Big Sky Flies Towers for America’s Most High-Tech Chairlift

A UH-60 “Black Hawk” from Timberline Helicopters carries a tower head for the new bowl chair at Big Sky Resort September 11, 2016.
With a helicopter flying towers this week and Austrian-built chairs arriving, skiers are just a few months away from riding America’s most technologically advanced chairlift in the bowl at Big Sky Resort.  Featuring blue bubbles, heated seats, headrests and innovative footrests, Big Sky will be the first public ski resort in North America to get Doppelmayr’s six-passenger CS10 chair (the private Hermitage Club in Vermont got them last year.)  The yet-to-be-named Lone Peak lift will initially feature 33 flying couches with footrests between riders’ legs to prevent children from falling.  These chairs are the latest and greatest from Doppelmayr and will be used on future lifts built over the next ten years as part of Big Sky 2025.

33 chairs arrived from Austria last week and feature Big Sky blue bubbles, heated seats, headrests and more.
Brian Jorgenson from Timberline Helicopters began flying 12 lift towers on Sunday and will haul the rest later this week.  The same Black Hawk will also set 17 towers for the new Challenger lift, a Doppelmayr triple chair.  Wind stopped Brian from flying around lunchtime yesterday (and today it’s snowing) but both projects are on schedule thanks to the hard work of Big Sky’s mountain operations team, the Doppelmayr USA crew and their contractors.

The new bowl lift will dramatically improve upon the old Lone Peak Triple, cutting a 6.2 minute ride to just three minutes.  The triple chair opened in 1973 and was among two remaining lifts from the Chet Huntley era.  Challenger and Lone Peak are the first all-new lifts built at Big Sky since 2005 and hopefully the first of many upgrades and additions.  Capacity in the bowl will remain the same at first – 1,800 skiers per hour – with the ability to upgrade the six-pack to 3,200 pph in the future.  Thirty-three six-place chairs running 985 feet per minute will move the same number of skiers as the old lift did with 122 triple chairs!  The bowl lift is designed for 26 chairs to be added as needed for an eventual total of 59.

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Construction Underway on New Lifts at Big Sky

Challenger looks to be getting a Doppelmayr Tristar drive terminal.

Next winter is going to be huge at Big Sky with a bubble six-pack detachable opening in The Bowl and a new triple chair replacing the legendary Challenger double.  Doppelmayr is off to a solid start with terminal and tower footings going in for both lifts.  Big Sky is known for its crazy steeps and rocky terrain which makes both projects challenging.

Challenger Triple

New footing for Challenger tower #2.

From what I can tell approximately half the old Challenger tower bases from 1988 will be re-used on the new lift.  Dyer All Terrain Excavation was working on the upper section of Challenger with a spider hoe today.  The only way to the top of Challenger is scrambling on foot or riding the Headwaters chair from the Moonlight side.

One of the footings that will be re-used.

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