Fastest six-rider chairlift in North America ‘big evolution’
in the ski industry
By Bella Butler EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Amid Big Sky Resort’s era of capital innovation, new technology will shape visitors’ experience at the start of this winter season in the form of the fastest six-passenger chairlift in North America.
The highly anticipated Swift Current 6 chairlift is scheduled to carry skiers and riders up the mountain on opening day, Thanksgiving Day, for their first runs of the 2021-2022 season.
The lift, which replaces the old Swift Current, a detachable quad chair that served as one of the resort’s main base-area lifts since 1996, is perhaps the pinnacle of Big Sky Resort’s new projects.
“What Stephen [Kircher] is envisioning for this place and what’s already happened, it’s just a big evolution in the ski lift world,” said Eric Schwartz, lift maintenance director at Big Sky Resort. “…A lot of other ski areas and large ski conglomerates generally are always looking to get the cheapest possible ski lift they can. And here, we’ve decided for guests’ experience that we wanted to get the nicest ski lift available.”
And get it they did.
With a maximum speed of 6 meters per second, or 1,200 feet per minute, Swift Current 6 will join the fastest lifts in the country, marking a revolution for the ski lift industry as a whole.
Comparatively, the adjacent chairlift in the base area, Ramcharger 8, which was unveiled at the start of the 2018 winter season, travels at 5 mps, and the old Swifty operated at 4 mps.
“It’s going to feel noticeably different,” Schwartz said, adding that the ride on Swift Current 6 will be approximately four minutes faster than on the old lift.
“I always rode Swifty, but kind of just to get from point A to point B because it was such a long, cold ride,” Schwartz said. “Now, it’ll be a quick, warm ride, and I might be lapping Swifty more.”
As visitation increases at Big Sky Resort each year, the new Swift Current 6 lift will help alleviate bottlenecks in the base area, consistently moving 3,000 skiers uphill an hour, according to Stacie Mesuda, the resort’s public relations manager.
Ramcharger 8 is the continent’s first eight-pack chair and along with Swift Current 6, the two primary base lifts will move 6,600 people uphill from the base an hour.
Another new feature of Swift Current 6 is its 90-degree, contoured unload area. The new offload will spit riders out north in the direction of Jay Walk, eliminating scramble time at the top of the lift.
“I think it’s going to be a whole new world up there,” Schwartz said.
In addition to its speed, Swift Current 6 boasts a number of other amenities that are coming to define the new age of large-resort skiing: wide, heated seats, an automatically unlocking bar, head and footrests, and a weatherproof bubble.
Schwartz, who can rattle off the mechanical wonders of the Doppelmayr lift off the top of his head, is also excited about the direct drive motor, a low-vibration, low-noise gearless motor that will increase the lift’s efficiency, a feature that complement’s the resort’s Forever Project, a mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
The back of each chair is adorned with wildlife photos by local photographers Charles Post, Patty Bauchman and Dale Evans. Mesuda said educational messaging about the Forever Project will overlay the photos.
Big Sky Resort also added 5 additional miles of snowmaking this year, stretching from the top of Swift Current 6 to the base area to broaden skiable acreage in the early season.
Swift Current 6 is scheduled to debut on Thanksgiving, Big Sky Resort’s opening day, and riders can celebrate with a special Swifty 6 brew made by MAP Brewing Company. Local DJs Jen Steele and Chance Lenay will kick off opening day with music starting at 8 a.m., and Big Sky Resort will be giving away Swift Current 6 swag.