The Ski chairlifts are a type of aerial lift, more exactly known as an elevated passenger ropeway. The chairlift consists of a continuously circulating steel cable strung in a loop between two end terminals and generally over intermediate towers. They are found at many ski areas, amusement parks, at various tourist attractions, and increasingly, in urban transport.

The chairlifts are efficient and safe; taking as reference the carrier size and load efficiency, a passenger ropeway can transport up 4000 people per hour, and the fastest lifts get operating speeds of up to 12 m/s. The two-person double chair, which for many years was the workhorse of the North American Ski industry can move roughly 1200 people per hour at line speeds of up to 2.5 m/s. The four person detachable chair (or high speed quad), can transport 2400 people per hour with an average line speed of 5 m/s. Some bi and tri cable elevated-ropeways and reversible tramways achieve operating speeds much greater than this. Fixed-grip lifts are usually shorter and than detachable-grip lifts due to increased line load; the standard vertical rise for a fixed grip chairlift is in the range of 300-400m and usually under 1200 meters in length, while detachable quads can service a vertical rise of over 600 m and a line length of 2000m.

Functions and Design

  • Line Speed: The speed in meters per sec or feet per minute that a lift can run.

  • Interval: The distance between carriers in either time or distance. Often referred to like load interval, or the difference in time that two carriers pass a certain point (usually the loading point).

  • Capacity: Number of persons or passengers a lift can transport per hour.

  • Efficiency: A percentage which represents how many carriers can be fully loaded during period of operation.

  • Fixed Grip: The grip is fixed on the line; it should not move during regular operation.

  • Detachable Grip: The grip is able to open and close during regular operation allowing carriers to detach from the line and travel at a different speed. Detachable grips allow a greater line speed to be used, usually twice that of a fixed grip chair. There is a limit to how fast passengers can load a lift; a lift moving at greater than 2.5 m/s is very difficult to load, and a load interval of less than 5 seconds forces passengers to rush, and creates potential misload situations.