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Interior of a gondola lift station, in this case an intermediate station where gondolas detach from the line, automatically travel through the building on tracks and attach to the line of the second section.
The drive motors for both sections are visible below the bullwheels.
A gondola lift is a type of aerial lift, often called a cable car, which consists of a loop of steel cable that is strung between two stations, sometimes over intermediate supporting towers. The cable is driven by a bullwheel in the terminal, which is connected to an engine or electric motor. Because of the proliferation of such systems in the Alpine regions of Europe, the French language name of Télécabine is also used in an English language context. Gondola lifts should not be confused with aerial tramways (where a cabin is suspended from a fixed cable and is pulled by another cable), which are also sometimes known as "cable cars".

Types

In some systems the passenger cabins, which can hold between two and 16 people, are connected to the cable by means of spring-loaded grips. These grips allow the cabin to be detached from the moving cable and slowed down in the terminals, to allow passengers to board and disembark. Doors are almost always automatic and controlled by a lever on the roof or on the undercarriage that is pushed up or down. Cabins are driven through the terminals either by rotating tires, or by a chain system. To be accelerated to and decelerated from line speed, cabins are driven along by progressively faster (or slower) rotating tires until they reach line or terminal speed. On older installations, gondolas are accelerated manually by an operator. Gondola lifts can have intermediate stops that allow for uploading and downloading on the lift. Examples of a lift with three stops instead of the standard two are the Village Gondola and the Excalibur Gondolas at Whistlermarker, while an example of a lift with four terminals is the Plattieres Gondola at Meribel.

In other systems the cable is slowed down intermittently to allow passengers to disembark and embark the cabins at stations, and to allow people in the cars along the route to take photographs, such as Lebanonmarker's Téléférique which offers an exceptional view to the Mediterranean, the historical Jounieh Bay and the pine forest at the 80% slope which this gondola lift goes over. Such a system is called Pulse Cabin because usually more than one cabin are loaded at a time before the trip begins.

Another type of gondola lift is the bi-cable gondola, which has one other stationary cable, besides the main haul rope, that helps support the cabins. Examples of this type of lift include the Ngong Ping Cable Carmarker in Hong Kongmarker, the Singapore Cable Car, and the Sulphur Mountain Gondolamarker in Banffmarker, Canadamarker. There are also tri-cable gondolas that have two stationary cables that support the cabins. They differ from aerial tramways in that the latter consist only of one or two usually larger cabins, moving up and down, not circulating.

Open-air gondolas, or cabriolet as commonly called, are fairly uncommon and are quite primitive because they are exposed to the elements. Their cabins are usually hollow cylinder, open from chest height up, with a floor and a cover on the top. They are usually used as village gondolas and for short distances. An example of these are the Cabriolets at Mont Tremblant Resortmarker in Quebecmarker, Canadamarker. The Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah, Mountain Creekmarker, and the new Village Cabriolet at Winter Park Resortmarker in Colorado. Open-air gondolas can also come in a style similar to a pulse gondola, like the Village Gondola at Panorama Ski Resortmarker, British Columbiamarker.

The first gondola built in the United Statesmarker for a ski resort was located at the Wildcat Mountain Ski Areamarker. It was a two-person gondola built in 1957 and serviced skiers until 1999. The lift was later demolished in 2004. The lift and its cabins were manufactured by a former Italian lift company: Carlevaro-Savio.

List of accidents

  • January 29, 1983: The Singapore Cable Car disaster, which saw seven people killed when two cabins plunged into the sea after the cableway was hit by a Panamanianmarker-registered oil rig being towed.
  • September 5, 2005: Nine people died and ten were injured when a 750 kg concrete block was accidentally dropped by a construction helicopter in Söldenmarker, Austriamarker. Hundreds had to be evacuated from the lift.
  • July 13, 2006: Five people, including a three-year-old girl, were injured after 2 cable cars collided and one crashed to the ground. The accident took place at the Nevis Rangemarker, near Fort Williammarker in northwest Scotlandmarker. There were no fatalities and the gondola was deemed safe for operation shortly after the accident.
  • February 18, 2007: A gondola car derailed from the cable at Ski Apachemarker and rolled backwards hitting another car. Eight people were involved in the crash but only two suffered minor injuries.
  • March 2, 2008: A man fell out of a gondola in Chamonix and died, perhaps after he and one of his friends leaned on and broke the plexiglass window.
  • December 16, 2008: Ten people were injured (none seriously), and others left stranded after a tower supporting the Excalibur gondola lift on Blackcomb mountain collapsed, at the Whistler Blackcombmarker ski resort in Whistler, Canada.


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