How Do Ski Lifts Slow Down? (Quick Guide)

How Do Ski Lifts Slow Down

If you are a skier, you might be familiar with the different types of ski lifts and probably have ridden many up the hills during ski seasons.

If you are also a person who is generally curious about how things are made and work, how some ski lifts manage to reduce their moving speeds at the terminals may be a question you may have already been pondering. 

This post will give you a quick rundown of how do ski lifts slow down and which types of ski lifts can actually slow down at terminals.

What Types Of Ski Lifts Can Slow Down At The Terminals?

Not all ski lifts have the ability to slow their speed. Only the aerial lifts with detachable carriers, namely the detachable chairlifts and Gondolas are equipped with mechanisms to slow them down at the terminals.

Read our full guide on how ski lifts work to learn more about their mechanisms.

All surface lifts such as rope tows, button lifts, T bars, and magic carpets as well as earlier models of chairlifts move at constant speeds, but those speeds are slow enough for passengers to board and leave at the terminals.

How Do Detachable Chairlifts And Gondolas Slow Down? 

Detachable chair lifts and Gondolas came into being as a result of ski manufacturers implementing ways to transport MORE passengers at a time. 

There were two ways the carrying capacities of those lifts could be improved.

  • One was by increasing the passenger loads by making the carriages bigger and having more carriages on the cable between terminals.
  • The other option was to make the lifts move faster. 

The second option was obviously easier and cheaper. But if the manufacturers were to implement higher cable speed to increase the carrying capacity, they had to find a way to slow it down at the terminals so that passengers can get into and out of the lift safely.

How Do Detachable Chairlifts And Gondolas Slow Down

Detachable chairlifts and Gondolas were invented as a result of that.

It was the engineers at Austrian ski lift manufacturer, Doppelmayr, who invented the detachable ski lift, first put to use in 1981 at Breckenridge, Colorado.

How Do These Slow Down?

The secret to these lifts’ ability to slow down lies in their grip on the cable. These grips are designed in such a manner that they can be opened with the help of some rollers made of rubber and metal. 

As this type of a lift carriage reaches a terminal, its grip on the cable is released, and the carriage is pushed on to a second cable that moves at a slower speed. The carriage continues to move around the terminal at the same slower speed of that second cable.

Also read our guide on how much weight can a ski lift hold.

How Do These Slow Down

Skiers can board and leave the chair or Gondola safely at this slower speed. Plus, there are mechanisms to ensure that chairs or Gondolas are evenly spaced on the second cable too. 

Once the carriage comes back past the terminal, its grip on the cable is once again opened, and the carriage is pushed onto the original, faster moving cable for its journey back to the terminal at the base of the hill. 

These detachable grips on the chairlift and Gondola carriages have made it possible for resorts to transport more skiers uphill and for skiers to get into and off the lifts without tumbling over.

How Much Does Ski Lifts Slow Down? 

While the ski lifts with fixed grips move at a speed of 500 feet per minute, lifts with detachable grips can move about 2000 feet per minute on the main cable. 

How Much Does Ski Lifts Slow Down

They move at 200 feet per minute when they are detached from the main cable and pushed onto the second cable at the terminal.

Quick Recap 

Even though there are many types of ski lifts, not all of them can slow down at the terminals. All surface lifts and old models of aerial lifts move at constant slow speeds.

Also read our guide on what is a magic carpet ski lift.

Only Chairlifts and Gondola with detachable grips can slow down at the terminals by being detached from the cables and pushed onto secondary cables that move at slower speeds. 

They can gain their original speed again by detracting from the secondary cable and gripping onto the original, faster cables again as they move around and past the terminals.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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