Ski Bromont Lift Heavily Damaged in Overnight Fire

Photo credit: Bromont Fire Department
Photo credit: Bromont Fire Department

The return station of a detachable quad burned last night at Ski Bromont in Quebec.  The 2003 Doppelmayr CTEC lift is called Versant du Lac or Lift 5.  More pictures of it can be found here.  This is the third such terminal fire in Eastern Canada in as many years.  The drive terminals of high speed quads at Mont Tremblant and Marble Mountain burned in 2014 and were subsequently repaired.  The good news for Bromont is the Uni-G terminal model is still in production so it shouldn’t be too hard to get a new one this spring.  Doppelmayr’s St. Jerome factory is less than two hours away.

Photo credit: CBC News
Photo credit: CBC News

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Rebuilding Mad River Glen’s Single Chair

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The single chair at Mad River Glen in Vermont is not the only single chair around but it’s certainly the newest, nicest and most famous.  Originally built in 1947-48 by American Steel & Wire Company, it has hauled skiers up Stark Mountain for the past 65 years.  The chair at MRG was AS&W’s 15th and cost $75,000 not including installation. Originally powered by a diesel motor, it had no electrical circuit at all during the early years.  Safety systems on towers and bullwheels were added later.  In 1995, Mad River Glen became the first ski area member-owned co-operative in the United States and it still does not have any slopeside lodging nor does it allow snowboarding.

The Single Chair during fall foliage season.
The Single Chair during fall foliage season.

By 2005, the diesel-powered single chair had become too expensive to maintain.  Chairs were failing NDT, the lift had no cable catchers or bullwheel retention and replacement parts were no longer available (except ones cannibalized from the AS&W single that had been replaced at nearby Stowe.)  Doppelmayr CTEC was brought in by the co-operative’s Board of Directors and developed two proposals – a $1.54 million rebuild of the single chair or an all-new double chair for $300,000 less.

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Lift Profile: Tote Road Quad at Loon Mountain

Looking back towards Loon Mountain on the Tote Road Quad that connects to South Peak.
Looking back towards Loon Mountain on the Tote Road Quad that connects to South Peak.
When Loon Mountain in New Hampshire’s White Mountains designed their South Peak expansion a decade ago, they needed a way to move skiers between Loon Peak and South Peak over terrain too flat to ski.  Doppelmayr CTEC engineered the Tote Road quad, a two-way chairlift to transport skiers between the mountains.  This was a cheaper solution than building heavily-graded ski trails or a detachable gondola.

Doppelmayr CTEC Uni-Star drive terminal and loading area.
Doppelmayr CTEC Uni-Star drive terminal and loading area.
The drive terminal was sited along the Upper Bear Claw trail near the summit of Loon.  After loading here, the lift rises sharply to allow skiers coming from the other direction to cross underneath.  Tote Road descends modestly before climbing to the summit of South Peak.  The return terminal is located adjacent to the top of the Lincoln Express which also opened for the 2007-2008 season.  On the return trip from South Peak, skiers unload at a ramp well before the drive terminal but still close enough for the loading and unloading ramps to share one set of controls and a single lift shack.  To my knowledge, each end of Tote Road is always staffed by two operators even though Loon could theoretically get away with just one.

Tote Road has loading and unloading at each end.
Tote Road has loading and unloading at each end and three split towers.
Tote Road has 11 towers; the first three are split towers with different heights on each side. Its 89 chairs move 2,400 skiers per hour in each direction at 450 feet a minute.  Because the lift goes down before it goes up, the vertical distance between terminals is only 95 feet.  Slope length is just under 2,000 feet with a ride time of 4.3 minutes each way.  By these numbers, Tote Rode is a small lift but it is a very important link at one of the most visited resorts in the East.

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Lift Profile: Collins at Alta Ski Area

Most skiers who ride Collins have no idea they area actually riding two different lifts joined in the middle.
Most skiers who ride Collins have no idea they area actually riding two different lifts joined in the middle.

When it opened at Alta Ski Area in 2004, the new Collins lift was the 66-year old resort’s first base-to-summit lift.  It replaced two older Yan fixed-grip lifts and dramatically improved the skiing experience at Alta.  Collins is actually two detachable quad lifts joined in the middle at a 29-degree angle.  Its four Stealth III terminals were the last off the line following Doppelmayr and CTEC’s merger two years earlier.

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The lower section replaced the Collins double in a completely new alignment from the parking lot level of Alta’s Wildcat base area.  The Wildcat double’s bottom terminal was also moved downhill the same summer to be adjacent to Collins.  Stage I is only 2,727 feet long with a vertical rise of 741 feet, nine towers and ride time of 2.7 minutes.  It was designed to be able to operate independently at night with gondola cabins to serve events and dining at the Watson Shelter although this has yet to be realized.

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Approaching the 29-degree Collins angle station.

The angle station adjacent to Watson Shelter houses 500-HP drive motors for both sections.  There is no unloading at the angle station but skiers can load empty up-bound chairs.  Automated gates prevent skiers (remember this is Alta – no snowboarders) from attempting to load occupied chairs.  The last time I was at Alta, there was no loading at the mid-station until after 10 am to allow maximum capacity out of the base area.  After that, every 6th chair was left empty at the base to allow for loading at the mid-station.

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Lift Profile: Couloir Express at White Pass, WA

The Couloir Express is on the upper right of the White Pass trail map.
The Couloir Express is on the upper right of the White Pass trail map.

Located on the edge of Mt. Rainier National Park in the Washington Cascades, White Pass Ski Area has been operating continuously since 1956.  Until 2010, the entire ski area could be accessed from a single lift with a 1,500 foot vertical rise.  An ambitious expansion opened on December 4, 2010, doubling the size of the resort 33 years after it was first proposed to the Forest Service.  The 767-acre Paradise Basin addition includes two new Doppelmayr quads called Basin and Couloir Express as well as a new lodge and trails.  Both lifts were built mostly over snow to avoid road building in this former wilderness area.  Construction took place over two springs, taking a break for the summer and winter of 2009-10.

Building lifts over snow in 2010 with a unique construction schedule due to environmental concerns.
Building the Couloir Express over snow with a unique construction schedule due to environmental concerns.  Photo credit: White Pass Ski Area

The Couloir Express is the last Uni-GS model detachable that Doppelmayr built.  Designed specifically for North America, 44 GS detachable quads and six packs were built between 2003 and 2010.  Some resorts like Beaver Creek continued to order the Austrian-designed Uni-G so the GS never fully caught on.  Presumably it was phased out in 2010 to simplify production in a market with limited demand.

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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

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.

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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.

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