Sunday River removes Chondola cabins
once in a while, something goes missing at Sunday River. Something big, red,
and famous. Any guesses?
guessed a snowcat, Eddy the Yeti’s bright red convertible, or a really tall
famous guy’s red skis, congratulations: you are wrong.
guessed the Chondola cabins (ding ding ding!)…we have a winner!
what’s a Chondola?” you might ask, “and… why do its cabins go missing?!?”
Let me explain.
Chondola, arguably Sunday River’s most famous lift, boasts a mix of six-person
chairs and eight-person gondola cabins. The lift was engineered by Dopplemayr
and installed in 2008. It’s a state-of-the-art machine and quite sophisticated.
Gondola-goers board on the 9-o’clock point of the bullwheel; chair-riders board
at the 3-o’clock point. The lineup alternates: 1 cabin, then 4 chairs, then
another cabin… you get the picture. At the top, chair-riders get off on the
right, gondola-goers unload on the left, and all is at peace in the world.
cabins are the bees’ knees when conditions are… let’s say… “unfavorable”—nothing
makes you feel cozier than clambering into a warm gondola on a chilly day—and
great for whisking non-skiing and riding folk up to the Peak Lodge for a fancy
dinner or just to see the sights. In short, they’re super cool. However, they’re
also heavy and enclosed, making them not as compatible with windy conditions as
the lighter, more permeable chairs are. Some genius saw this problem coming and
designed the Chondola to have a “reroute” option: on windy days, the gondola
cabins can actually be sidelined like a junior varsity soccer team. Here’s how
Chondola consists of 60 chairs and 15 cabins. When the forecast is calling for
a particularly gusty day, the Lift Maintenance squad is sent in to work their
magic. Where chairs and cabins usually swing left around the bullwheel at the
top is an alternate rail that can be moved in as a cabin approaches to divert
it to the right. It’s all computerized, but it still takes 1 minute, 20 seconds
for the reroute arm to swing in and the original rail to swing out, so there’s
a lot of stop-and-go. Once a cabin is safely parked in its holding pen, the
reroute arm is pulled away and the original rail is moved back into place to
allow the next four chairs to continue around the bullpen and on their merry
way back down the mountain.
a tricky piece to this game, though–the very computer that is so helpful in
moving the reroute arm in and out of place also re-spaces the chairs as they go
through the bullwheel so there aren’t any gaps where the cabins used to be.
That’s all well and good… until it’s time to put the cabins back on. The same
basic computer program moves the reroute rail back into place and the cabins
are pushed back online, one at a time, every four chairs… but then everything
has to be respaced again. It takes two full laps, roughly 3.5 hours, and 4
people to restore the Chondola back to its hybrid glory!
definitely a pain in the rump to bench the Chondola’s cabins, so we reserve the
option for busy, gusty days when we really want the Chondola to run no matter
what the conditions are. We think it’s pretty cool we even have the option to
divert them, and they do look pretty adorable when they’re sidelined—like a
bunch of cherry tomatoes on a vine. But do us a favor: the next time you notice
our favorite red buddies are missing, give a mental high-five to the Lift
Operations and Maintenance team for their patience…. and enjoy your ride up to