A platter lift (US), platter pull (US) or button lift (Europe) is a surface lift, a mechanized system for pulling skiers and snowboarders uphill, along the surface of the slope. In French, it is téléski (although colloquially known as a tire-fesses or bum-pull). In Italy it is skilift (or sciovia). It was invented in 1908 by Robert Winterhalder in the Black Forest (Germany).
The lift consists of an aerial steel rope loop running over a series of wheels, powered by an engine at one end. Hanging from the rope overhead are equally spaced vertical poles or cables attached to a plastic button or platter that is placed between the skiers legs and pulls the skier uphill. Snowboarders place the platter behind the top of their front leg or in front of their chest under their rear arm and hold it in position with their hands. Attempting to be pulled up just holding on with the arms is tiring and makes balancing more difficult. Also, a common mistake for first-time riders is attempting to sit on the platter, which immediately sends both platter and rider to the ground.
With the increase in snowboarding, surface lifts are replaced by chair lifts in some skiing areas. They can still be found in glacier skiing resorts because their supports can be anchored in glacier ice thanks to the lower forces.
One type of platter lift is the detachable surface lift, commonly known as a Poma lift after the Poma corporation which first made them. Another company making such lifts is Gimar Montaz Mautino. They can be found in France, in North America and a few other regions.
Whereas most types of platter lifts are fairly similar to T-bars and J-bars with the stick attached to a spring box by a retractable cord, Pomas have a detachable grip with the button connected to the grip by a semi-rigid pole. Because they are detachable, most Pomas operate at speeds of over 4 metres per second, while platters and T-bars average 2.5 m/s. When a Poma's grip attaches to the cable, the passenger's acceleration is lessened by the spring-loaded pole (however on faster lifts there can still be quite a jerk when the pole becomes fully extended). This allows considerable running speeds to be attained, exceeding those acceptable in a (non-detachable) chairlift. The 1,070 metre long Summit Access / Howqua Poma at Mount Buller, Australia probably set a ski lift speed record by operating at an astonishing 6.5 metres a second when it was built in 1964, but the ensuing chaos resulted in it being restricted to 4 m/s in later years.
Impact on wildlife
In France the Observatoire des Galliformes de Montagne (OGM) which in English is the Observatory for Mountain Galliformes has found this kind of lift as the most dangerous for black grouse and western capercaillie. Their research has found that putting checkered flags at dangerous points is a particularly effective way of reducing bird mortality. Additional measures seek to remove the cables from places the birds use a lot, alter cable heights, and also color the cables with red plastic coatings or markers. The coloring is the most effective measure, and allows commercial use of the areas to continue, such as ski-lifts, or cables for raising explosives.
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