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Are HSQs Part of the Problem?

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
I've skied a fair bit (for a guy with a day job) in Idaho and Utah this season and I'm starting to wonder whether there is such a thing as too much lift capacity.

I first noticed this at Sun Valley in January when I never saw a crowd at the lifts, but felt that some of the runs were pretty congested.

Would we better off with slower lifts? I know that used to be Alta's argument against adding faster lifts, i.e., lines at the lifts instead of crowds on the hill.

The other thing I wonder about is whether fast lifts can lead folks to ski more than is really advisable for their level of fitness. I realize that skier visits are flat, but that does not mean that skier runs per visit have declined.

With all that, I would certainly whine if slow lifts make a comeback. I've had few days in Utah this season where both the quantity and quality of skiing was remarkable.
post #2 of 38
I am not sure what problem you are talking about.

Ski area management design of trails and lifts includes skier/rider density on the trails. A lot of planning goes into ski area lift and trail design.

To answer your question about would we be better off with slower lifts. First of all most people believe that high speed detachable quad and fixed grip quad have different up hill skier/rider capacity. This is a common mistake. Both a high speed detachable and fixed grip quad unload every 6 seconds, which delivers the same number of people to the top of the mountain per hour. Assuming no lift lines, a skier or rider can probably get in twice the number of runs per hour on a high speed detachable lift compared with a fixed grip lift. When there is a lift line the uphill capacity for a high speed detachable and fixed grip lifts are almost identical. The only difference is fixed grip lifts are more difficult to load and unload and require the lift to be stopped more often then a detachable lift.

A side note. Skiers are more confident on the new shaped hour glass skis and they ski faster. People are getting to the top of the mountain faster and skiing down the mountain faster.

You raised a good point about the level of fitness and high speed detachable lifts. In fact this point is mentioned on this National Safety Council web page.

In this day and age of multi-passenger gondolas and high-speed chairlifts your time on the snow is maximized. You can literally triple your ski time on the slopes as compared to the days when you were limited to skiing fixed grip chairlifts. With high-speed chairs whisking you to the top of the mountain in a matter of minutes you can literally ski yourself right into exhaustion without realizing it. Because you are skiing three times as much as you would even a decade ago, you can be completely worn out after even a few hours of skiing.


I will also point out here that the new shaped skis in the last 5 years have made it possible to ski more without getting as tired. The old straight skis were a lot more work. Just put the new shaped skis on edge and they do all the work for you.

Will fixed grip lifts make a come back? Fixed grip lifts are half the purchase cost and half the maintenance cost each year. Cheaper fixed grip lifts can definitely help reduce the cost of a lift ticket. I think we need to educate people that on a crowded busy weekend with a 5 minute or more lift line, there is no difference between a fixed grip lift and high speed detachable lift. In fact fixed grip lifts are better when there are lift lines because you are spending more time sitting in the air that would have been spent standing in a lift line with a high speed detachable lift.

Midweek I prefer a high speed detachable lift because I can get all the runs I want in 4 hours, go home and do some work around the house.
post #3 of 38
A couple of points:

Skier visits are in actuality not flat. The industry has had a growth rate somewhere in the single digits since 2000.

HSQs are what skiers want, regardless of the side effects. Ski areas continue to put them in and market them as a great new addition. Vacationers go out of their way even to pick resorts with a preponderance of them.

The higher installation and maintance cost do raise lift ticket prices, but people are flocking to the bigger resorts more than ever, prices still must not be too large a barrier.

Powdr
post #4 of 38
I'm no expert on lift capacity but it seems to me a lift carrying 6 or 4 people is going to put more people at the top of the mountain than a double or, let say, the Mad River Single. High speed lifts seem to me to be swamping certain hills with tourists.

The tourists do want high speed lifts along with perfect grooming and no irregularities. They want real wide trails, too, oh yeah, and valet parking.
post #5 of 38
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all for the interesting comments. I especially appreciate the the effort to distinguish between capacity and speed for lifts. I do understand the difference, but as a guy with an engineering background I am always interested in this sort of thing. I am one of these guys that finds design of lifts and snow making systems and such to be quite interesting. You (catskills) seem to have a good understanding of this area. My initial post was not clear and I appreciate the effort to clarify the issue.

I would disagree to a point with the thought that ski resorts always think through the implications of lift layout and type. I think we can all agree that fast lifts means more skiers on the hill than on the lift. The problem is that most ski hills have natural constrictions to skier flow based on terrain. If you have ever been on Lower River Run at Sun Valley you will know exactly what I mean. I think many ski hills just add capacity without changing anything else. (Please note that I use capacity in the general sense as meaning the relative number of skiers on the hill. This is presumably a function of the total number, speed and chair type of the lift system.)

The bottom line to me is that the combination of lots of high capacity (i.e., 4- or 6-seat) chairs and finite terrain makes for more density of skiers on the hill. Combine that with modern skis and grooming and you have the "problem" that I referred to in my initial post. More specifically, there are more skiers in general on the hill (and quite a few that scream down the groomers) and I think that leads to near-misses, collisions, etc.

No one wants collisions or fights over perceived misbehavior. I certainly support the safety code, but that is only part of the issue. By adding fast lifts, the resorts are directly contributing to crowding on the hills. It seems to me that things like posting the safety code and putting up slow skiing signs are kind of a CYA move by the resorts while they are busy doing their best to make the actual slopes as congested as possible.

Now that I've slammed the resorts, I am going to be a hypocrite and agree about just how cool it is to be at the right hill on a weekday and crank run after run with fast lifts to get you back up to the top.
post #6 of 38
This is a very interesting thread. Catskills info was especially illuminating. Food for thought, all of it.

And Paul Joness? They also want perfect weather! Managed weather. They've paid a lot of money to be here.... when will the weather "improve" they ask angrily.
post #7 of 38
IMHO, Acronyms are POTP, IF, they ARE TP, BTJMYO...WDIK.
OWGG
-VTI
post #8 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ant
And Paul Joness? They also want perfect weather! Managed weather. They've paid a lot of money to be here.... when will the weather "improve" they ask angrily.
Good point. Colorado spends taxes on clould seeding.

Proton your point is a good one. Sometimes the ski area plans are not always a good one. I know of one ski area that installed a high speed detachable quad a long side their existing fix griped double. Running both lifts for a few years produced interesting results. The rumor is the ski areas insurance carier made them take down the old fixed grip double because the customers could not adjust to the increased body contact.

At the present time their is no data that shows an increase in collisions on the hill. As this NSAA Facts on Safety states only 6.5 percent of the accidents involve collisions. NSAA quotes that Jasper Shealy research indicating ski area collisions are not increasing. I can't find any information on when Jasper Shealy research data was published. One of Jasper Shealy research studies on collisions was published in 1990. I don't know if Jasper Shealy has any current publications on ski area collisions.
post #9 of 38
I think faster/higher lift capacity is better for expert skiers, who cares about the masses crowding groomers, the faster the lifts, the more runs you get on a powder day. Yes, stuff gets tracked out faster, but the best skiers who know where to go and what they are doing reap the rewards.
post #10 of 38
I just like the feeling of being a human yo-yo
post #11 of 38
Very interesting, and thanks, catskill. There's a fair amount of discussion around here of safety in the context of patrollers pulling lift tickets, etc., but I wonder how much safety engineering, risk management and related design analysis goes into the layout of ski areas (the runs as well as the lifts) and who does it?
post #12 of 38
Catskill, wonderfull post. I don't know why, but the urge has suddenly come upon me to be a knit-picker. I see a knit in your post and so now I'm going to pick it. So here's the knit:
You said that a high speed quad and a low-speed one had identical uphill capacities. While this is so damn close to the truth that my knit picking is, well, knit picking, I have to point out one little thing (that would be the knit): when the lift starts running the high speed gets its first skiier up a few minutes ahead of the low-speed. Thus, if we include this lag-time, the high speed gets slightly more skiers up. Of course, like I've been saying throughout this post, this doesn't make any difference really; its just something I couldn't resist saying.
post #13 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobbyChicken
Catskill, wonderfull post. I don't know why, but the urge has suddenly come upon me to be a knit-picker. I see a knit in your post and so now I'm going to pick it. So here's the knit:
That is definitly good knit pick. If I may I will knit pick on my own post. Lets just say if JH had HSQ for Sublette and Thunder, I would not have been able to ski 10 days straight.

BTW - thanks for the complement. I think
post #14 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobbyChicken
...when the lift starts running the high speed gets its first skiier up a few minutes ahead of the low-speed. Thus, if we include this lag-time, the high speed gets slightly more skiers up. Of course, like I've been saying throughout this post, this doesn't make any difference really; its just something I couldn't resist saying.
No. At the end, when the lift stops running, the HSQ rids its load faster and stops. The low speed is still running and unloading skiers, so the difference is a wash.

Powdr
post #15 of 38
All good info. The real issue at hand is not HS lifts but uphill capacity. When an area goes from a double to a quad, it doubles the uphill capacity in a given time period, therefore increasing the crowding on the trails.

I used to rail against increased uphill capacity saying that I would rather wait in longer lines at the bottom and get fewer, higher quality runs (because of fewer skiers on the trails). Higher quality for me meant higher speeds without fear of running into someone. As I age (see the thread on skiing prime), my perspective is changing.

I do take exception with the statement that areas "plan" for the increase in capacity. Stowe actually closed down some trails and parts of trails after trading out the old double and single for the quad (an increase in uphill capacity of 33%). The upper part of the Nosedive was virtually unskiable because of the crowds on a weekend. The management had to change that trail so radically, that it doesn't even resemble the original trail - and the changes did not improve the character or aesthetics of the trail.

I do enjoy the much shorter ride times, especially in bad weather. But as I get older, I notice that I can't hang from first chair to patrol sweep any more because we're getting more runs per hour and no rest standing in line. 20 years ago, I would have been like this . Now I look like this : at 2:00.
post #16 of 38

NIT picking

Quote:
Originally Posted by BobbyChicken
Catskill, wonderfull post. I don't know why, but the urge has suddenly come upon me to be a knit-picker. I see a knit in your post and so now I'm going to pick it. So here's the knit:
You said that a high speed quad and a low-speed one had identical uphill capacities. While this is so damn close to the truth that my knit picking is, well, knit picking, I have to point out one little thing (that would be the knit): when the lift starts running the high speed gets its first skiier up a few minutes ahead of the low-speed. Thus, if we include this lag-time, the high speed gets slightly more skiers up. Of course, like I've been saying throughout this post, this doesn't make any difference really; its just something I couldn't resist saying.
Sorry, I can't help myself. I feel the need to pick a nit. Nits, not KNits, are lice eggs picked out of hair strands. Hence the saying 'picking nits". Knit is the opposite of purl.
post #17 of 38
Thread Starter 
Interesting posts so far. Does anyone have information on how resorts plan/model lift placement and type?

As I noted earlier, it seems clear that some resorts think about this stuff while others appear to have no coherent plan.

I think fast lifts are here to stay and they are nice when the weather sucks or when crowds are low. I just think it is a dangerous practice to design a system that puts the congestion on the hills rather than the base or the lift system.
post #18 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by LCS
Sorry, I can't help myself. I feel the need to pick a nit. Nits, not KNits, are lice eggs picked out of hair strands. Hence the saying 'picking nits". Knit is the opposite of purl.
Oops, I don't usually write about the lice egg kind of nit. You're going to make me spell everything correctly now. Oh no...
post #19 of 38
that's Ok-
the responder to your post spelled 'compliment' the 'compare and go well with' way.
and nits are flea eggs, not louse eggs.
louse eggs are what you get for breakfast at serbian truck stops
post #20 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr
No. At the end, when the lift stops running, the HSQ rids its load faster and stops. The low speed is still running and unloading skiers, so the difference is a wash.

Powdr
My point exactly; the low speed delivers the same amount of guests in a day from, say, 9-4. However, its day loading from 9-4 actually lasts a few minutes longer. That's just another way of looking at it.
post #21 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Proton
Interesting posts so far. Does anyone have information on how resorts plan/model lift placement and type?
Around these parts, it's from the bottom to the top
post #22 of 38
So on a quiet day lift capasity becomes an none issue. Each customer can now ski more runs. So the trails are beat to a pulp by a smaller crowd.

I just got back from my morning workout. I made 12 runs. If the old lift were in place it would have been more like 5 (actually I made that part up). That was true for every one else that was there today.

The six pack eats lift lines.
post #23 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobbyChicken
My point exactly; the low speed delivers the same amount of guests in a day from, say, 9-4. However, its day loading from 9-4 actually lasts a few minutes longer. That's just another way of looking at it.
I'm not sure you understand. Let me illustrate:

There are two side-by-side quads. One is a HSQ, the other is a FGQ. Both have the same capacity, 2000 skiers per hour. Both unload every 6 seconds, but the HSQ has half the carriers as does the FGQ, let's say 50 loaded vs. 100 loaded. The line speed of the HSQ is twice that of the FGQ. This is the actual case w/ HS vs. FG lifts; approximatley 1000 fpm vs. 500 fpm. Let's also say that the HSQ has a running time of 5 min. vs a 10 min time for the FGQ (also accurate).

In the morning let's say a line forms at each lift and stays that way throughout the day. At 9:00AM both start loading passengers. The HSQ unloads its first load of passengers in half the time that the FGQ does. During that first 10 minutes, the HSQ delivered 50x4 passengers to the summit, while the FGQ delivered 0 (it is just starting to unload its 1st passengers in the 10th minute). In the next five minutes, the HSQ delviers another 50x4 passengers and the FGQ delivers 50x4 (half the carriers). So, in the first 15 minutes, the HSQ has delivered 400 passengers, and the FGQ has delivered 200 passengers. Advantage HSQ.

At the end of the day, the lift line closes at 4:00PM at the bottom of the lift. The HSQ delivers its 50x4 passengers within 5 minutes and stops. The FGQ delivers its 100x4 passengers within 10 minutes and stops. The FGQ made up the 200 passengers difference at the end of the day!

Now if you were talking about stoppages throughout the day, that might be a different story, as we all know that FGQs stop a lot more than HSQs. Although that too might be a wash, as HSQs also stop longer than FGQs, when they do stop.

Powdr
post #24 of 38
Powder is entirely correct in his above example.

Let me further analyze powder’s example to display another disadvantage of high speed lifts. Powder points out that the FGQ has an additional 50 loaded chairs. These chairs hold a total of 200 additional people. The question is where would these 200 people be if the lift was a HSQ and the logical answer is in line. So a HSQ actually can actually increase congestion.

For all the above reasons and first hand experience with lift upgrades, I all too often find lift upgrades reduce the overall ski experience. They often result in more slope congestion and worse snow conditions. A 40 year old double can service the best runs on a mountain.
post #25 of 38

picking more nits

Quote:
Originally Posted by vlad
that's Ok-
the responder to your post spelled 'compliment' the 'compare and go well with' way.
and nits are flea eggs, not louse eggs.
louse eggs are what you get for breakfast at serbian truck stops
Sorry, but as a mother of two who went thru public school systems and had to deal with louse infestations with each....the eggs are called nits!
My least favorite motherly memory.:
BTW, really enjoy your sense of humor Vlad.
post #26 of 38
OMG who left the door opened to this thread and let the NERDS in. :

Powder great job in your eximple but you left out something reeelly impotent.

Ski Patrol will get to the top of the mountain five minutes earlier on HSQ versus FGQ. Therefore the trails will be opened 5 minutes earlier with a HSQ.

The other big difference, when you get to your faveorate hill an hour lite on a fresh powder day, its going to have twice the numbr of tracks on your first run with a HSQ versus a FGQ. :

BTW I spell just fine thank you.
post #27 of 38
Powder,
I understand you completely. But if we speak strictly in terms of which lift will have delivered more people at any given time, the HSQ will have delivered more. I never said this statistic was important. In fact, I said it wasn't. And I fully agree that on a crowded day fix grips are just as good, if not better. But I have never found myself at a resort with lift lines consistently more than 3-5 minutes. Of course, the topic of the thread was whether detachables are part of what congests trails, not whether I would like a detachable if I had no lines. To that I say: the problem with crowded resorts is that there are too many people there. We really don't need to make it harder than that. If we have all doubles there, then lift lines are going to be enormous and will escalate all day. If we install an overload of gondolas, trams, six-seaters, and quads, we get congested slopes. Either way, I'd rather not ski there.
post #28 of 38
Different (but similar) question:

If the HSQ has half as many carriers as a fixed grip, does that mean you can build a longer tramway since you have less weight on the haulline? It seems most HSQs are a lot longer than fixed grip lines. For example, at Copper the Superbee lift replaced two older fixed grip lifts (B & B1) and takes skiers to the same endpoint.
post #29 of 38
I patrol at Elk in PA. We don't have any HSQ's. We have one Quad and another to be installed in a couple years. On Pres day week (PDW) We have 45 min. liftlines. People bitch and tell us to put in a HSQ. If you go down any highly trafficated trails (on this specific weekend) like Tioga or Delaware, the only reason you're turning is to avoid a collision! Does this justify a HSQ? No! We pay attention to on hill traffic. We keep our accidents VERY low. Especially the collisions involving 2 or more people. When you consider 1000' vert, does a 7-9 min ride hurt that bad? Most of our accidents happen right after lunch and then after 3. The reason: A)People go eat lunch and sit for an hour. When they come back out, the lactic acid hits and they still insist on doing something "big". They don't warm up and shit happens. B) By the end of the day as run 25 or so approaches and they realize they have 1-1 1/2 hrs left. They decide to do that run they've been "eyeing up" all day. They're tired but go for it anyway. Shit happens!
If we put in a HSQ, the accidents would at least double and the collisions would go up by god only knows how much. At least that's the way we see it. Aceman
post #30 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Joness
I'm no expert on lift capacity but it seems to me a lift carrying 6 or 4 people is going to put more people at the top of the mountain than a double or, let say, the Mad River Single. High speed lifts seem to me to be swamping certain hills with tourists.

The tourists do want high speed lifts along with perfect grooming and no irregularities. They want real wide trails, too, oh yeah, and valet parking.
You have have to take lemons and make lemonade. Just think of all those people as slalom gates, or turning points. Makes skiing those groomers a lot more fun, and it improves your skiing.
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