December 12, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

A feat of engineering 

The Peak 2 Peak sets records, challenges science

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The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is one of three lifts in the world built with a 3S configuration, a Doppelmayr design that places four 4,600 metre long and 56 mm thick track ropes between two points to create a kind of aerial railway. The track ropes support the weight of the gondola cabins.

The cabins themselves will be pulled along by a 46 mm thick haul rope, 8,850 metres in length, that moves at a constant speed. The cabins detach in the gondola stations, slowing down long enough to let up to 28 people exit and board before they are sped up to the same speed as the haul rope and clamp back on to it.

To hang the track ropes, the mountain cut narrow runs down the side of the mountain underneath the patch of the gondola, with a series of mini towers supporting the cable until it could be winched into place. Because of the weight of the cables — each track rope weighs 90 tonnes — the winching was accomplished in a staged process, pulling a series of thinner ropes and cables up the mountain in succession. A thin nylon rope pulled up an 8 mm cable, the 8 mm cable hauled up a 13 mm cable, and so on.

If you guessed that the second and third towers, those on either side of the gap, would bear the most weight, you would be right. For that reason the engineers designed the track system so that the track ropes can be moved back and forth to reduce wear and tear and greatly extend their service life.

One of the benefits of the 3S design is that it improves the stability of gondolas. The track system and weight reduces bounce and the cabins move less in the wind. It will barely move in wind speeds that are typical for the elevation, and will be affected less by higher winds than other lifts.

The haul rope will pull the cabins at roughly 7.5 metres per second, crossing the total span of 4.4 km in approximately 11 minutes. For perspective, the Village Gondola runs at 4.5-5.5 metres per second. One cabin should depart the station every 49 seconds, with 28 cabins having a capacity of 28 riders each — 22 sitting and six standing. The hourly capacity is 2,050 people.

Passes for the Peak 2 Peak are automatically included in all Spirit Passes, and are optional for people purchasing season passes and Edge cards, either on a seasonal or a daily basis. If P2P access is purchased as part of a pass that also includes summer access.

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