Who Will Buy America’s First Eight Passenger Chairlift?
Eight new eight-passenger chairlifts debuted this ski season,
the highest number in history. Twenty years since the technology debuted,
Doppelmayr, Garaventa, Leitner and Poma have now built a combined 78 of these
mega chairlifts on three continents and in eleven countries.
With 2016 seeing the greatest number of eight-passenger chairlifts
constructed, a question on everybody’s mind should be: when will the
world’s second largest ski market finally build one?
Doppelmayr debuted eight-passenger chair technology in 1997 (in
Norway of all places) and continues to be the market leader, having
built two-thirds of those operating today. But for the first
time ever the Leitner-Poma Group installed more than Doppelmayr and
Garaventa combined last year. In 2006, Leitner built the first combined
installation with eight-passenger chairs and 10-passenger gondola cabins and
there are now seven of these across Europe. Bubble chairs and seat
heating came along in 2000 and nearly every new eight-passenger lift features
both these days. In total, 60 percent of eight seaters globally have
bubbles and half sport heated seats.
Austria is home to over 60 percent of the world’s
eight-passenger chairlifts and exactly five have ever made it
out of Europe. Australia and Asia each got their first in
2003 but several leading ski markets have never gone there – among
them Japan, Canada, China and the United States.
A record-breaking eight-passenger Poma in La Plagne, France
called Le Colosses can move 4,400 skiers skiers an hour.
Eight-packs could theoretically reach 4,800 pph. Contrast that
with North America, where, out of 3,080 operating lifts, exactly one has a
capacity over 4,000 (and just barely; Squaw’s Funitel clocks in at 4,032 pph.)
we look at who in North America could buy one of these behemoths,
understand that two-thirds of those already built have a capacity at
or below the maximum throughput of a six-pack. Some eight-seaters out
there move fewer people than a high-speed quad and one even below the standard
for a triple chair. In other words, most global operators buy these
lifts not purely to move the most skiers but rather for a marketing
That brings us to North American ski resorts whose brands scream
size. Killington is The Beast. Vail is Like Nothing on
Earth. Whistler-Blackcomb is number one at everything and Mammoth is
Mammoth. The other category is resorts with two, three, or even four
lifts running parallel that could all be replaced with one signature lift.
Summit West at Snoqualmie, Mary Jane at Winter Park and Snowshed at
Killington (again) come to mind.
new lift technologies debut in the Alps and cross the pond eventually in a
limited way. Among those were bubbles and heated seats, double loading and a
lone 3S. Twenty years in with record global construction, I’m going to go
out on a limb and predict an eight-pack debuts in the U.S. or Canada by
December 2018. Us lift nuts have waited long enough.