Knob Quad Chair opens to the public
Hoots, hollers and even the occasional “cowabunga!” were reverberating on the upper mountain at Marmot Basin on Wednesday, January 24.
The reason? The long-awaited, newly constructed, $7 million Knob Quad Chairlift made its official public debut, whisking skiers and snowboarders to a new height of 2,518 metres above sea level, approximately 125 vertical metres higher than the 47-year-old double chair it replaces.
“We’re really excited to get this project done,” Marmot’s VP of Sales and Marketing Brian Rode said. “This is the game changer for the upper mountain we’ve been waiting for.”
The new, fixed-grip Doppelmayr unit uses a conveyor loading system—a new feature at Marmot Basin, but one which is being increasingly installed at ski resorts across the globe. Marmot’s Lift and Buildings Manager Len Sowden said conveyor systems increase chairlifts’ capacity and generally make the loading process safer, with less instances of lift stops and slow-downs.
“Riders can just let the lift do its work,” he said. “There’s less chance of getting skis turned the wrong way or poles getting tangled up.”
And because the conveyor system gets the rider moving first, the chairlift can operate at a slightly higher speed—up to 15 per cent above their allowable maximum speeds, according to a report on the subject. Finally, the conveyor means lift operators don’t have to physically swing the chair to facilitate a smooth loading process.
“It’s way easier on the staff,” Sowden said.
On Wednesday, more than a few staff members were using their break time to sneak in a lap on the new Knob Chair. They joined hundreds of curious locals and visitors taking the eight-minute ride to the top of the peak’s second rock band for the first time (Jasperite Warren Brown was officially first in line).
“This is the first time I’ve been up here without having to hike,” Jasper snowboarder Darcy Ruddy said as he took in the view from the new off-load area. “I’m pretty stoked!”
Preliminary planning for the new chair began in 2008. Marmot Basin’s location—in the middle of Jasper National Park—meant that the ski hill had to work with Parks Canada to study the impact of the new infrastructure on local flora and fauna, including caribou, mountain goat, bat and bird populations. In March, Parks Canada issued a notice of determination which said the project is not likely to have significant adverse environmental effects.
“Parks Canada has always treated us fairly,” Rode said.
In determining where the chair’s exact alignment would end up, Rode said many factors were considered. He confirmed there was, at one point or another, talk of extending the lift to the peak, as well as putting the return terminal to the “looker’s right” of where it sits now—essentially higher up in Marmot’s Upper Basin.
Eventually, however, factors such as the peak’s notoriously-strong winds, ease of access for intermediate skiers, ease of access for the resorts’ snowcats and the size of the unload area determined the second rock band at 2,518 m would be the best place for the terminal—after a summer of alpine road building by local contractor Gord Bye Construction, that is.
“That spot was the most straightforward, and made the most sense,” Rode said.
From the off-ramp, a ski-way connects the Knob return terminal to a fairly forgiving run, with a gentle enough grade to allow most skiers to snowplow their way down the mountain, if necessary. More advanced skiers looking for steep, uninterrupted plunges can find those too—for example by dispersing skiers’ right to Upper Basin, or left from the ramp and side-hilling a short distance to Suzie’s Run, a pitch no longer off-limits for non-hikers.
“What a fall line that is now, down Suzie’s, all the way into McCready’s without having to traverse,” Rode said.
To some purists’ relief, a boot-hike to the peak remains. Ruddy, for one, relishes the chance to occasionally get away from the crowds.
“I like that you can still earn your turns,” he said.
However even Ruddy wasn’t hiking on Wednesday.
With files from Cameron Jackson // email@example.com