Some Sugarloafers don't like change. I recall when Boyne tweaked the famous triangular logo in 2007. By simply dropping the USA from the iconic Sugarloaf sticker, there was an angry uprising. Old school Loafers hoarded the original logo stickers and modified the new ones. So, the announcement that the two Spillway double chairlifts (the East of which de-roped in December and reopened on Feb. 21 after repair) will be replaced next season with a fixed grip quad and conveyor belt loading system could be met with skepticism. I can't fathom why anyone will mind the comfortable, new four-person chair that is custom designed to be heavier and promises less wind issues than the two old doubles. My concern lies with the new loading procedure.
Sugarloaf's new $3 million Doppelmayr quad will come with a conveyor loading system at the base, a veritable magic carpet that slides skiers into the load zone, allowing the chairlift cable to move at 500 feet per minute, fast for a fixed grip chair.
This conveyor loading system is being used at Mount Snow, Okemo, Shawnee Peak, Alta in Utah and Bridger Bowl in Montana with great success. It's affectionately called "the poor man's high speed quad" in the ski biz. The conveyor costs about $100,000 to add to a fixed grip chair and dramatically reduces loading errors and stop times, allowing the lift to operate at maximum efficiency (versus a high speed detachable quad that travels at about 1,000 feet per minute and slows to approximately 250 for loading).
These conveyor contraptions are actually brilliant since they feed the skiers onto the lift at a consistent rate, eliminating the human factor of rushing for a chair, or straggling and missing. Still, I anticipate some die-hard Loafers will "dislike" the new-fangled loading system since it makes you feel like a beginner on the magic carpet for a moment. I hope they convert to liking the new conveyer quad, a sure upgrade from the two double Spillway chairs.
Photo by Greg Burke. For more of Heatherís ski tips, go to www.familyskitrips.com