Mountain Operations FAQ's
Why don't all the lifts open at the same time?
The Skyeship Gondola opening time is later than other key lifts on weekend and peak days. We fully realize that any time a change like this is made in an operation, for whatever reason, it may not always be convenient for all involved. We apologize for that. This ski lift takes a significant amount of additional time to prep for operations each day. We have found that even with bringing staff in very early in the morning, the lift was late to open on many occasions. This lift is actually two separate gondolas, which, coupled with weather variables and such, presents many issues that can cause the lift to be late in opening. The extra half an hour has helped us to raise our service levels significantly by having the lift operating at the posted opening time.
All other key lifts throughout the resort are scheduled to open at 8:00 a.m. on weekend and peak days. The Skyeship will continue to open at 8:30 a.m. on weekend and peak days and 9:30 a.m. midweek, as it did last season.
Why aren't all lifts running, everyday?
We need to be fiscally responsible with our operating mode and make changes based on business levels. Our midweek guests number at 10-20% of how many skiers and riders are here on the weekends. If there are multiple chairs that access the same terrain, we will operate only one chairlift to access that area as there are no lift line or capacity concerns. We will not close a lift midweek if it closes off access to open terrain. In order for us to maintain overall quality and invest in new capital projects, we need to treat our existing operations wisely.
Why do lift speeds vary?
We vary lift speeds due to weather and operational issues, not as a cost savings measure. Weather issues are typically wind related, and lifts are either slowed or increased to find a carrier swing rhythm that works with the particular wind speed, wind direction and extent of load on a chair at that time. Operational issues are often related to lifts frequented by less experienced skiers and riders, where a “sweet spot” is sought to get the maximum speed in relation to the efficiency of the load/unload operation. A good example is Ramshead Express Quad, where the larger numbers of first-time skiers and riders negotiating the ramp results in 800 FPM versus 1100 FPM in order to operate the lift consistently without stops or slows.
Why do you sometimes skip chairs when loading a lift?
You may have seen lift operators intentionally skipping chairs when loading a lift. The ski industry, like the airline and boating industries, is seeing an increase in the weight of the average person. We have only seen this impact specifically on the North Ridge Triple at one point when the lift was fully loaded with a higher ratio of males and no children. The lift has been redesigned and load tested at a slightly lower capacity with a small number of carriers removed. The carriers were skipped to avoid overheating of the lift drive, which was occurring due to the higher overall weight of passengers.
What's with the Snowdon Quad?
The Snowdon Quad has been modified from a double chair, and length changed slightly. Its present slope length is 4,476 feet with a mandated maximum speed of 450 feet per minute (FPM). This is the maximum speed at which we are allowed to operate fixed grip quads. Ride time, with no stops or slows, is 9.9466, give or take. The lift is tuned and calibrated to operate at 450 FPM; it only operates slower if a "slow" is activated or if wind or weather impacts operations so that the lift mechanical technicians decide a slower speed is necessary.
How is grooming planned?
The groomers have a significant role in getting new trails ready for guests, as well as taking care of terrain that's already open. Many hours go into grooming planning sessions. Every trail is looked at on an individual basis, every day, as part of the planning process. Each trail that is coming on-line (that is, getting ready to be opened) gets reviewed for amounts of snow, when to turn guns on or off, which guests will be using it, how the temperatures will impact surfaces, when to “track” it or not with tractors, which of the two night shifts will be best to finish grooming and how aggressive grooming should be. We can easily impact a trail's skiing negatively based on all of the above factors not being addressed properly. Trails that are already open are also reviewed for many of the same factors, as well as overall quality. Trail feedback comes from many sources, including staff, guests and the mountain operations planners. This dedicated planning staff personally skis or rides as frequently as possible to look at overall feel of the trails, in addition to examining the hundreds of pieces that need attention on a daily basis to maintain the overall quality of skiing or riding at Killington. Whether we have all the trails open or it’s early season, the grooming process must be detailed daily in order to accomplish the plan within the night shift hours. Because of this, lifts are occasionally scheduled to open later to allow us that little extra time to keep the snow surface standards where we all want them.