Chair Falls at Heavenly, Lift Evacuated

According to published reports, an unoccupied chair fell from the light side of Heavenly’s North Bowl triple just before 11:00 am today.  As a result, approximately 65 people were evacuated from the lift in about two hours.  The incident is under investigation.  North Bowl is a 1984 Riblet triple with insert clips.  The video below shows a skier being lowered by rope and North Bowl will remain closed until further notice.

Oldest Operating Lifts in the US & Canada

1. Single Chair, Mad River Glen, VT – 1948 American Steel & Wire Single Chair

The single chair at MRG still has its original towers and terminal structures but everything else was replaced by Doppelmayr CTEC in 2007.  As part of that project, towers were removed, sandblasted and repainted before being flown back to new foundations with new line gear.  Doppelmayr also replaced the bullwheels, chairs, grips, drive and haul rope.  This begs the question of ‘when is an old lift a new lift?’

2. Gatlinburg Sky Lift, Gatlinburg, TN – 1954 Riblet double

Everett Kircher of Boyne fame bought this chairlift from Sugar Bowl, CA for $3,000 in 1954.  Originally it was a single chair built in 1939.  Modified sheave assemblies were machined at the Kircher’s car dealership in Michigan when the lift went to Tennessee.  At some point it appears to have gotten newer-style Riblet towers.  Boyne Resorts still operates this lift 800 miles from their nearest ski resort. (edit: JP notes in the comments below that this version was replaced by a Riblet double in 1991.  Thanks JP!)

3. Chair 1, White Pass, WA – 1955 1962 Riblet double

This lift only operates on busy weekends and holidays but it’s an old one and a good one .  A classic Pacific Northwest center-pole double with very few modifications from its original design and no safety bars! (edit: Brian notes in the comments that this lift was actually installed as Chair 2 in 1962.  The original chair 1 operated 1955-1994.)

Chair one at White Pass lives on despite an adjacent high speed quad.

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Lift Profile: Spokane Falls SkyRide

The only lift I know of that crosses under a major bridge.

The $2.5 million Spokane Falls SkyRide is one of only a handful of lifts in North America owned by city government.  Doppelmayr CTEC built the pulse gondola in 2005 to replace a Riblet version that debuted in 1974.  Riders board at the drive station in downtown Spokane’s Riverfront Park.  The gondola travels down through the park, across the Spokane River and under a four-lane bridge before turning around.  All this happens in only 1,120 feet.  It takes 15 minutes to ride round-trip at a painful 150 feet per minute (the design speed is 600 fpm.)  The gondola’s turnaround station on the far bank of the river does not have loading/unloading or even an operator.  A ticket for the SkyRide costs $7.50 and it operates year-round.

Looking down at one of five pulses of cabins.
Looking down at one of five pulses of cabins.

Spokane’s original Riverfront SkyRide, built by Riblet, ran in a similar alignment from 1974 to 2005.  (Riblet built over 500 lifts in a shop three miles away.)  The Riblet version of the SkyRide had open air cabins but the new one has 15 CWA Omega 6-passenger cabins.  Because the cabins are enclosed, the SkyRide shuts down when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees, which happens fifty days a year in Spokane.  Last year Doppelmayr developed a plan to retrofit cabins with larger opening windows but so far these have not been installed.  Despite this issue, over 70,000 people ride the SkyRide every year.

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Lifts by State (and Province)

Ever wanted to know how many lifts are operating in each state?  Read on.  Colorado has the most operating lifts of any state with 275.  California is close behind with 263 followed by New York (189) and Michigan (165).  There are only 9 states with more than 100 lifts each.  The majority of states have fewer than 20 lifts today.  Five sad states have no aerial lifts at all to my knowledge – Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii and Louisiana.  (Louisiana used to have a 6-passenger Poma gondola called MART that crossed the Mississippi River.)

Each one of Canada’s 10 provinces has at least 3 lifts used for skiing.  Only the Nunavut and Northwest Territories do not have a lift.  Quebec has the most lifts by far with 226 followed by British Columbia (165), Ontario (162), and Alberta (87).

The average age of lifts varies significantly by region.  Maryland’s 7 lifts average 17 years old while Ohio’s 33 lifts are more than twice as old at 34.4 years.  Utah and Montana stand out as having new lifts averaging 19.4 and 19.9 years old, respectively.  Places with really old lifts tend to be in the East and Midwest.  Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and New York all have lifts that average more than 30 years old.

It’s also interesting to look at which brand has the most operating lifts in each state/province.  25 states/provinces are dominated by brands which disappeared decades ago – Yan, Riblet, Borvig and Hall.  Borvig dominates in 5 eastern states – IL, VA, IA, ME, and PA.  Hall lifts are pervasive in many eastern states – ND, CT, MA, NY, WI, MN, OH, and SC.  Riblet still dominates all of the northwest and some of the midwest – MO, OR, WA, SD, AK, NM, IN, MI, and KY.  Yan takes its home state of Nevada and neighboring California and Arizona.

Doppelmayr is the most common lift brand in surprisingly few states – MD, GA, MT, NJ, NH, ID, and NC.  The story is different in Canada where Doppelmayr is the top brand in most of the country – BC, MB, SK, AB, QC, and NB.  Despite being gone for a decade, CTEC and GaraventaCTEC are still the most popular in Utah, Wyoming and West Virginia (thanks solely to Snowshoe Resort.)  Finally Poma and Leitner-Poma take their home state of CO plus VT and ON, NL, PEI and NS in Canada.