Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday: Special Guest Edition...

After guest blogging for someone else last week, I really thought it would be cool to do the same thing on my blog.  I haven't, in the five plus years I've been here, ever had a guest blogger.  It's about time that changes, isn't it?

So, I picked the person who is nearest and dearest to my heart to do a Top 5 Tuesday post about the thing that's nearest and dearest to his heart.

Now you have to understand something.  My boyfriend is a nerd.  A big one.  But not about computers, and not about video games (as much).  No, no.  He's a nerd about something most people don't think twice about!

Without further pish-posh, I give you Robb's Top 5 Tuesday list of his favorite ski lifts!  And it's a doozy!

*round of applause*

5.  1975 Borvig center-pole quad at Villa Olivia, Bartlett, Illinois.  www.villaolivia.com
This is the lift that I know the best from working at Villa.  First off, it’s rare to see a center-pole quad chair.

As far as I know, only two companies made this style of lift: Borvig and Riblet.  (If I’m wrong, please let me know).  This lift has seen little modifications or upgrades to it.  It still operates much the same today as it did when it was brand new in 1975.  Right about this time in 1975, Borvig was beginning to use a newer tower design; this lift uses an older tower design.  The tower itself is larger in size than the newer design, and the cross arms are thinner.  To compensate for thinner cross arms with a heavy quad chair, Borvig used additional support to form two 90 degree angles on either side of the tower.

Typical of Borvig, this lift sports the company’s signature "hanging sheaves" and "snowflake bull wheel".

This style of lift was known for its exceptionally strong grips.

The only modification to the lift is the addition of snow making equipment and lights to the towers; this was completed after the lift was installed.  The lift is also still using its original motor, but has a semi-newer gear box.  Towers 4 and 5 are also switched; when installing the lift, Villa accidentally put tower 5 in tower 4’s place and 4 in 5’s place.  Most people don’t realize this and you can only tell if you look at the lift as you ride:  tower 4 is slightly taller than 5.

4.  1968 Hall double at Skyline Ski Area in Friendship, WI

Skyline is the ski area where I first learned to ski, and for that reason it will always hold a special place in my heart.  For years I was terrified to ride this lift due to its speed and its steepness.  At one time, Skyline boasted that this lift was the fastest lift in the state of Wisconsin; it was run at 7 ½ mph.  Keep in mind that this is extremely fast compared to most lifts running at 1 - 2mph.  Some detachable lifts don’t even run this fast. 

Older Hall lifts that had two or four sheaves per cross arm had the sheaves standing on top of the cross arm.

Compare the older style of Hall sheave assemblies at Skyline vs. the newer style where the sheaves hung at tower arm level.

This lift has a steep climb for a portion of it, tower 5 perches on the edge of the drop off and sports a six sheave assembly.  For six and eight sheave assemblies, Hall used a different style of cross arm. 

This lift also has the older style of Hall bull wheels that have six support beams in it compared to the newer style of eight. 

Unfortunately, Skyline has gone through several owners recently and is currently closed to skiing.  The lift line has started to become overgrown,

and the cable is rusty.  Hopefully a new owner will come along soon and restore this lift.

3.  1989 (?) Leitner-Borvig High Speed detachable quad.  “Spirit Express”  at Spirit Mountain, Minnesota.  www.spiritmt.com
Spirit Mountain is currently home to an interesting “Frankenlift”.  A Frankenlift is a lift made up of multiple components.  The lift was originally built by Leitner and Borvig and later modified by CTEC.  This lift is an early model of a high speed, detachable quad lift.  Detachable means the chairs/gondolas actually detach from the cable in the station area for slower/smoother loading.  Older detachable lifts sometimes had a separate motor house that sat behind the loading terminal. 

The loading terminals and original chairs where designed by Leitner.  Borvig designed the motor house, the bull wheels,

towers and sheaves/sheave assemblies. 

The motor house is located at the base of the lift

and skiers line up under it and board the lift in the loading area.  The original chairs had plastic seats and backs and had a clear plastic shell that could be pulled down over the chair to help keep warm.  Spirit quickly got rid of the plastic bubbles on the chairs.  Later, CTEC switched chairs on the lift from the plastic seat style of Leitner

to metal CTEC chairs (which were on another lift at Spirit Mountain).  The original grips from the Leitner chairs stayed with the Spirit Express

When CTEC switched chairs, they also upgraded the controls of the lift.  Currently Spirit Mountain has a modernization master plan which involves moving and lengthening the Spirit Express. Whether they will keep the same lift and modify it again has yet to be determined. 

2.  1971 Hall Double “Eagles Nest Double” at Whitecap Mountain, Hurley, Wisconsin. www.skiwhitecap.com
This Hall double is unique in the fact that it is a partial two-way lift (most lifts you can only ride in one direction) and it crosses over a small valley.  It is also unique that the motor house uses an older design

but uses newer style chairs, towers and sheave assemblies.  It has two midway unloading points

on either side of the valley it crosses.  On one side of the valley is another unique feature of this lift: its lattice type tower.

On the Eagles Nest Mountain side, the lift uses two depression towers to ascend the extremely steep incline of the mountain. 

The other unique feature of this lift is that one of the towers sits at an angle.  Most Hall towers sit like this:    |    where this tower perched on a rocky ledge sits at an angle    /    over the ledge. 

If there isn’t a lot of snow, you can see the lake at the bottom of the valley that the lift crosses over; it has some amazing views from here.

1.   1966/1989 Hall Skycruiser gondola  at Lutsen Mountains, Lutsen, Minnesota.  www.lutsen.com
This is one of four remaining Hall Skycruiser gondola in the country.  This lift was originally installed at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire and then part of It was moved to Lutsen In 1989.  Lutsen bought the terminals

cross arms, and Skycruiser cabins and one original tripod tower from Loon.  This particular lift requires an attendant to move the cabins around the contour and send it back on its way;

Newer gondolas use automatic rollers in the station and to speed the cabins onto the cable; this lift uses good old fashioned gravity.  A lift attendant has to pull a cord to release the brake in the station and the Skycruiser cabin travels down a slight decline before being attached to the cable.


Lutsen kept the original, gravity powered coupling design and the original Skycruiser cabins and refurbished them to ensure a long life and a quaint, vintage feeling.  The original Skycruiser featured Hall’s tripod towers

for extra support and stability.  The gondola crosses over a creek and a goes down into a small valley

before making a very steep ascent into the summit station. 

During this portion of the ride, you get some great views of Lake Superior and the surrounding land.  I particularly love this part of the ride.  The three break-over towers are perched right on the edge of Moose Mountain

It’s a very interesting feeling departing the summit station and looking over the edge of the mountain before going down the decent.  The Skycruiser is a two way lift. Lutsen does sell tickets to non-skiers to ride the lift to the mountain top restaurant.  While I was skiing at Lutsen, I fell and tore my ACL; I had to take the Skycruiser back to Eagle Mountain where my car was.  I took this video of the Skycruiser on my trip to my car. 

Skycruising: 2 years later

For the memories associated with it and the rarity of the lift, this one grabs the top spot on my list of the Top 5 ski lifts of all time.

*round of applause*

There, now, wasn't he great?  We have a picture he took of that last lift hanging up in our bedroom.  Having been with him for almost 4 years, I could sit here and tell you about Borvigs and Halls and Riblets (not on the list because he hates them) and all that stuff.  I've definitely learned a lot from him, and I hope you all have, too!  If nothing else, maybe you're geared up for winter now.  God knows we're not going to get to see Fall this year...



A human kind of human said...

For someone who has never seen a ski lift, never mind being on one, I now know a lot about them. I imagine I would love to ski but with my athletic abilities I would probably break a leg or two on my very first try and in any case, I know of only on ski resort in SA and that is so expensive only oversees tourists and the very rich can afford it. Thanks for the insight into a toally new subject Rob.

KellyMellyBoBellyBananaFanna said...

Those photos are AMAZING. I am green with envy!!!


David said...

I'm not the hugest fan of skiing, but...

LUTSEN!! (Or, as we pronounce it here Löötsen...)

PepeB said...

I've heard about people travelling around the world to test roller coasters, but ski lifts? We have quite a lot of them down here in Bavaria – I will look at them with different eyes now.

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Thanks, all!