Last season saw a 30% increase in rider visits at Highland, which is pretty incredible. Over a single weekend in September, we saw more rider visits than there were in the entire first season we were open: and if you stood in the lift line on one of those fall weekends, you certainly noticed. We love riding at Highland just as much as you do, but we don’t particularly love waiting in lines. You ask fairly often if we’re ever going to replace our current lift, and the answer is still “not yet.” However, this year we’re very excited to be increasing our lift’s capacity by 50%!
The lift was originally designed to service The Highlands Ski Area, which opened in 1968. The original plans for the lift were designed to support 120 carriers. For whatever reason—whether it was budget or anticipated demand—the lift was installed with only 80 carriers. Highlands Ski Area operated with that setup until they closed in 1995. When Highland Mountain Bike Park opened in 2006 half of those chairs were retrofitted to serve as bike carriers, but no new carriers were added.
Flash forward more than ten years. When we decided it was time to increase our lift capacity, we returned to the original lift design. Adding just 40 more carriers would significantly increase the rate at which we could transport riders to the summit. Safety always comes first when it comes to lift operations, so before any promises could be made we had to make sure that the lift had definitely been built according to the original design. A surveying team and engineer resurveyed the lift and confirmed for us that 120 carriers could still be supported.
With approval to modify the lift granted, the ball started rolling a little bit faster. The next step: finding new carriers that could be added to the lift. This proved to be a bit of challenge. Another unique feature of the Highland lift is the shape of each carrier: they’re all a bit longer than is standard. Last fall, we finally found matching chairs via Nashoba Valley Ski Area. Each carrier went through nondestructive testing and was approved for use at Highland. Not only will you see an increase in uphill capacity this season, you’ll also see much more comfortable seats!
So what exactly have we been up to this winter? Our team at Highland has been busy spacing and reattaching carriers with new hardware, replacing our old wooden seats with the chairs from Nashoba, and assembling the twenty new bike carriers built for us by Blouin Steel Fabricators. Pfeister Mountain Services are working on installing new assemblies on the lift towers to support the additional downloading weight. Once all of the new carriers have been installed, the lift will go through another load test before we open up to the public. We’ve been working closely with the NH Tramway Board to make this project go as smoothly as possible.
To answer some frequently asked questions:
– No, the lift will not spin any faster. The line will move more quickly because more people can use the lift at the same time.
– Carriers will now be about twenty feet apart. You’ll lose a few seconds of loading time, but we don’t anticipate a particularly steep learning curve.
– Yes, adding more chairs to the lift is safe!
We’re looking forward to another great season. If you haven’t already, make sure you’ve marked your calendars for Opening Day on Thursday, April 30th!