Six Packs

TomWhiteTomWhite advanced
in NELSAP Forum Posts: 311

‘Six-packs’ advance lift tech,
capabilities

BY
THE NUMBERS

3,084: Chairlifts in
North America.

74: Six-place lifts
operating.

17: Six-place lifts at
Vail Resorts’ ski areas.

1: Eight-place lift at
Perisher on Australia.

Sources: Liftblog.com,
Vail Resorts.

EAGLE COUNTY — Before
sliding down a hill, it’s first necessary to go up that hill. For those not in
the mood to snowshoe, getting uphill is getting easier every season.

Vail Resorts announced
late last year it will this summer replace its four-person Northwoods lift at
Vail with a new six-person lift. There are also plans for new six-person lifts
at Breckenridge and Keystone.

When those lifts are
finished, Vail Resorts will operate 20 six-seater lifts. The current roster of
17 six-seater lifts — operating at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone,
Park City, Heavenly and Northstar — makes up a sizable portion of the 74 “six
packs” running this winter.

In an email, Vail
Resorts spokeswoman Sally Gunter wrote that the idea behind the higher-capacity
lifts is to “reduce lift line wait times and increase skier and snowboarder
circulation throughout the mountain.”

And, Gunter added, the
company is meeting those goals.

Six-person lifts
aren’t new. The first was built in 1991, and 2000 marked the high point for
construction of the bigger lifts, when eight were built in North America.

Peter Landsman, of
Jackson, Wyoming, has had a lifelong interest in uphill transport, and runs the
Liftblog website.

While overall skier
numbers in North America have been flat for a number of years, Landsman said
the bigger chairs have some advantages.

“You can run them in
high winds when you can’t run a quad lift,” Landsman said. And, of course,
“Vail (Resorts) buys them for capacity.”

While any new
equipment costs a good bit of money, Landsman said upgrading from a four-person
to a six-person lift is relatively economical.

LITTLE
RED TAPE

Many of the upgraded
lifts run along the same paths as the lifts they replace. For ski areas
operating on U.S. Forest Service or other federally-owned property, that means
lifts can be replaced with relatively little in the way of federal approval.

And, with quad lifts
still dominant in the industry, Landsman said its possible to re-use that older
equipment to upgrade even older lifts elsewhere.

“Vail Resorts actually
sent some of the old (quad) equipment to their new mountains in the Midwest,”
he said.

A six-person lift can
add about 30 percent more capacity to a route — as much as 3,600 people per
hour. But perhaps the biggest change in lift technology came many years ago.

Vail resident and
former Mayor Andy Daly is a long-time veteran of the ski industry and is
currently a co-owner of the Powderhorn ski area near Grand Junction.

Daly said the real
revolution was the “detachable” lift, which can slow at its terminals and speed
up on the trip from bottom to top.

Fixed-grip lifts,
whether in two-, three- or four-seat capacity, could run at between 450 and 500
feet per minute. That made loading and unloading an often-tricky proposition.

The advent of
detachable chairs meant lifts could slow to 100 feet per minute for loading and
unloading.

“That gave you an
opportunity to organize six people and get them on the chair in an orderly
way,” Daly said. “That’s important when they’re disembarking — everybody gets
off conveniently.”

Besides the ability to
slow down at the terminals, detachable chairs also go faster than their
fixed-grip counterparts. Passengers can ride uphill at more than twice the
speed of a fixed-grip chair, which then slows to 20 percent of a fixed-grip’s
speed at the terminals.

“That gives guests
time to gather their composure, and get off the lift in a safe manner,” Daly
said.

While six-person lifts
are helping ease congestion at North American resorts, that isn’t the end of
chairlift technology.

Landsman said a few
eight-person lifts are operating in Europe and Australia. One of those
eight-place lifts is at Perisher, now owned by Vail Resorts.

Vail Daily Business
Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and
@scottnmiller.

http://www.vaildaily.com/news/six-packs-advance-lift-tech-capabilities/

Comments

  • TomWhiteTomWhite advanced
    Posts: 311
    Below is what Peter Landsman said in his blog after the above article. Hum, 1980's HSQs, Stowe had much trouble with their original Forerunner. I wonder if there are wide spread problems with this vintage.

    • 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.
  • obienickobienick expert
    edited January 19 Posts: 722
    When will 8-packs hit the US? I think it might be something great for say Snowshed, where there is a HSQ and 2 (now 1 as of the '16-'17 season) double(s).

    There's more than just 1 8-pack lift. There's at least 4 references listed on Doppelmayr's website.

    Trivia:  there is a fixed-grip six-pack in Canada, only one in North America (if not the world).  Aptly named "Wide Load" and is located at Snow Valley – Barrie, ON
  • MrMagicMrMagic advanced
    Posts: 107
    obienick said:

    When will 8-packs hit the US? I think it might be something great for say Snowshed, where there is a HSQ and 2 (now 1 as of the '16-'17 season) double(s).


    There's more than just 1 8-pack lift. There's at least 4 references listed on Doppelmayr's website.

    Trivia:  there is a fixed-grip six-pack in Canada, only one in North America (if not the world).  Aptly named "Wide Load" and is located at Snow Valley – Barrie, ON

    I didn't know they removed one of those snowshed doubles I actually rode that lift a few years back when Killington had a good ice event and the detach chairs were on hold literally the only time I have ever used it
  • JimKJimK advanced
    Posts: 185
    I'm getting a hilarious image in my mind of eight New Yorker beginners trying to load and offload an 8-pack at Snowshed.
  • DrJeffDrJeff advanced
    Posts: 248
    obienick said:

    When will 8-packs hit the US? I think it might be something great for say Snowshed, where there is a HSQ and 2 (now 1 as of the '16-'17 season) double(s).


    There's more than just 1 8-pack lift. There's at least 4 references listed on Doppelmayr's website.

    Trivia:  there is a fixed-grip six-pack in Canada, only one in North America (if not the world).  Aptly named "Wide Load" and is located at Snow Valley – Barrie, ON
    I'm not holding my breath for an imminent arrival of an 8 pack in the US, until most resorts can find a truly efficient way to successfully load and unload a 6 pack that serves the masses.  Let's be honest, an 8 pack, if and when it arrives in the US, is going to go to a high volume resort in a high volume core lift access area of the mountain - a lift that will see a large amount of lower level skiers and riders and lesson groups.  The type of demographic where loading and unloading a lift can be an issue and lift stoppages apply.  The last thing I'm guessing an area wants is a new signature 8 pack, that stops multiple times on the way up on busy weekends due to people crashing while loading or unloading.  

    As much as I LOVE my 6 pack Bluebird Express at Mount Snow, it does stop due to loading and unloading issues (even with 9 second chair spacing as opposed to the more typical 6 second chair spacing on most lifts) because of people not be ready to load it (more like staring at the lift as it's entering the base terminal rather than actually going through the loading gates when they open!!) or at the top people unloading and rather then just skiing/riding straight off the lift, they try and cut across the paths of those they just rode up the mountain with and cause a crash that requires the lift to be stopped to clear away the "carnage" before the next chair unloads!  IMHO, when you're talking 8 or more on one lift, I think that a gondola or tram is the way to go, rather than a skis/board on, slide away immediately chair
  • newmannewman advanced
    Posts: 137
    I think an 8 pack would be perfect where Mountain Creek NJ has the Cabrolet. Good times.
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