Grünwaldkopfbahn Combi Gondola-Chairlift

Post by Gondola Project

This is a guest post by Ross Edgar. 

Image by Ian Edgar.

Grünwaldkopfbahn. Image by Ian Edgar.

The Grünwaldkopfbahn is a CPT system in the Austrian ski resort of Obertauern. Until recently it was a fairly unremarkable chairlift which did not stand out among the thousands of other chairlifts which serve the countless Alpine ski resorts. However, in recent years the Grünwaldkopfbahn has been refurbished and overhauled and features two new interesting design features.

Firstly, the CPT system has been equipped with terminus stations that allow for double-loading. Secondly, the Grünwaldkopfbahn features both gondolas and chairlift cabins/chairs on the same cable.


Skiers boarding chairlift. Image by Ian Edgar.

While gondolas and chairlifts utilise a variation of similar technology, it is very rare to see gondolas and chairlifts occupying the same cable. This is especially true in ski resorts where the two technologies utilise very different methods of loading. Skiers embarking onto a chairlift retain their skis and simply (or not so simply!) ski on and off the chairlift. However, skiers embarking into a gondola must remove their skis prior to entering the valley gondola station and re-attach the skis on exiting the summit gondola station. This would generally cause an operational headache when using gondolas and chairlifts on the same cable.

Two loading areas for skiers.

Two loading areas for skiers. Image by Ian Edgar.

However, the Grünwaldkopfbahn interestingly circumvents this issue by featuring a double-loading system whereby two different cable systems are operational within the CPT station alone; one system for the gondola cabins and one system for the chairlift chairs. In this instance, approximately every fourth vehicle on the cable is a gondola cabin and the remaining three are chairlift chairs.

Image by Ian Edgar.

Image by Ian Edgar.

Double-loading is by no means unique and will most likely be seen more and more in ski resorts as legacy chairlifts are replaced by more modern equivalents. In fact the Gondola Project featured an article some time ago on the Quick Silver Super Six (formerly the Quick Silver Quad) chairlift in Colorado which utilises a double-loading system. This ski lift has also been featured more recently in Billy Beasley’s guest post on innovative station designs. It is the combination of the double-loading system and the utilisation of both gondola cabins and chairlift chairs that makes this CPT system so interesting.

It could be argued that chairlifts have no place in serious urban CPT systems. However, what about inverting the Grünwaldkopfbahn principle so that three out of four cabins are gondola cabins and the remaining one in four is a specialist cabin? Again, drawing upon the experience of ski resorts, specialist cabins often include freight decks, ambulance cabins and maintenance vehicles. While freight decks have obvious urban applications, specialist cabins could be created specific to the urban environment.

Moreover, a double-loading system could provide valuable advantages in an urban environment. It has the potential to speed up loading times since having two separate boarding and alighting spaces could be useful in its own right. This principle could be used to segregate what would otherwise be one long queue in peak times for the purposes of crowd control. Or it could be used within a congested urban space to offer two different entrances from different streets or even different levels. Conceivably, it could even be a feature that’s designed to separate regular riders from priority passengers (i.e. parents with baby strollers, wheelchairs users and etc.).

With the two principles combined, specialist cabins such as freight decks could utilise their own embarkation point entirely separate to the boarding point for passengers, thus effectively creating two entirely physically separate CPT systems operating from the same cable. As alluded to in my preceding Gondola Diversification article, operating freight services using passenger CPT infrastructure could ensure the viability of freight CPT.

Perhaps in the future when gondola systems become inevitably increasingly complex, the two separate embarkation points could even serve two entirely different destinations with the routes diverging further down the cable.

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  1. Transporting goods should only be conducted during offpeak times. But it still doesn't solve the last mile problem.
  2. One of these combination lifts (or as we skiers call them, chondolas) is going in this summer at Beaver Creek Ski Resort in Colorado. It will have 10 passenger cabins and 6 passenger chairs plus a capacity of 3,400 people per hour. Not sure whether it will have double loading or not yet but it will be an interesting installation to follow this summer.
  3. @Quentin: Agreed. I had the same thought in my preceding article. @Billy Beasley: How many of these "chondolas" have you come across? As I stated in the article, I'm sure we're going to see more and more of these as legacy ski lifts are replaced but to date this is the only one that I have seen/heard of. ...And I'm glad you have chosen the correct winter sport :)
  4. There's one in Lech in Austria, which is even more interesting because the upper section has chairs and gondolas, while the lower section which connects to the resort of Wart just features the gondolas. I've also run across one in the Allgaue region of Germany, but I don't remember where exactly.
  5. @Chris: That is interesting. Do you mean that it is a single cable system with a middle station, where the chairs only operate on the upper leg? Or is it two separate cable systems?
  6. I'm pretty sure it has two separate cables, with the gondolas running through, given that the upper part was build two years earlier than the lower section. These are the lift-word entries for the upper and lower sections: http://www.lift-world.info/en/lifts/15501/datas.htm http://www.lift-world.info/en/lifts/16982/datas.htm it's pretty sad thast lift-world doesn't mention the through running part, but it at least has a list of these combi lifts: http://www.lift-world.info/en/lifts/Ort/kombibahn/page1.htm
  7. @ Chris: Thanks this is very interesting. I just saw a video of the Auenfeldjet which I imagine is the lower section (http://youtu.be/WFbwtqxzo5U) meanwhile the Weibermahdbahn is the top section. It's not entirely clear to me right now but I'm just wondering if the gondola cabins from the Auenfeldjet line are transferred onto the Weibermahdbahn line in the mid-station?
  8. Yes, the gondolas are transferred, while the chairs turn around to stay on the upper cable.
  9. This video shows the operation of the middle station just after the two minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYBOmiKF3hI#t=129
  10. @Chris: Thanks Chris. Very interesting indeed.
  11. Billy Beasley
    There are U.S. chondolas at Sunday River, Maine, Northstar at Tahoe, California and Telluride, Colorado but the majority are in Europe. However, several resorts, like Winter Park, Colorado, have lifts that are typical chairs during the ski day but have gondola cabins that are put on at night for summit dining operations.
  12. Haven't heard of a lift that turns from a chairlift into a gondola at different times, that's interesting. At the Glungezer in Austria there is a lift that operates as a T-Bar in Winter, and a single chair in Summer, though.

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