Walt Disney World is currently building America’s inaugural Doppelmayr D-Line gondola, actually three gondolas. Although Orlando is a long way from the mountains of Wyoming, the world’s most visited resort is also one of Earth’s most photographed places. So, through the magic of the internet, I am able to give a construction tour of the Disney Skyliner from afar.
Let’s start at Epcot. Foundations for this key station are taking shape but the bulk of work still lies ahead. Though they look like lift terminals, the dark green roofs are actually related to ferry boats the Skyliner will partially replace.
Next up is an angle station that Disney says will showcase the inner workings of the Skyliner as riders pass. No loading or unloading will take place here but the line will deflect around 110 degrees (double grooved bullwheel, maybe?) This one is also just beginning to be formed in what used to be a pond.
Aerial view of the turn in the Disney Skyliner route between Riviera Resort and Epcot. Located south of Boardwalk Resort. pic.twitter.com/6EGqXpHbB7
This afternoon couldn’t have been a more beautiful one for unveiling what will be America’s biggest lift. Over the next nine months, Big Sky Resort and Doppelmayr will create Ramcharger 8, a machine packed full of technology on Andesite Mountain. The current Ramcharger high-speed quad will move to Shedhorn and replace one of Big Sky’s most popular high-alpine lifts while a two-stage North Village gondola and more will eventually follow as part of Big Sky 2025. “The Biggest Skiing in America is getting bigger and better, again,” said Big Sky Resort General Manager and President Taylor Middleton before the bombshell announcement. Never before has America seen an 8-passenger chair of any kind, let alone one packed with every bell and whistle available.
I was lucky enough to be invited by Big Sky Resort and the Kircher family to be part of this momentous day in the Mountain Village, where Boyne Resorts’ Stephen Kircher detailed plans for being the North American ski industry’s D-Line launch customer. Kircher emphasized Big Sky’s lengthy path to this point and how the community has really come together in the past decade. “My family is proud of its 42-year commitment to southwest Montana and will continue the momentum that is underway at Big Sky Resort,” he said. “We are excited to bring the biggest chair in the world to Big Sky, and to work with the resort team and community to recognize the Resort’s full potential – rivaling the best of the Alps and our North American brethren.” With a huge snowpack, the Biggest Skiing in America is on track to have its best season ever with more than 500,000 skier days – a feat once only dreamed of here.
Doppelmayr’s next-generation detachable lift technology appears headed for North America. Walt Disney World Resort released new details about the upcoming Disney Skyliner gondola system this morning and renderings appear to show D-Line Station-D enclosures. Each of the six gondola stations will be themed differently, reflecting unique character of the destinations they serve.
D-Line is Doppelmayr’s latest detachable product that debuted two years ago in Hochgurgl, Austria. Numerous D-Line lifts have since opened in the Alps but no American resort operator has opted to pay extra for one so far, opting instead for the proven UNI-G terminals and standard line equipment. The Walt Disney Company isn’t your standard lift customer, however. D-Line sports hundreds of innovations including rope speeds up to 7 m/s or 1,378 feet per minute and wider line gauge for wider carriers. CWA has developed D-Line-specific Omega gondola cabins with 11 percent greater seating area than non-D 10-passenger versions. At Disney World, cabins will sport custom wraps with the Disney characters guests know and love.
Proposed Steamboat budget includes $3.78 million to replace the Burrows chairlift at Howelsen Hill with a fixed-grip quad in 2019.
Powder and others spread headlines that Colorado resorts are adding more roller coasters than chairlifts this season. However they missed Copper Mountain’s new high-speed quad and counted Vail Resorts’ four new detachables separately from Colorado Ski Country USA. The state as a whole is actually adding its most new lifts since 2013 (six) and fewer mountain coasters (four.)
Heavenly’s Comet Express remains closed following a Jan. 1st rope evacuation, apparently due to a gearbox issue. This is one of the reasons Vail Resorts is replacing its fleet of 1980s-vintage detachable quads.
Soelden, Austria unveiled its record-breaking gondola today called Giggijochbahn, to open next winter with the ability to carry 4,500 passengers per hour. The ropeway will feature Doppelmayr’s next-generation D-Line components and two modern terminal buildings, one featuring panoramic images of the Alps and the other showing off ropeway technology behind real glass. The top terminal will have parking for most of the lift’s 134 CWA Omega IV-10-D cabins. Innsbruck architect Johann Obermoser designed the stations in collaboration with Soelden and Doppelmayr.
This will be an impressive system by any measure with 3,022 feet of vertical rise and an 8,688-foot slope length. Travelling at the record-breaking speed of 6.5 m/s (1,280 fpm) the ride will take just 8.87 minutes. The fastest monocable gondolas in the world currently top out at 1,212 fpm. The Giggijochbahn will have 26 towers and a 62 mm haul rope driven by a ~2,180 HP electric motor. The biggest innovation will be the capacity – reaching 4,500 passengers per hour, per direction. I believe 3,600 is the current capacity record for a monocable gondola, a record shared between many lifts including the 10-passenger Gondola One at Vail and the 15-passenger Village Gondola at Mammoth.