A hybrid lift is a new type of ski lift that combines the elements of a chairlift and a gondola lift. First introduced by Poma, who refers to them as Telemix, they have since been copied by most lift manufacturers who refer to them by a variety of names; Doppelmayr refers to them as combined installations, while the more generic terms chondola and telecombi are also common.
Both chairs and gondolas have advantages for lift operations. Gondolas are heavier and have lower wind restrictions, but offer protection from the elements and are particularly useful in rain or very cold conditions. They can also be used during the summer for walk-on guests, cyclists or wheelchairs, and in the winter for snowshoers. In the winter, gondolas require skiers and snowboarders to remove their equipment and walk into the cabin, which can slow the speed of operation at the ends of the lift and requires the riders to stand for the duration of the lift. Chairs are lighter and can be operated in higher winds, while also generally being more comfortable and easier to board for skiers.
A hybrid lift allows cabins and chairs to be used on the same lift line, changing them as the rider load, season and weather conditions demand. To allow safe loading and unloading, stations have separate areas for the different carrier types, resembling a gondola station followed by a chairlift station, or vice versa. The overall length of the boarding area can be reduced by folding the station so that the gondolas are loaded on the "downhill" side of the ends of the lift, and the chairs on the uphill side. On most hybrid lifts, there will usually be more chairs than cabins, i.e., Sunday River (Maine)'s Chondola has 64 chairs and 16 cabins, with four chairs in between each cabin.
Hybrid lifts offer year-round versatility, increasingly important as ski resorts add summertime activities like downhill cycling and nature hiking trails.
Installations around the World
Sweden's first hybrid lift was installed in Åre ski resort in Åre, Sweden. The new hybrid lift is was named 'VM 8:an' and replace the former four passenger chair lift 'Olympialiften'. The lift was installed by Leitner in 2006 and consist of 16 eight passenger gondola cabin, and 68 eight passenger chairs.
In France, Poma has installed at least ten hybrid lifts, and Doppelmayr three. One being the "Mont Rond", which consist of one eight passenger gondola cabin, and three six passenger chairs. "Le Grand Cerf" in Les 7 Laux, France consists of a six passenger chair and an eight passenger gondola.
In Verbier, Switzerland, lift manufacturer Leitner Ropeways installed a hybrid lift, "La Chaux Express", in 2005. The 60 cabins, manufactured by CWA, each hold 8 passengers whilst the 20 chairlifts can each hold up to 6. The result is a maximum capacity of 1950 to 2400 persons per hour. The lift also has multiple stations; the valley station at 2200m, the middle at 2484m which angles the route of the lift, allowing the second lower station at 2260m. The middle station is most commonly disembarked during the ski season as it lies in the 'middle' of the slopes. This provides a connection for skiers not willing to ascend entirely, for instance, to the Col des Gentianes (2950m).
Most recently, the Sunday River Resort has built one of these lifts, dubbing it the chondola. This particular lift consist of four six-passenger chairs, followed by one eight-passenger gondola cabin, four more chairs, another cabin, and so on.
Chondolas also exist at Northstar Resort in Lake Tahoe (hybrid between a high speed six chair and a high speed eight person gondola) and at Telluride Ski Resort in Colorado (hybrid between a high speed quad chair and a four person gondola).
Also in the United States are several lifts that can be converted as needed into gondola operations, e.g., Winter Park Resort in Colorado has a high speed quad that can run gondola cabins at night. The main lift at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana runs with all chairs in the winter but runs with chairs and cabins during the summer. Wildcat ski area in New Hampshire converts their quad chair to a gondola during the summer months.
Australia has two ski lifts that mix gondolas and chairs. The Horse Hill Express at Mount Buller in the state of Victoria was the first, built in 1986. It has 106 chairs and 20 gondolas. The second was the 1860 metre long Crackenback (since renamed Kosciusko Express), built in 1990 at Thredbo ski resort in New South Wales. Both the hybrid ski lifts in Australia are Doppelmayrs.
A telemix at the Donovaly ski resort was installed by Poma in 2005. It has 60 chairs and 10 cabins
The ski mountain Strandafjellet installed a Leitner telemix lift in the summer of 2010. The lift has 3 six passengers chairs followed by one eight passenger gondola. The lift opened on February 12. 2011, and is the biggest chairlift in Scandinavia. The lift is 2100 metres long, has a 618 metres height difference and a capacity of 2400 pph.
The Chondola at Sunday River (USA)
VM 8:an in Åre (Sweden)
The top of Poma's "Télémix de l'Etale" at La Clusaz, in the French Alps. The garage for the dozen gondolas is visible on the left, under the "Telemix" label
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