By RYAN MELANSON
Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011
Work is nearing completion on a new lift at the Brookvale Provincial Ski Park. And its addition should increase the safety of hill users and help some who may have previously struggled to reach the top, says the park’s superintendent of operations.
The new carpet ski lift will take skiers to the top of two different runs at the park, replacing the rope tow and handle lifts there now. Rather than holding on to a device that drags users up the hill, the 440-foot long, two-foot wide lift acts like a conveyor belt that carries riders who stand on it.
The change in technology will be especially helpful and less dangerous for younger skiers and people who had difficulty holding on to the old lifts while being pulled, said Allan Matters.
“It’s not that we were running unsafe equipment before. But if you take a small child and have them pulling their whole weight up the hill, it’s probably not good for their bodies if they aren’t strong enough to hold on.
It’s aimed at small children and skiers with disabilities. Even if they were to fall off the lift, a sidewalk area on each side of the belt and piles of snow surrounding them should prevent anyone from getting hurt, Matters said.
“There are no issues really. If you fall off the sidewalk, you fall into the snow and you’re fine. If you fall onto the belt, it just keeps going and you can go right with it.”
Cohen MacDonald of Charlottetown has worked as a snowboarding instructor and still visits the park about four times a week during ski season. He agrees the new lift will make getting up the hill much easier for some.
“If you actually know how to snowboard or ski, the rope tow isn’t that bad, but from personal experience instructing people, it is pretty painful for teaching kids.”
Aside from the bruises of repeated falling using the rope tow, the difficulty of being hauled up the hill by a handle can frustrate new skiers or snowboarders before they even start to learn the basics, he said.
“I’ve seen kids either struggle horribly with it and take 15 minutes just to get up the practice hill, or just not want to use it at all and walk up the hill instead.”
Matters said the carpet lift is the last piece of the puzzle for getting newcomers to the hill comfortable on their skis or boards, because he’s confident learning doesn’t have to be frustrating.
“If we can get them to the top easily and safely, then I know we’ve got the quality instructors to get them back down the hill.”
Wentworth in Nova Scotia and Marble Mountain in Newfoundland have also started using this style of lift to open the hills up to more customers.
“This is the trend everyone’s going towards for beginner skiers,” Matters said.
Work on the new lift started in September with completion aimed for November, and that timeframe is still likely to be met.
“It’s going well and should be ready for the end of November. It’s going to be ready for the season for sure,” Matters said. “There’s been no problems yet, we’ve been lucky and we’re coming close to the end so it should be good.”
Once that’s completed, the only thing stopping Brookvale from opening for its 2012 season will be the cold and the snow, Matters said.
“Our goal is always to be open for the Christmas holidays…Last year it was January, but at the same time we still had a really good year, and did really well through March break.”
Brookvale expects a busy opening week as new skiers try the carpet lift. And even veterans are expected to give it a shot, though they’re not likely to get as much use out of it.
MacDonald, who has never been on a carpet lift before, is looking forward to trying it out, even though it’s on a part of the hill he doesn’t really frequent anymore.
“I don’t teach anymore, but I’d say I’ll take a few laps on that thing for sure. “
The lift will make getting to the top of runs safer and easier for many customers, Matters said.
“Number one is for the safety of the users of the hill, and with the new lift there’s just no comparison.
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