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New Gondola for our Medical Conference: History of the ski lift

medical conference snow gondola

Silverstar Mountain Resort in central British Columbia is the location of our upcoming medical conference in the snow: Medicine in the Mountains 2019.  Just for us, the 2018/19 ski season will see a new gondola to whisk skiers from the picturesque Silverstar village to the mountain summit.

The Doppelmayr lift is already in operation for summer scenic rides and each cabin has an 8 seat capacity with floor to ceiling glass for fantastic views. It makes that summit trip a little more inviting on the colder days of winter and more comfortable for our medical conference delegates when skiing and riding!!

There was a time when Downhill was all about the Uphill!

Downhill skiing was 90 percent about the uphill in its early days. Much like a ski touring outing today, skiers had to propel themselves uphill under their own power to enjoy the brief, exhilarating ride down. Although there were cog railways in existence to get people up mountains since the mid-1800s, the first winter sports specific lifts did not appear until about 50 years later.

In the Black Forest of Germany in 1908 it occurred to the owner of a health resort and farm that the asthmatic patients wished to enjoy the outdoors and participate in sledding on the hill above the resort. However, the climb up was a real disadvantage.

The owner, Robert Winterhalder, was inspired to build a hydropower drag lift using the waterwheel for the mill in front of his house. This was utilized by not only the sledding enthusiasts but skiers also. He patented his design but did not live to see the realization of ski resort development. His patent was purchased by the now famous lift building company, Doppelmayr, the makers of Silverstar’s new gondola.

Another drag lift design specifically for skiers was developed by the Zurich engineer, Ernst Gustav Constam. This lift was installed in Davos in 1934 and utilized a j -shaped wooden stick that wrapped behind the skier. By 1936 the wooden stick was replaced by a T-bar design, enabling each tow to carry two skiers rather than one.

Between 1908 and 1934, a number of other lift types were developed to transport ski enthusiasts up the slopes. In 1928 the first ski aerial tramway was built in Engelberg, Switzerland. In 1931, Davos constructed the Parsennbahn funicular railway, and in 1932 the first ski rope tow was patented.

From Drag to Chair there has been a lot of changes in how we access our snow

Today, the chairlift is the most familiar device for uphill skier transportation. The first of these were designed by John Curran, a Union Pacific Railway engineer, for the company’s new destination ski resort of Sun Valley, Idaho in 1936. The 3 lifts were all single seat chairlifts: a lonely and cold journey to the top. Two years later Mt Tremblant in Quebec became the first Canadian Ski Resort to install a chairlift. Silverstar Mountain resort’s new gondola has replaced an old fix grip chairlift.

We should all be thankful to Herr Winterhalder for the inspiration of getting us rapidly up the mountain, and to Silverstar Mountain Resort for installing a new comfortable gondola in time for our medical conference on the snow, Medicine in the Mountains, British Columbia, Canada in February 2019.


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