Alta Wants a Tram, Chondola & More

Alta submitted some grand plans to the Forest Service last week – 12 projects including at least five new lifts.  The 77-year old ski area wants to replace more than half of its chairs in the next five years and build a low-capacity tram up 11,068′ Mt. Baldy.  If approved and implemented, these would be the biggest changes to Alta’s lift system since the two-stage Collins high speed quad debuted in 2004.

Beaver Creek-style lift coming soon to Alta?
A Beaver Creek-style Chondola coming soon to Alta?

Five lifts would be replaced with three new ones.  Sunnyside, one of only two detachable triple chairs remaining in North America, would be subbed with a higher-capacity Chondola with chairs and gondola or cabriolet cabins.  It would utilize the existing lift line and tower tubes where possible and have a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.  Albion, a 1980 Yan double running adjacent to Sunnyside, would be removed without being replaced.

Supreme detachable quad lift line with angle station unloading for beginners.

Higher on the Albion side of the mountain, Cecret and Supreme would be replaced by a single detachable quad with an angle station, much like Collins’ mid-station.  Cecret and Supreme are both Yans built in 1981.  The new detach would follow the first third of Cecret’s current lift line before joining the Supreme line so it could utilize some of the current towers.  With these upgrades, the Albion side of Alta would go from five lifts to three.  That’s before a new lift called Flora is added. Flora would be a short (985 foot) double chair replacing the East Baldy Traverse with a lift to get from the top of Sugarloaf to the top of Collins.  The top-drive chair would move 1,200 skiers per hour out of Sugarbowl and have just four towers.

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Fixed-Grip Chondola Coming to Anakeesta

Gatlinburg is a national park border town in Tennessee’s Smokey Mountains that attracts more than 11 million visitors annually.  This city with 4,000 local residents already includes Boyne Resorts’ Gatlinburg Sky Lift and the Ober Gatlinburg 120-passenger aerial tramway. Doppelmayr also built a quad chair in 2012 called the Wilderness Mountain Chairlift in nearby Wears Valley.  Anakeesta is a new project that brings two acres of retail to the center of Gatlinburg with a 65-acre mountaintop adventure park rising above. A unique fixed-grip chondola lift will connect Anakeesta Village with the park, dubbed AerialQuest.

anakeesta village

Anakeesta’s developers were kind enough to provide me with a few details on this unique lift.  I initially assumed it would be a pulse gondola system similar to the Iron Mountain Tramway that serves a mountaintop adventure park in Colorado.  Anakeesta’s chondola will be the first lift of its kind to feature chairs and gondola cabins.  I’m pretty sure no one else has done this anywhere in the world on a fixed-grip lift.  In order to accomplish the feat, line speed will be very slow – under 200 feet a minute.   The system will be 2,032 feet long with a vertical of 528′ and will take about 12 minutes to ride.  It will have 104 quad chairs with 8 six-passenger gondola cabins carrying a total of 1,000 passengers per hour. Since no contract has been signed, the developer is not quite ready to say which lift company they are contracting with.  But if you know your lifts you can identify the terminal in the drawing above.  Anakeesta will open in 2017, crowning Gatlinburg as the lift capital of the southeast!

A Chondola for Gatlinburg, Tennessee?


Gatlinburg, Tennessee is the surprising home to a half dozen aerial lifts including the Gatlinburg Sky Lift and Ober Gatlinburg ski resort with a 120-passenger VonRoll aerial tramway.  This town of less than 4,000 may now be adding a Leitner-Poma chondola to the mix.  A new mixed-use development called Anakeesta includes the AerialQuest Adventure Park and a new hotel with a chondola connecting the two.  The project’s website is unclear on exactly what type of system is coming, but apparently it will take 12 minutes each way and have between four and eight passenger cabins (the photoshopped cabins on the website are Gangloff, not Sigma.)  The site calls it a chondola and Telemix although its not clear the person who wrote the copy actually knows what those terms mean.  Websites are cheap, gondolas are not so we will see if this one really opens in the Spring of 2017.

Site plan with the chondola connecting hotel to adventure park.
Site plan with the ‘chondola’ connecting hotel to adventure park.

Lift Profile: Centennial Chondola at Beaver Creek

Centennial is the world's only 6/10 chondola lift.
Centennial is the world’s only 6/10 chondola lift.

Beaver Creek Resort faced a unique challenge last year when they needed to replace their aging workhorse lift.  The original Centennial Express was one of Doppelmayr’s first high speed quads, built in 1986.  Vail Resorts wanted the new lift to serve skiers as well as private events at the Spruce Saddle Lodge while at the same time achieving a high hourly capacity.  Originally announced as a regular six pack, Vail and Doppelmayr later decided to build the world’s only chondola with six passenger chairs and ten passenger gondola cabins.

This is the longest Uni-G terminal I have ever seen.
During summer operation the loading carpet is covered but queuing gates remain.

The result is an impressive lift nearly 8,000 foot long that moves 3,400 passengers an hour.  25 10-passenger CWA Omega gondola cabins alternate with 125 chairs in a 5:1 ratio.  The old lift had 195 quad chairs but moved 35 percent fewer people.  The new Centennial rises over 2,000 vertical feet in 7.9 minutes at 1,000 fpm.  It has 25 towers, five fewer than the original.

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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