Monday, June 10

The Splice of Summer

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Jun 10, 2024

The Splice of Summer




When you think of the behind the scenes operations of a ski resort, the first thoughts that often come to mind are how we get ready to open for the season, or how we run throughout the ski and snowboard season.  For some of our mountain departments, like lift maintenance, summer is actually the busiest time of year. 


As the bullwheels come to rest for summer, our lift and gondola maintenance teams get to work with our regular preventative maintenance projects. This summer in addition to our regularly scheduled projects our lift maintenance teams will be shortening the cables of Wolverine Express and Standish Express. 


With Standish Express opening for summer sightseeing on June 28th, 2024, it's up first for its regular splice. 




Why do we need to shorten the haul rope?


Shortening the haul rope is a common practice within the ski industry. Over the course of a haul rope's life, several splices may take place. The haul rope is shortened to maintain the performance of the lifts. 


The initial splice occurs anytime a haul rope is replaced. At the first splice, the team of engineers, splicers, and mechanics estimate the proper length. As the cable is put to use (carrying skiers) it begins to stretch over time.  At Sunshine, we pride ourselves on operating above the industry standard, and our team consistently inspects and monitors our lift systems. Which includes examining the hull ropes. 


For detachable chairs, the wear on the lift cable can be more uniformed as chairs constantly attach and detach from the rope. With detachable quads, the chair will grip on to the haul rope as it leaves either the top or bottom station and it will release from the cable as it enters the stations. 


Detachable chairs, like Standish and Wolverine, the cable will always run at fixed speed. While as skiers or snowboarders, we'll travel at two different speeds on a single chair ride. On the rope, the chair we ride can travel as fast as 6 meters per second. In the station, the chair will slow down to a speed of 1.8 meters per second. 


After the initial splice, a second splice will often take place a summer or few later. The goal of the second spice is to tighten the rope to ensure the lift runs as efficiently as it can. 


In preparation for the splice, our maintenance team will first remove all of the chairs from the lift. Next, they’ll de-tension the rope. For the spice itself, our team with, help from a seasoned splicer, will take the cable off of a few towers so they can work on the ground as they shorten the rope. 


A lift cable is made up of multiple wire strands, wrapped around one and other; inside each strand are numerous individual wires. Once the cable is on the ground, our team will cut the hull rope removing  2 meters of cable, determine the new “marriage point” (the midpoint of the splice) for the lift cable, and unwrap the strands of the two ends. 


One at a time the strands from either end of the rope will be braided (tuck points) together to recreate a seamless and robust cable. Once the splice is complete, the rigging is removed, tension is reaplied, and the rope is strung back on the towers. 


As a skier, it’s unlikely you’ll notice the splice. Often the only mark left by the event is the coat of paint applied to the marriage point and tuck points (for inspection purposes). 


*Splice Photos: Becky Mercer