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Lift Operations - Behind the scenes

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joshua segal
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Posted: Nov 27, 2009 - 2:10 PM GMT

Last spring, I wrote an article on what happens behind the scenes before a chair lift opens in the morning.

After a few rejection notices, it is posted at the following URL.
http://skikabbalah.com/lift_operations.pdf

Any comments, corrections, etc. would be appreciated.

__________
Joshua Segal
skipatrol40s
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Posted: Nov 27, 2009 - 4:10 PM GMT

Joshua, great article. Just to add to your paper, it would have been interesting to talk about Behind the scenes from Opening to Closing.

Closing the chair lift is also kind of interesting. Ski patrol rides every lift last to make sure everyone is off the lift, lift attendants ride down the lifts to go home, lift attendants get on and off the lift without skis, removing the top emergency safety bar before closing, stopping the lift at the end of the day with chairs in position so groomers can groom the exist ramps easily, and at least one of the lifts is designated ski patrol final sweep lift.

The final sweep last patroller off the mountain sits at the very top of the mountain and may have to bring a sled down if an injured skier is found at the end of day patrol trail sweep. The lift attendant in charge of that lift can not go home until that last ski patroller is down the mountain.

At the end of the day Ski patrol is also responsible to keep an eye out to make sure all customers are off the lifts.

You may also want to talk about the emergency stop safety bar in case you don't get off the lift. Many people see the emergency stop safety bar and lift their feet up over the bar, which obviously does not stop the lift.

On opening talk about maintenance, lift attendants, and ski patrollers that ride the lift and must exit the lift properly without any lift attendant there to stop the lift if something goes wrong. It can be kind of interesting some mornings to get off a lift after a night of heavy snow, high winds, heavy rain, or ice storm . You never know what you are going to find or not find each morning on the ramp when trying to get off the chair with no lift attendant to stop the lift.

You may also want to describe all the shoveling that needs to be done on those nights when you get 2-3 feet of powder and you have customers wanting to load the chair as soon as possible. Many years ago I was a lift attendant and decided to go to work on Christmas day when we got 2 feet of snow the night before. My relatives could not make it to my moms house. I decided to make some money and called the shop foreman and said do you need me. I came in and was handed a shovel and told to open one of the lifts. About 10 skiers followed me over to the lift. I started shoveling and they started whining about when is the lift going to open. I finally told them to take their skis off and get over here and help me. They did. and they were happy to do it.

On one spring day I was a lift attendant at the loading area with only a little bit of snow to load the chair. In front of the chair loading areas was nothing but very wet mud. This was a double chair that was very small. A ski patroller come buy with a toboggan to take up the mountain. He tell me he want to load hold the toboggan so it slides through the back of the chair. I told him it won't work. He argues with me. I said do you want me to slow the lift down. He yells at me and says no. I said ok. Well you know what happened. That ski patroller ended up face first in the mud. He knew he messed up and it was his fault.
Rick
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Posted: Nov 27, 2009 - 6:34 PM GMT

One thing I always wondered about was how tiring it gets on the larger fixed grip chairs when the attendant holds back the chair just as the skiers sit down. It looks like your arms should turn into jelly by the end of the day.
newman
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Posted: Nov 27, 2009 - 11:22 PM GMT

The chair hitting your hand all day starts to hurt. Not the arms so much. Also, cleaning off all the chairs after a snowfall, that can be a drag. Sometimes you also have to put up ropes for the croud loading. I dont mind being a liftie for a while. It would get to be lame if I did it all day. The top can be a boring time, but its warmer than loading people at the base. The areas dont want workers skiing down. They dont want the ordeal of a person getting hurt on the clock.
abubob
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Posted: Nov 28, 2009 - 3:00 AM GMT

Excellent article Joshua. It filled in some gaps for me as the only job I had skiing was as an instructor over twenty years ago. Definitely boosted my respect for the lifties.
jimk
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Posted: Nov 28, 2009 - 2:15 PM GMT
Edited: Nov 28, 2009 - 2:17 PM GMT

Good article and good post by SP40. I enjoyed the glossary and photos. Dumb question from an old gaper: what prevents a typical chairlift from spinning backwards out of control? This is a newbies biggest fear when a lift suddenly stops. Will it start going backwards at 50mph?
I have been on lifts that stopped for one reason or another and just before restart they would start to go backwards for 25 feet, then move forward in normal manner. What was that all about?

Story: one time around 1980 my folks were night skiing at a PA ski area which was laid out with the base lodge and parking lot at top of mountain. They stopped at a slopeside/midstation house that a friend was renting and began to do a little partying, lost track of time and realized the ski area was closing. They skied from house to midstation loading point. There was no attendant and all was dark, but lift was still running and they got on an empty chair and rode up about 1/3 mile to top of mountain where their car was parked. A ski patroler and/or lift attendant was standing at the top and pulled their season passes. My dad had to plead and cajole mtn manager to get the passes back the next day. The manager was very angry.
Would you agree that in a situation like this it is possible they could have been stuck on the lift all night? In that case I suppose their best chance would be to scream for help or hope a groomer drove by and they got his attention?? There was a popular ski run under the part of the liftline they rode over, but much of that ride is 30 feet off the ground.
skipatrol40s
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Posted: Nov 28, 2009 - 4:30 PM GMT
Edited: Nov 28, 2009 - 4:33 PM GMT

Basic rule of thumb. If a lift attendant is not present when you load a ski lift than nobody knows your on the lift. If nobody knows your on the lift than be prepared to spend the night on the lift.

It should also be noted that lift attendants may leave the lift running for snowmakers at the end of the day. Night shift snowmakers will ride the lift up and walk down to attend to the snow guns. Obviously the snowmakers may shut the lift down at anytime.

BTW In many cases snowmakers do more real lift evacuations with ropes than ski patrol. Its common for snow makers at night to make ice on the cable and tower switches that cause the lift to be stopped with snowmakers on the lift. When that happens at night, snowmakers will get out the lift evacuation ropes to get their fellow snowmakers off the lift.

skipatrol40s
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Posted: Nov 28, 2009 - 5:12 PM GMT
Edited: Nov 28, 2009 - 5:17 PM GMT

Some classical chair lift links.

Classic Roll Back chair lift test video. Don't worry there is at least three fail safe mechanisms in place to prevent roll back. Your 25 foot roll back is very strange. In addition to various breaking systems there is also a fail safe metal ratchet system that prevents roll back.

This child raised his feet over the emergency stop bar when his backpack got stuck on the chair and he could not get off the lift. I believe the distracted lift attendant was on the phone (not cell phone) at the time. This child was fine and was on the today show a few days later.

This is why you don't hang out at top of the lift scratching yourself
Jonni
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Posted: Nov 29, 2009 - 3:31 PM GMT

Quote:
Good article and good post by SP40. I enjoyed the glossary and photos. Dumb question from an old gaper: what prevents a typical chairlift from spinning backwards out of control? This is a newbies biggest fear when a lift suddenly stops. Will it start going backwards at 50mph?


All lifts have some sort of a rollback prevention device that prevents the lift from rolling back, either at all or only a little bit. This rollback device is actually only used when an emergency stop has been activated. On newer lifts this can be an additional bullwheel brake (basically a big clamp on the bullwheel at drive that clamps on seconds after the lift is stopped). Specifically on CTEC or Garaventa/CTEC lifts you will hear a ticking noise at the drive, which is actually the anti-rollback device. It's simply a little piece of metal that is constantly in contact with the bullwheel that only allows it to turn in one direction. The anti-rollback device can also be a series of teeth that are dropped onto opposing teeth on the bullwheel that lock together if the bullwheel starts to rollback. See photo below:



During normal operation however, there is actually very little braking going on when a lift stops during a normal stop. Normal stops are used for most stops on a lift as it's less wear and tear on a lift and will stop the lift with the same stopping distance and stopping time every time regardless of load. Emergency brakes/anti-rollback devices will stop the lift faster or slower than the normal stop depending on how the brake/rollback is adjusted.

When a normal stop has been activated, the drive of the lift decelerates the motor at a controlled pace to 0fpm (feet per minute) until at which time the service brake (a disc brake that acts on the drive shaft between the motor and gearbox) clamps shut to keep the lift stopped and prevent it from rolling back. I'll see if I have a photo somewhere of the service brake.

__________
Fall Line n. Imaginary line following the most direct path down a slope that skiers continuously traverse on a run, often stopping at other invisible slope features along the way like the Tumble Lane, the Stagger Path and the Topple Zone.
jimk
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Posted: Dec 18, 2009 - 1:40 PM GMT

Quote:
Good article and good post by SP40. I enjoyed the glossary and photos. Dumb question from an old gaper: what prevents a typical chairlift from spinning backwards out of control? This is a newbies biggest fear when a lift suddenly stops. Will it start going backwards at 50mph?
I have been on lifts that stopped for one reason or another and just before restart they would start to go backwards for 25 feet, then move forward in normal manner. What was that all about?
.


Did you guys hear about what happened at a Wisconsin ski area last night?
lift malfunction backwards, many injured


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