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An elevated passenger ropeway, or chairlift, is a type of aerial lift, which consists of a continuously circulating steel wire rope loop strung between two end terminals and usually over intermediate towers, carrying a series of chairs. They are the primary onhill transport at most ski areas (in such cases referred to as 'skilifts'), but are also found at amusement parks, various tourist attractions, and increasingly in urban transport.
Depending on carrier size and loading efficiency, a passenger ropeway can move up to 4000 people per hour, and the fastest lifts achieve operating speeds of up to 12 m/s (39.4 ft/s) or 43.2 km/h (26.8 mph). The two-person double chair, which for many years was the workhorse of the ski industry, can move roughly 1200 people per hour at rope speeds of up to 2.5 m/s (8.2 ft/s). The four person detachable chairlift ("high-speed quad") can transport 2400 people per hour with an average rope speed of 5 m/s (16.4 ft/s). Some bi and tri cable elevated ropeways and reversible tramways achieve much greater operating speeds.[ citation needed ]
A chairlift consists of numerous components to provide safe efficient transport.
Especially at American ski areas, chairlifts are referred to with a ski industry vernacular. A one-person lift is a "single", a two-person lift is a "double", a three-person lift a “triple”, four-person lifts are “quads”, and a six-person lift is a "six pack". If the lift is a detachable chairlift, it is typically referred to as a “high-speed” or "express" lift, which results in an “express quad” or “high-speed six pack”.
The capacity of a lift is constrained by the motive power (prime mover), the rope speed, the carrier spacing, the vertical displacement, and the number of carriers on the rope (a function of the rope length). Human passengers can load only so quickly until loading efficiency decreases; usually an interval of at least five seconds is needed.
The rope is the defining characteristic of an elevated passenger ropeway. The rope stretches and contracts as the tension exerted upon it increases and decreases, and it bends and flexes as it passes over sheaves and around the bullwheels. The fibre core contains a lubricant which protects the rope from corrosion and also allows for smooth flexing operation. The rope must be regularly lubricated to ensure safe operation and long life.
Various techniques are used for constructing the rope. Dozens of wires are wound into a strand. Several strands are wound around a textile core, their twist oriented in the same or opposite direction as the individual wires; this is referred to as Lang lay and regular lay respectively.
Rope is constructed in a linear fashion, and must be spliced together before carriers are affixed. Splicing involves unwinding long sections of either end of the rope, and then winding each strand from opposing ends around the core. Sections of rope must be removed, as the strands overlap during the splicing process.
Every lift involves at least two terminals and may also have intermediate supporting towers. A bullwheel in each terminal redirects the rope, while sheaves (pulley assemblies) on the towers support the rope well above the ground. The number of towers is engineered based on the length and strength of the rope, worst case environmental conditions, and the type of terrain traversed. The bullwheel with the prime mover is called the drive bullwheel; the other is the return bullwheel. Chairlifts are usually electrically powered, often with Diesel or gasoline engine backup, and sometimes a hand crank tertiary backup. Drive terminals can be located either at the top or the bottom of an installation; though the top-drive configuration is more efficient,practicalities of electric service might dictate bottom-drive.
The drive terminal is also the location of a lift's primary braking system. The service brake is located on the drive shaft beside the main drive, before the gearbox. The emergency brake acts directly on the bullwheel. While not technically a brake, an anti-rollback device (usually a cam) also acts on the bullwheel. This prevents the potentially disastrous situation of runaway reverse operation.
The rope must be tensioned to compensate for sag caused by wind load and passenger weight, variations in rope length due to temperature and to maintain friction between the rope and the drive bullwheel. Tension is provided either by a counterweight system or by hydraulic or pneumatic rams, which adjust the position of the bullwheel carriage to maintain design tension. For most chairlifts, the tension is measured in tons.
Either Diesel engines or electric motors can function as prime movers. The power can range from under 7.5 kW (10 hp) for the smallest of lifts, to more than 750 kW (1000 hp) for a long, swift, detachable eight-seat up a steep slope. DC electric motors and DC drives are the most common, though AC motors and AC drives are becoming economically competitive for certain smaller chairlift installations. DC drives are less expensive than AC variable-frequency drives and were used almost exclusively until the 21st century when costs of AC variable-frequency drive technology dropped. DC motors produce more starting torque than AC motors, so applications of AC motors on chairlifts is largely limited to smaller chairlift installations, otherwise the AC motor would need to be significantly oversized relative to the equivalent horsepower DC motor.
The driveshaft turns at high RPM, but with lower torque. The gearbox transforms high RPM/low torque rotation into a low RPM/high torque drive at the bullwheel. More power is able to pull heavier loads or sustain a higher rope speed (the power of a force is the rate at which it does work, and is given by the product of the driving force and the cable velocity) .
In most localities, the prime mover is required to have a backup drive; this is usually provided by a Diesel engine that can operate during power outages. The purpose of the backup is to permit clearing the rope to ensure the safety of passengers; it usually is much less powerful and is not used for normal operation. The secondary drive connects with the drive shaft before the gear box, usually with a chain coupling.
Some chairlifts are also equipped with an auxiliary drive, to be used to continue regular operation in the event of a problem with the prime mover. Some lifts even have a hydrostatic coupling so the driveshaft of a snowcat can drive the chairlift.[ citation needed ]
Carriers are designed to seat 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, or 8 passengers. Each is connected to the cable with a steel cable grip that is either clamped onto or woven into the cable. Clamping systems use either a bolt system or coiled spring or magnets to provide clamping force. For maintenance or servicing, the carriers may be removed from or relocated along the rope by loosening the grip.
Also called a retention baror safety bar, these may help hold passengers in the chair in the same way as a safety bar in an amusement park ride. If equipped, each chair has a retractable bar, sometimes with attached foot rests. In most configurations, a passenger may reach up and behind their head, grab the bar or a handle, and pull the restraint forward and down. Once the bar has swung sufficiently, gravity assists positioning the bar to its down limit. Before disembarking, the bar must be swung up, out of the way.
The physics of a passenger sitting properly in a chairlift do not require use of a restraining bar. If the chairlift stops suddenly (as from use of the system emergency brake), the carrier's arm connecting to the grip pivots smoothly forward—driven by the chair's inertia—and maintains friction (and seating angle) between the seat and passenger. The restraining bar is useful for children—who do not fit comfortably into adult sized chairs—as well as apprehensive passengers, and for those who are disinclined or unable to sit still. In addition, restraining bars with footrests reduce muscle fatigue from supporting the weight of a snowboard or skis, especially during long lift rides. The restraining bar is also useful in very strong wind and when the chair is coated by ice.
Some ski areas mandate the use of safety bars on dangerous or windy lifts, with forfeiture of the lift ticket as a penalty. Vermont and Massachusetts state law also require the use of safety bars,[ citation needed ] as well as most Ontario and Quebec in Canada.[ citation needed ]
Restraining bars (almost always with foot rests) on chairlifts are more common in Europe and also naturally used by passengers of all ages. Some chairlifts have restraining bars that open and close automatically.
Some lifts also have individual canopies which can be lowered to protect against inclement weather. The canopy, or bubble, is usually constructed of transparent acrylic glass or fiberglass. In most designs, passenger legs are unprotected; however in rain or strong wind this is considerably more comfortable than no canopy. Among more notable bubble lifts are the Ramcharger 8 at Big Sky Resort, North America's first high speed eight pack; and the longest bubble lift in the world is the American Flyer high speed six pack at Copper Mountain.
To maintain safe operation, the chairlift's control system monitors sensors and controls system parameters. Expected variances are compensated for; out-of-limit and dangerous conditions cause system shutdown. In the unusual instance of system shutdown, inspection by technicians, repair or evacuation might be needed. Both fixed and detachable lifts have sensors to monitor rope speed and hold it within established limits for each defined system operating speed. Also, the minimum and maximum rope tension, and speed feedback redundancy are monitored.
Many—if not most—installations have numerous safety sensors which detect rare but potentially hazardous situations, such as the rope coming out of an individual sheave.
Detachable chairlift control systems measure carrier grip tension [ citation needed ]during each detach and attach cycle, verify proper carrier spacing and verify correct movement of the detached carriers through the terminals.
Aerial lifts have a variety of mechanisms to ensure safe operation over a lifetime often measured in decades. In June 1990, Winter Park Resort performed planned destructive safety testing on Eskimo, a 1963 Riblet Tramway Company two-chair, center-pole fixed grip lift, as it was slated for removal and replacement with a high-speed quad Poma lift. The destructive testing attempted to mimic potential real-life operating scenarios, including tests for braking, rollback, oily rope, tree on line, fire, and tower pull.The data gleaned from this destructive safety testing helped improve the safety and construction of both existing as well as the next generation of chairlifts.
As mentioned above, there are multiple redundant braking systems. When a Normal Stop is activated from the control panel, the lift will be slowed and stopped using regenerative braking through the electric motor and the service brake located on the highspeed shaft between the gearbox and electric motor. When an Emergency Stop is activated all power is cut to the motor and the emergency brake or bull-wheel brake is activated. In the case of a rollback, some lifts utilize a ratchet like system to prevent the bull-wheel from spinning backwards while newer installations utilize sensors which activate one or more bull-wheel brakes. All braking systems are fail-safe in that a loss of power or hydraulic pressure will activate the brake. Older chairlifts, for example 1960s-era Riblet Tramway Company lifts, have a hydraulic release emergency brake with pressure maintained by a hydraulic solenoid. If the emergency brake/stop button is depressed by any control panel, the lift cannot be restarted until the hydraulic brake is hand-pumped to proper operating pressure.
Some installations use brittle bars to detect several hazardous situations. Brittle bars alongside the sheaves detect the rope coming out of the track. They may also be placed to detect counterweight or hydraulic ram movement beyond safe parameters (sometimes called a brittle fork in this usage) and to detect detached carriers leaving the terminal's track. If a brittle bar breaks, it interrupts a circuit which causes the system controller to immediately stop the system.
These are small hooks sometimes installed next to sheaves to catch the rope and prevent it from falling if it should come out of the track. They are designed to allow passage of chair grips while the lift is stopping and for evacuation.It is extremely rare for the rope to leave the sheaves.
In May 2006, a cable escaped the sheaves on the Arthurs Seat, Victoria chairlift in Australia causing four chairs to crash into one another. No one was injured, though 13 passengers were stranded for four hours. The operator blamed mandated changes in the height of some towers to improve clearance over a road.
Passenger loading and unloading is supervised by lift operators. Their primary purpose is to ensure passenger safety by checking that passengers are suitably outfitted for the elements and not wearing or transporting items which could entangle chairs, towers, trees, etc. If a misload or missed unload occurs—or is imminent—they slow or stop the lift to prevent carriers from colliding with or dragging any person. Also, if the exit area becomes congested, they will slow or stop the chair until safe conditions are established.
The lift operators at the terminals of a chairlift communicate with each other to verify that all terminals are safe and ready when restarting the system. Communication is also used to warn of an arriving carrier with a passenger missing a ski, or otherwise unable to efficiently unload, such as patients being transported in a rescue toboggan. These uses are the chief purpose for a visible identification number on each carrier.
Aerial ropeways always have several backup systems in the event of failure of the prime mover. An additional electric motor, diesel or gasoline engine—even a hand crank—allows movement of the rope to eventually unload passengers. In the event of a failure which prevents rope movement, ski patrol may conduct emergency evacuation using a simple rope harness looped over the aerial ropeway to lower passengers to the ground one by one.
A steel line strung alongside a mountain is likely to attract lightning strikes. To protect against that and electrostatic buildup, all components of the system are electrically bonded together and connected to one or many grounding systems connecting the lift system to earth ground. In areas subject to frequent electrical strikes, a protective aerial line is fixed above the aerial ropeway. A red sheave may indicate it is a grounding sheave.[ citation needed ]
In most jurisdictions, chairlifts must be load inspected and tested periodically. The typical test consists of loading the uphill chairs with bags of water (secured in boxes) weighing more than the worst case passenger loading scenario. The system's ability to start, stop, and forestall reverse operation are carefully evaluated against the system's design parameters.Load testing a new lift is shown in a short video.
Frequent visual inspection of the rope is required in most jurisdictions, as well as periodic non-destructive testing. Electromagnetic induction testing detects and quantifies hidden adverse conditions within the strands such as a broken wire, pitting caused by corrosion or wear, variations in cross sectional area, and tightening or loosening of wire lay or strand lay.
If passengers fail to unload, their legs will contact a lightweight bar, line, or pass through a light beam which stops the lift. The lift operator will then help them disembark, reset the safety gate, and initiate the lift restart procedure. While possibly annoying to other passengers on the chairlift, it is preferable to strike the safety gate—that is, it should not be avoided—and stop the lift than be an unexpected downhill passenger. Many lifts are limited in their download capacity; others can transport passengers at 100 percent capacity in either direction.
The boarding area of a detachable chairlift can be fitted with a moving walkway which takes the passengers from the entrance gate to the boarding area. This ensures the correct, safe and quick boarding of all passengers. For fixed grip lifts, a walkway can be designed so that it moves at a slightly slower speed than the chairs: passengers stand on the moving walkway while their chair approaches, hence easing the boarding process since the relative speed of the chairlift will be slower.
Aerial passenger ropeways were known in Asia well before the 17th century for crossing chasms in mountainous regions. Men would traverse a woven fiber line hand over hand. Evolutionary refinement added a harness or basket to also transport cargo.
The first recorded mechanical ropeway was by Venetian Fausto Veranzio who designed a bicable passenger ropeway in 1616. The industry generally considers Dutchman Adam Wybe to have built the first operational system in 1644. The technology, which was further developed by the people living in the Alpine regions of Europe, progressed rapidly and expanded due to the advent of wire rope and electric drive. World War I motivated extensive use of military tramways for warfare between Italy and Austria.
The world's first three ski chairlifts were created for the ski resort in Sun Valley, Idaho in 1936 and 1937, then owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. km) east of the more famous Bald Mountain, the primary ski mountain of Sun Valley resort since 1939. One of the chairlifts still remains on Ruud Mountain, named for Thomas Ruud a famous Norwegian ski racer. The chairlift has been preserved with its ski jump and original single chairs as it was during WWII. The chairlift was developed by James Curran of Union Pacific's engineering department in Omaha during the summer of 1936. Prior to working for Union Pacific, Curran worked for Paxton and Vierling Steel, also in Omaha, which engineered banana conveyor systems to load cargo ships in the tropics. (PVS manufactured these chairs in their Omaha, NE facility.) Curran re-engineered the banana hooks with chairs and created a machine with greater capacity than the up-ski toboggan (cable car) and better comfort than the J-bar, the two most common skier transports at the time—apart from mountain climbing. His basic design is still used for chairlifts today. The patent for the original ski lift was issued to Mr. Curran along with Gordon H. Bannerman and Glen H. Trout (Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific RR) in March 1939. The patent was titled "Aerial Ski Tramway,' U.S. Patent 2,152,235 . W. Averell Harriman, Sun Valley's creator and former governor of New York State, financed the project.The first chairlift, since removed, was installed on Proctor Mountain, two miles (3
Mont Tremblant, Quebec opens in February 1938 with the first Canadian chairlift, built by Joseph Ryan.The ski lift had 4,200 feet of cable and took 250 skiers per hour.
The first chairlift in Europe was built in 1940 in Czechoslovakia (present-day Czech Republic), from Ráztoka, at 620 m (2,034 ft), to Pustevny, at 1,020 m (3,346 ft), in the Moravian-Silesian Beskids mountain range.
New chairlifts built since the 1990s are infrequently fixed-grip. Existing fixed-grip lifts are being replaced with detachable chairlifts at most major ski areas. However the relative simplicity of the fixed-grip design results in lower installation, maintenance and, often, operation costs. For these reasons, they are likely[ according to whom? ] to remain at low volume[ quantify ] and community hills, and for short distances, such as beginner terrain.[ citation needed ]
Cable transport is a broad class of transport modes that have cables. They transport passengers and goods, often in vehicles called cable cars. The cable may be driven or passive, and items may be moved by pulling, sliding, sailing, or by drives within the object being moved on cableways. The use of pulleys and balancing of loads moving up and down are common elements of cable transport. They are often used in mountainous areas where cable haulage can overcome large differences in elevation.
An aerial tramway, sky tram,cable car, ropeway or aerial tram is a type of aerial lift which uses one or two stationary ropes for support while a third moving rope provides propulsion. With this form of lift, the grip of an aerial tramway cabin is fixed onto the propulsion rope and cannot be decoupled from it during operations.
Yan Lift, incorporated as Lift Engineering & Mfg. Co., was a major ski lift manufacturer in North America. Founded in 1965 and based in Carson City, Nevada, the firm came under scrutiny by state safety officials after a fatal accident in 1985, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 1996 after multiple other accidents resulting in 3 deaths.
GMD Müller Lifts AG, known as GMD Müller, was a ropeway manufacturing company based in Dietlikon, Switzerland. GMD stands for Gerhard Müller Dietlikon.
The Riblet Tramway Company of Spokane, Washington, which operated from 1908 to 2003, was once the largest ski chairlift manufacturer in the world.
A gondola lift is a means of cable transport and type of aerial lift which is supported and propelled by cables from above. It consists of a loop of steel wire rope that is strung between two stations, sometimes over intermediate supporting towers. The cable is driven by a bullwheel in a terminal, which is typically connected to an engine or electric motor. They are often considered continuous systems since they feature a haul rope which continuously moves and circulates around two terminal stations. In contrast, aerial tramways solely operate with fixed grips and simply shuttle back and forth between two end terminals. Depending on the combination of cables used for support and/or haulage and the type of grip, the capacity, cost, and functionality of a gondola lift will differ dramatically. Because of the proliferation of such systems in the Alpine regions of Europe, the Cabinovia (Italian) or the French name of Télécabine are also used in English texts. The system may often be referred to as a cable car.
A detachable chairlift or high-speed chairlift is a type of passenger aerial lift, which, like a fixed-grip chairlift, consists of numerous chairs attached to a constantly moving wire rope that is strung between two terminals over intermediate towers. They are now commonplace at all but the smallest of ski resorts. Some are installed at tourist attractions as well as for urban transportation.
A funitel is a type of cableway, generally used to transport skiers, although at least one is used to transport finished cars between different areas of a factory. It differs from a standard gondola lift through the use of two arms attached to two parallel overhead cables, providing more stability in high winds. The name funitel is a blend of the French words funiculaire and telepherique.
A ski lift is a mechanism for transporting skiers up a hill. Ski lifts are typically a paid service at ski resorts. The first ski lift was built in 1908 by German Robert Winterhalder in Schollach/Eisenbach, Hochschwarzwald.
An aerial lift (U.S.), also known as a cable car, is a means of cable transport in which cabins, cars, gondolas, or open chairs are hauled above the ground by means of one or more cables. Aerial lift systems are frequently employed in a mountainous territory where roads are relatively difficult to build and use, and have seen extensive use in mining. Aerial lift systems are relatively easy to move and have been used to cross rivers and ravines. In more recent times, the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of aerial lifts have seen an increase of gondola lift being integrated into urban public transport systems.
Doppelmayr USA, Inc is an aerial lift manufacturer based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a subsidiary of the worldwide Doppelmayr Garaventa Group. The United States company was formed in 2002 after the merger of Garaventa of Goldau, Switzerland, and Doppelmayr of Wolfurt, Austria. Between 2002 and 2010, the company was named Doppelmayr CTEC. From 2011 the company has operated using the Doppelmayr brand name, in common with most other Doppelmayr Garaventa Group subsidiaries. In February 2021, an electronic failure in a newly commissioned Doppelmayr chairlift in Oregon stranded 42 people requiring a rope rescue.
High Technology Industries, known as HTI Group is a group of companies with its headquarters in Italy. All global players, the subsidiaries are active in the following different fields: ropeways for transporting passengers and materials, snowmaking systems, wind turbines, snow groomers and tracked utility vehicles. Around the world, the group is represented by 70 subsidiaries as well as 131 sales and service points.
The Magic Mile is an aerial chairlift at Timberline Lodge ski area, Mount Hood, Oregon, U.S. It was named for its unique location above the tree line and for its original length. When constructed by Byron Riblet in 1938, it was the longest chairlift in existence, the second in the world to be built as a passenger chairlift, and the first to use metal towers.
Poma, incorporated as Pomagalski S.A., and sometimes referred to as the Poma Group, is a French company which manufactures cable-driven lift systems, including fixed and detachable chairlifts, gondola lifts, funiculars, aerial tramways, people movers, and surface lifts. Poma has installed about 7800 devices for 750 customers worldwide.
Crystal Mountain is a mountain and alpine ski area in the northwestern United States, located in the Cascade Range of Washington, southeast of Seattle.
A bullwheel or bull wheel is a large wheel on which a rope turns, such as in a chairlift or other ropeway. In this application, the bullwheel that is attached to the prime mover is called the drive bullwheel, and the other is the return bullwheel. One of the bullwheels is usually attached to a cable tensioning system, which is usually either hydraulic or fixed counterweights.
A surface lift is a means of cable transport for snow sports in which skiers and snowboarders remain on the ground as they are pulled uphill. While they were once prevalent, they have been overtaken in popularity by higher-capacity and higher-comfort aerial lifts, such as chairlifts and gondola lifts. Today, surface lifts are most often found on beginner slopes, small ski areas, and peripheral slopes. They are also often utilized to access glacier ski slopes because their supports can be anchored in glacier ice due to the lower forces and realigned due to glacier movement.
Leitner-Poma of America, known simply as Leitner-Poma, is a United States aerial lift manufacturer based in Grand Junction, Colorado. It is the American subsidiary of French-based Poma, which is owned by the Italian company HTI Group. The North American company was formed in 2000 when the Seeber Group, owner of Leitner, bought Poma and merged both companies' North American subsidiaries. Leitner-Poma of America operates a Canadian subsidiary based in Barrie, Ontario called Leitner-Poma Canada Inc.
The Eyüp Gondola, a.k.a. Eyüp–Piyerloti Aerial Cable Car, is a two-station gondola-type line of aerial lift passenger transport system located in Eyüp district of Istanbul, Turkey. Opened on November 30, 2005, the 384 m (1,260 ft) long line serves the Piyerloti Hill from Eyüp at the coast of Golden Horn. It is operated under the line number Tf2 by Istanbul Transport Company, a subsidiary of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. The fare is paid by the contactless smart card of Istanbulkart, which is valid at all public transport in Istanbul.
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