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Thunderwolf under ‘major rebuild’

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The Thunderwolf chairlift serves a significant share of Big Sky's blue and black terrain. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY

Hardware and software improvements aim to increase reliability and reduce downtime 

By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER 

12/26 update: the Thunderwolf chairlift opened for the winter season on 12/24.

Now the only Big Sky Resort chairlift yet to open besides the classic Headwaters double, many locals have gathered that the 30-year-old Thunderwolf lift is undergoing some sort of maintenance.  

According to resort officials, the high-speed quad has been undergoing a “significant upgrade and modernization” which began in March 2022. Both hardware and software have been under reconstruction in order to increase reliability and decrease downtime due to outdated components and technology. The lift will open as soon as all testing is complete.  

“Because of the major rebuild, Thunderwolf has undergone rigorous testing before reopening to the public, including a load and brake test, which the lift recently passed,” resort officials say. “The team is currently testing and tuning software with the intention of opening the lift to the public as soon as possible.” 

The lift was constructed by Doppelmayr in 1993, then Big Sky Resort’s second high-speed lift following the now-retired Ramcharger quad and preceding the now-retired Swift Current quad.  

Even with Thunderwolf closed, skiers have access to the terrain on the Thunderwolf side of Andesite Mountain. EBS field reports indicate above average access to untracked snow, but the descent comes at a price: A ride up the Lone Moose Triple and a transfer to the Southern Comfort quad are necessary to return to the top of Andesite.  

Tech specs 

According to mechanically adept resort officials, specific upgrades include replacing high voltage motor controls for the main motor drive, spacing motor and hydraulic tension unit; replacing low voltage controls in drive and return terminals to improve main motor control, auxiliary drive control, hydraulic brake unit controls, anti-collision, spacing control, tension monitoring, rope position monitoring, brittle bar monitoring and emergency shutdown system; upgrading to a cycle spacer system, adding a fiber line and adding rope position detection system to significantly reduce the risk of deropement. 

In other words, the new parts should make Thunderwolf safer and more reliable when it opens for the winter season of 2022-23.  

Thunderwolf runs on slow during testing on Dec. 18. VIDEO BY JACK REANEY

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