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What's the point of trams?

post #1 of 66
Thread Starter 
I'm not the expert on lifts, actually the UNEXPERT lol. So, while I was looking at the Jay Peak new site, I noticed that under lift capacities the Tram had 360 per hour and all the other lifts had 2000 plus per hour! This seems ridiculous to put a tram in.

Then, when I was in Heavenly last year, the Tram seemed like a waste of time also to me. It doesn't go faster than the Gunbarrel express and less capacity per hour.

So, well, what's the point?
post #2 of 66
To fart on other skiers
post #3 of 66
To have sex in

(60 people though, not quite my thing...)
post #4 of 66
Would you like to take a chairlift to the top of the Klein Matterhorn?
post #5 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry_Morgan View Post
Would you like to take a chairlift to the top of the Klein Matterhorn?

Yes, Yes I would
post #6 of 66
  • To operate in the summer, bringing tourists up the mountain
  • To get out of the cold (hmmm....if you don't like cold, why ski?)
  • To bring people to mid- or top-mountain restaurants for overpriced dinners
post #7 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowsport View Post
  • To operate in the summer, bringing tourists up the mountain
  • To get out of the cold (hmmm....if you don't like cold, why ski?)
  • To bring people to mid- or top-mountain restaurants for overpriced dinners
So you have been to Squaw....................
post #8 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post
I'm not the expert on lifts, actually the UNEXPERT lol. So, while I was looking at the Jay Peak new site, I noticed that under lift capacities the Tram had 360 per hour and all the other lifts had 2000 plus per hour! This seems ridiculous to put a tram in.

Then, when I was in Heavenly last year, the Tram seemed like a waste of time also to me. It doesn't go faster than the Gunbarrel express and less capacity per hour.

So, well, what's the point?
Jay Peak Tram Ale! What else?

Take the Flyer Express Quad on a really cold, windy day.
By the last third of that lift, you'll understand the point of the tram.
post #9 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post
Then, when I was in Heavenly last year, the Tram seemed like a waste of time also to me. It doesn't go faster than the Gunbarrel express and less capacity per hour.

So, well, what's the point?
When Gunbarrel was a slow chair it was faster to use the tram. Before the gondola was built, non-skiers used the tram to access the mountain.

At this point the heavenly tram is useless, that is why the are planning on replacing it with a chair that goes from the base to the top of powderbowl. (that will be one really long chair ride).
post #10 of 66
If you have any questions about the importance of trams, go to the Apls! It will all start making sense...

High speed quads just can't access the terrain/peaks that a tram can!
post #11 of 66
Just curious about the initial, operating, and maintenance costs on a tram vs. a high speed quad.
post #12 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by DropCliffsNotBombs View Post
If you have any questions about the importance of trams, go to the Apls! It will all start making sense...

High speed quads just can't access the terrain/peaks that a tram can!
Exactly. Let's see a chair lift go up the Aiguille du Midi.
post #13 of 66
Even during ski season in the Alps you need to down-load since the snow doesn't always reach the valley. So, at least there, having a tram is better than a chair for at least part of the way...
post #14 of 66
Lifts which put fewer people on the hill lead to less crowded trails. This is a good thing. I don't have the facts in front of me, but I know that the Jay tram holds sixty people, and I think a trip (including loading and unloading) is something like 8 minutes. Now I'm no math whiz or anything, but it seems to me like 60 people every eight minutes would be more like 450 than 360 per hour. Granted this is getting nit-pickey and is no where near 2k, but I really dont think I'd like 2000 people getting access to Green Beret, Valhalla, the Face, etc. every hour! Fewer people on the lifts = fewer people on the trails. This is a good thing. Why do you think the Mad River co-op wanted to keep their single chair?
post #15 of 66
Thread Starter 
Jaypowhound, then the line would be 5x longer. It just makes you have less runs in, but the powder will stay up there longer--longer for no reason whatsoever because those same skiers will just ski it sooner or later. Gondolas break down a lot, but perhaps replace trams with funitels, like the one at Squaw? Funitels are made to be usable in high winds, they are very big, and they have about as many cars as a gondola. So funitels are like an improved gondola. In my opinion, there is no advantage to having a tram over a funitel except for first tracks which can be counted as a disadvantage. (Let's say 12 people per funitel, 100 per tram. The first 12 people are at a disadvantage because they have 78 other people to deal with for first tracks, while the 78 are at an advantage because they get the equal car as the first 12.)

So, why did Jackson Hole put in a new tram? Couldn't they put in a funitel or etc?
post #16 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post
So, well, what's the point?
They're so that people from New York City who ride the subway all the time can go to Snowbird and feel right at home. The tunnel with the moving sidewalk is a nice extra touch.
post #17 of 66
protection from weather.
post #18 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post
protection from weather.
Funitel could be used instead which has a better uphill capacity.
post #19 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post
the powder will stay up there longer--longer for no reason whatsoever because those same skiers will just ski it sooner or later.
Limited uphill capacity can make the day after a storm pretty good. If you get a dump on the weekend, a lot of snow is preserved after the masses go home.
post #20 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by manchester81 View Post
Limited uphill capacity can make the day after a storm pretty good. If you get a dump on the weekend, a lot of snow is preserved after the masses go home.
Hmmmm I agree.

But personally I'd rather have the faster uphill capacity-- worse snow, more runs, more skiing is better than better snow, less runs, less skiing.
post #21 of 66
The primary answer has already been alluded to, but it has to do with terrain and weather.

A tram can span huge terrain variations with few and sometimes almost no towers. One span of the Jackson Hole tram is nearly 250 feet off the ground and almost half a mile between towers. Many of the European trams (I'm no expert but I've seen and ridden a few) are built on terrain that simply doesn't allow for the many support towers that chairlifts and gondolas require.

A second terrain consideration is safety in the event of a required evacuation. Ski patrollers have to be able to get to people on the lift and safely lower them to the ground if the lift breaks (or has to be shut down because of weather). Trams can be (and have been) safely evacuated from hundreds of feet in the air because the patrol only has to get to the car, set up the winches and harnesses, and then lower everybody from one spot. With a chairlift or gondola, they have to individually get to and set up for every single chair/car.

And weather is the last consideration. Many trams are built in high alpine environments. That may mean very high winds. A tram can operate safely in much higher winds than a chairlift (I'm not so sure about the comparison with gondolas). PLUS - those same high winds can make for very dangerous wind chill for someone on an exposed chairlift. So, they can run a tram in much harsher conditions AND deliver the people to the top in much more comfort and safety.

I can tell you that I've comfortably ridden the Jackson Hole tram in weather conditions that would have frozen me into a block of ice before I would ever have reached the top on a chairlift.

I like trams. A lot.

And has already been pointed out, once you go visit the Alps you'll really understand.
post #22 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post

But personally I'd rather have the faster uphill capacity-- more skiing is better than better snow
Surely, you are joking!.... right?
post #23 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post
But personally I'd rather have the faster uphill capacity-- worse snow, more runs, more skiing is better than better snow, less runs, less skiing.
You must love Killington.

I hate riding trams and I hate waiting in tram lines, but they have some benefits that would make me mourn their replacement with anything else in most cases. The lack of uphill capacity is key.

Chairlifts rarely venture far above terrain in part because of practical limits on span length imposed by a single dual purpose load and haul rope. This makes them impractical to install in some places regardless of the hassle to evacuate them. Also wind speed varies greatly with surrounding terrain and height above ground, so I've little doubt some trams sometimes close before nearby surface hugging lifts that don't cross valleys at altitude. Fixed grip lifts can run in some pretty high winds...and even fixed grip lifts haul more passengers than trams.

Trams that access points that could be easily linked by chairlifts often strike me as silly, but I think those trams are in the minority. The Sandia Peak tramway is an example of a tram that I don't imagine you could replace with less than a handful of lifts.
post #24 of 66
I disagree that Trams can run during significantly higher winds than other types of lifts. Large tram cars have much more surface area to catch the wind, and therefore are easier to get really swinging when the gusts are high. Yes, they have ballasts in them to help counter this, but it still happens. The Tram at Jay is often the FIRST lift to go on wind hold. The reason why is that once it starts swinging it can be difficult to get it to stop, and if it swings enough that it hits the towers when it passes them, it can be BAD.

As for the question of longer lines, I will gladly wait in a longer line to ski better snow any day. At Jay specifically the tram line CAN take a long time, but it usually doesn't. (read DON"T ride the tram on busy Saturday mornings or during Christmas or Presidents week) The terrain that can ONLY be accessed by the tram is some of the most difficult on the mountain, so the stuff that most people want to ski can be accessed by the other lifts. Therefore most skiers ride the other lifts. Those who do ride the tram are willing to wait for it, those who don't miss out. If the line is too long than spin a couple laps on the flyer and wait for it to get shorter, or, if the snow up there is just too good to miss, maybe take a lesson (call it a powder clinic if you must). You can cut the tram line all day... go in the back entrance right to the deck and hop right on the next car that shows up.
post #25 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by JayPowHound View Post
I disagree that Trams can run during significantly higher winds than other types of lifts. Large tram cars have much more surface area to catch the wind, and therefore are easier to get really swinging when the gusts are high. Yes, they have ballasts in them to help counter this, but it still happens. The Tram at Jay is often the FIRST lift to go on wind hold. The reason why is that once it starts swinging it can be difficult to get it to stop, and if it swings enough that it hits the towers when it passes them, it can be BAD.
What can I tell you?

Here at Jackson Hole, the tram often operates in much higher winds than the chairs. The shut-down velocity depends quite a bit on the wind direction, but I've ridden our tram multitudes of times in 60mph winds that made it almost impossible to walk off the dock at the top. And besides, on days like that I don't WANT to be riding a chairlift.

Maybe our (old) tram was designed better than yours?

I know that our new tram is heavier and has wider arm spread on the towers than the old one. It's supposed to be able to operate safely in even more extreme conditions than the old one. We'll find out this December.

And yes, I'll ride it every time I have the chance when the lines are manageable.
post #26 of 66
I was in the JH tram once when they reportedly had 100 MPH winds (don't know if that was true or not, but it was SUPER windy and it was a patroller that told us that). The windows were blown out of the car going downhill and so our ride up was the last of the day.
post #27 of 66
Once when I was on the Sandia Peak tram, they stopped just before the two cars passed by each other and waited for a lull in the wind. It does seem sort of odd that the geometry would work out so that the cars would hit each other before hitting the towers.
post #28 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdf View Post
Once when I was on the Sandia Peak tram, they stopped just before the two cars passed by each other and waited for a lull in the wind. It does seem sort of odd that the geometry would work out so that the cars would hit each other before hitting the towers.
I think that is less about geometry than restraints. The car is well restrained when it passes through a tower. When the cars pass each other, not only are the cars swinging in relation to the haul/load ropes, the ropes themselves are swinging....and that is one long span of rope swinging about.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JayPowHound
The Tram at Jay is often the FIRST lift to go on wind hold.
That is the tram I was thinking of when I said I'm sure some trams close before some lifts.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters
Here at Jackson Hole, the tram often operates in much higher winds than the chairs.
Speaking of that, did they shut down that East Ridge chair for wind before they would have shut down the tram? That'd be one of the best same-terrain both types of lifts examples, right?
post #29 of 66
Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire has a tram; the only one in New England aside from Jay. As others have mentioned -- on a cold, windy day that tram becomes awfully nice.

Cannon's was originally put in to service summer tourists to the area. I have heard that to this day their tram carries more people in the summer months then it does during ski season (not sure I believe that, but that's what I've been told by the tram operators). Personally I don't ride their tram unless the weather up top is abysmal, but when the weather is bad, that tram becomes a really nice thing to have.

Edit: regarding the tram at Jay and wind holds. That's interesting that Jay will put the tram on wind hold first. Cannon will shut down their other summit lift (which is a fixed grip quad) long before it becomes too windy to run the tram. I just figured that trams, with all the weight they involve, were fairly immune to wind holds.
post #30 of 66
I don't know how to explain it. There are some days when the Flyer (high speed quad) may go first, but usually it's the box. When it gets windy the Jay tram seems to have a nasty habit of smacking into tower 2 (at the top of the Upper River Quai) as it passes. When this smacking becomes more than just a bump, they close the tram. Sometimes they will slow the cars down and let them settle for a min. before passing the towers, but if it's really windy than they're probably not going to run. Sounds from comparisons made to others that it must just be a bad design? The exposure couldn't be that much worse than at other mountains, right?


This picture shows how close to the towers the cables run. Is this significantly different from other trams? (BTW... it is usually the second tower up there all by itself on the ridge that will get hit, not this one.)
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