The coming chairlift apocalypse

The title of the thread may be a bit dramatic. But building off of ADKskiers's thread, the next 10-20 years will be an interesting time for a lot of the smaller ski areas.

Many rely now on 50+ year old chairlifts, some as their primary lift. In 10-20 years, these chairs would be 65-80 years old. This will mean a lot of replacements/upgrades for the smaller areas that could be quite expensive. It's hard to imagine some chairlifts lasting for 80 years without a massive upgrade, or the public wanting to ride lifts that are that old.

Of course we all love classic lifts, but they do have finite lifespans which aren't too far away.

All the more reason for us to patronize your favorite smaller area, especially with all the recent consolidations and special pass offerings that these smaller areas are not a part of.


  • Right you are. In CNY, for example, that is exactly the situation. The youngest chairlift at Labrador is a 1985 Borvig. The other two Halls are very early 70s builds. Don’t get me started on the age of their Hall t-bar.

    Song’s story is a little less bleak: the Riblet triples are a 1990 and 1999 build, the Doppelmayr double a 1987 build and the Riblet double a mid-sixties build. Their remaining Hall t-bar is un useable.
  • Magic is going through this transformation before our eyes.
  • edited September 10
    As mentioned earlier this seems like the case at Ski Blandford. I'm not sure what upgrades are taking place, but the mountain could not open last season due to lift safety issues.

    Ski Conditions Report: A detailed report describing the snow conditions on the mountain the day of your visit. Skiers should become familiar with the following snow surface descriptions: Ice: Packed Powder, Slush: Packed Powder, Frozen Granular: Packed Powder , Packed Powder - A thin covering of snow over bare earth.

  • I think a lot of the guts and electronics of these older lifts have been updated over the years. I believe both chairlifts at Plattekill have had substantial updates.
  • This thread makes me think of the Sunday River lift accident a couple of years ago. What was the age of that lift and has something like that ever happened anywhere else? Is there, or could there ever be some kind of test for that? Even in off season, those end bullwheels and structures are under tension. At what point in time/stress are they designed to fail?
    "Making ski films is being irresponsible with other people's money, in a responsible sort of way..." 
    Greg Stump
  • Sunday River failure was due to non-epoxy based grout used on ledge pinnings and heavy water intrusion. After that state Tramway boards made us locate all towers or terminals pinned to ledge and if so what grout what used. If that could not be determined a "pull test" or re-pinning was required.
  • Black Mountain (NH) recently posted on their Facebook page the famous Mark Twain quote "the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." I hadn't heard any rumors of their demise, but their chairlift situation must be keeping the owner awake at night.
  • I posted this on the wrong thread. I don't see any chairlift apocalypse coming.

    My take on lift replacement is that it is an ongoing thing. Most lifts that are replaced are upgrades: a double to a quad; a fixed grip to a detachable, etc.

    What can really go wrong with a lift? Even rotting tower footings can be replaced for a lot cheaper than a new lift installation.
  • The main concern is for smaller areas that won't have the money to rehab them - especially areas with just one main lift to the top. We've seen lots of mechanical issues at larger mountains that can afford to fix it, mostly from older lifts, so I would expect something similar at smaller areas. This is a long term, slowly developing issue in my mind.
  • It looks like Black Mountain, NH is having this issue.
    - Sam
  • It looks like Black Mountain, NH is having this issue.

    Both Black Mtn. and Temple Mtn. were founded in 1937 and both hit hard times in 1997. Temple went under. Black rebounded. Hard to imagine a place with Black's history going under. The other examples of larger areas (more than 800' vertical) with greater than 20 years of operation going under include Saddleback and Ascutney. I suspect there are others.
  • edited September 12
    They were all done until this announcement - very tough winter cash flow wise for them and the owner has been unwilling to adjust the schedule based on traffic patterns. Ghost town mid-week. Tough area to be in, lots of heavy hitters surrounding them.

    Their mountain manager (very talented) went to Attitash followng the close of the season. Not sure what prompted the change, but good to see Black give it another go. Great mountain.
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