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By Bill Fetcher
The World’s Longest Ski Lift
Construction on Aspen’s first chairlifts was completed in December 1946 with
opening ceremonies held 11 January 1947. The “world’s longest ski lift” was
actually two separate lifts; No. 1, base to Midway, (length 8,480 ft., vertical rise
2,574 ft.) and No. 2, Midway to Sundeck (length 5,210 ft., vertical rise 713 ft.)
Total length was just over 2.5 miles. Built by American Steel and Wire, they were
installed by Heron Engineering Co. A trip from the base to the Sundeck took 45
minutes, excluding time spent in long lift lines. Heavy, orange canvas coats were
attached to the single chairs for protection on cold, windy days.
No. 2 began life as a mine tram, converted and relocated to serve the upper reaches
of Ajax. It was a bi-cable system; stationary track rope, moving haul rope and two-
wheel carriages on each chair. Such a system is used where there are long (and
invariably high) spans between towers and No. 2 had one, 85 feet, over Tourtelotte
Park. This was the scariest part of the whole ride, made all the scarier because you
were by yourself. You felt as though you were being launched into space, though
any silence associated with this was broken by the ominous buzzing of the chair
carriage on the track rope overhead. No. 2 was a bottleneck, caused by people
skiing the upper mountain, namely Buckhorn Run joining those unloading from No.
1. It was replaced about 1959 by a Riblet double chair. In recent years it was
removed entirely; slack apparently taken up by No. 3, Spar Gulch to Sundeck, now
a high-speed quad.
No. 1 held out till 1971 when it was replaced by two overlapping (Riblet) double
chairs, 1A and 1B (or 8)(Ruthies). The old No. 1 terminal and a couple of towers
were left in place as mementos.
Other Aspen lifts followed: No. 3, 1953, double, Spar Gulch to Sundeck (Heron);
No. 4, 1956, double, Little Nell (Riblet), replacing 1947 Constam beginner’s T-bar;
No. 5, 1959, double, Bell Mountain (Heron) and No. 6, 1961, double, Spar Gulch
to Midway (Riblet). The Silver Queen gondola was added in 1986 (Poma).
Except for No. 6*, all the lifts from over 30 years ago have been replaced and for
good reason; equipment wears out or becomes outdated, usually both. All that’s left
of my nostalgic Aspen picture is the mountain itself, carved with trails with names
like Silver Bell, Roch, Dipsy Doodle and Magnifico. Aspen Mountain and its ski
runs is the one thing that will remain constant in a town that has seen much growth
and change in the past 50 years.
*Replaced since this writing.
|Another View of Aspen's #1 Lift
|Aspen's Shadow Mountain lift, which
replaced the #1 single chair.