So, the old T-bars, Pomas, and especially rope tows, once the mainstays of uphill conveyance, are now so rare to be an oddity. At anything beyond the most local of local hills, they generally only exist in places where wind holds would commonly close a chairlift.
And with their departure, we lose the concept of "uphill gnar"- surface lift installations where the ride up the lift can be more exiting that the run back down.
I remember as a kid reading ski magazines mentioning some of the hairier installations- stuff like rope speeds exceeding that of modern detachable chairlifts, T bars running up 50* pitches, and along knife ridgelines and other fun stuff.
I'm not talking about surface lifts that have tame alignments but access good stuff- this really isn't a thread about the Breck T-bar or the Snowmass Cirque Poma. I want to hear about the lifts, either still existing or historical, where just making it to the top gave you a feeling of accomplishment.
To start things off, I rode the Wolf Creek "D. Boyce Poma," a "high speed" detachable Poma vintage 1967, for the first time today. It runs generally parallel to Treasure, but starts several hundred feet uphill, right at the base of the Holy Moses run. The only real access is from Black runs in the immediate area.
It is only open on the peak days (last I saw it open before this weekend was New Years Day), and I assume they fire it up if Treasure hits wind hold conditions.
1. Last sign before skiing up to the load line: "Experts only! If you fall, we will not let you ride again!" Really puts you in the right frame of mind...
2. Ski up to the line, liftie hands you the platter. Once you start sliding forward, he yanks a rope that engages the grip with a LOUD clunk. Every other detachable poma I have ridden had an automatic grip engage? I'm not sure if the manual vs. automatic has to do with age or something else...
3. Within 50 feet, the poma alignment ascends up a 40* incline. I quickly take up all the slack in the carrier spring, and the platter is all but pulling me off the ground. It occurs to me that if I was a chaste girl preparing for my first after prom, this would be great exercise.
4. The pomaline is regularly skied when the poma is not operating, and it generally bumps up. If this was a different ski area, they probably would have considered running a groomer up to clear out the moguls. Nah. Riding over every mogul creates slack, and when the slack is taken up, I get yanked into the air while frantically trying to keep the platter between my legs.
5. The kid in front of me eats it, and starts sliding down the 40* slope backwards. I turn left (towards the lift towers) and miss him by inches. I'm wondering if he's going to try and slink back into line to see if they enforce the sign.
6. The pitch gets much more forgiving as I've made it to the first bench. Several high volume trails cross the pomaline, and I am swiveling my head trying to make sure I'm not about to get creamed by somebody unaware the Poma is running today. One guy stops and stares slackjawed at the empty poma platter passing him- the one previously occupied by the kid that ate it above. I think he was considering seeing if he could hop on.
7. Past the trail merges. The final obstacle remains- a 45* headwall to the summit. The poma brings its A-game by suddenly surging forward- I think somebody else must have fallen and suddenly released a ton of tension. I feel the cable slack just long enough to get out "Oh Shi..." before it lunges forward lifting me off my feet.
8. The whole way up the headwall, this thing is lifting about half my weight off of the snow. It occurs to me that the rope height is probably intended for a deeper base than what currently exists.
9. I'm into the steepest part of the headwall. My inner thighs are burning, as are my arms hanging onto this thing as it continually tries to pull me off my skis.
10. I get to the top. There is a family up top who gives me a big cheer! I feel like Hillary conquering Everest by way of a 6" platter wedged halfway up his ass. The cheer stops abruptly as they realize I am NOT the 14 year old they were expecting to summit next.
11. I inform them of their fallen comrade, spend 20 seconds catching my breath at the TOP of the lift, and head on my way.
Some pictures of the Poma, courtesy Colorado Ski History, attached.
Eagerly awaiting your stories. :)