New Ptarmigan Chairlift at Lake Louise

After a long process of planning, approval, and construction, the brand-new Ptarmigan chair is poised to open to the public in the next few days. This Leitner-Poma fixed-grip quad replaces the older lift of the same name, and will have the same uphill capacity. The unload is in the exact same spot, but the base station has been moved about 5m to the right as you face uphill in order to keep the lift line further away from the forest edge  that makes up one side of Exhibition. While the old lift had its drive station at the bottom, this new one has its at the top, which, combined with more modern technology, will result in a reduction of energy required to run the lift.

From start to finish, the fact that Lake Louise is located in a national park governs how any project proceeds, if at all. Since the Ptarmigan chair replacement is what is considered a “like-for-like” construction project, the approval process is less arduous than a proposal for, say, a new lift in an entirely new location. Like-for-like in this case means that what is being built is going in the same place as what is being replaced, with no change in uphill capacity, and little to no terrain modification, deforesting, etc. Any project that does not fall into the like-for-like classification must be included in the long-range plans currently being drafted by the Banff and Jasper ski areas, and are subject to a more intensive review and approval process. Like anything, there are exceptions to the rules, as can be the case when public safety is involved, but even then things are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Part of the approval process for the new lift is having guidelines in place to ensure no environmental loss resulted from construction and installation. The resort must do a thorough environmental screening report that addresses the impact of construction on all aspects of the local area – wildlife, plants, waterways, landscape, tourism, etc, and then pays what is called a performance bond, which is returned once construction is complete and all reclamation work has been performed to the satisfaction of Parks Canada. Environmental procedures are many and varied, and can include things like identifying rare plant species, training all construction workers on best practices with regards to bears and other wildlife, and removing and properly disposing of all waste material and old lift components.

So – now that the project is approved, construction can begin. What gets built first? Nothing – the first two months were almost exclusively devoted to removing the old lift. The main exceptions to this were the installation of sediment and drainage controls, and the installation of tower foudations, which were able to proceed before the removal of the old ones due to the slight re-alignment of the lift line.

July 24 2008 - Haul cable has been removed.

July 24 2008 - Haul cable has been removed.

Aug 16 2008 - New tower foundations are excavated.

Aug 16 2008 - New tower foundations are excavated.

Once all excavations were complete and all forms in place, then came what is always a big day in the life of a lift construction project – concrete flying! A Bell 214 helicopter was brought in for the day, and even this big machine could only transport about 1 to 1.5 cubic metres of concrete per trip, and the foundation for the lift top station required almost 50 flights to complete. With the flying finished, the concrete was left to cure for a few days, then the pace of construction visibly intensified with the installation of the lift towers and the top and bottom stations.

Sept 15 2008 - Top station ready to receive concrete.

Sept 15 2008 - Top station ready to receive concrete.

Sept 15 2008 - One load of concrete at a time...

Sept 15 2008 - One load of concrete at a time...

Sept 15 2008 - ...and then another...

Sept 15 2008 - ...and then another...

Just last week, the chair grips arrived from France, and chair installation wrapped up a few days ago. Currently the lift is going through a thorough inspection by provincial authorities to ensure all systems are functioning. One component of this examination is the load test, which involves placing barrels filled with water on each chair to simulate the weight of a loaded lift, and then running the lift under that load. Once this load test is complete, the chair is pretty much ready to go.

Dec 2 2008 - Almost ready to go!

Dec 2 2008 - Almost ready to go!

*****

Advertisements

One Comment on “New Ptarmigan Chairlift at Lake Louise”

  1. Thanks for all the info! It’s really interesting to see how the lifts go up. As it happened my wife and I stayed at Skoki Lodge around the time the cable was pulled off, so I got to see that bit of the progress as we waited for the shuttle.

    Anyhow, let me ask the question everyone is likely wondering. Why was this lift replaced with a fixed grip and not a high-speed chair? It seems that at the end of a day, Ptarmigan is the big bottle neck as everyone tries to get back to the parking lot and a high speed could alleviate that. Was it cost? Environmental?

    Thanks again. I’ve been craving a blog like this for a long time.

    -Trevor


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s