Makers of lifts finally catering to smaller ski areas |

Makers of lifts finally catering to smaller ski areas

(KL) bzxxpoma - Carlos Jicon manufacture the runways for a new fixed-grip chair lift at the Leitner Poma of America plant in Grand Junction, Colo., Wednesday, March 2, 2011. The simplified design of the lifts are intended to make them more affordable to smaller ski resorts in North America. Barton Glasser / Special to The Post
ALL | The Denver Post

After 40 years of replacing parts on aging chairlifts, Leigh Nelson decided a few years ago it was time for new chairlifts at his Welch Village Ski and Snowboard Resort southeast of Minneapolis.

But the major U.S. lift makers – Salt Lake City’s Doppelmayr-CTEC and Grand Junction’s Leitner-Poma of America – weren’t making affordable fixed-grip chairs. They were too busy forging high-speed chairlifts and high-capacity trams and gondolas for the big resorts in Europe and the Western U.S.

“It’s incumbent upon us in the industry to keep replacing our chairs with newer technology,” said Nelson, who owns one of 14 ski areas in Minnesota. “But that technology wasn’t available five years ago. I said, ‘We have an issue here.’ “

After gathering more than a dozen Midwest ski-area owners, Nelson persuaded Doppelmayr to make a fixed-grip chair, and he’s been installing a new chair every other year since at his 300-vertical-foot ski area. Now Leitner-Poma in Grand Junction is also producing low-cost, fixed-grip chairs to meet the surging demand for chairlift replacement in the hundreds of smaller ski areas across the country’s midsection and Eastern Seaboard.


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