Posts Tagged: Colorado



Weekly Roundup: Winter Park Resort in Colorado revives Gondola connection idea between town and resort

Mary Jane base in Winter park Resort, Colorado (Photo on Wikimedia by Sdgjake) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Urban Gondolas: Innovative Station Designs, Part 2

This is a guest post by Billy Beasley.

It is the second article of a two-part series examining innovative station designs found in recreational cable cars that could be useful for urban implementation. Click here for the first article. 

Heavenly Mountain Gondola (Nevada)

In some situations, cabin parking may not be an issue — rather, it’s how to build a station in a terrain-constrained location.

One unique solution may be to literally “cut it in half”.

Heavenly Mountain Gondola mid-station. Image by Flickr user inkknife_2000.

This technique is used on many gondola systems but I’ll examine the gondola at Heavenly Mountain in South Lake Tahoe which takes guests from the resort village/hotels to the mountain.

The mountain wanted a mid-station on top of the ridge which has beautiful views of Lake Tahoe but instead of constructing a full station, they only built the mid-station for the side of the lift that was going up.

The uphill side of the line stops at the viewing deck but the downhill side travels down without stopping, saving time on the downhill ride time, space and money because only one side of the terminal and terminal equipment is being built. This was especially practical for Heavenly since there was no natural flat spot on the ridge so the deck had to be built sticking out from the side of the ridge. This would have meant that if the other side was built, the deck would have to be longer and stairs would have to be built to get to the other side where the best views are as well as shops and restaurants.

This could be useful in a tight urban space where there isn’t enough room for a full mid-station but access is required in one particular direction. 

Some aerial tramways terminals have shifting unloading platforms so only one tram unloading dock needs to be built instead of two. This technique conserves space and would be helpful for an urban gondola in a tight situation.


Skyeship Express Gondola (Killington, Vermont)

Killington, Vermont’s Skyeship Express Gondola is a two-stage gondola that can be run two different ways: as one continuous gondola or as two separate systems. At the mid-station, the cabins will either turn back around and go back down the line and the lift functions as two totally different system or the cabins continue on to the second stage and the lift functions as one big system.

Check out for pictures of the mid-station and system design.

This could be useful for an urban gondola that wants to alter its route for traffic and flow patterns. For example, running the lift as two different sections in the morning and rush hour for peak times and running it as one big system during non-peak times. 


Breckenridge Quicksilver Super6 – Double Loading (Colorado)

Double loading can also be used, which alternates cabins between two different loading areas to improve station efficiency. Breckenridge’s Quicksilver Super6 was the first American lift to utilize double loading. As the chairs come into the terminal, one turns and heads back up the mountain like a regular detachable lift while the next chair travels onto another lift loading area and this continues on in an alternating pattern. The chairs from the lower loading section of the station then rejoin the line of the upper loading section and the chairs travel up on one line then unloads like a regular chairlift.

Check out Colorado Ski History for great overview and pictures of this system.

The upper loading section is used for guests coming from the mountain and the lower is used for guests from the town and nearby hotels. The two loading zones have separate loading cues and separate loading locations so there is no intermingling or confusion between lines. This could be used on an urban system where passengers are coming from two different areas or in situations where having two loading areas are necessary to ease congestion.

But if all else fails and nothing else works, you could just put that terminal in the side of a mountain, like what was done on the Huashan Xifeng Cable Car in China!

Thanks to and for the information and thanks for reading. Feel free to comment what you think and have a nice day.


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Urban Gondolas: Innovative Station Designs, Part 1

This is a guest post by Billy Beasley. 

For many years, some critics of urban gondolas have argued that they won’t work in dense city centers due to the lack of space to build terminals. These stations, especially for larger lift types like the 3S or Aerial Tram require larger buildings to house the important machinery that power them.

Even more space is required on systems where the operator wants to take the cabins off the line nightly and keep them in a storage building to prevent wear and tear. Thus, one question becomes how to minimize and conserve space for urban gondolas in situations where land is in short supply. For this first article of a 2-part series, we will examine two unique and innovative case examples.

Solden Ski Resort – Gaislachkoglbahn (Austria)

Check out this Doppelmayr installation in Austria at the well-known Solden Ski Resort named Gaislachkoglbahn. This system is designed with two segments: the first section consists of a monocable gondola while the second section has a 3S tricable gondola.

Typically there would four terminals for the lift but in this instance, Solden only built 3 stations (map of transfer station). The top terminal of the 8-passenger gondola is combined with the bottom terminal of the 3S system. With this configuration, it saves money and space as two stations are built as one single building.

The two cable lifts also feature incredibly innovative cabin parking systems. The monocable’s lower segment parks the cabins above the actual lift terminal itself and when the operator is ready to start the cable car, the cabins descend on a series of rails down to the terminal where they join the line.

Bottom station. Image by Flickr user liquidx.

The 3S segment also features an innovative cabin management system located in the bottom terminal of the lift (which remind you, is also the top station of the lower segment). The cabins enter the bottom station but a set of the in-terminal sheaves rotates and transfers the cabin from the line to a series of rails. From here, it transfers the cabin to the correct spot in the parking area. The parking area itself is inside the station, where the lift maze starts for loading the 3S gondola. With this design, the entire system manages to save a significant amount of space as potentially six buildings for the system (four stations, two cabin parking buildings) has been effectively reduced to three.

This would be helpful for an urban gondola system that wants to utilize cabin parking but doesn’t have a tremendous amount of space to put the cabins when they are not on the line.

Keystone Mountain (Colorado) – Outpost Gondola and River Run Gondola

Keystone Mountain in Colorado used cabin parking for their two gondolas in an before they built their new gondola but they did it in an interesting fashion. The bottom floor of the Outpost Gondola (the top was the lift station itself) was a sprawling cabin parking facility for both the Outpost Gondola and the nearby River Run Gondola.

Check out for some great pictures and walkthrough of this design!

Lift maintenance would transfer the cabins from the line of the River Run Gondola to the cabin parking facility where the cabins from the Outpost Gondola were also being stored. From here, maintenance crews could work on the grips, clean the cabins, and store the cabins properly for both lifts in one convenient location. This is especially impressive when you consider that the lifts were built by two different manufacturers – the River Run Gondola by Von Roll and the Outpost Gondola by Doppelmayr (keep in mind, this was before Doppelmayr purchased Von Roll and both companies had separate grip designs at the time).

Therefore, two different rails and two different storage pods needed to be built because the Von Roll cabins couldn’t go on the Doppelmayr rails and vice versa. There were two separate control systems but maintenance could do typical work on the cabins in one big facility.

This design could be helpful on urban gondola systems that are built with two different lift types or on ones that add another section to an existing system of a different model.

In the next article we will examine systems in Nevada, Vermont and Colorado. Stay tuned!

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Tower Removals

Ever wonder how towers are removed when an old cable system is dissembled? Well Vail Resorts released a video documenting the entire process which showcases the precision helicopter work that was required. Check it out!

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Gondola Tunes

In Aspen you can play your iPod in a gondola. Just hope none of your friends want to listen to Nickelback... Image by The Ski Channel.

Commuting to work on public transit can give you a chance to catch up on sleep , read, do work, avoid the hassle of finding parking, etc etc. However, it can also be stressful — overcrowding, lack of personal space and unfamiliarity with transit routes can all be frustrating.

But now the Silver Queen Gondola in Aspen, Colorado may offer a simple improvement by letting riders play their own music. That’s right, each cabin features an onboard MP3 dock. One reason this works is because a gondola is a small, contained vehicle. While you’d never get an entire subway train to agree to a song or even genre of music, if you were commuting with a small group of friends or acquaintances,a consensus is most likely reached.

While this add-on is no panacea to the ills of riding transit and could potentially be a source of irritation to some passengers, it does demonstrate the opportunities for personalizing travel experiences, especially with CPT technology.

Who wouldn’t want to add a little fun and enjoyment to their daily commute? Now the only problem will be deciding on who’s Ipod to use…

Thanks goes to Anna Hill for informing us of this system. 



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Is This The World’s Fastest Gondola?

(Correction/Update: This is certainly not the world’s fastest gondola. MDG systems routinely eclipse the 6 m/s threshold. For more details click here.)

A couple weeks ago I brought attention to a new gondola that’s going to be built in Vail, Colorado. While the system is in no way urban, it did have the curious feature of being Wi-Fi enabled – a concept I thought somewhat absurd. I didn’t, mind you, think it absurd to have a Wi-Fi enabled gondola. I thought it absurd that such a development would come initially from a ski resort installation rather than an urban one.

But I digress . . .

Now comes word that not only will this system allow you to update your facebook status while skiing (presumably with something like “hey, I’m skiing!”), but it will also feature an in-vehicle heating system and will be the “Worlds (sic) Fastest Gondola.”

I love superlatives like the word “fastest” as more often than not it’s more a reflection of marketing than of fact. If you dig deeper into the article you realize that this isn’t to be the world’s fastest gondola, but is instead to be “the fastest gondola of its type in the world.”

That’s important and you’ll see why in a minute.

All reports of the new Vail gondola indicate that it will seat 10 people, which immediately indicates the system will likely be a Monocable Detachable Gondola (MDG). Theoretically it could also be a Bicable Detachable Gondola (BDG), but those systems are quickly falling out of favour with both manufacturers and customers. So let’s assume it’s an MDG.

MDG technology generally tops out at around 5 m/s or 18 km/hr. Meanwhile, all reports of the Vail system are of a gondola that will travel 1,200 feet/sec or 6 m/s or 21.5 km/hr. For those counting, that’s a 20% increase in speed and most certainly makes it the fastest MDG system in the world.

But regular readers of The Gondola Project will note it’s still not as fast as the 3S or Tricable Detachable Gondola’s (TDG) current top speed of 7.5 m/s or 27 km/hr. (We could also note that it’s not as fast as the 12 m/s top speed of Aerial Tram technology, but wouldn’t be a fair comparison as Aerial Trams and Gondolas are two very different technologies.)

So yes, the phrase “fastest gondola of its type in the world” is accurate. Fastest gondola in the world, not so much.

Nevertheless, this is a pretty exciting development. The 3S/TDG is currently the heavy duty system of choice for high-speed, high-capacity gondola systems – but it also comes with a higher cost and longer construction times.

Leitner-Poma (the builders of the system) have now provided a new choice in the cable transit line-up by creating a (presumably) low-cost, medium-capacity system with a higher overall speed – making it instantaneously more attractive to many different markets.

They also claim it will have “40% more uphill capacity” but without further details it’s impossible to know exactly how they’re making that calculation and how valid the claim is so we can ignore it for the time being (but should certainly investigate further).

But there’s more to this system, I think, than mere numbers and statistics. My gut says this isn’t just about a ski resort in Vail.

Consider all the trappings of urban transit this system displays; heating, fast speeds and Wi-Fi. It’s also supposed to “establish a whole new standard for comfort in lifts” – suggesting a seating configuration or design different from the standard wooden or plastic benches that are the norm.

In all likelihood, this is probably Leitner-Poma’s answer to Doppelmayr’s Urban Concept vehicles in Koblenz, Germany. This isn’t just a ski lift, it’s a concept system typical of an industry that debuts new technology in their core ski resort markets rather than risk bringing new technologies straight into the urban market.

If this is, indeed, a volley for supremacy in the growing urban gondola market (through the back-door of the ski lift market), we could be at the start of something resembling an arms race between the industry’s two big players; Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma.

And if that’s the case, we may see a whole lot more urban-centric innovations in cable in the coming couple years.

Which would be very exciting for everyone involved.

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Weekly Roundup: No Cable Cars For Aspen

A couple highlights from around the world of Urban Gondolas, Gondola Transit, and Cable Propelled Transit (slow week, sorry):

  • Elected officials for ski area reject ski lifts – The Elected Officials Transportation Committee (ETOC) have rejected a proposal to study a concept plan to link all four ski mountains of Aspen, Colorado by cable cars and/or gondolas. The ETOC cited “everything from environmental concerns to high winds shutting the system down.” Interesting how an elected body with no knowledge of cable transit systems can pass judgement on the technology without even studying it first. Even more interesting this comes from a body of officials elected to represent a ski resort area.
  • Gondola Riders Barely Inconvenienced, Demand Apology – Proving that an unjustifiable sense of entitlement is not unique to the western world, tourists are demanding an apology from Beijing’s Fragrant Hills Park. Apparently, park officials left the tourists stranded in a gondola system for a total of (gasp!) ten minutes. Most interesting is the claim that riders “found themselves dangling 500 meters off the ground” which seems highly unlikely considering the highest gondola in the world only measures 436 m off the ground and is located in Whistler, British Columbia.

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