The gondola lift is a certain type of aerial lift, its second name is cable car or aerial lift, consists of a long steel cable hooked to two turning points, with a number of passenger cabins carried along by the cable. For longer stretches, a number of supports are placed between the two main points to hold the cable up and provide additional stability. An electric bullwheel pulls the cable through, bringing the gondolas along. This system allows for the speed at which the gondolas move to be varied, so it may be slowed down for passengers to disembark or to take pictures, for example. Gondola lifts are most common at ski resorts, though they are also found over many scenic areas, where they are often called sky rides.

Some types of Gondola Lift

There are some systems the passenger cabins, which can hold between four and 16 people, are connected to the cable by means of spring-loaded grips. These grips allow the cabin to be detached from the moving cable and slowed down in the terminals, to allow passengers to board and disembark. Doors are almost always automatic and controlled by a lever on the roof or on the undercarriage that is pushed up or down. Cabins are driven through the terminals either by rotating tires, or by a chain system. To be accelerated to and decelerated from line speed, cabins are driven along by progressively faster (or slower) rotating tires until they reach line or terminal speed. Gondola lifts can have intermediate stops that allow for uploading and downloading on the lift. Examples of a lift with three stops instead of the standard two are the Village Gondola and the Excalibur Gondolas at Whistler, while an example of a lift with four terminals is the Plattieres Gondola at Meribel.

Also, there are a systems where the cable is slowed down intermittently to allow passengers to disembark and embark the cabins at stations, and to allow people in the cars along the route to take photographs. A system like this, or when a train of gondolas in a row stops at a station is called a pulse gondola because the lift stops to load usually three cabins at a terminal and then starts up again. It stops over and over to do this.

Another type of gondola lift is the bi-cable gondola, which has one other stationary cable, besides the main haul rope, that helps support the cabins. Examples of this type of lift include the Cable Car in Singapore and the Sulphur Mountain Gondola in Banff, Canada. There are also tri-cable gondolas that have two stationary cables that support the cabins. They differ from aerial tramways in that the latter consist only of one or two usually larger cabins, moving up and down, not circulating.