A funitel is a type of aerial lift, generally used to transport skiers. The name funitel is a portmanteau between the French words funiculaire and telepherique. Funitels have not only been used as a means to transport skiers; there is one used to transport finished cars between different areas of a factory. Recently, more and more funitels have been added to ski areas.
When used to transport skiers, funitels are a fast way to get to a higher altitude. However, because skis or snowboard have to be taken off and held during the trip, and because of the (usual) absence of seats, funitels can sometimes be uncomfortable for long trips, in the same way other large gondolas can be. Funitels combine a short time between successive cabins with a high capacity (20-30 people) per cabin. Funitels are able to tolerate higher wind speeds than classic gondola lifts because they are clamped to two steel cables instead of one.
A funitel consists of one or two loops of cable strung between two terminals over intermediate towers. In order to maximize the stability of the passenger cabins, the cables are arranged in two pairs moving in separate directions. Although it might appear that there are four cables in total, most of the time they are all connected as a single, long loop.
The passenger cabins are connected to a pair of cables with four spring-loaded grips (two to each cable). Because the cable runs at a speed faster than that at which most people would care to board or disembark, the cabins must be slowed down while in the terminals to allow skiers to get on and off. This is accomplished by detaching the cabin from the cable and slowing it down with progressively slower rotating tires mounted on the ceiling of the terminal. Once the cabin has reached a speed at which it is safe to load or unload passengers, the cabin is moved about the end turnaround by tires mounted on the floor. The cabin is then accelerated to line speed with a second set of rotating tires.
The first funitel was constructed in Val-Thorens, 1990, by Denis Creissel and enterprises Reel and Städeli-Lift. The first funitel constructed outside Europe was near mammoth Mountain, California at June mountain resort, built by Yan lifts in 1980s. The owner of Yan claims to have invented the funitel lift. It was taken down in 1990 due to grip and all around errors. The second funitel constructed outside of Europe was the one in Montmorency Falls, Canada, 1993.
List of funitels
- La Plagne: Built by Doppelmayr it runs from Plagne Centre (1970m) up to La Grande Rochette (2505m).
- L'Alpe d'Huez
- Super Besse
- Les Deux Alpes
- Hashikurasan Ropeway, Miyoshi, Tokushima
- Hakone Ropeway, Hakone, Kanagawa
- Tanigawadake Ropeway, Tanigawadake Tenjindaira Ski Resort, Minakami, Gunma
- Zaō Ropeway, Yamagata Zaō Onsen Ski Resort, Yamagata, Yamagata
- List of aerial lift manufacturers
- Lift Engineering (built the QMC funitel - a funitel that actually had four cables)
- Skiing and Skiing Topics
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