Every once in a while, something goes missing at Sunday River. Something big, red, and famous. Any guesses?
If you guessed a snowcat, Eddy the Yeti’s bright red convertible, or a really tall famous guy’s red skis, congratulations: you are wrong.
If you guessed the Chondola cabins (ding ding ding!)…we have a winner!
“But… what’s a Chondola?” you might ask, “and… why do its cabins go missing?!?”
Let me explain.
The Chondola, arguably Sunday River’s most famous lift, boasts a mix of six-person chairs and eight-person gondola cabins. The lift was engineered by Dopplemayr and installed in 2008. It’s a state-of-the-art machine and quite sophisticated. Gondola-goers board on the 9-o’clock point of the bullwheel; chair-riders board at the 3-o’clock point. The lineup alternates: 1 cabin, then 4 chairs, then another cabin… you get the picture. At the top, chair-riders get off on the right, gondola-goers unload on the left, and all is at peace in the world.
The cabins are the bees’ knees when conditions are… let’s say… “unfavorable”—nothing makes you feel cozier than clambering into a warm gondola on a chilly day—and great for whisking non-skiing and riding folk up to the Peak Lodge for a fancy dinner or just to see the sights. In short, they’re super cool. However, they’re also heavy and enclosed, making them not as compatible with windy conditions as the lighter, more permeable chairs are. Some genius saw this problem coming and designed the Chondola to have a “reroute” option: on windy days, the gondola cabins can actually be sidelined like a junior varsity soccer team. Here’s how it works:
The Chondola consists of 60 chairs and 15 cabins. When the forecast is calling for a particularly gusty day, the Lift Maintenance squad is sent in to work their magic. Where chairs and cabins usually swing left around the bullwheel at the top is an alternate rail that can be moved in as a cabin approaches to divert it to the right. It’s all computerized, but it still takes 1 minute, 20 seconds for the reroute arm to swing in and the original rail to swing out, so there’s a lot of stop-and-go. Once a cabin is safely parked in its holding pen, the reroute arm is pulled away and the original rail is moved back into place to allow the next four chairs to continue around the bullpen and on their merry way back down the mountain.
There’s a tricky piece to this game, though–the very computer that is so helpful in moving the reroute arm in and out of place also re-spaces the chairs as they go through the bullwheel so there aren’t any gaps where the cabins used to be. That’s all well and good… until it’s time to put the cabins back on. The same basic computer program moves the reroute rail back into place and the cabins are pushed back online, one at a time, every four chairs… but then everything has to be respaced again. It takes two full laps, roughly 3.5 hours, and 4 people to restore the Chondola back to its hybrid glory!
It’s definitely a pain in the rump to bench the Chondola’s cabins, so we reserve the option for busy, gusty days when we really want the Chondola to run no matter what the conditions are. We think it’s pretty cool we even have the option to divert them, and they do look pretty adorable when they’re sidelined—like a bunch of cherry tomatoes on a vine. But do us a favor: the next time you notice our favorite red buddies are missing, give a mental high-five to the Lift Operations and Maintenance team for their patience…. and enjoy your ride up to the top.