Challenger – Big Sky, MT

View down the lift line from the steepest span.
Top station with new operator house and concrete mast.
Tower 18 up top.
The breakover from below.
View of the upper half of the line.
Doppelmayr EJ-model chairs with seat pads.
Lower lift line.
Middle part of the line.
Another view of the lower lift line.
Lift line overview.
The lower terminal is a Doppelmayr Tristar with drive, tension, and a loading carpet.
Maze area.
Motor room view.
Looking back at the load area.
Riding up on a powder day.
Note the small extensions on the break over towers.
Towers 16-18.
Depression/combo tower 10.

17 thoughts on “Challenger – Big Sky, MT

  1. Kaden February 19, 2019 / 8:04 pm

    Why did this lift not go detachable?


    • Max Hart February 20, 2019 / 3:49 pm

      It’s a strictly experts only lift. I don’t think even a snowcat could get up to the top of Challenger/Headwaters. Making this lift a detachable would do two things: attract skiers who are not advanced enough to ski the terrain Challenger has to offer, and it would also be a maintenance nightmare considering that the only other way to the top of the Headwaters chair. Imagine having to take a cat up to Headwaters, then ride Headwaters (a very exposed, cold, and slow lift despite its short length) to fix a minor problem that would otherwise cripple a detachable lift.
      It just doesn’t make sense to install a detachable here considering the terrain it serves and the simplicity required at the top to ensure reliability.


      • Collin Parsons February 20, 2019 / 4:57 pm

        Even with it being fixed grip they still have issues with beginners getting on it despite signs saying it is for experts only. Imagine if it was a bubble or even a regular high speed quad. I blame that directly on the fact that it starts right near Explorer.


      • Donald Reif May 28, 2019 / 11:13 pm

        There’s not really much space up at the top for a detachable terminal, unless they did a 90 degree unload (like Little Cloud).


    • Ryan Murphy May 29, 2019 / 11:03 pm

      Didn’t need to. One lap and your legs are on fire, you want all nine minutes going back up haha

      Liked by 1 person

    • skitheeast May 30, 2019 / 2:55 pm

      All things considered, they really should have gone detachable here because it is long enough and Big Sky is trying to build a brand around fantastic chairlifts. A quick glance at the trail map and a sign at the base of the lift would show any beginner it is not for them, and they could have fit it at the top like. Little Cloud at Snowbird.


      • Joe Blake August 7, 2019 / 7:25 pm

        What makes a detach “fantastic”? Why can’t a new, hopefully well engineered and installed CLF also be fantastic? Or a righteous old Poma like the Face at Beaver for that matter? Good mechanics to keep it safe and running and good terrain underneath are far more important to the overall experience. Separately, having spent many winters bumping chairs like Chair 6 at Crystal, neither maps nor slow and/or long doubles do anything to deter beginners. Some folks just aren’t that aware of their surroundings.


        • John August 8, 2019 / 2:04 pm

          I spent a fair amount of time turning beginners away from old chair 6 back in the day. When were you there?


  2. Maxwell May 28, 2019 / 10:50 pm

    How does a detachable attract beginners?


    • Donald Reif May 29, 2019 / 2:05 am

      I wouldn’t know. It could be from people not consulting a trail map.


  3. Chris May 30, 2019 / 1:32 am

    Btw, why do American resorts still build tripple chairs? I don’t know of one in Austria that isn’t at least 30 years old.


    • Donald Reif May 30, 2019 / 8:07 am

      It depends on what the resort feels is the needed capacity.


    • AvocadoAndy May 30, 2019 / 9:28 am

      Really just comes down to the demand. Austria’s skiing audience is much larger than the average American ski resort’s, and as such means, they need higher capacity lifts in order to reasonably meet this demand. Triple chairs are nice cause they’re cheap and easy to operate, and making a full detachable quad or six becomes impractical and expensive.


    • themav May 30, 2019 / 10:18 am

      I’ve seen a few low capacity quad lifts installed, and there’s definitely a trend here in North America away from double and triple chairs. However, one of the advantages that double and triple chairs have over quad chairs, is that they’re allowed by American standards to spin faster than quad chairs. You can of course install a loading carpet on your quad chair if you want it to spin faster, but that adds cost and expense to a lower utilization lift. Also, most Americans do not care what type of lift they ride, as long as they aren’t having to wait in a long line for a low capacity lift.


      • atc1701 August 8, 2019 / 9:37 pm

        Keep in mind that culture is perhaps as, if not more important of a factor as demand. In North America, resorts market themselves as a function of their terrain (both quality and quantity). Infrastructure (including lifts, chalets, hotels) plays a secondary role most of the time. Big Sky seems to have broken from this pattern, but is the only resort in North America so far to do so. In Europe (primarily Austria/Switzerland/France), contrarily, resorts don’t market themselves based on their terrain, but rather the comfort and luxury they can offer their guests. Hence, detachables and bubbles are installed in cases where they wouldn’t seem necessary, entirely to the end of increasing the guest experience at the resort. I’ve seen hilariously short detachable eights that are nowhere near busy enough to justify their construction, but they were built all the same.


  4. Chris June 3, 2019 / 10:58 am

    Thanks. Note that there were still a fair number of doubles built in Austria in the 90s and at least a few these days. But indeed longer lifts now seem to be detachable quads or up 99% of the time. It just surprises me that on my US trips I can ride brand new tripples while I can barely find one at home, and those few are very dated.


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