For most of us, lifts are a means to an end—they get us up so we can get down. But around the world, there are some really crazy ones that defy imagination. Here are the six craziest ski lifts in the world that we’ve had a chance to come across…
Longest Unsupported Lift: Whistler Blackcomb’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola (pictured above by photographer Mitch Winton) takes the honours as the longest unsupported lift span in the world, with just over three km of cable between towers over Fitzsimmons Creek. Topping out at 435 meters above the ground, it’s also the highest lift of its kind and as much of an attraction for sightseeing as skiing.
Fastest Lift: The title of World’s Fastest Ski Lift goes to the Jandri Express in Les Deux Alps, France. Its seven kilometer journey takes skiers 1,500 vertical meters into the alpine around 24 minutes, including a changeover at mid station. Constructed by Poma, the gondola runs on two 1,500 horsepower engines and moves 1,800 people per hour.
Most Iconic Lift: The Single Chair at Mad River Glen, Vermont is such an icon that it’s got its own beer named after it — Single Chair Ale by Magic Hat. About a decade back, the Single Chair had clearly seen better days. Most assumed a modern, faster lift system would be installed to replace it. But local diehards fought back to save the lift, and now the Single Chair is the fastest fixed-grip chairlift in the United States.
Most Sophisticated Lift: Vail’s Gondola One is the cream of the crop as far as lift systems are concerned. Equipped with free wifi and appointed with plush upholstery, the gondola feels more like a first-class airline cabin than a ski lift. The cabins carry 10 passengers and feature heated, cushioned seats. And with a speed of 1,200 feet per minute, the gondola is the fastest of its type in the world.
Highest Lift: The highest ski lift in the world, in terms of elevation, tops out at 3,980 meters on 4,390 meter Mt Apharwat in Gulmarg, India. Word on the street is it may be a bit sketchy, but no more troubling than the strong military presence of machine guns and barbed wire in the troubled region. An honourable mention goes to Bolivia’s Chacaltaya, a 200-meter rope tow set on a 5,421 meter peak of the same name. However, it closed this year because the Chacaltaya snowfield melted and operational days were becoming few and far between. Check out the photo below shot by Florian Wagner, Red Bull Content Pool.
Oldest Operational Lift: The oldest operational chairlift in the world prize goes to Mt Eyak, just outside of Cordova, Alaska. Originally constructed in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1936, Eyak bought the single-seater in 1974 and still uses it as their only lift to service 244 meters of seaside shredding.