Dec 1, 2002 | Marmot, Winter 2002

The Hawk is Here!

The new high-speed six-pack chairlift is open at Mount Washington, making history. The Hawk is one of Western Canada's first high-speed, six-seat lifts and replaces the 22-year-old Red Chair.

The new chairlift snakes its way to the western reaches of the Resort to off-load its passengers at the bottom of the West Basin. Six new runs have been added, primarily intermediate in nature, and a long, sweeping Green run – Sunset – has earned the distinction of being named Mount Washington’s longest run. “The lift – the longest on the mountain – is fully operational, on schedule and on budget,” Dave Hampshire, the Resort’s Director of Public Relations, said the week after testing began. ” We call it the ‘flying couch’,” he added.

The Hawk moves 2,400 people an hour at a speed of 1,050 people per minute. That means it takes five minutes, 45 seconds to reach the summit. Designed by lift manufacturer Garaventa CTEC of Switzerland, the Hawk is a $5.5 million investment in the future of skiing, snowboarding and nordic skiing at Mount Washington, Hampshire said.

“Nordic skiers can access the Upper West Meadows trail from the Hawk. The Hawk High Speed Six-Pack will load its riders by way of a gate system,” he said. As each gate opens (one at a time), two riders will load, followed in turn by the next pair and so on until the chair is fully loaded. “This way we won’t have six riders rushing each chair at the same time,” Hampshire said.

“One of the reasons we went with the six-pack is the space between the chairs is wider (six and a half seconds), so it allows for a more comfortable unload time,” Resort General Manager Peter Gibson said. A high-speed quad would have been able to carry the same number of people per hour, but wouldn’t have offered the same comfort level at the unloading station, he said. The six-pack will also increase unloading efficiency in an area that had the worst bottleneck on the mountain in the past.

“From our perspective, this chairlift has been built for the novice to intermediate customer. It’s a lift replacing a lift used by intermediate skiers,” Gibson said. “The bonus is it gives more access to black diamond terrain for bad weather days, when people don’t want to ski the top of the hill.

“The 16 lift towers were flown into place by Vancouver Island Helicopters and over a dozen resort employees in August. The Kamov KA 32 helicopter would lift the tower from the staging area in front of Raven Lodge, on the other side of a ridge that runs between the lodge and the new lift line. The time from lift-off to the last nut being torqued on each tower was just 15 minutes, Hampshire said.

The technicians who worked on the Hawk when it first fired up in November were ecstatic with the new lift, Gibson said. “The technology has progressed so far from when we built the Eagle Express (two years ago) to when we built the Hawk.”

The beauty of the Hawk, he says, is it will continue to run even if the resort suffers a power outage. Both the Eagle and the Hawk chairlifts have back-up systems, but the Eagle’s diesel system was designed simply to get people off the mountain. The Hawk’s back-up is also diesel, but it is designed to operate fully.

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