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Chairlift Think Tank

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
Hey all.

Looking for thoughts on chairlift evolution in regards to "wind holds."

As much as I love Sugarloaf the mountain experiences several wind holds throughout the season.

So, what sort of designs in the future could help keep the lifts running in high winds??

Thoughts.......
post #2 of 35
I used to LOVE to use the rope tows on the coldest Minnesota days. True, you get tired quicker, but it kept the blood pumping and body warmer.
post #3 of 35
Heavier chairs closer to the ground.
post #4 of 35
Magic carpets?

Rope tows/buttons/t-bars can run in any weather, but they aren't exactly the most comfortable.
post #5 of 35
You could always put one of those retractable-roof things like they have at some professional sports stadiums over the entire mountain. If it's windy or raining or otherwise non-perfect conditions, you put the roof up.
post #6 of 35
..thinking about it, if you replaced the cable with a chain then you could run it tighter and in worse conditions.

alternatively, mount the chair on tracks with a cog mechanism (a bit like a funicular railway)... isn't it Squaw that has one of those gondolas that run on two sets of cables spread far apart for stability?
post #7 of 35

post #8 of 35
Internal elevator shaft.


Dress in something with the aerodynamics of a slow freefall suit and you could be airborne off the mtn. at 100mph breeze.
post #9 of 35
Thread Starter 
WTFH......I think you're on the right track.

Couldn't someone get rich if they came up with an engineering design to get skiers to the top on windy days??
post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
Magic carpets?

Rope tows/buttons/t-bars can run in any weather, but they aren't exactly the most comfortable.
I don't know.... I've heard some say that platter lifts do have their charms
post #11 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sugaree View Post
WTFH......I think you're on the right track.

Couldn't someone get rich if they came up with an engineering design to get skiers to the top on windy days??

Like this?
http://www.123savoie.com/pic.php?idx...shw=6&src=4065


And this is it from the inside last October...
post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sugaree View Post
Couldn't someone get rich if they came up with an engineering design to get skiers to the top on windy days??
Yes, but only if mountains could afford to install it. If cost were not a factor I'm sure they could put up a foolproof system tomorrow.
post #13 of 35
Teleport like in Star Trek.
post #14 of 35
Doesn't Sugarloaf have a T-bar? Someone just has to convince mgmt its a good solution and they ought to run it all the time.

Based on the places I've been that have them (Breck, Crested Butte) there does not seem to be any problem with skier acceptance. I think we are a lot more willing to ride them than the planners think. I know I like them...
post #15 of 35
I have no problem with windholds. It just means it's time to hike...for untracked runs!
post #16 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
..thinking about it, if you replaced the cable with a chain then you could run it tighter and in worse conditions.
Mt Snow had a bunch of chairs that ran on a track overhead using chain drive. The towers were upside down "U" shaped steel. The lift was noisy and slow, slower than any lift on the East Coast.

They sucked, but they could operate in high wind. Everyone went inside when it was too windy anyways.

The reason they were installed in the first place was to prevent fear of heights in the customers. The lift hugged the terrain so that it was never high off the ground. This was back around 1960.

This was a bad idea. I'd rather go inside when its windy than ever have to ride on that lift again.

It would be nice to have more t-bars.
post #17 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
alternatively, mount the chair on tracks with a cog mechanism (a bit like a funicular railway)... isn't it Squaw that has one of those gondolas that run on two sets of cables spread far apart for stability?
Yep -- it's called the Funitel. (Or among some of us wags, the Funny Smell.)

post #18 of 35
Fixed grip lifts.
post #19 of 35
Seatbelts
post #20 of 35
If its that windy, I am not sure I want to be out there anyway. Nothing chills me to the bone like wind. It's not the heat, its the humidity? Nah..It's not the cold, its the windchill that gets me.
post #21 of 35
how strong do the winds have to be to shut a lift down? i rode the lifts at alta last year on a day when it was gusting to 60mph, and i'm not sure i'd want to be at the summit if it were blowing any harder.
post #22 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by karpiel View Post
Fixed grip lifts.
Yes, but no.
That may keep the chair on the cable, but it doesn't keep the cable on the pulleys.
post #23 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
Yes, but no.
That may keep the chair on the cable, but it doesn't keep the cable on the pulleys.
*busily imagining a cabin with a computer-controlled-collective autogyro underneath*
post #24 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by epl View Post
how strong do the winds have to be to shut a lift down? i rode the lifts at alta last year on a day when it was gusting to 60mph, and i'm not sure i'd want to be at the summit if it were blowing any harder.
I think that Alpine keeps running with gusts up to about 80 over the top.
post #25 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by epl View Post
how strong do the winds have to be to shut a lift down? i rode the lifts at alta last year on a day when it was gusting to 60mph, and i'm not sure i'd want to be at the summit if it were blowing any harder.
That depends on wind direction. If it is gong straight up or down the line it's not as big a deal as a crosswind.
post #26 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by karpiel View Post
Fixed grip lifts.
You'd think so, but at Stowe, the new Poma on Big Spruce has been much more reliable than the old double it replaced. The chairs are bigger and heavier and don't swing as much. In Lech, they replaced a fixed-grip double going up the Kreigerhorn with a six-pack for the same reason.

Where the fixed grip can shine though is on icing days.
post #27 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by alpinedad View Post
I think that Alpine keeps running with gusts up to about 80 over the top.
Day after New Years. Walking across the parking lot was a trip. About half the lifts were on wind hold tho.

I bowed out and went to look at XC trails.

Driving 'round the top of the lake looked like:



Except Kings Beach was getting some impressive whitecap action. No, I really didn't want to be at Alpine that day.
post #28 of 35
Sugaree,

caveat emptor: I am not a lift engineer, but I have slept in a Holiday Inn Express and I have come "this close" to being dumped out of a chair in high wind.

This is less of a future problem and more of a simple design economics problem. When you look at a graph of wind speed versus cost, as the wind speed goes up, the build cost goes up much quicker and cost of simply shutting down. Once a lift is in place, the available options to solve wind problems are dramatically reduced. As others have noted, wind concerns are often a factor in choosing a surface or subsurface lift system versus a cable based lift.

As Epic has noted, prevailing wind direction factors a lot into design. Small changes in the direction the lift is set can make an important difference, but topology and soils can override wind concerns. Where the lift tops out can make a difference. Snowbird determined that ending a lift below the summit made such a huge difference that it was cheaper to build a tunnel to get to the other side of the ridge. Why do resorts clear trees to run lifts instead of running them up already cleared trails? One reason might be that trees offer better protection from the wind. Could a well placed planting of trees reduce wind holds on problem lifts? Steamboat added bubbles on chairs to improve rider comfort, but whoa Nelly that increased susceptibility to wind problems, but closing the bubbles on the return trip helped a lot. Other chair design aspects can involve aerodynamics versus comfort trade offs (e.g. slatted back support to let wind through won't be as comfortable as a solid pad). Lift speed is also a factor. Lots of resorts can reduce lift speed in higher winds to keep it running. There are also things you can do with tower design (e.g. number of towers, height off the ground, tower arm width, pulley design, etc). But these things involve trade offs. How these trade offs play out is a big "it depends" game.

Designing to run in higher winds means spending more money. These days, lifts are often straining the bare bones budget limits and running in high winds is something that simply can't be afforded. Even if there is budget, often it's going to look a lot more cost effective and a lot less financially risky to increase capacity by spending to upgrade from a double to a quad than by spending extra to reduce wind holds. If the wind models for the resort are not accurate or if climate changes cause major weather pattern shifts at the local level, it's going to be easy to make design mistakes that will only be obvious mistakes in hindsight. Many resorts have discovered the only cost effective way to fix these mistakes is to relocate the replacement lift when it's time to retire the original mistake.

Is it possible that advances in materials science, technology or engineering design can reduce wind holds for future ski lifts? Sure. For example, low cost power (e.g. fusion) could dramatically alter the economics of the business. But, in our lifetime, these things are not likely to make a significant difference beyond what is already available today. Is it possible that a resort may have overlooked options as simple as planting trees or replacing chairs or adding an extra tower? Sure. But it's much more likely that a resort has simply decided to keep rolling the dice on wind holds and spend their money elsewhere.

You could try using a kite to get uphill.
post #29 of 35
What Rusty said. And of course, how many paying customers are you going to get by running in even higher winds?
post #30 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by alpinedad View Post
What Rusty said. And of course, how many paying customers are you going to get by running in even higher winds?
I've ridden lifts on some unbelievably windy days where I've thought that "this has to be close to the shut-down wind velocity". i.e., it wasn't pleasant. Skiing back down wasn't pleasant (i.e., high winds here in the East tend to produce trail surfaces that are on the shiny side). It seems like increasing the maximum wind velocity that they can run the lifts in doesn't have any real net benefits
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