News Roundup: Decisions, Decisions

  • With approvals inked, Steamboat considers whether to build a second gondola or the Pioneer Ridge expansion first.
  • The Kohlmaisbahn in Saalbach, Austria becomes the first gondola spotted with Omega V cabins.
  • The Hermitage may miss Christmas.
  • Catch a glimpse of the new Winter Park gondola cabinsKillington too!
  • The eight urban gondolas in La Paz transported a 318,532 riders last Wednesday – a crazy new single day record.
  • Thanks to community support, Antelope Butte is poised to reopen with two chairlifts.
  • After having its summer camp shut down by the state of New Hampshire, Granite Gorge likely won’t open for downhill skiing this winter.
  • The ex-Gore Mountain employee who claimed he was left on a lift overnight last winter is convicted of making a false statement to police and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
  • Mont Gleason, Quebec will build a fixed grip quad with loading carpet next summer.
  • The Iron Mountain Tramway in Glenwood Springs is carrying its final riders next Sunday as Leitner-Poma mobilizes to build an improved gondola this winter.
  • Thanks to Jared Emerson for taking me around the newest North American lift by LST Ropeways at Waterville Valley.  She’s a beauty!
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One of a Kind Chondola Coming to Grafton, Illinois

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Coming soon: a gondola along the Mississippi River.

Two days before Halloween, Colorado’s Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will close for the longest stretch in years so its pulse gondola can be replaced with a detachable one.  The Iron Mountain Tramway is a 2002 Poma model and I’m happy to report it will find a new home 1,000 miles down I-70.  SkyTrans Manufacturing has purchased most of the machine and will will turn it into a fixed-grip chondola at Aerie’s Resort in Grafton, Illinois.  This town of 675 sees more than 1.5 million cars pass through each year and Aerie’s already operates a winery and zip line on the site.  The lift, to be known as the Grafton Sky Tour, is a joint venture of the resort, SkyTrans, and ride operator SkyFair.  “The goal is to build something that is not only a unique year-round attraction, but also a substantial revenue generator for the city and a boon to the entire Riverbend tourism experience,” the companies said in a press release.  The Sky Tour will be the only combination lift in the Midwest and only the second fixed-grip chondola in North America.

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The Iron Mountain Tramway has just over a month left in its current location.

The gondola will undergo a bunch of changes for its new mission.  Because Leitner-Poma is reusing the 18 towers in Glenwood, SkyTrans will fabricate new ones for Grafton.  The company will also swap the 400 HP DC drive and system with a 100 HP AC one (vertical matters!)  There are 18 CWA Omega cabins currently on the Iron Mountain lift, 12 of which will make it on the chondola in groups of three.  15 triple chairs will fill in between gondola pods for a total of 72 carriers.  A similar Leitner-Poma lift at Anakeesta, Tennessee has a 26 chair-2 cabin cadence and operates at only 200 feet per minute.  A one way Sky Tour will last just over 13 minutes.

Aerie’s owner Jeff Lorton and late SkyTrans leader Jerry Pendleton dreamed up the idea for a lift in Grafton five years ago and it was presented to town leadership last spring.  The $2 million project is anticipated to open around Memorial Day.

Glenwood Caverns Gondola to Go Detachable in 2019

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The Iron Mountain Tramway provides the only guest access to a popular adventure park called Glenwood Caverns along Interstate 70.

Colorado’s growing Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will make a major lift upgrade in 2019, swapping its pulse gondola system for a detachable oneThe Iron Mountain Tramway is a 2002 Poma Alpha model with 16 6-passenger Omega cabins that currently moves up to 300 guests per hour.  From early 2019, a new Leitner-Poma detachable gondola is planned to more than triple capacity to 1,000 per hour with 44 six passenger cabins.  Ride time will plunge from 12-15 minutes down to just seven.  “This will help us enhance our guests’ experience by reducing wait times to board the tram and reducing the frequency of weather-related tram closures,” noted the park’s general manager, Nancy Heard in a press release.  “It will be more stable in high-wind conditions, and will eliminate 80 percent of the shutdowns caused by wind and lightning.”

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This terminal will be replaced with a new LPA one along with new cabins and a new haul rope.

Sixteen years after Steve and Jeanne Beckley opened the adventure park in Glenwood, it now averages 205,000 visitors annually and the tramway sometimes experiences 60 to 90 minute wait times.  New tropical model Sigma Diamond cabins will feature additional ventilation and lightning arresters will be added to the towers in hopes of achieving more up time.  Pending local approval, construction will begin November 1st and continue for four months, during which the park will be closed.  Existing towers will be reused while the terminals will be completely replaced (the new drive system will shift to the top terminal.)  The unique tower-mounted utility lines that have been in service since opening day will also be buried and a new two-story administration building constructed in time for the park’s 17th season.

Lift Profile: Iron Mountain Tramway

Three cabins near the summit of the Iron Mountain Tramway in Glenwood Springs, CO.
Three cabins nearing the summit of the Iron Mountain Tramway in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

The Iron Mountain Tramway provides the only public access to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  Built by Leitner-Poma in 2002, it was one of the first pulse gondolas to open in North America.  The system debuted with four sets of two CWA Omega III cabins and now has six pulses of three for a total of 18 cabins.  Ultimate design capacity is 36 cabins in groups of three which would achieve a capacity of 543 passengers per hour per direction.   With a top speed of 1,000 feet per minute, the trip takes about seven minutes including two slows along the way.  If more pulses are added, the trip time will increase as the system slows to a crawl whenever cabins are loading and unloading.  This is one of the disadvantages of pulse systems.

Notice the entire center loading platform and guides move hydraulically with the motor room above.
The entire center loading platform and guides move hydraulically with the motor room above.

The gondola rises 1,351 feet and has a slope length is 4,432 feet.  The bottom drive terminal is a Poma Alpha model with a 400 HP electric motor.  Because this is also the tension terminal, the entire loading platform moves hydraulically with the motor room and bullwheel.

Bottom terminal adjacent to Interstate 70.
Bottom terminal adjacent to Interstate 70.

A unique feature of this installation is that the 18 towers also support water, natural gas and sewer lines for the summit facilities.  All three lines are suspended from a 3/16″ cable attached just under each tower’s crossarm.  The water line supplies 42 gallons per minute to a tank located at the summit.  The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board approved transport of natural gas along the line because the fiberglass pipe used has a safety factor of 30 relative to the pressure of the gas.

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