It sure doesn't look like much - just a hole in the ground under the loading area of the South Ridge Quad B. But that hole in the ground is the beginning of a very innovative improvement to Okemo's lift service.
Okemo’s “Red Carpet Treatment”
Everyone loves the section of Warren Miller’s films when the camera positioned at the top of a chairlift catches the crashes of skiers trying to disembark. The more tangled the carnage, the louder the laughs. For beginner skiers and snowboarders, riding the lift can be a stressful part of the learning experience. Seasoned veterans grow increasingly impatient with each delay as newbies are helped to their feet and sent on their way. Lift operators loading the uninitiated must be ever vigilant to maintain safety and keep the flow.
Okemo's lift system is situation in such a way as to require all skiers, novice through expert, accessing the mountain through the original Clock Tower base area, to ride one of two fixed-grip quad chairs. As a way to make that first lift ride of the day less stressful and safer, Okemo is installing mechanized loading and unloading carpets on one of those lifts - Quad B, to be specific (the one on the left as you look up the mountain). Although familiar to European skiers, the loading carpet is a rarity in North America. Okemo’s loading carpet will be the first one in the East and the unloading carpet, at the top, will be the first of its kind in the entire country. A conveyor belt, marked with lanes and moving in sync with the chairlift, will make loading and unloading easier and safer. It will reduce lift-line lengths, minimize starts and stops, reduce ride time and improve overall lift capacity.
So, what's with the hole in the ground? Since the loading and unloading carpets must be flush with the ground, a lot of the technology must exist beneath the surface. Consider also, that snow making its way under the conveyor must be melted and drained away to prevent buildup and maintain operation of the lift. A heated, concrete chamber will contain the snow and melt it so it can drain away.
I'll keep posting photos to show you the progress. Cheers!