How Are Ski Lifts Built? [Updated!]

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The ski season is officially over and the skiers and ski-in/ski-out (Ski Loits) have departed the mountains. While some resorts close down for the year, others just change their hours to reflect the changing seasons and more accurately reflect the available daylight hours. In some resorts, the last ski run is only for the professionals – the beginners have long since retired to the real world.

The resorts that close down for the year – or at least change their operating hours around to match the available daylight – have suffered greatly in terms of their revenues, with no real reprieve until the next ski season. It would be fair to say that 2018 has seen the death of the ski resort as we know it.

The ski industry has shifted toward the development of the “super-slope”, which enables skiers of all abilities to have fun whatever the weather. The runs are longer and the pitches steeper than ever before, meaning that even if the snow is soft and wet, it’s enough to get the heart pumping. On the back of this development, and in a bid to stay ahead of the game, ski resorts are expanding their offerings, with some resort owners putting on shows in the jungle, using slides, zip-lines and other innovative ideas to keep the snowboarders entertained.

How are ski lifts built? In the past, the answer would have been with a mechanical cable car, but these were quite rudimentary and unable to offer the same level of service as a modern ski lift. These days, the industry standard approach is to use an A.T.M.A. (Automatic Transomated Motor Assembly) which is a large, powerful diesel engine that drives a winch in order to raise the ski lift. This enables the skier to experience the exhilaration of skiing without having to physically struggle with the lift operator.

Building The Ski Lift To Last

One of the main reasons that most resorts opt for the A.T.M.A. is due to the endurance required to operate such a machine. The average ski lift travels at least 4,000 meters (13,246 feet) per day and requires a driver to be on duty for 12 hours, with another 12 hours available for rest. For the engineer building the lift, this is quite an investment, not to mention the cost of the diesel fuel that they have to purchase in super-tanker quantities.

Another important reason for going ahead with an A.T.M.A is that most resorts have a limited number of runs and spaces for parking cars. The more powerful the machine, the more runs and spaces it will be able to service. In some cases, this can mean adding new trails or expanding the old ones which eventually leads to a greater ability to satisfy even the most avid skiers and snowboarders.

Moving Up And Mainly Away

The A.T.M.A. is quite a beast when it comes to noise and vibration levels – in fact, it would not be uncommon for the neighbors to complain – but the trade-off in terms of quality and safety is indisputable. A single diesel engine has a significant service life, with the average model lasting over 30 years before needing major work. This means that if you are investing in a ski lift, you can be quite confident that it will serve you for many years to come, allowing you to enjoy this exciting winter sport without having to think about replacing it for more than a couple of seasons.

It’s quite a contrast to the old school of thought when it comes to building a ski lift. Back in the day, one would start by looking at the topography of the area in question and choose the appropriate gondola length and station height which would enable the skier to ski back to the base with minimal effort. The old school of thought would generally result in an elevator type of construction which would be relatively slow and unadventurous. If you’re looking for excitement and want to test your mettle on the mountain, then the old school of thought doesn’t necessarily apply any more.

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