Life on the Mountain
Valentine’s Day and the Double Chairlift
A brief history of the Double Chair and 10 reasons why we love the Two-Seater!
In honor of Valentine’s Day (which is Monday for all of you who conveniently forgot), we are celebrating the most romantic date of all. No, its not a sleigh ride with your Valentine, nor it is an expensive romantic dinner, or a heartfelt card and flowers from Teleflora.
Instead, in our Slope Style world, the most romantic gesture of all just might be a ride on one of Baldy’s two classic Double Chairlifts (and maybe a Red Dog from Irving’s and one of those Sweetheart boxes). So for Valentine’s Day, we did our research about double chairlifts, asked the question why classic two-seaters are better than modern quads, found the best double chairlift in the country, and wrote an ode to the Double Chair.
Chairlifts originated in Sun Valley, but they did not start out as doubles. They were single chairlifts, modeled after banana conveyors. This was the norm for years in many resorts including Sun Valley. In fact, the original Cold Springs Chair was a single, installed in 1940. The first double chairlift was not actually installed at a ski resort until the Mount Spokane Ski Club installed a double at their namesake mountain in 1946.
Baldy’s very first double chair wasn’t actually installed until 1957 when a double was put in where Christmas Express currently runs, taking skiers from Roundhouse Slope to the Lookout. This installation actually tripled the mountain’s capacity at the higher elevations where the conditions were more consistent. Later, a triple chair (known as Lift #5) was put in right next to the existing double (known as Lift #3) and the two lifts served the top of the mountain from Roundhouse until the high-speed quad we know today as Christmas Express was installed.
The Cold Springs chair was not upgraded to a double until 1970. Its 8.4-minute, usually sunny ride is a favorite for riders as it carries around 160,000 people each season up the Cold Springs gully.
Our other Double is the Flying Squirrel Chair, which was installed in the summer of 1972, at the same time of the installation of the Lookout and Elkhorn Chairlifts. The Squirrel Chair, whose ramps are located inside European-style lift shacks, runs only over Christmas and Presidents’ weekend, unless Challenger is down and this infrequent use makes the 11.6-minute ride up the Squirrel Double extra special.
So now, to celebrate our love of Double Chairlifts and in honor of Valentine’s Day, here are ten reasons to love the Double.
1. My parents met on a Double Chairlift, I wouldn’t exist without it. And pretty predictably, my first kiss was on Quarter Dollar lift, which at the time was a Double. I believe the chair full of fellow ski-teamers behind us hooted and hollered.
2. In the age of high-speed quads, the lack of windburn and the adequate time to let my quads recover is greatly appreciated.
3. Also in the time of using the chairlift as my office (Thanks, Smartphones!), I love the Cold Springs chair because down in that gully, you just don’t get cell phone service no matter how high you hold your phone up!
4. Just like the Skiing Heritage Journal wrote in 1993, doubles are the perfect place for a blind date: “The trend toward double chairs as the design became more and more in demand. The double was such a companionable lift that, according to the inclinations of passengers, a ride could amount to a mini-blind date.”
5. One of the gnarliest ski resorts in the country, Silverton, only has a double chairlift. If Silverton isn’t too good for a Double, nobody is.
6. You know that one part; about three-quarters of the way up Cold Springs… you know where it is a little bit scary and incredibly high? Well, even the toughest of tough get the inclination to wrap their arm around the back of the chair for safety and that is the best disguise for wrapping your arm around the cute girl next to you.
7. Good-looking skiers are just so much cuter when you are squeezed in a double chair next to them, staring at their goggle tan.
8. It is impossible to sit next to a stranger on a double and not talk. Who knows… you could be chatting Arnold up about the gaper skiing Arnold’s Run below you.
9. Examiner.com’s ski and snowboarder writer recently compiled a list of the West’s “Top Ten Chairlifts”. There at #3 is the Pallavicini Double at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado. Take that, high-speed quads and trams!
10. There is something magic about the green lift towers, the extra long ramps, the slow speed, the old-school shacks, the chairs built for two, and the random day when Squirrel is running. The stranger next to you feels it, the lift operator smiles about it, the guy in front of you who slapped a sticker on the last tower knows it, this guy gets it and the nine year-olds stoked to be seated on chair #1 definitely get it.
Call it romance, magic, solitude, quiet or tradition. Whatever it is, a Double Chairlift is the hottest ticket in town this Valentine’s Day.